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it is at moments after i have dreamed


At the turn of the 20th century, psychologist Sigmund Freud published his work on the interpretation dreams. Freud felt that dreams illustrated the "logic" of the unconscious mind; that they were attempts by our unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, be it internal or external. Dreams were also a part of the writings of poet E. E. Cummings, though in a much different way. E.E. Cummings is acknowledged as the pre-eminent voice of 20th-century writers, known for his sometimes avant-garde style and poems of love and nature. I had worked with several of Cumming's poems for an earlier project, and serendipitously stumbled across it is at moments after i have dreamed when I was approached by Bridget Quealy about composing a piece for her senior recital.


Musically, I wanted the piece to include a great deal of counterpoint between all four of the "voices," while exploring several different registral  and timberal combinations. Since this was a piece written for Bridget, I wanted to make it unique to her. I used a technique popularized by Josquin des Prez called "soggetto cavato," or literally a "subject carved" from the musical material. In this case, her name is "spelled out" several times in the piece as a musical motif. I also sought to maintain a lush harmonic environment that would match Cumming's contemporary style. The piece doesn't rest in a particular key center for long, or follow traditional tonal progressions, but travels thru several travels through several different sonorities and maintains a fairly consonant Lydian sound throughout.


While they may have both written extensively (albeit in their own fashion) on the subject of dreams, Freud and Cummings could not have been more of polar opposites. Freud sought to quantify each measure of a dream and logically explain how it reflected on someone's deepest desires. Cummings on the other hand, believed that emotions and feelings should dominate over logic and reason. In writing the piece, I drew my inspiration for the piece from the opening line of the text. Cumming's description of the instant after someone awakes, the feeling contentment after dreaming of something as innocent and beautiful as looking into a loved one's eyes, or the image of a smile resonated with me. I found myself using the text as a catharsis of sorts, allowing me to explore and resolve my own conflicts, and write a piece that captured the contemplative, piercing moment that the poem describes.

This piece was premiered on April 23rd, 2011 for Bridget Quealy's senior recital, by Bridget Quealy (mezzo-soprano), "Downtown" Sarah Brown (flute), Jenna Ferdon (violin), and Britney Whiting (cello). "it is at moments after i have dreamed" from COMPLETE POEMS: 1904-1962, by E.E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage, is used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1939, 1951, 1952, 1963, 1967, 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright (c) 1976 by George James Firmage