for large orchestra

Commissioned by the NYU Symphony

The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson is a set of four proverbs (aphorisms, cautionary tales, apothegms) for orchestra. 

Conceptually, the germ of the piece comes from a dream I had a some time ago: In my dream, a terminally ill Michael Jackson commissions an architect to construct a large mausoleum with gardens and galleries within its complex labyrinthine interior. 

Throughout the space were facts, aphorisms, memories and glosses on life written by Michael Jackson himself.  These cryptic proverbs, were to be engraved on the floors, ceilings, furniture, or hidden within the landscape as a gift for his daughter upon his death.  His intent was to leave behind a sanctuary of teachings and paternal advice to help her navigate through her life after his death.

I found this image both beautiful and unavoidable: What were these arcane specimens of wisdom and caution that Michael Jackson felt so compelled to leave behind?  What kind of man leaves behind such an grotesquely monumental and megalomaniacal space for reflection upon such intimate words? 

My piece focuses on four, of hypothetically many, imagined proverbs left behind by an imagined Michael Jackson.  

In the end, this piece neither celebrates nor lampoons the real Michael Jackson's public persona or music, but nonetheless reflects upon the gifts, experiences, and wisdom we leave behind to our loved ones when we are laid in the earth.


1. On the sunny shores of Prelapsarian California 
2. Against the onset of senescence and the disintegration of body 
3. On the evenness of tides 
4. Fragments from A Catalogue of All Known Psychotropics and Their Uses 


2 Flutes (II. doubles picc.), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (I. plays Bb and Eb, II. plays Bb Bass), Bassoon, Contrabassoon, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets in C, 3 Trombones (III. Bass), Tuba, Timpani, Percussion: (Crotales, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone (with motor), Chimes, Xylophone, Marimba, Kick Drum, Marching Bass Drum, Bass Drum, Large Bass Drum, 2 Triangles (Medium and Very Small), Suspended Cymbal, Tamtam, Brake Drums (5 or more), Suspended Steel Plates (4 or more), 2 Woodblocks (Small and Large), Whip, Suspended “Bowls” (preferably glass, but can be aluminum. Three pitches roughly C,G,C)), Harp, Pianoforte, Celesta, Optional Ondes Martenot, Strings


12 mins.


11 April 2014 
NYU Symphony
Symphony Space - New York, NY 
Jens Georg Bachmann - conductor