“I really like this! Ten minutes, four pieces, properly contemporary in style, neither terribly difficult nor abstruse, this could and should become a standard concert work.”
an ideal insomnia is a piece that explores the ways in which objects, sounds and thoughts are distorted by the night and by half-awake dreams. All four movements use samples from pre-existing pieces that undergo a variety of transformations.
The final piece, Alter Klang, takes its title from a painting by Paul Klee. The canvass comprises blocks of colour that seem to obscure an image, rather like the large pixels of a low-grade digital photograph. In Alter Klang, I took sections from the Adagietto of Mahler’s 5th Symphony, removed much of the detail and generated a new piece from my distillation. Sometimes the Mahler becomes almost recognisable, but for the most part it is kept under the surface like a faded memory. This contrasts sharply with the grotesque and frantic Night Music, which nervously quotes from a number of sources distorted beyond recognition into a nightmarish phantasmagoria. Rockaby is a lullaby and a cradlesong that takes its material from night pieces by Benjamin Britten and Mark Anthony Turnage. The Hatter refers to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and is loosely based on Erik Satie’s setting of Rene Chalupt’s poem Le Chapelier.
The whole set lasts around 10½ minutes, however, the performer is free to select one or more of the pieces and to perform them in any order to suit the contexts of specific recital programmes.
an ideal insomnia was written for and is dedicated to Graham Caskie, who gave the first performance at the Guildford International Music Festival on 19th March 2003. He has recorded the work on The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (CACD0604© 2006). I would like to thank Graham for the many helpful suggestions he made while we were working on the piece.
© Stephen Goss 2003