Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra

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Friday / November 12, 2010 / 7:00 p.m.
Northeastern University Fenway Center
77 St. Stephens St.
United States

The Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra will present their fall concert at Northeastern University's Fenway Center—on the corner of St. Stephen Street and Gainsborough Street—performing Mars and Jupiter from Holst's "Planets," Philip Glass's "Heroes" symphony, Berklee professor Neil Leonard's "Dreaming of an Island," and a suite from Uncharted 2.

Neil Leonard writes of his piece:

"'Dreaming of an Island' revisits ideas that I first explored in video and installations with Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons. Our collaboration spans 19 years and about 9 collaborative works. Many of these works are featured in Campos-Pons's retrospective show Everything Is Separated by Water at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). 'Dreaming of an Island' was commissioned by IMA.

"My first works with Campos-Pons were film scores, Rite of Initiation (1988) and Sacred Bath (1991). Since the beginning, my work with Campos-Pons has focused on the exploration of ancient cultural themes, and their impact on contemporary personal narrative. 

"Both scores used themes from West African Yoruba music that Campos-Pons heard as a child in Cuba. My scores explored these melodies and rhythms and their connection to American pop and jazz music. (The experimental sounds of Jimi Hendrix and the Art Ensemble of Chicago were staples of my playlist at the time.) 'Dreaming of an Island' draws on an even broader palette, but the basic goal is similar—to explore the ancient sounds as they resonate in the circles of 21st-century concert music, electronic music, and jazz.

"'Dreaming of an Island' is organized in three sections. The first features quiet, slow-moving electronic sound. The electronics reveal traces of recorded bells and voice, however computer processing has given these sounds a dreamlike quality, similar to the sound of the installations at IMA. A single melodic line, played by the orchestra, defines a path though the constantly shifting electronic sounds. The line is based on four notes from a whole tone scale—F, Eb, B, A.

"The second section alludes to the chant to Yemaya, the mother goddess who figures so largely in Campos-Pons's work. The theme is set in A major and played at a brisk tempo. The initial groove climaxes and is followed by a complex tapestry of melodic fragments, inspired by the sweeping gestures and contemporary sounds heard in Lutoslawski's Third Symphony. This section is composed of motives derived from the whole tone melody, Yemaya chant, and jazz themes that I internalized playing in cutting sessions in Boston and Philadelphia bars. This is followed by a slow canon-like buildup featuring the brass and strings, before returning to the initial groove.

"The third section evokes a placid mood, similar to the first section. The Yemaya theme makes its final entrance and gives way to the initial whole-tone melody and fluid electronics.

"The video projection for 'Dreaming of an Island' is a montage created by myself and Magdalena Campos-Pons using a software system of our own design."