Revisiting Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field

It’s been well over four years since I attended the premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field. At the time, I wrote:

. . . the vital, fearless pianist Kathleen Supové invited Mattingly to compose a work for piano—anything he wanted, of any length. Could Supové, or even Mattingly himself, outsized dreamer though he is, have predicted just how big it would become?

What a thrill it was then! And what a thrill now to be able to listen to another stellar performance, this time by Robert Fleitz.

Here’s Dylan Mattingly, talking about the piece.

For those who may be wondering, the background music in the trailer is from another heroic-scale piece by Mattingly, Atlas of Somewhere on the Way to Howland Island. I wrote at the time:

. . . we’d seen Mattingly at a student recital. He’d pulled out this huge score from his Contemporaneous tote bag and told us about his newest piece. I’d never seen a score up close, and this one was a gorgeous objet d’art. The score Mattingly showed me was for his magnum opus to date, Atlas of Somewhere on the Way to Howland Island. There was no way we were missing that premiere. . . .

When I listen to Mattingly’s music, I’m in the company of Harry Partch and Big Bill Broonzy, of Joni Mitchell, Lou Harrison, Bob Dylan, and John Adams—of Miles Davis and Woody Guthrie—of the great composers and musicians who make up America’s musical vernacular. But Mattingly doesn’t rest on those traditions, for he, too, is an explorer. He stands on their shoulders and peers out to create a music as vital as it is new.

As for Atlas, though we can’t yet know what history will make of it, I hold fast to what I wrote before. Dylan Mattingly, young as he is, has, with Atlas, earned his place in the pantheon of contemporary American composers. . . .

Here’s an excerpt from Atlas, the two final sections (Elegy and Starship), as performed by Contemporaneous at the world premiere on September 24, 2011. The composer was in the audience that night (as were his parents, who’d flown out from California and who’d never heard Contemporaneous live before). It’s all captured on a bootleg, as any dedicated fan must do on such a historic night.*

*Fortunately, it’s not necessary to be content with a bootleg excerpt, as the whole of Atlas is available on CD, as well as here.

I stand by what I wrote back in 2011, and Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field offers yet more evidence that I was right.

2 thoughts on “Revisiting Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field

  1. David Nice

    Looks like I need to set aside time to listen properly. Do I remember you writing that the original project was even longer? Good to be updated on this hugely talented composer’s progress. Once things return to something like normal, it would be so exciting to have his music, and Contemporaneous, over here. As you remember, I did try before.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      I imagine it will be pretty hard for you to get the chance, with all you’ve got on, but I would love to know what you think. It’s in two parts, with an intermission. The project you’re thinking of, I suspect, is the opera in progress. That is still intended for about 6 hours. I do indeed remember you tried to get Contemporaneous over your way, and how wonderful if that could happen once things, as you so rightly describe, return to something like normal.


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