House of the Dreamers (1992)

for orchestra

Paul Jacobs Memorial Commission from the Tanglewood Music Center

Bridge of Houses, a project by New York architect Steven Holl, suggested the title of my piece. The House of the Dreamers is one of a series of houses to be built atop an abandoned elevated rail link in Manhattan. I was fascinated as much by Holl’s story for this imaginary house as by its architecture:

The house is shaped like an upside-down dish, patterned from the vault of the sky. Carved from the center is a courtyard stepping down like a little canyon, a shallow pool of water at the floor. The inhabitants look into the pool but cannot see the bottom. No rays of sun reach the little pool, nor are beams of moonlight reflected ... In the silence of the courtyard, the inhabitants can hear ... a steady dripping. Drop by drop this sound sets them dreaming.

What struck me about this description was the contrast between the stark architecture and the dreaming of the inhabitants. My piece is in part a counterpoint between an extended, seamless narrative (the dreams) and the static presence of the percussion (the house). The narrative is active, inflected, and continually evolving as a series of blended dream images. Developing on a much broader time scale, the percussion creates the rigid edifice that contains the dreams.


  • Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Bradley Lubman, conductor; 8/2/1992