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"Dark Dream" (2018) for violin and guitar

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Title : "Dark Dream" (2018) for violin and guitar
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"Dark Dream" (2018) for violin and guitar

Dong Qichang, Eight Views of Autumn Moods, dated 1620. Album of eight leaves, leaf five
I picked this painting by the great Chinese artist and scholar Dong Qichang to introduce this piece because I have become more aware that there is a significant Asian influence on my aesthetic. This includes Chinese art, philosophy and aesthetics as well as that of Japan and the music of both Japan and Indonesia. I don't mean anything like a direct influence, but rather a kind of aesthetic tendency. For example, where you might expect a resounding climax at the 2/3 or 3/4 point in "Dark Dream," instead there is a significant silence, a kind of negative climax. This roughly corresponds to the "negative space" that is often found in Chinese and Japanese art towards the centre of the image. You can see an example in the painting above. A large empty space occupies the center of the painting. I tend towards very spare and transparent textures, which also reflects more of an Asian sensibility. I think this probably came to me because some of the first aesthetically interesting artforms I encountered were the Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts. In my teenage years I was living on Vancouver Island and the Asian influence was omnipresent including the books on art in the public library. Sure, there was lots of Western influence as well, but it was more ordinary and less striking in my eyes.

I encountered a lot of Asian music when I was young as well, both directly in the form of Folkways recordings of music from Java, Bali, India and Japan as well as indirectly through a composer friend of mine who studied with Toru Takemitsu in Tokyo. I encountered the music of Jō Kondo in a lecture he gave that I attended as a young undergraduate. I was also fortunate to hear Ravi Shankar in concert when I was still in high school.

Being aware of these influences actually helps me solve some aesthetic problems, particularly of structure, as it frees me from either conforming to, or consciously avoiding, Western structural concepts.

"Dark Dream" is, for me, a fairly long piece, its single movement coming in at over fourteen minutes. I wrestled with the structure a lot, re-writing the piece several times. One of the basic thematic ideas is an accelerating and decelerating repeated note figure that is played against itself. Another element is the octatonic scale which I use fairly freely. One section is aleatory, with both instruments playing individual cells in an order that can vary with each performance. Unusual timbres are also used which include a "snare-drum" effect on the guitar, playing with the wood of the violin bow, preparing the guitar with a paper-clip and frequent glissandi on both instruments. All this sets up a contrast between discrete, incremental passages and ones where there is sliding from one pitch or rhythm to another.

The piece is dreamlike in that it features unexpected transitions and timbres that tend to estrange the listener from the melodic and harmonic elements.

I hope that you will enjoy the piece!


UPDATE: By the way, is everyone able to access the piece through the link ok?


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