Somnia Mortem, Latin for “the dreams of death,” was written after a particularly difficult and turbulent period of my young life. The work itself is not so much an examination of my own experiences with death, but rather a musical and philosophical journey inspired heavily by the words of Khalil Gibran. I happened across his “On Death” and found the words so moving and beautiful I felt compelled to read them over and over again. Eventually, the images I kept seeing became musical thoughts. At the same time, I had been reading and researching the difference between Eastern and Western world philosophies on death, as well as examining death as a more common occurrence – death as the end of one thing and the beginning of another (say, a career or friendship). Quite coincidentally, while all this was happening, I was able to consistently remember my dreams for the first time in my life, and with great detail. All of these factors coincided to inspire this work for wind band – to celebrate the figurative “death” of one era of my life, and the beginning of another more beautiful one.
You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust in the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath the trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
– Khalil Gibran
October 25, 2012
Eastern New Mexico University
Pilandf Studio Wind Ensemble, Franklin Piland (director)
October 9, 2013
Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee
Lee University Wind Ensemble, David Holsinger (director)