Sunday, July 12, 2009

For Starters

Two years ago, when my wife's state of health was involving me in a lot of expense, but there was still some hope of its improving, I dreamed one night that I was composing a symphony, and heard it in my dream. On waking next morning I could recall nearly the whole of the first movement, which was an allegro in A minor in two-four time.... I was going to my desk to begin writing it down, when I suddenly thought:

"If I do, I shall be led on to compose the rest. My ideas always tend to expand nowadays, this symphony could well be on an enormous scale. I shall spend perhaps three or four months on the work (I took seven to write Romeo and Juliet), during which time I shall do no articles, or very few and my income will diminish accordingly.

When the symphony is written I shall be weak enough to let myself be persuaded by my copyist to have it copied, which will immediately put me a thousand or twelve hundred francs in debt. Once the parts exist, I shall be plagued by the temptation to have the work performed. I shall give a concert, the receipts of which will barely cover one half of the costs - that is inevitable these days. I shall lose what I haven't got and be short of money to provide for the poor invalid, and no longer able to meet my personal expenses or pay my son's board on the ship he will shortly be joining."

These thoughts made me shudder, and I threw down my pen thinking:

"What of it? I shall have forgotten it by tomorrow!"

That night the symphony again appeared and obstinately resounded in my head. I heard the allegro in A minor quite distinctly. More, I seemed to see it written. I woke in a state of feverish excitement. I sang the theme to myself; its form and character pleased me exceedingly. I was on the point of getting up.

Then my previous thoughts recurred and held me fast.

I lay still , steeling myself against temptation, clinging to the hope that I would forget. At last I fell asleep, and when I awoke all recollection of it had vanished for ever.

- From the Memoirs of Hector Berlioz taken from Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

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