American Dream is a reflection of the contemporary American state of mind. Without making a direct political statement, the work reflects on the paradoxical nature of the ‘American Dream’ in our current era. The music combines the beautiful/hopeful with repugnant/doom. American Dream is made from what I imagined as bits and pieces of “broken songs” taken from a kind of zombified collective American memory. These simplified songs bits are then arranged as carefully orchestrated floating sounds dispensed in a fragmented time field. Throughout the work the broken song bits are permeated with an ominous sounding tone cluster which is produced by all three band members simultaneously blowing through chromatic pitch pipes. The cluster produces an uncanny feeling that is a mixture of silliness and doom. As I was channeling the world around me, these two feelings seemed unavoidable while writing the piece. At the work’s conclusion the cluster finds its resolution in a surprising, horrifying, and potentially sublime way when all three members of the ensemble noisily activate every available note on the vibraphone with the aid of adult sex toys. This musical moment represents the seductive imagery of a nuclear explosion.
American Dream was commissioned and first performed by Bearthoven (Karl Larson, piano / Pat Swoboda, bass / Matt Evans, percussion). The work is featured on Bearthoven’s second full-length album, American Dream, released on Cantaloupe Music. Please visit here to read Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s liner notes to the album. The liner note can also be used as a concert program note.