Ghosts in the Dream Machine
for piano quintet derives its inspiration from the creative mind of Simon Dinnerstein. I find his artwork to be fantastically evocative, casting ordinary objects in a decidedly unordinary light. Simon accesses that imaginative spirit tucked away in the recesses of our dream world, and the recurring themes of mystery, night, and wonder are what drive this quintet. Originally, I held the Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” as a blueprint. As a musical work, it likewise finds inspiration in artwork and as a result, encompasses many short and rather direct movements. I worked a good while with this model…to no avail.
In subsequently looking at the drawings that inspired Mussorgsky, I was able to identify my conundrum: Mussorgsky’s pictures of Russian daily life are straightforward and pictorial. Two old men. An oxcart. Chicks playing. On the other hand, Simon’s work is complex and even elusive without being coy, much like a dream. One minute, it is serene, the next, highly disturbing. This chimera-like quality cries for music that is psychologically rich, and in reworking my initial ideas, I found that a two-movement work encompassing large dimensions and focusing intensely on mood and color was more fitting than a collection of miniatures dancing lightly over multiple themes. In this way, I hope to have succeeded in musically rendering the potency of Simon’s art.
— Gabriela Lena Frank
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