“Shadow Dreams” was composed for the University of Michigan Euphonium-Tuba Ensemble (UMETE) in 2016. It was premiered in February of 2017 by UMETE in Stamps Auditorium on the U-M campus.
This work was inspired by the stories of Cthulhu, the giant mythical monster imagined by H.P. Lovecraft in his 1926 short story “The Call of Cthulhu.” The story details the accounts of the narrator, Francis Wayland Thurston, who discovers notes left behind by his grand-uncle George Gammell Angel, a former linguistics professor at Brown University. Along with these notes, he also finds a sculpture of Cthulhu, who is described as a creature that combines the features of “an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature.” Cthulhu communicates from beyond the void with humans, using their dreams as a way to project images of the vast “nightmare-corpse city” of R’lyeh and its fantastic and impossible architectural geometry. In the story, there is a cult formed around Cthulhu and the other “Great Old Ones.”
This piece mirrors the general aesthetic of Lovecraft’s story, with the introduction containing dissonant sonorities and lurking passages for the lowest voices of the ensemble. This is the beginning of the nightmare. These dark sounds give way to simultaneous iterations of a “shrieking” theme in the euphoniums, which symbolizes the strange rites performed by the Cult of the Great Ones. After a pause, when the sleeper awakens, a rather boisterous and upbeat section follows the begins, which resembles the forced positivity of the subject after he/she awakens from the nightmares. The muted passages and the “shrieking” theme both return throughout the piece and signify the recurring nightmares that Cthulhu brings to its subjects, along with the shadows of those nightmares in daily life.
The work steadily progresses through variations and scattered episodes toward a heroic conclusion, suggesting either the victory of the subject over the nightmares, or, if you prefer a darker twist, the domination of the subject reflected sarcastically by the sonority of the ending chords (a la the ending of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”). The latter version fits more with Lovecraft’s original story, which depicts Thurston’s realization that he has become a target of the Cult.
Shadow Dreams (2017)
File will be provided as a printable PDF containing a title page, program notes, score, and individual parts.