Machines and Dreams was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra for their 1991 ‘Childhood’ Festival. I was asked to write a contemporary equivalent of the Toy Symphony attributed to Leopold Mozart. The starting point for the composition was a visit to Hamley’s toyshop with the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, where we bemused the assistants trying out numerous toys for their acoustic properties. The toys eventually chosen for the children’s orchestra in the three ‘machine’ movements (the ‘dreams’ of the title are two interludes for grown-up orchestra alone, which can be omitted) include: in the first movement, toy pianos, car horns and sirens; in the middle movement bird calls; and in the finale a combination of the above with the addition of computer ‘game’ noise-machines, and an extra surprise element. The music for the children’s orchestra is not improvised, but notated throughout: what I particularly hoped to do in this piece was to provide the experience of playing as soloists in front of a large orchestra, and to make the experience an enjoyable one.
View the score (published by Faber Music)