Inspired by Dr. Oliver Sacks' book "Awakenings"

Text by Oliver Sacks

Choreographed by Aletta Collins


Commissioned for Rambert Dance Company by Daniel Katz Limited

Premiere: September 22, 2010; Salford, The Lowry (UK); Rambert Dance Company


Instrumentation: 1(pic.,alf).1(ca).1(bcl).1-hn.tp-1perc(timp,b.d, sd,concert toms, tam-t,cym,piatti,xyl,mar,tub bells,glsp,ratchet,whip)-hp.pno-str(

Duration: 23'


Publisher: Schott Helicon Music Corporation (BMI)




In composing Awakenings, I was inspired by the exquisite art and stunning imagery of Oliver Sacks' prose, and above all by the lives of the uniquely tragic patients he writes about. His book, "Awakenings", written in the form of a series of case studies and footnotes, suggested the musical structure and characteristics of the score. While not specifically programmatic, I hope that the music may express some understanding of the patients as well as the sense of nostalgia, anger and longing they felt for their stolen past.


Awakenings opens with 12 'frozen' chords of varying volumes - materializing as if dropped into a dark, timeless, "unmusicked" silence. The ensuing music can be heard as an evolution and elaboration of these chords. Like sonic 'statues' they serve as guideposts appearing, reappearing, generating, commenting upon and melding into the ongoing polyphony. Scored for a chamber orchestra of 15 musicians, Awakenings has seven movements, three interludes and numerous fragments and notated silences all played without pause.


Imagining the inner worlds of the newly-awakened was one of the great challenges and joys that Aletta and I experienced in our collaboration. Dr. Sacks describes patients who, when awakened, were sometimes afflicted with often bizarre Tourettes-like tics. One of them, Hester Y, displayed multiple simultaneous but independent tics, which gave the impression of a complex polyphony; Sacks describes her tics as "of many unrelated tempi and melodies proceeding independently having distinctive styles and rhythms or movements-like a clockshop gone mad". Before being treated with L-Dopa, another patient, Miss D. could respond to one stimulus alone. Only music could propel her through space. "As I am unmusicked, I must be remusicked," she said. When “unmusicked” she felt "like a still photo, a frozen frame." When “remusicked” she could "dance out of the frame"

and move freely.

- Tobias Picker



For orchestra

1(pic.,alf).1(ca).1(bcl).1-hn.tp-1perc(timp,b.d, sd,concert toms, tam-t,cym,piatti,xyl,mar,tub bells,glsp,ratchet,whip)-hp.pno-str(