Dream Play III (2015)

for five performers Flute (+Alto), Clarinet (+B.Cl), Piano, Violin, and Cello
Commissioned by Waverly Project NYU
Premiere: Talea Ensemble, Conductor: Jeffrey Means
Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center, New York: April 16th, 2015
Duration: 16’min



I attempted in this dream play to imitate the disconnected but apparently logical form of a dream. Anything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Space and time do not exist. Based on a slight foundation of reality, imagination wanders afield and weaves new patterns comprised of mixtures of recollections, experiences, unconstrained fantasies, absurdities and improvisations. Characters split, double and multiply; they evaporate, crystallize, dissolve, and reconverge. But one single consciousness governs them all, that of the dreamer. For him, there are no secrets, no incongruities, no scruples, and no laws. And since there is more pain than pleasure in the dream, a tone of melancholy and sympathy for all things runs through the swaying narrative. Sleep, the liberator, is often tortuous; and yet when pain is at its worst, the sufferer is wakened and reconciled with reality. For however agonizing reality may be, it is, at this moment, when compared with the torments of the dream, a joy.

August Strindberg, 1901

Dream Play is one of Strindberg’s last works. It consists of fifteen independent scenes, in which Agnes, the leading character, descends to earth and gets to know forty different characters that represent different sorts of human suffering. There are no obvious links from one scene to another, for the development of the plot seems to be irrational and inconsistent, and what keeps the different scenes together is the constant return of Agnes' obsessions.

In my work the piano is the leading character. The other instruments do not own their own materials and sounds. Rather, they mirror, reflect, resonate, or even distort the sounds of the piano. In the entire series of works with the same title (Dream Play I, II, and III) the piano part remains invariable. What changes from one work to the other is piano’s relationship to the rest of the instruments. The different sections of the work are discrepant, for the different materials do not relate to each other. There are musical ideas that come to the foreground and then disappear without ever returning or being developed. What gives unity to the different sections is the constant return of an obsessive chordal progression in the piano.

The main question I have been asking myself is how can a fixed work be inconsistent? Are unity and inconsistency mutually exclusive? If all sections derive from the same core material, then the work has unity and is consistent. If all sections are completely independent from each other and there is no link whatsoever between them, then there is no unity, but the lack of consistency becomes consistent. Therefore, if inconsistency is mediated by consistency or, in other words, if inconsistency is determined not simply as the lack of consistency but as its immanent other, then unity arises from within this space that lies between consistency and inconsistency. Dream Play points to this direction.

The first video is from the premiere of the work with Talea Ensemble.

The second video is from this performance:
Dal Niente, Conductor: Michael Lewanski
June in Buffalo Festival, Baird Hall, Rm 250, University at Buffalo, June 8, 2016

© 2020 Ioannis Angelakis