Instrumentation: concerto for alto saxophone and wind ensemble (piano reduction and orchestra version also available)
Premiere: 7:30pm, Friday, January 4, 2013 :: United States Navy Band, Brian O. Walden, conductor, Jonathan Yanik, saxophone :: 2013 International Navy Band Saxophone Symposium :: George Mason University, Fairfax, VA (edited in 2014)
The initial inspiration for Dreams in the Dusk came while walking on my father-in-law’s farm on a cold, snowy evening. Situated in rural Michigan, miles from the nearest city on the flattest land I have ever seen, I came the closest I have ever been to feeling real silence. The silence, stillness, and peace that I found in the fleeting moments of daylight while walking in the crisp, fresh snow was one of the ways that I dealt with the passing of my sister-in-law, Julia Hope Voelker, a mere 23 years old, who lost her battle with cancer in January of 2013. Those walks at dusk became a kind of ritual for me during the last few weeks of her life, as our family had gathered together to be with her as she lived out her final days in her childhood home. Searching for a voice for the many emotions I was feeling, I turned to one of my favorite poems, “Dreams in the Dusk” by the American poet Carl Sandburg. For me, this poem captured the essence of that sacred time at the waning of the day in a way that was beautiful and profound.
Dreams in the Dusk
By Carl Sandburg
Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.
Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day’s loss
Wrote in tears the heart’s loss.
Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.
Sandburg, Carl. Chicago Poems. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916, 1999.
There are two primary musical gestures that most often occupy the musical foreground of the piece, including a moaning, groaning, or wailing, which is usually manifest in the form of long, slow portamenti between notes in various melodic structures, and sharp, quick crescendi, which are usually orchestrated into either spacious chords or tight harmonic clusters. The melodic groans are a kind of musical mourning, analogues of sung or spoken lamentations. The quick crescendi are used in a variety of contexts in Dreams in the Dusk, but, for me, they represent the musical icon of reverse tape playback effects, which are nearly ubiquitous in popular and electronic music. More important than a genre or technique reference, they take on a specific personal significance within the context of this piece, signifying a desire to turn back time, to start again, to change the diagnosis, to return to a time when all was well.
Dreams in the Dusk was commissioned through the generosity of the following saxophonists and sponsors:
Jonathan Yanik, Timothy McAllister, Dale Underwood, Joshua Thomas, Donald Sinta, Jonathan Nichol, Dale Wolford, Don-Paul Kahl, Matthew Kobberstad, Alex Sellers, Garrett M. Ledbetter, Matthew Schoendorff, Todd Gaffke, David Cook, Jeffery Kyle Hutchins, Gordon Gest, Mark and Debbie Freier, Zachary Shemon, James Fusik, Jeffrey Heisler, and Keith Petersen.