On 14 May Ema Nikolovska and Sean Shibe gave the world premiere of Cassandra Miller’s Dream Memorandum (It Reminded Me of the Truth) at Wigmore Hall for voice, classical guitar, and fixed audio. The 8-minute piece was commissioned for Ema Nikolovska and Sean Shibe by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. It debuted as part of their Orlando programme, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s eponymous 1928 fictional biography, which tells the story of a sex-and-gender shifting Elizabethan courtier whose literary escapades span some three centuries.  

This piece documents the wandering voice-memo conversation between Ema Nikolovska and the composer, as they discuss their personal interactions with some of the themes of Virginia Woolf’s novel as well as numerous tangents. Nikolovska was asked to re-learn excerpts of her voice memos and to speak them in concert accompanied by guitar. Miller notes, “the sound of Ema’s speaking voice is evocative and intelligent, and—fortunately for the transcription process—quite tonal. Her flights of insight manifest in an effervescent F-major, and her most profound reflections unfold in a rich d-minor cadence.”

I adored Cassandra Miller’s Dream Memorandum (It Reminded Me of the Truth), which riffed on the idea of biography. Over gentle guitar musings and recorded vocal harmonies Nikolovska narrated the voice notes she’d sent to Miller during the creative process. It could have been self-indulgent, but it entered a space in which time seemed to float, giving us a moving glimpse of the performer’s inner life.

The Times (Rebecca Franks) 24 May 2024

The programme, also presented at the Bath Festival on 23 May, included Thomas Adès’ Habanera from 'The Exterminating Angel' for solo guitar and the excerpt ‘Blanca’ from the opera. Nikolovska and Shibe give the German premiere of Dream Memorandum on 14 June at the Aula of Alte Universität Heidelberg; it receives its French premiere at the Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet as part of Le Balcon’s Les Lundis Musicaux series on 25 March 2025. They also present the programme at the Boulez Saal on 12 March 2025.

It is Miller’s second world premiere from Shibe in spring 2024, who gave the first performance of Chanter, her concerto for guitar and strings, with Dunedin Consort on 11 April, with a subsequent tour around the UK and the work’s Belgian debut in Ghent. In November 2024 Shibe will give 11 performances of the 21-minute work on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.