Dreams within Dreams

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Dreams Within Dreams was composed in the summer of 1989 especially for percussionist Joel Bluestone and the Franklin and Marshall College Chamber Winds. Inspiration for the work was derived from my hobby of reading books about physics (for the non scientist!). In particular, several ideas are addressed in this single-movement concerto for solo percussionist and antiphonally-separated wind instruments. One such idea is that of an infinite number of parallel
universes, reflected in both the multiple personalities of the soloist, who is required to play vibraphone, marimba and xylophone at various times, and in the use of a double woodwind quintet (also acoustically separated), which shares motives which mutate and revel in an atmosphere of surrealist déja-vu through transpositions, rhythmic permutations and other time distortions, such as the recapitulation of musical ideas in variant meters, or the juxtaposition of different musics from previously independent ‘universes’. Of course each player (except the soloist) has his or her double or phantom in the other group, as each instrument is doubled, including the pairs of brass instruments in the choir loft and the chimes which are echoed by the crotales.

There is also a literary association that I kept gravitating toward while composing the music, a certain quotation from Jorge Luis Borges’ The Garden of the Forking Paths, in which a world is described in which there are “an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time--the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries --embrace every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and not I, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist. In this one, in which chance has favored me, you have come to my gate. In another, you, crossing the garden, have found me dead. In yet another, I say these very same words, but am an error, a phantom.” Perhaps the total reality of celestial mechanics is comprised of nothing less than a series of Chinese boxes, an infinite number inside each other, like dreams within dreams?

“If so, if I dream myself, and come upon myself dreaming, who is it dreaming?”

Selected Performances of Dreams within Dreams:

Premiere: September 10, 1989, Joel Bluestone, percussionist, F&M Chamber Winds Society, Brian Norcross, Director, Lancaster, PA.

September 24, 1989, Joel Bluestone, percussionist, F&M Chamber Winds Society, Brian Norcross, Director, Lancaster, PA.

January 27, 1996, Larry Reese, percussionist, F&M Chamber Winds Society, Brian Norcross, Director, Lancaster, PA.

© John Carbon 2015