The Grant Park Symphony and Chorus gave the world premiere of a work by Sebastian Currier, Sleepers and Dreamers, last night in Millennium Park as part of the celebration of the Chorus’s 50th anniversary. Carlos Kalmar coaxed admirable playing from both orchestra and chorus, despite 100-degree heat.
The new piece “explores the mysterious nature of sleep,” in Currier’s words, and, fittingly for that theme, mysterious sounds emanate from the orchestra. The work, at least on first listen, lacks progression and is instead basically a soundscape created by the collection of these strange effects. Dissonant pulses materialize from the strings and the percussion eerily whirs and whistles as the chorus voices wordlessly throb. This is most definitely the realm of sleep, an aural nightmare land.
Reinforcing the lack of progression, the work’s two parts do not contrast much. The first section, Sleepers, depicts “the world of science, rational thought, daylight,” yet as it wafts from the stage it sounds more like a nightmare than the second section, Dreamers. This section is supposed to be more abstract and successfully describes the world of sleep. But, despite an intermittent chorale and a bastardized jazz ballad, it has less of a sense of unease than the first movement.
Though the work is not entirely successful in its lack of direction, it does engross the listener in a fascinating world that seems strangely familiar, half-remembered from our own dreams.