Can a piece of music be performed in a dream? How do you capture its sound? Does the musical experience change depending on how it is captured? Is there a way to minimise errors in recall? Can we consciously influence music we experience in a dream. Does the performer have any conscious or unconscious agency in forming their interpretation of the work? And how exactly does our brain ‘listen’ to it?
Below are instructions for a piece of music that is to be performed inside a dream.
The music is for solo (dreamt) recorder – The sub-contrabass recorder is the recommended example – as seen in the image. But it is also suitable for recorders in any other octave.
Study the images and sounds of the recorder before falling asleep. Close your eyes and picture playing it in your mind’s eye. When you see the recorder in your dreams, try to realise you are dreaming and play it.
Below is a graphic score. Read through the score instructions underneath it to learn more about it, and then try to perform it in your dreams.
- The graphic score consists of a series of dials that resemble clocks. Just like a clock they are numbered from 1 to 12, with 2 hands (big and small) that point towards numbers.
- The position of the big hand indicates how many sounds to make on the recorder. 12 = 12 sounds, 11 = 11 sounds, 10 = 10 sounds, 9 = 9 sounds, and so on. A single sound is whatever sound is made on the recorder that has a demarcation before and after it. The sounds can be different from each other, or the same. The spacing between each sound should be irregular wherever possible.
- The position of the little hand indicates the time in which to make the sounds. 12 = 12 seconds, 11 = 11 seconds, 10 = 10 seconds, 9 = 9 seconds, and so on.
An example in the score is: 5, 2″ – which means play 5 sounds in 2 seconds.
- The blue lines represent sounds that are breathier and uses flutter tonguing. The red lines have sharper attacks and are grittier.
– – – – – – – – – – Follow the dotted line. Start where it says the word “start” and play the nearest clock. Once you finish, follow the dotted line to the next clock and play that. Keep doing this, following the dotted line until it finishes, which is the end of the piece.
This is the pitch range of the sub-contrabass recorder in F1, which is the one used in the graphic score above.
Performing on different types of recorders
The score can also be transposed to other octave ranges, so you can perform it on different recorder types, such as basset in F, great bass in C, contrabass in F, sub-great bass in C, the sub-contrabass in F, and others. Just adjust the pitch range according to the instrument you choose. And you don’t necessarily need to own a recorder as it can just be imagined in your dream.
Dynamics and duration
The size of the symbol indicates how loud to play it (a suggested dynamic has been written underneath as well). The player needs to estimate the pitch and the dynamics based on the relative size and position of the symbols. Try to keep the dynamic range between pppp–mp. The score has a total length of around 15 seconds (as perceived in the dream). Mental rehearsals could go for longer, to help embed the information in the unconscious.
There are a few key dreams stages you might reach along the way:
Stage 1: Seeing the recorder
Stage 2: Touching the recorder
Stage 3: Hearing the recorder
Stage 4: Playing something on the recorder
Stage 5: Playing a small part of the music written.
Stage 6: Playing the music exactly as written (or very close!)
It might take a couple of times to master the work, so you might have to rehearse it from dream to dream.
You can try practicing reality checking to help you realise you are dreaming (e.g.: pushing two fingers into the palm of one’s hand to see if they pass through.)
Be sure to write down your experience as soon as you wake up, so you are able to capture what happened.
Scientists are close to being able to read and interpret brain activity during sleep and reconstruct them using image processing to convert them into movies – https://vimeo.com/169779284. The technology isn’t sophisticated enough. But one day it might be possible to listen to a recording of someone’s performance.
Send me a message using the form below and tell me how it went.
If you are first, then you will be listed as the person who premiered the work. Tell me your name, what happened, when it happened, your physical and dreamt location, what type of recorder you played it on, and what stage of the piece you reached (stage 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6).
I can then think about trying to register the work with the Australian Performing Rights Association.
Below is an example of a (waking life) contrabass recorder performance.
Tic (2009) performed by Sarah Jeffery at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in 2013. Music by Anthony Leigh Dunstan.
Dream recorder is part of a series of imaginary sound art works made from my isolation room.
Contact Dr Daniel Portelli at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the form below.