American Dreamcatcher

for two pianos
Commissioned by HOCKET


I have always loved the idea of the dreamcatcher: a spindly ornament adorned with beads and feathers that is both simple and beautiful yet serves a valuable purpose. According to many American Indian cultures, the dreamcatcher snares bad dreams that come in the night and allows the good ones to pass through to visit us in our sleep. In modern American culture, we too have myths about dreams. The American Dream – the notion that each of us has the freedom to pursue success and prosperity no matter our origins – is the cornerstone of American idealism. The spirit of optimism that defines the American ethos rests on this dream. Yet it seems as though the American Dream grows more and more elusive each day as the specters of inequality, prejudice, and intolerance linger in our daily lives.

In this work, I ponder the myths of the American Dream and the Dreamcatcher. In the first movement, sorrowful melodies juxtapose uplifting, yet fractured harmonies to illustrate the bittersweet realities of American life – the optimistic spirit and the rest, all the broken bits. The second movement, when the sun rises, all bad dreams just disappear, is a meditation on the dreamy haze that we live in if we don’t look too hard at the real world. The third movement, either way we go to war, awakens with aggressive rhythms and explosive textures. If our American Dreamcatcher is to serve its purpose, it will do so only because we choose to fight for it with our eyes wide open.