DREAMHOUSE is an oratorio performed by orchestra, chorus and soloists - creating a spectrum of sounds few have heard before. Those involved in this project (this recording was nominated for four Grammy awards in 2010 including Best Classical Album!) include the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose, with speaker/singer Rinde Eckert, the Synergy Vocals, and the Catch Electric Guitar Quartet, acter Rinde Eckert, the Synergy Vocals, and the Catch Electric Guitar Quartet, allowing for a combination of singing, sprechtimme, instrumental riffs, and orchestral harmonies. Mackey's creative psyche is composed of classical music informed by the electric guitar. Most everything he creates makes at least an allusion to his instrument of choice. But what unravels is best described a follows: 'The piece doesn't have a traditional narrative arc, but its texts all have to do with the idea of creating a house "where you can live, where you'll be safe." Some of the harmony, text-setting, and orchestration can be traced to models like Steve Reich's "The Desert Music" and numerous pieces by Louis Andriessen, but there are references to a variety of traditions ranging from Renaissance polyphony to American rock, and Mackey brings an Ivesian mentality to the material that fractures and recombines it in kaleidoscopic, frequently disturbing ways. The 50-minute piece ends, though, with a lovely, memorably lyrical setting of the words "I'll build you a dreamhouse where you can live, where you'll be safe" that's repeated often enough in the ecstatic final movement that listeners are practically guaranteed to go away from the performance humming it.'
Much of what happens in this work can also be said for his current composition, a work for violin and orchestra (the pice was written for Leila Josefowicz) called Beautiful Passage, a work currently being performed by Josefowicz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel. Like Dreamhouse it has a narrative, though this one without words. It is a struggling dialogue/competition between violin and orchestra which comes to a tie with a central extended violin cadenza after which the struggle is gone and the violin and orchestra combine in some of the most beautifully melodic writing being written today. It probably takes hearing Mackey's genius at work in a live performance to appreciate just how unique is his contribution to contemporary classical music. He will be heard: he will be admired. And this recording is a fine introduction to the magnitude of his magic. Grady Harp, May 11