New Music Begun

I’ve picked up my keyboard (oof) and tackled a new piece last night. Just a sketch at the moment. Marta says it sounds like fairies in the moonlight. I hear it as a lament. We’ll see what it becomes.

This is one of the few pieces I’ve brought back from my dreams.

I occasionally dream music. It’s a distinct altered state — a form of lucid dreaming, but one in which I am not fully awake in the dream.

In the dream, I hear music — I shape the music — I am the music.

It is difficult to describe. I hear the music with extraordinary clarity — every instrument, every note, every nuance of phrasing. It flows, just as though I were listening to it in a concert or on the radio, written by someone who had placed each note carefully in the score, performed by musicians who have practiced until every note shines.

And yet — a stray thought will cross my mind, and the music shifts. I think, What if that theme were carried by the horns? and it is so. One phrase flows into the next, a subtle modulation occurs, and then the horns have the theme, down a fifth so that it is in their range.

A delicate touch is all it allows, though. A few times I have pushed too hard, and it breaks up into laughter. Surely you jest! the dream says. That would sound like this. The music becomes dull, plodding, repetitive, inane. The magic leaks away into the shadows, and I drift back into a more ordinary sleep with the laughter still in my ears.

I never remember the music on waking. I’ve tried. I’ve awakened weeping and pounding the bed with my fists in frustration. Entire symphonies are hidden just behind the veil of sleep, but the act of rising from the dream makes them evaporate, and I cannot draw them back.

Well… almost never.

This new piece is based on a phrase that came back with me. In the dream, I lay on my back, looking into a sky of featureless cerulean, deepened by late dusk. I could not tell if I was indoors, seeing a domed ceiling lit from the rim, or outdoors, looking into the evening sky. There were features around me, silhouettes only — trees, perhaps, or slender stone pillars. A single soprano voice sang the melody, sad with longing. A horn joined her in counterpoint. Strings filled in the harmonies as the wordless tune continued.

And when I woke, a fragment remained.

I can remember trying to write down the notes of the melody, and the context of that memory places the dream in 1991 or 1992.

I’ve been afraid to touch it since then. I didn’t know if I could approach in reality the beauty that I’d heard.

I still don’t know, but I think it’s time to try.

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