Wise Dreams and Fables of the Sky is inspired by The Odyssey books IX-XII. This is the section of the epic where Odysseus, as a guest of the Phaeacians, recounts the ten-year period of heroic adventures experienced on his zigzag voyage home following the Trojan War, which was fought around 1200 B.C. While not a literal sonic retelling, “Wise Dreams” is faithful to the underlying structure, sequence of actions, situations, and characters.
The unusual instrumentation provides a non-Eurocentric frame of reference, and has much in common with ancient Greek musical practice (we know from paintings and writings that wind, string, and percussion instruments were commonly used in small ensembles). Interestingly, the guzheng and yangqin lend themselves well to the role played by the kithara and the lyre in ancient Greece, and they remind us in a wonderful way that there were other advanced cultures in the world at that time, notably the late Shang Dynasty in China.
From time to time, each musician takes on a more specific role in the drama. For example, you might hear the guzheng play the bittersweet melodies of the Earthly Realm, the bass portray the wounded Cyclops, or the saxophone deliver the prophesies of Tiresias in Hades.
Working with projections is an exciting new direction for us. As the piece took shape, it seemed to call for a more immersive environment than the typical concert presentation, and we are thrilled to have Craig Baldwin handling the 16mm film projections.
This project made possible in part by support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation,