“Dream Free.”, for string quartet, will be premiered on the 11th of March, 2017, at the National Gallery, Singapore. The premiere will use a special version of the score with a double bass part, and performed by the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) Philharmonic Orchestra (IB), conducted by Mr. Edward Tan.
The piece is about dreaming about freedom in the army – ironically, during its premiere I would be serving extra duties in camp. The salt is real.
I realised it’d come down in my eventual biography as one of the interesting events of my life: “when his ‘Dream Free’, a piece about freedom in the army, was premiered, composer Darren Ang was being punished with confinement in camp.” So when I saw the date of my extra duty, I laughed.
You can’t win all the time, I guess. :p
“Some say freedom is free -
But I tend to disagree;
Some say freedom is won,
to the barrel of the gun…”
“Dream Free.” was conceptualised while melting away in a sentry post at the live firing range – four hours in, an unknown amount of time to go…but 8 months in, and 14 months to freedom.
Fundamentally, the work is a parody of military tunes, but along with that comes a message from a little soldier in the army: bind me to my duty and I will accept it, but you can’t stop me from dreaming about freedom.
Every day starts and ends with us wondering why we’re here. Funny thing is, we know the answer. But in the vulnerable one-to-one talks, committed to the boredom of the wilderness, we question anyway. The piece starts off with that image – a solo violin laments to the sky, and his buddies echo him. He takes his time, because there’s lots of it, and it moves slowly. His friends, with tired, downcast voices, follow.
Then comes the dance of optimism – every day passed is a day closer to the Friday book-out, every book-out is another reprieve of freedom. This dance is set to the tune of “Little Soldiers”, from which the introductory epitext of this work is derived. But the theme is inverted – that is, flipped vertically. Originally, “Little Soldiers” is to be sung in unison to a moderate marching rhythm, full of gusto and fire, but its inversion here is set to a mild pizzicato rhythm and played by a solo violin, reflectively and quietly.
The dance of optimism ends on a warm, small chord, which drops into silence. In comes the march of acceptance, based on the classic tune used to accompany the inspection of a parade. The original tune is literally a march, but for the little soldier standing amidst a huge contingent, that tune signifies the passing of another rehearsal – another session fitted into a schedule, another day closer to freedom.
Perhaps, though, there is some pride in standing in a parade. It’s a show of military might, and that summarises the little soldier’s duty in an army so much bigger than himself – to stand strong and defend his country. To go through the pain, rigour…whatever they wish to call it, of everyday routines, because there are people to defend. And so the little soldier marches on with pride.
Yet, he dreams. Amidst the fanfares pounding in his head and all the shouting going around, he dreams. He dreams in the chaos of mission exercises and the peace of his bunk bed. And day by day, freedom – that beautiful freedom he had never cherished before – becomes closer and closer of a reality.
“Dream Free.” was the second original composition I made while serving the army. It was much more harmonious and rhythmically stable than its predecessor “mortis.”, owing to the nature of the military tunes its themes were based on.
It is unquestionably light-hearted, yet senditive – a characteristic that will encompass a fair portion of my compositions. For the performers in the ACS (Independent) orchestra, it was to be a simple and fun, yet emotionally vulnerable piece to execute. And for the beginner-to-intermediate level string quartet, this piece would serve as a fun exercise in co-ordination. The parts are not technically demanding, but good co-ordination is required for the highly rhythmic parts and intimate duets.
But its core, this piece is written to be enjoyable for both the performers and listeners. It is light music with depth, and the images it paints create that depth.
Hope you enjoy the show 🙂
p.s. a recording of the premiere will be up around 12.03.17 – 17.03.17, with an accompanying blog post ^^