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Dreaming is also a relevant state for Francesconi’s Animus (1995). That word, he notes, means “soul” in the sense of wit, humor, and character, and is both subject and source of dreams. A student of Stockhausen and Berio, Francesconi has composed widely in all media – the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave the U.S. premiere of his orchestral score Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn in 2003 – including radio operas in which he has attempted to realize his ideal of a “theater of the imagination.”

Animus is certainly theatrical, and its non-narrative struggle between the breath of animate spirit and the remorseless processing of instrumental metal and digital code plays out on the stage of imagination. (Francesconi created the interactive electronics at IRCAM in Paris, and the tour de force trombone techniques for Benny Sluchin. The work has become the first in a series, with Animus II for viola and electronics, and Animus III for tuba and electronics.)

Francesconi is also a jazz musician, and Animus has the wild urges of improvisation and free exploration even as it becomes increasingly defined and fixed. Breath is the tie that binds human and metal, and the computer mediates and formalizes the often uneasy relationship, hinting at some future hybrid with its own mix of explicit comedy and implied philosophy.