Often I dream that I am back at Dartmouth for Homecoming but running late and trying to catch up with the band. In fact, I think I had one a few nights ago in which I made the mistake of going to the mall with my parents when the bonfire parade was happening within an hour. This one was slightly different in that I had arrived early and had time to do some things around campus before practice started. (This is what I'd like to do this year, because if I don't want to take a red-eye again I'll have to arrive Thursday night at the latest.) I did remember, though, that I hadn't taken the time to run through the old music, so I was thinking of going to a practice room and doing that.
Another thing I was going to do was go to the BEMA and collect some blackberry specimens to put in my plant press. For some reason I needed snow for this process, and when I went to the green to get some, I became briefly involved in the snow fort building and snowball fight that was going on there.
Apparently I had volunteered to play piano on the air for Dartmouth College Radio. As I waited to go on, I realized that this might not be the best idea, since I haven't really practiced since I graduated high school. My turn to play came up and there was an uncomfortable delay as I dug for some appropriate sheet music. My piano teacher was there and suggested some old recital pieces that I had played, but I couldn't really remember what they were or find them. I think I found one but it started out with a single sustained note and I didn't think that was very interesting. Then I decided to play Clair de Lune, since it sounds gorgeous even if I plod through it. I had my big thick Piano Classics book, and I looked for it in the table of contents, but the page was something like "1.2" and it seemed that the first half of the book didn't have page numbers at all. Remembering that the book was in alphabetical order by composer, I flipped through the book as I said under my breath, "Claude Debussy... Debussy, Debussy, Debussy..."
I began to play the piece. The first two bars weren't as vivid in the dream. Where in reality the piece starts with an eighth rest, I played a bass chord there as appears later in the song. The sustained notes on the left hand that followed that were interpreted in my brain as the word "and." Sort of makes sense if notes are like letters and musical phrases... are like phrases. I thought it was a three note chord, so that was equivalent to a three letter word.
I closed my eyes and played the third and fourth bars. I immersed myself in the music, felt the keys under my hands, and knew exactly which notes I was playing. I still know exactly which keys my fingers were hitting in that part of the dream. Then my alarm went off and I woke up. I was actually kind of relieved, because the song becomes more difficult after that and I was sure to have made lots of embarrassing mistakes.
One thing I find very interesting about this is that if you had asked me in my conscious state who composed Clair de Lune, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to tell you off the top of my head. If you told me it was Debussy, I may have been like, "Oh, yeah, that's it!" In the dream, not only did I correctly remember the composer, I even correctly remembered his first name. Actually, when I woke up I wasn't entirely sure that it I had the right composer, but I checked online and I did. Plus, just correctly matching the tune to the name of the song is impressive for a dream.
Since the notes were so vivid, I had to check those out too. I found an image of the first page of the piece. It turns out I had taken it down a fifth, and even then some of the notes weren't right. However, the basic pattern of what my hands were doing was correct. Well, maybe not correct enough to be remarkable considering I knew what the piece sounded like. But I remember that in those third and fourth bars I was playing sustained thirds on my left hand, and when I woke up I thought that this was incorrect and that they were actually supposed to be fourths or fifths. Nope, thirds.