Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings: Madeleine Dreams

ARTIST NAME: Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings
ALBUM TITLE: Madeleine Dreams


Madeleine Dreams (24:00):
    1. hush (1:34)
    2. le petomane (5:31)
    3. lesson (2:31)
    4. metamorphosis (2:48)
    5. objects lost on journeys (10:20)
    6. hush (reprise) (1:15)

7. What Reason Could I Give (4:16)
8. The Mooche (9:02)
9. Angels and Demons at Play (8:25)

PUBLISHING: Tracks 1-6 music by Taylor Ho Bynum, lyrics by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Thobulous Music, BMI.
Track 7 music and lyrics by Ornette Coleman, ASCAP. Track 8 music by Duke Ellington, ASCAP. Track 9 music by Marshall Allen, Ronnie Boykins, and Sun Ra, lyrics by Sun Ra, BMI. All arrangements by THB.


Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet (flugelhorn on track 9)
Kyoko Kitamura, voice
Jason Kao Hwang, violin
Jessica Pavone, viola
Tomas Ulrich, cello
Pete Fitzpatrick, guitar
Joseph Daley, tuba
Luther Gray, drums

Recorded November 21 and 22, 2009, at Firehouse 12 Studios, New Haven, CT.
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Nick Lloyd.
Produced by Taylor Ho Bynum and Nick Lloyd.
Illustration and design by Megan Craig.


Dreams (and the literature of dreaming, including such authors as Borges, Murakami, Okri, and Calvino) are an ongoing artistic inspiration for me. The logic of dreams shows how radically yet naturally one’s subconscious can transform known elements into the surreal, seamlessly moving between the mundane and the fantastic. This kind of logic offers a template for creating long-form pieces that incorporate composition and improvisation but in unusual and surprising ways. The music can draw the listener in with something they might recognize or immediately relate to, and bring the listener along as those materials organically evolve into something completely unexpected.

Madeleine Dreams draws text from Madeleine is Sleeping, a novel by my sister, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. It is a magical-realist fable of a girl’s coming of age that moves between dreams and reality in 19th century France. The composition is dedicated to the sublime vocalist Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson. Lorraine was a dear friend, mentor, and inspiration to both my sister and me. I hope in some small way this music can honor and reflect the incredible intensity, conviction, and beauty of Lorraine’s artistry and person. The remaining pieces are by three of my musical heroes, each of whom embraced dreams, mythology, and fiction in his own way. I also like the idea of SpiderMonkey Strings as a most unusual kind of repertory band. -THB

Eternal gratitude to Nick, Megan, and the Firehouse 12 crew, and to the extraordinary musicians of SpiderMonkey Strings. Thanks to the venues and presenters that supported the creation of this work: Roulette, the Jazz Gallery, the Bimhuis, and especially Hugo De Craen and the deSingel Theater in Antwerp and Saul Cohen and the Hammond Performing Arts Series in Boston. Special thanks to Timo Shanko (for the Ornette transcription), Mark Harvey (for the Duke), and Emil Miland (for the early Madeleine reading). And nothing would be possible without my family (in all definitions: immediate, extended, and musical); particularly Sarah, for the book and so much more, and Rachel, for everything. 

Madeleine Dreams
(Excerpted from the novel Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Harcourt Books, 2004. Reprinted with permission of the author.)

Hush, Mother says. Madeleine is sleeping. She is so beautiful when she sleeps, I do not want to wake her.

The small sisters and brothers creep about the bed, their gestures of silence becoming magnified and languorous, fingers floating to pursed lips, tip toes rising and descending as if weightless. Circling around her bed, their frantic activity slows; they are like tiny insects suspended in sap, kicking dreamily before they crystallize into amber. Together they inhale softly and the room fills with one endless exhalation of breath: Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.

le petomane
The flatulent man, pale and elegant and tall, suffers from bad dreams, owing to the sordid company he kept during his reign in Paris.

A modest and elegant man, he never speaks of his former brilliance, but once, he bowed slightly, lifted the tails of his well-cut coat and produced the most melancholy sounds she had ever heard: that of the nightingale, the grasshopper, the cuckoo. And though Madeleine was a child who rarely cried, the strange unearthly emissions reminded her of her home, and she wept.

Listen, Madeleine.

The viol sighs. The girl sits beside her.

You should listen. Music, more than any other thing in the world, teaches us emotion.

The viol grows agitated.

Pathos! Fury!

The viol sobs.

Longing. Desire.

Madeleine tells herself to listen hard, for she wants to expand her meager vocabulary. She has taken inventory and discovered the emptiness of her shelves: Curiosity; Amusement; Grumpiness; Delight; Disappointment. That is the extent of it.

She instructs her ear to pay strict attention. But as Charlotte sways beside her, the bow seesawing furiously, Madeleine finds that it is not her ear but her very body that is being exercised. The song rises up through her limbs, her heart, her stomach, like heat from a flat and sun-soaked rock, and deep within her something begins to reverberate, as if her own hidden strings have been set aquiver. There is only one emotion she feels, not the spectacular and edifying range that Charlotte has promised: no fury, no pathos, no longing. Just a wild tumult inside her.

Charlotte, she says, I could do that!

She points at the strings, the flickering bow: When you play, I feel as if I could play, too. As if to play so beautifully were as easy as taking and releasing a breath. As easy as falling asleep and having a dream.

Memory will not adjust to this: the pulse, the stirring, of new organs. Her desire draws out its feelers, and unfolds its sticky wings.

objects lost on journeys
Have you ever begun a journey with a suitcase, and guarded that suitcase closely, keeping it beneath your bed at night, and watching over it like a mother? Then the suitcase is lost, but you are consoled, because a lady has given you eyeglasses with green-tinted lenses, and you guard them on your journey with all of the care that you once bestowed upon your suitcase. Then the eyeglasses are shattered, but you hardly notice, you have become so attached to the first edition you found in a moldering bookshop. Then the first edition tumbles over the railing of the ferry, the ferry carrying you from one end of the lake to the other, and when you land, and see the pretty town on the side of the mountain, you remember: on a stiff card, tucked in the lining of your suitcase, there is written the address where you are expected.

hush (reprise)
When Madeleine sleeps, Mother says, the cows give double their milk. Pansies sprout up between the floorboards. Your father loves me, but I remain slender and childless. I can hear the tumult of pears and apples falling from the trees like rain.

Smooth your sister’s coverlet. Arrange her hair on the pillowcase. Be silent as saints. We do not wish to wake her.


UPC/BARCODE: 616892053262