I hardly ever dream. My mind at work often wanders between different thoughts and images that fly by like a fast-forward slideshow. Filled with pressures and promises to move forward and achieve my dreams, both short and long-term, I’m never in one place, and as a result, my memory often gets the best of me. Like mountains, they erode over time, and more often than not, I lose much of the sensory details. I’ll forget the colour of the scarf my high school sweetheart wore the day we went to watch The Notebook in theatres for our first date. I’ll forget the taste of my college sweetheart’s lip balm when I kissed her deeply in her dormitory after a day at the amusement park, having told her I loved her for the first time. I’ll forget the orange fragrance of my fiance’s hair if she ever decides to change conditioner brands (not if I have anything to say about it).
Yet, of all of these, it’s the sounds that always remain and come back to me on random occasions. Concert band was the defining part of my high school experience, and while my memories of those days have been pushed to the back of my mind, I am happy to say that I had a dream yesterday that brought all of it back with a mere melody.
Cajun Folk Songs is a two-movement composition that starts off with a piece callled La Belle et le Capitaine, which consists of a single melody repeated three times, and shared between different instruments of a concert band setup. It was one of my first pieces when I originally joined my high school’s varsity wind ensemble as a first year, picking up a tuba for the very first time. My dream brought me back to the music room at St. Francis Xavier in Mississauga. We were practicing this song, and my best friend Patrick had flubbed the solo on the trumpet again after losing his embouchure. Our conductor, short of patience, took a frustrated sip of his clear plastic bottle of what he often referred to as “Polish Water,” which nobody in our band spoke out about, as practice was always lively whenever Polish water was involved. I played the piece instead, and just like all other times I played an instrument, the entire room faded away into a single light in my mind, shining down on me, and all I did was play. I closed my eyes, and simply heard the sound of my horn blend in with the others when the rest of the band joined in.
We played through the entire piece, which made up most of the duration of my dream. I was complimented by the conductor and his refreshing bottle, and even though I no longer remember exactly which words he said to me, I remember looking away from him, shying away from his praise like I did back in high school, and somehow I had noticed saliva stains on the shoulder of my green flanel shirt. I remember the yellowy lighting, the awkward smell of my hungry breath after playing for a long time without eating, and the chatter of my band as they switched sheet music in between pieces. I simply stared at the two dots of drool, and the music simply kept playing in my head. I was satisfied by what I played, and I woke up.
I really want to get back into playing music in a concert band setting. Those were the most wonderful days of my youth, and while the joy of instrumental performance has been put aside for career and romantic endeavours, it’s an experience that has always fulfilled me and allowed me to escape into my own little world in my head where I could see the Belle feigning death to avoid the seduction of a sully Cajun Captain. It’s the world I paint with my music, and it’s the world that I will always keep with me forever, in dreams and elsewhere.