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David Maslanka, "A Child's Garden of Dreams"

February 17, 2018

 A Child’s Garden of Dreams

I. There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell

II. A drunken woman falls into the water and comes out renewed and sober

III. A horde of small animals frightens the dreamer. The animals increase to a tremendous size, and one of them devours the little girl

IV. A drop of water is seen as it appears when looked at through a microscope. The girl sees that the drop is full of tree branches. This portrays the origin of the world

V. An ascent into heaven where pagan dances are being celebrated; and a descent into hell where angels are doing good deeds

David Maslanka

Born: August 30, 1943, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Died: August 7, 2017, Missoula, Montana

Composed: 1981

Duration: 35 minutes

 

A Child’s Garden of Dreams was commissioned by John and Marietta Paynter for the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble. It was composed in the summer of 1981 and premiered by Northwestern in 1982.

 

The composer relied upon the following from Carl Jung's Man and His Symbols for his inspiration:

 

A very important case came to me from a man who was himself a psychiatrist. One day he brought me a handwritten booklet he had received as a Christmas present from his ten-year-old daughter. It contained a whole series of dreams she had had when she was eight. They made up the weirdest series of dreams I had ever seen, and I could well understand why her father was more than just puzzled by them. Though childlike, they were uncanny, and contained images whose origin was wholly incomprehensible to the father….

 

In the unabridged German original, each dream begins with the words of the old fairy tale: “Once upon a time….” By these words the little dreamer suggests that she felt each dream were a sort of fairy tale, which she wants to tell her father as a Christmas present. The father tried to explain the dreams in terms of their context. But he could not do so because there appeared to be no personal associations with them….

 

[The little girl] died of an infectious disease about a year after that Christmas….”

[The dreams were a preparation for death, expressed through short stories, like the tales told at primitive initiations.]

The little girl was approaching puberty and at the same time, the end of her life. Little or nothing in the symbolism of her dreams points to the beginning of a normal adult life…. When I first read her dreams, I had the uncanny feeling that they suggested impending disaster….

 

These dreams open up a new and rather terrifying aspect of life and death. One would expect to find such images in an aging person who looks back upon life, rather than to be given them by a child…. Their atmosphere recalls the old Roman saying, “Life is a short dream,” rather than the joy and exuberance of its springtime…. Experience shows that the unknown approach of death casts an adumbratio (an anticipatory shadow) over the life and dreams of the victim. Even the altar in Christian churches represents, on the one hand, a tomb, and on the other, a place of resurrection – the transformation of death into eternal life.”

 

Maslanka selected five of the twelve dreams as motifs for each movement of this composition, as is noted above.

 

Program note from DavidMaslanka.com

 

David Maslanka, A Child's Garden of Dreams

New York Wind Ensemble, Phillip Scott, conductor

 

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