“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present”.
Time is a mysterious thing. We are subject to it, and we never seem to have enough of it, but what is time?
In his poem “A Dream within a Dream”, Edgar Allan Poe addresses the question of time and memory in our lives. What is a memory? What if we lose it? “All that we see or seem is but a Dream within a Dream”, he says. What does he mean by that?
In my piece, which was composed under the influence of this poem, I tried to address these questions through music. I tried to deal with the question of how to change time in a musical piece when time always moves forward. Can I make time slower and faster through musical elements? For me “A Dream within a Dream” symbolizes the dream of the future, which is related to the dream of the past. The present, where we live, is always in transition between being in the future and being in the past. In my piece I reflected this idea by having musical materials whose essence is repeated, even though the music is different, like the future that is influenced by the past but never the same.
The piece, like the poem, is built of two parts. In the poem and in my piece, the first part is more intimate and introspective, while the second part is more emotional, philosophical, and painful. For me, the first part of the poem is one memory, like a single grain of sand that Poe refers to in the second part. I emphasized this idea by taking small ideas from the first part and made them structurally important to the second part. Similarly, I made structurally important ideas in the first part small in the second part. As a result the piece feels very unified like the poem does.
The electronics gives another dimension to the piece, an endless dimension, like the endlessness of time. The materials of the electronics are all taken from recordings of violin, cello, and piano, and from recordings of the sentence “A Dream within a Dream”. It was very important for me not to use any other sounds so the electronics will feel part of the ensemble and not external to it.
My main goal with this piece is to make the listener think about their relationship to time.
Another beautiful quote, sometime attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, is “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. We should all believe, we should all dream.
A Dream Within a Dream by EDGAR ALLAN POE
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?