About This Work
John Cage had already gained a reputation as a leading figure of the avant-garde -- largely for his development of the prepared piano -- when he wrote Dream in 1948. This was near the end of a period during which Cage wrote prolifically for modern
dancers; Dream, in fact, was composed at the request of Cage's longtime collaborator, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham. As was his usual practice, Cage began work on Dream only after the dance was completely planned and Cunningham had given him a list of the metric patterns for each dance as a template from which Cage could proceed.
The music consists of groups of pitches that are allowed to resonate (either by holding the keys down or by using the sustaining pedal); the degree of resonance of the performing instrument determines the rhythmic flow of the piece. Foreshadowing later developments in Cage's aesthetic, Dream creates for the listener an otherworldly sense of time suspension. It is a gentle, slightly haiku-like work.
At this writing, the work is available in recorded versions for either piano or a duet of harp and guitar.
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