Dreams of a Spirit Seer (1993)
original performance ca. 20:00
Total Percussion required:
2 Bass Drums, Bongos (1 pair), Cabasa, Large Chinese Cymbal, 3 Circular Sawblades, Claves, 3 Large Clay Pots (suspended), 2 Congas, 3 Cowbells, Crotales, Darabuka, Egg Shaker, Large Flexatone, Grand Piano (interior only), Guiro, Hi-hat, Maraca, Marimba, Metal Pipe, 3 Peking Opera Gongs (suspended), Piu ili (Hawaiian Bamboo Rute), Ratchet, 4 Roto-toms, Steel Drum, Large Tam-tam, 4 Temple Cup Gongs, 2 Timbales, 4 Tom-toms, Vibraslap, Vibraphone, Whip, Woodblock
In addition to the regular beaters, 5 or 6 violin/cello bows, 2 superball mallets, and 3 piano bows are required.
I have been attracted to the instruments of the percussion family throughout my musical career, even experiencing an abortive attempt at becoming a drummer in primary school. Percussion instruments are capable of an extremely expressive variety of sounds, from the most delicate ephemeral effects to sounds of atavistic power. Dreams of a Spirit Seer explores this diversity in the context of contemporary and non-Western rhythmic techniques. These techniques include the use of additive rhythms, metric modulation, fractional meters, and controlled or limited improvisation.
The title is borrowed from a work by Immanuel Kant published in 1766. Kant's book is based on inquiries concerning his contemporary Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg, a mystic, claimed to have messages from God Himself, to have spoken with spirits from various planets (even some from beyond our solar system) and that he could visit heaven and hell. In his essay, Kant examines Swedenborg's claims and the metaphysical idea of a spiritual world. Kant concludes there may be such a world, but that knowledge of it would be beyond our awareness or perception. Sharing similar beliefs, I found Kant's writing intriguing, albeit obscure. Man's fascination with the inexplicable all too often leads to claims of exclusive knowledge of the unknowable and acts based on those claims all too often have tragic consequences.
Dreams of a Spirit Seer was premiered by Heung-wing Lung, Wai-wa Leung, Shuk-fai Woo, and Shun-ching Tong, percussion, with Christopher Coleman, conductor, on October 21, 1993 at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts.