California Dreamin' (2008) for cello, piano, percussion, and audio playback
California Dreamin' marks the fourth piece in a series of works that I am composing to explore the musical materials and themes for a forthcoming opera based on a late-nineteenth-century short story, “The Haunted Valley,” by journalist and author Ambrose Bierce. Through sound, spoken word, and dance, California Dreamin,' for piano, percussion, and cello is a critical interrogation of the rampant racist sentiments during the mid- to ;ate-nineteenth century in California. The work also explores the connections of earlier attitudes toward anti-immigration policies to those of our contemporary moment.
The music of this piece mainly explores the material supporting and musically representing one of the characters in Bierce's short story, Whisky Jo Dunfer, performed by the percussionist. This project is aimed at counteracting continuing historical amnesia that actively “forgets” that California was once Mexican land occupied, farmed, mined, and worked by Mestizo, Native, Chinese, Chilean, Peruvian, French, German, and African American peoples. This piece was originally composed for the Empyrean Ensemble, at the University of California, Davis. The audio tapes for the performance of this piece consist of sound from ethographic ﬁeld recordings provided by permisson from the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum and the California Valley Miwok Tribe. Texts are reprinted by permission.