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Dune has become my signature piece, germinating over a long period. Science fiction, legend and ancient earth history are very powerful imagination-tweekers that suggest new forms for microtonal music. Like many fans of Frank Herbert's powerful Dune novels, I was disappointed with the movie. I thought 'well, I'll take care of that,' and wrote a bassoon solo that does it up just fine. And I'm pleased to say that it's been very well received by the bassoon world. Perhaps it will be, as one reviewer put it, the next contemporary music competition piece for bassoon.
Although each section of Dune has its own program reference, it's not necessary to know it. There's always more for anyone who's curious. People say that the brilliance of Mozart is that there is a level accessible to everyone, that every stripe of person will find a deeper level or aspect to speak to them directly. I'd like to feel that the same is true here. In the score I suggest that you can completely disregard the Frank Herbert connection and just think of Dune as reflecting the sand dunes which the wind is constantly shaping.
For instance, the opening of Dune is a physical swirling of the instrument that creates a very powerful acoustic effect, resolving into a multiphonic, thick, grainy chord sound. On the planet Arakis, a desert world, giant worms burrow beneath the sand. Sensitive to physical movement, they eventually pop their heads up and move towards whatever is moving. I'm being quite programmatic in the beginning of Dune. The next section is a theme and variations returning to the novel's father and son (after all, what's more of a variation than a son to a father?). The Tleilaxu, for instance, are shape shifters. In this section I even change the shape of the bassoon with no pause, screwing the bell off the top of the bassoon, then screwing the bocal out of the bassoon, playing on the still-connected reed, popping the end of the bocal into the bell and then using my hands to create a wah-wah sound - which is the Tleilaxu all over. The next section is the Ixians. They were technocrats and so everything is done exclusively with keys, just the sound of the percussion of the bassoon.
Next, we have the Fremen, represented by equal divisions of the octave: two, three, four, five, improvising. Finally, the Spice, which drove the Fremen towards the next day, when they would gather more spice from the worm. Spice is all multiphonics, just a joyous series of chords, an almost bluesy, ecstatic dance.
- Johnny Reinhard October 1998
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