Tod Machover composed I Dreamt a Dream! in 2004 for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. When he received the commission to premiere a new work for the YPC’s Transient Glory concert series, Tod turned to one of his favorite poets, William Blake, and selected a poem that he felt would speak to the teenaged singers. The poem reflects on the transition from youth to maturity, and touches on themes that Tod was exploring for Death and the Powers.
I highly recommend reading this study guide (pdf) produced for the Transient Glory premiere. The guide does a very nice job of describing how Tod uses various techniques to convey mood, propel the action and create suspense, and also draws the listener’s attention to the use of electronics and voice.
Download I Dreamt a Dream! (mp3) from CDBaby
View the score for I Dreamt a Dream! from Boosey & Hawkes
Purchase the score for I Dreamt a Dream! from Music Forte
By William Blake
I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!
And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.
So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten-thousand shields and spears.
Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.
One Reply to “I Dreamt a Dream! – Machover setting for a Blake poem”
The final line “grey hair were on my head” shows cruelty of time and transition. Concerning temporariness, the Japanese have an idea that everything is transient that is the key base of our traditional way of thinking. I think, therefore, many japanese are fascinated by William Blake’s poems, especially those on human frailty like this poem in which a short life is compared to a dream.