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Gunther Schuller

Publisher: AMP

Dreamscape (2012)
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Orchestra
Year Composed
2012
Duration
12 Minutes
Programme Note
Gunther Schuller Dreamscape (2012)

First performance:
July 8 2012
Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
Gunther Schuller, conductor
Lenox, MA

Movements:
I. Scherzo umoristico e curioso
II. Nocturne
III. Birth — Evolution — Culmination

Composer note:
Dreamscape was commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Center for Tanglewood’s 75th anniversary celebration, to be performed by Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. I was offered a very generous instrumentation (woodwinds and brass in fours, six percussionists, two harps, and a sizable string selection). The one specific requirement was that the piece should be no longer than ten or eleven minutes.

P.S. I now must reveal that virtually the entire work — yes, the entire work — was presented to me in a dream, no just little bits of it but ranging from its overall form and conception to an amazing amount of specific detail. Even more astonishing to me was that my dream forced me to write/compose some things that I had never done before and would in all likelihood never do on my own, so to speak, without my dream. These were particular rhythmic/technical/structural matters as well as for me never previously attempted unusual multi-polyphonic layerings.

The dream also determined that there shall be three movements, and one of these shall be humorous (á la Ives’s “take-offs,” “cartoons”); thus the Scherzo umoristico e curioso. By contrast, another movement would have to be dark and somber, i.e., Nocturne. For the third movement it decided that it should deal in some way with the concept of evolution; it called it Genesis.

Even more startling was the amount of detail the dream gave me, utilizing all the tools of our musical craft (pitches, rhythms, dynamics, specific harmonic and melodic decisions, etc.).

We all know that dreams vanish instantly after we’ve awakened. And I had learned from previous musical dream experiences that if you want to retain some of what you dreamt you had better get out of bed right away, and start writing down as quickly as possible as much as you can recapture. Alas, in most previous dream experiences it was very little, too short. But this time I was able to write down, in both verbal and musical notation and all kinds of shortcuts and abbreviations a whole ten minutes of vivid precise information — even as I could feel other parts of the dream disappearing.

It was, as I say above, virtually the whole piece. All I had to do now was to flesh out and finalize all the immense amount of detail. So, what you will hear tonight is what the dream composed for me, what it made me compose.

— Gunther Schuller


Performances
Date
Title
  • 15 APR 2015
    Dreamscape New York Premiere
    Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Andris Nelsons, conductor
  • 09 APR 2015
    Boston, MA
    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Andris Nelsons, conductor

    Other Dates:
    10,11,14 April - Boston, MA
  • 13 AUG 2012
    Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music
    Lenox, MA
    Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
    Oliver Knussen, conductor
  • 08 JUL 2012
    Dreamscape World Premiere
    Tanglewood Festival
    Lenox, MA
    Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
    Gunther Schuller, conductor

Reviews
Mr. Schuller has written that this 11-minute piece was practically "presented" to him in a dream, including details of its three-part structure: a fanciful scherzo, followed by an atmospheric nocturne, then a primordial section titled "Birth-Evolution-Culmination." His musical voice here deftly combines skittish pointillist figures, atonal harmonic richness and hints of big-band jazz. The playfulness includes impish quotations, including bits of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Mr. Schuller, 89, who was present, looked gratified by the dynamic performance and the audience’s enthusiastic response.
Anthony Tommasini, The New Tork Times,4/19/2015
Schuller, in a program note, writes that the entirety of Dreamscape — from its structure and character down to details of rhythm and scoring — came to him in a dream. The piece, which he began writing immediately on awakening, is "what the dream composed for me." The result is a small riot of color and polyrhythmic gestures, all refracted through a fun-house mirror. You can almost hear the composer’s subconscious at work in distortions of popular melodies and woozy brass slides. Even a middle movement that Schuller describes as "dark and somber" seemed contemplative rather than gloomy.
David Weininger, Boston Globe,4/10/2015
Dreamscape, a music center commission for Tanglewood's 75th anniversary, is a gorgeous work. Gorgeous, with all those layered textures, complex rhythms and conundrums of intent? Yes, we're talking about splendor of conception and realization by a master symphonist. A translation of subconscious yearnings, fears and confusions into sound, which is what music is about.
Andrew L. Pincus , Berkshire Eagle,7/11/2012
The title is not metaphorical — as Schuller himself explained to the audience with an air of wonderment, the piece in fact came to him fully formed in a dream, complete with an array of complex rhythmic ideas he claims would never have occurred to him during his waking hours. Regardless of its sources, Dreamscape is a richly imagined, witty, and rewarding new orchestral work. An ebullient opening movement marked “Scherzo umoristico e curioso” has a playful at times almost slapstick feel, with instrumental jokes and even shouts erupting from the orchestra. A “Nocturne” follows, brief, ruminative and beautiful, capped by a finale marked “Birth-Evolution-Culmination,” in which music of great density and complexity seems fired by primal forces. With so many ideas crammed into a 10-minute score, it’s the kind of piece that instantly makes you want to hear it a second time (and fortunately, it will be repeated at this summer’s Festival of Contemporary Music).
Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe,7/10/2012
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