The Greater Boulder Youth Orchestra will premiere my piece Cicero’s Dream on their November 5, 2019 6:00PM concert in Macky Auditorium in Boulder. Midori is coming to town for a several day residency hosted by the Boulder Philharmonic and the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestra. Once or twice a year Midori donates her time, talents, and fame to support a regional orchestra and partner youth orchestra for a whirlwind residency. They pack in lots of activity with the young performers, outreach events, masterclasses, donor events, and the like. The Boulder Philharmonic and the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestra teemed up to commission a piece to celebrate the event. I’ve listed my program note below which explains the title and inspiration.
It is important to compose music for young ensembles. Young players get a steady diet of Baroque music and gradually get introduced to the classical and romantic repertoire. Rarely will they perform Stravinsky or anything later. Their range of performances and activities should include premieres by a living composers. The special challenge of taking notes never heard before and bringing them to life is special. There is an ownership of the music by the first performers. The untested score requires close listening as they sort out how their parts fit in to the whole piece. Young musicians should know that music is still being written and our art form is in the present tense! Seeing a living composer attend a rehearsal also brings a new perspective on Beethoven or Tchaikovsky or Bach. They too made changes, altered tempos, deleted notes, added dynamics, and asked the performers for their thoughts on the music. Composers are regular people and masterpieces don’t just fall out of the sky.
Attending rehearsals with the GBYO has been a pleasure. The three orchestras are all talented and have tackled my piece with commitment and heart. I offer my thanks to these fabulous young performers! My daughter, Kaela, has joined the GBYO and will play my piece for the premiere, which brings special joy. She has picked though the violin part just like all of the other kids and I’ve heard every isolated measure of the 2nd violin part over and over in our home. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty during the static passages which feature the lyric and still absent solo violin part. At other times I have moments of indulgent pride when I think “hey, that tune’s not bad”. And she’s gotten to see me at work – in my element. She watches me take in a passage and quickly give feedback to the orchestra to help them realize the music with greater passion. She gets an up close seat as I work with Maestro Lewis to sort out phrasing and tempos, and as I pace nervously during rehearsal.
It is lovely to have Kaela and all these wonderful young players participate in this premiere. Best wishes to you all!
Cicero’s Dream program note:
Music of the Spheres is the harmonious embodiment of the celestial orbit and dance of the sun, moon, and planets. The imagined orbital resonance generated from ratios of mathematical sound creates a heavenly music representing divine beauty and order. The cosmos capture a mysterious distance of otherness that has enraptured human expression for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks first imagined a heavenly symphony as they discovered the overtone series and how stringed instruments embodied complex tuning systems and shimmering harmonics. They connected this discovery woven into the fabric of physical sound to an elegant higher order bound up with the makeup of the universe.
Cicero, a first century BC Roman politician, wrote about a dream where a general ascends above the heavens to witness the glorious resting place of the immortal soul. This lofty perch provides a grand view of “those eternal fires which you call constellations and stars, and which, being globular and round, are animated with divine spirit, and complete their cycles and revolutions with amazing rapidity.” The dream includes a colorful depiction of the Music of the Spheres: “What is this sound so strong and sweet that fills my ears?” “This,” he replied, “is the melody which, at intervals unequal, yet differing in exact proportions, is made by the impulse and motion of the spheres themselves.”
The violin solo embodies the spirit of Cicero as he moves through the heavens in a dreamlike state. The piece builds and yearns to move higher towards the grand vision described in the dream. A hymn-like melody sweeps through the orchestra at the climax of the piece as Cicero takes in the full majesty of the heavens. Four section leaders accompany with shorter solos interspersed throughout the piece. Cicero’s Dream was written for youth orchestra and allows for participation of players of all levels.
Cicero’s Dream was commissioned by the Boulder Philharmonic, the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestra, and Colorado high schools to celebrate the 2018 Midori Residency in Boulder, Colorado.