The Music

In the fashionable rooms of the ’20s, the hot dance orchestra was the berries. Fiery young men, adept on their instruments, left home to play in these bands. They were hot and tight, always competing for the reign over dance halls and pavilions. They outdid each other with fresh orchestrations, tricky rhythms, and agile jazzing. They were also the toast of the college set, traveling from campus to campus mesmerizing the Charleston-crazed youths at all-night dance parties.

The Process / Transcribing the Songs

From an interview with Michael Arenella:

When I hear all these old songs, these old bands playing, I have a desperate desire to embrace it and to make it exist in the present. And so anytime I hear them playing a tune that speaks to me, I grab a pen and write out everything they’re playing, each instrument, note for note, inflections and all. The music they played was delicate and flawed. It was soft yet intense. Even the people themselves from then seem smaller and humbler. Jazz was yet to be codified and cliched. It is these flaws, and the intangeable difference of how they kissed the music they played, that I chase after. All the music we play in our band I took from these old recordings, which were originally released on 78s [small records] from the 1920s. These little records only had one song on each side, both less than 5 minutes long.

Where do you find these old records?
I find them at junk shops, yard sales, estate sales, and some of them are so old that they don’t even have stickers or labels. They’ve been scratched or rubbed off or faded, and a lot of times I don’t even know the name of the band or the song. Today, many of the old 78s are also being remastered and transferred to CD, which makes life a bit easier. But the music calls to me, it begs me to give it a new life. Many of the original orchestrations don’t exist; you can’t find them anywhere; they’ve been lost. A lot of these bands were “territory” bands, meaning that their music traveled with them in a trunk, and theirs were the only copies. The band had its own music, and when the band disappeared, the music disappeared. With the Great Depression, most of the bands dissolved. And music would never be the same. A certain inexplicable lightness and joy would be lost. That's what I pull out of the dusty trunk and polish up.

The Orchestra

The Dreamland Orchestra recreates these bands with the following forces:


Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, June 2009

Hempstead House, May 16th, 2009

Hempstead House, May 16th, 2009

Second Annual Hot Tomato Dance, Central Park, October 23rd, 2008

Governor's Island September 13th&14th, 2008

Annual Bastille Day, Brooklyn, July 13th, 2008

Midsummer Nights Swing , Lincoln Center, July 10, 2008

Governor's Island June 7&8, 2008

Jazz Age Dancers 2 from Sparkling Pants on Vimeo.

Governor's Island June 7&8, 2008

Jazz Age Lawn Party Dancers from Sparkling Pants on Vimeo.

Governor's Island June 7&8, 2008

Governor's Island June 7&8, 2008

Governor's Island June 7&8, 2008

First Annual Hot Tomato Dance,Central Park, Naumberg Bandshell, September 30, 2007

First Annual Hot Tomato Dance, Central Park, Sept. 30, 2007
Silent Film

Central Park Swings, Naumberg Bandshell, September 30, 2007

Governor's Island June 9, 2007