Program Notes on Dreams and Visions (Searching the Shadows)
The composer’s initial point of inspiration was visual archetypes drawn from tarot card readings collaboratively thrown by oboist Jennet Ingle and composer Marjorie Rusche. Nine cards were intuitively selected, then three apportioned for each movement in a way that would serve as a formal framework for musical flow. Each card’s metaphorical meaning and visual image was captured in sound; with variations and embellishments along the way. The three movements of the work are connected in a cyclic manner but can also be performed independently.
Mvt. I. Allegro spirito (Oboe solo) begins with a rapid step-wise motive (e-f#-e) which sustains the last note, then repeats an octave higher and leads into The Sun, a joyous, expansive, lyrical waltz-like tune. Motivic fragmentations and chromatic alterations of the tune occur, then an inverted introductory motive ends this section. The 7 of Wands, a card of standing your ground in conflict, anchors the middle section. The motives are more dissonant and angular with irregular rhythms. After a fermata, our step-wise transitional motive returns and leads us to the 9 of Pentacles, a woman picking roses in her sunny garden, a card which has ornate filigree in the background. Musically the final section is a variation and combination of The Sun theme and the ornamental opening step- wise motive. It ends on our opening pitch, e.
Mvt. II. Broody, Tempestuous (Oboe & Piano duo) is a more organic and interwoven description of the cards. We start with the 2 of Swords, a blindfolded woman (she cannot see her way or her path is blocked) holding 2 crossed swords in defense, surrounded by turbulent seas and a sky which contains a crescent moon or possibly an eclipse. The wave-like piano introduction starts with eighth notes then moves to a 16th note quintuplet, a quintuplet which will be tonally modified throughout the movement. The oboe’s initial soft low-range yet intense melody expands and climbs in range to a high d. The piano stabilizes its rhythm on a G Major chord and the mood lifts as the Death card appears, in this case viewed more as change or liberation, releasing old blockages and making way for new paths, than as physical death. A bit of the opening turbulence appears, then the music eases into The Lovers, with a soaring high-range oboe melody, lush rolled piano chords, and mutually shared rhythmic patterns. Our opening chromatic 16th note quintuplet has now been tonally freed.
Mvt. III. Joyous – Dance-like (Oboe, Viola, & Piano trio). The Page of Cups kicks off our rustic medieval stomp dance of youthful joy with a simple 6/8 syncopated G Major tune shared by the viola and oboe. We briefly visit the relative minor mode, then return to G Major. The 3 of Swords reversed (heartbreak, sorrow) features a viola solo with a few low range piano notes. The original dance theme returns in minor, shifts to a 5/8 meter, and leads us to the Ace of Wands. We’re back in 3/4, now in Gb major, and The Sun’s cheerful, expansive, optimistic melody (which started the entire composition) reappears to blend with the Ace of Wands, which is Jennet’s personal tarot card significator which just happens to be tattooed on her forearm. (And Jennet has a sunny disposition.) The music is jokeful, waltzing around and laughingly playing with rhythmic shifts towards the G Major end of the composition.
My great thanks to Jennet for commissioning this work (with partial funding from the Indiana Arts Commission). It is a true delight to collaborate with her. I hope you enjoy the composition. ——– Marjorie M. Rusche
Video: Dreams and Visions: Searching the Shadows, by Marjorie Rusche