Ludwig's Dream (grade 4)
Ludwig's Dream was commissioned by Matt DeLassus and the Ellington (CT) High School Bands and was premiered in the spring of 2017. The commission was a wonderful opportunity for me because Matt encouraged me to "write the piece you've always wanted to write," and his band regularly performed more abstract, contemporary works, such as Dan Bukvich's Voodoo and John Paulson's Epinicion.
My concept for the piece began was I was considering how some other art forms (literature, theater, visual art) are able to use perspective in an unusual way, creating something new by considering something older through a new lens. I'm thinking here of works like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead (which explores two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet), or Wicked (originally a novel that explores the back story for the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz). Changing perspective in music seems much more difficult, though, and I considered the problem for a long time, eventually settling on a sort of musical quotation in which I would layer new music on top of old. I chose to use the exposition to the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and created a sort of story in my mind that would allow me to view Beethoven's music through a new lens.
Each section of the piece begins with an arrangement of the original Beethoven music, but always takes a sort of left turn at some point, veering into wild development. The pitch material for these development sections is inspired by the original work, in particular focusing on the use of major and minor thirds. There is also a considerable use of extended techniques for almost every instrument, including key clicks and jet whistle in flutes; bending notes in saxes; glissandi in clarinets; multiphonics; rolling with fingernails on the bell of instruments and alternate fingerings in the brass; and elements of aleatory throughout. Basically, my idea here is to imagine that Beethoven is working late into the night on his newest symphony and has finally gone to bed, exhausted, having just eaten what turned out to be a bad piece of chicken. This is his dream.