The music on this album was inspired by and written for Dreamers, young people brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents. But in a larger sense, the music reflects the enormous complexities and challenges faced by young people in this the second decade of the 21st Century. All of the music here attempts to reflect the trajectory of emotional experiences of the “Dreamer” generation.
I interviewed several young people in preparation for the album’s music. I was flabbergasted to discover that despite the indignities, humiliations, and uncertainties heaped upon them by our society, anger was almost entirely absent from their emotional experiences and responses. Fear certainly, grief, anxiety, mistrust, a sense of separation, and at times rupture were present. I believe the vast majority of our Dreamers long simply for durable stability, permanence, and acceptance.
The album is dedicated to my daughters, Ana Gabriela and Christina Maria, adopted from Paraguay so many years ago, and Dreamers forever.
Symphony No. 5 (Dreamers) The first movement of the album’s principal work is titled, “Rain, Lagrimas (Tears).” Scored for piano, strings, and percussion, the movement suggests lightly falling precipitation and the exquisitely fervent sadness of separation and loss experienced inwardly and introspectively. Drops of rain from the high register of the piano and percussion ostinatos sustain the movement while a carpet of upper register strings provides the harmonic framework. Solo violin and solo cello glide above and below the strings and percussion. The music descends into more overt grief, and ends with the tolling of chimes: bittersweet memory.
Subtitles of the two sections of the second movement are “Fear” and “Grace.” In the opening, the piano in octaves plays an extended series of short motives while more extended lines in strings and winds provide antagonistic counterpoint. The ambience is tense and anguished. Suddenly this material is transformed into melodic lines of elegance, restraint, and purity that suggest “Grace,” poise, suppleness, and release. The movement ends with gentle anticipation.
The final movement opens with “Separation, Grief.” A brass fanfare of great intensity overpowers the orchestra. Stern and unyielding motives from various solo instruments follow. Gradually the tension dissolves into tenderness, warmth, and gently flowing, sinuous melodic lines. In the final section, marked “Resolution, Triumph,” the full orchestra evokes unrestrained expectation and elation.
“Sanctuary One” is scored for solo piccolo and strings. An obvious reference here is the similarity between the timbre of the piccolo and the pan pipes associated with the traditional music of Peru, but found in much of Latin American music. The title invokes the cities and churches who have declared themselves “sanctuaries” from the threats of immigration authorities: safe if temporary refuges. The music acknowledges sorrow and loss, but within the seeds of its melodic phrases, hopefulness and tranquility.
The Adagietto is an introspective, lucubratory work in a single movement. It opens with nostalgia: an extended passage for subdued strings and solo oboe. It progresses through more discordant harmonies and reaches a restrained, chastened climax with strings in octaves, accompanied by triadic arpeggiations in the piano.
Epitaph is a meditative, reflective work exploring childhood memories and emotions through the sheltering lens of adult remembrance and compassion. The work begins with a complex contrapuntal sonority falling gradually and inexorably, and punctuated by the lowest notes of the piano. The following cadenza presents a wall of A minor sound penetrated by short, declamatory melodic motives. Another contrapuntal section, this one exploiting wind instruments, proceeds from mystery through turbulence to resolution. Finally, in an evocative recapitulation of the opening, the piano becomes a child’s music box; its mechanically precise, upper register motives first accompany and later perform the original string melodies.
The Persistence of Memory explores the impact of the past upon the present through the juxtaposition and combination of older and contemporary musical styles. The first movement unfolds slowly with a musical landscape described in the score as “haunting, pagan, restless.” As this section fades from view, contrasting material emerges: a melodic line for piano and solo cello in a style reminiscent of Brahms or Schumann, marked “nostalgic, with dignity.” The two sections alternate — the present with its uncertainty and the past with its inescapable sadness, until styles and themes merge at the end of the movement.
The second movement has three discrete sections, each subtly evocative of past music styles. The first suggests the percussive drive of Bartók; the second transforms an accompanimental pattern from a Schubert song into a “misterioso” piano sonority; and the third combines elements of Impressionism with soaring melodic lines. The structure evokes one final element of the past: the movement is in sonata form without a development, and the principal means of expression throughout is melody.
Final Sanctuary for oboe and electronic sounds is a meditation. Anxieties, grief, and despair are banished. The warmth of the oboe gliding above and below sustained, slow-moving harmonies suggests and evokes a sense of inner peace, uninterrupted tranquility, and fulfillment.
- Jeffrey Jacob
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