“Dream Lightly’’ (2008) by Keeril Makan also challenges traditional expectations, in this case for the electric guitar, played with soulful delicacy by Seth Josel. Makan creates a pleasant sonic haze built on harmonic overtones of strummed strings, echoed by moody effects in the orchestra. Metallic sonorities dominate, with slow and subtle shifts of color, reminiscent of the music of Arvo Part.
Keeril Makan’s Dream Lightly (2008), for electric guitar and orchestra, followed. Mr. Makan’s score, which requires the guitarist (Seth Josel) to play harmonics for almost of its entire length, made for a very nice transition from the Berio: in place of the busy textures of the prior work, this piece unfolded slowly and ethereally. Its basic form is straightforward: the first perhaps third consists of some fascinating timbral combinations—sustained guitar tones echoed by string harmonics, gentle percussion figurations, and the like—before breaking into a Copland-esque melody. After building to a heterophonic climax on this tune, the sustained, opening tones return and lead to an ambiguous conclusion.
Dream Lightly was easily the most haunting work on the program, even if it was the least flashy. Much of the credit for this is due to Mr. Josel, whose performance of the solo part was sensitively nuanced. BMOP and Mr. Rose again proved ideal accompanists, enunciating the score’s architecture with clarity and purpose. Particularly notable in their reading was the dramatic arrival of the work’s multilayered zenith: it positively glowed. Mr. Makan, who teaches at MIT, was on hand to share in the warm ovation that his piece received. I look forward to hearing more from him in the years to come.
Keeril Makan’s Dream Lightly for electric guitar and orchestra featured none of the histrionics that its instrumentation might suggest. The electric guitar part, deftly rendered by Seth Josel, was performed almost entirely on harmonics. This exercise in understatement lived up to its title, as passages hung, dreamlike, in the air, not so much developing as recurring, half-remembered. The piece opened as shimmering strings and harp harmonics provided a bed for a simple diatonic motif, the guitar’s delicate timbres evoking distant chimes, or perhaps a kind of change ringing. The pure intervals of the guitar harmonics occasionally stirred ripples when pitted against the equal temperament of the accompanying instruments, contributing to the hazy atmosphere. Rumblings from the winds were not enough to break the sense of rapt serenity of this gorgeous reverie.
In the case of Keeril Makan’s Dream Lightly for electric guitar and orchestra, the title exactly describes the sensation of listening to the piece. Listeners looking for Eric Clapton licks are referred to their CD collection; this piece uses the electric guitar as a generator of chime-like harmonic tones that float dreamily through the orchestral texture like glass balls in space. The slight pitch difference between the guitar’s natural harmonics and the orchestra’s tempered tuning evokes otherworldly, surreal sensations. Midway through the piece, gentle guitar strums and restless stirrings in the orchestra suggest a different phase of sleep. Guitarist Seth Josel, for whom the piece was written in 2008, attended to every expressive nuance in this subtle score.