THE BEWITCHMENT OF DREAMS
PANCAKES FROM BETELGEUSE
MERRY ROBOTS OF NIN
I've been chasing my dreams almost since the day I was born.
An enterprise of dubious merit, I'll admit, since so many of them
are silly and befuddling. Yet those rare beauties, the bewitching
dreams, are filled with a significance more terrible, are arrayed
in colors more vivid, are invested with a deeper emotion, than
any waking morning I have known.
But chasing dreams is not like chasing butterflies or bank
robbers: what the conscious mind captures is but an empty
husk, for the fairy spirits inhabiting those forms cannot or will
not cross over the threshold: they remain on the far side of an
enchanted gate and evapoarate with the coming of day.
How then, in music, in literature and in art, can we penetrate
quotidian consciousness in order to seize and to express in
articulate form the elusive and precious essence of dreams -
particularly as wistful inheritors of an artistic legacy that seems
already to have done everything there is to do?
Well, I told myself what the quarterback told his teammates and
fans after a slow start to the season: relax! Then, failing to think
of anything new, I took some old snippets of discarded piano
pieces and such and transformed them by electronic means, in
some cases beyond recognition, through a process of controlled
aleatory (aleatory because I couldn't predict the outcome;
controlled because my taste determined when the
transformations were right). I had performed similar operations
on paintings and photos as a way of avoiding the cliched and
To my delight, I discovered these samples possess something of
the terror, the raw, unmediated reality I find in the unconscious.
At certain moments a long-forgotten melody rears up in a dark
and turbulent sea, bearing a deep nostalgia, precisely as, in my
dreams, the face of a loved one, long departed, is glimpsed
fleetingly, as from afar, convulsing my heart.
Alas, such revelations are private: just as that face I glimpse is
beloved by me alone, that melody I discern is known to few
besides me, and the associations it bears are purely personal.
I think this may be unavoidable, for to be free one must be
original. If music is cast for a standard ensemble and structured
like a pop song it won't be difficult to comprehend, but neither
will it be capable of saying anything new. And so I took care,
during the compositional process, not to impose, nor even to
imagine, a form. And in the end that form is strange indeed:
sound nuggets, some extremely short, discontinuous, fluidly
metamorphic and emotionally charged.
Meanwhile, as I listened, in my mind's eye images began to
arise, and magically to melt one into another: a fast -
approaching train became bells of some glorious doom, a
unicorn dissolved into lemon-merengue, glittering bubbles
coalesced to curtains, windblown and white, a distant planet
was suddenly suffused in syrup...
...And it occurred to me that such music is fated for film. For to
express in words such things as "Pancakes from Betelgeuse" is
to be at once overly specific and imprecise, whereas the medium
of cinema affords both greater ambiguity and immediacy. And
so it is my hope one day to create some visual dreamscapes to
complement what you might consider, in their present state,
soundtracks in search of stories.
But what has this music to do with pancakes and unicorns,
really, since the images, after all, were after-thoughts rather than
programmatic starting-points? Perhaps we could think of them
as visual metaphors for the ineffable. Is this not the way of
dreams? The scenes and the people we encounter there often
seem props drawn from our experience whose role is to render
palpable what is fundamentally strange...
...Unless, as some have insisted, it all means nothing, as the
chemicals in our brains conspire to persuade us that gibberish
and confusion are lucid glimpses into the deepest secrets, the
ultimate nature, of reality. What then?
Relax, I say again. And let's try to avoid the habit of thinking in
terms of either/or - another instance of how the conventions of
language bind us. Let's not ask whether or not dreams are
meaningful: instead let's imagine that both propositions are
inadequate to the complexity of life, where imagination interacts
with and influences the world. Let's believe, for a moment, that
dreams are significant because they feel that way, and let's
proceed, not so much to discover, in a passive way, that
significance, as to create it through our responses in art. May
the aspirations of the heart come to govern the destiny of the