Suite hypnagogique


Print Edition Price: 


Year Authored (or revised): 



solo piano

Duration (min): 


First Performance: 

June 29, 2018. Scott Holden, piano. Carnegie Hall.

It came to me in the course of two nights between the hours of midnight and 4am, lying for hours in a half-awake/half-dream state known as hypnogogia - aka “État hypnagogique.” In this period of “natural fragmentation of consciousness,” the brain starts to dismantle the models and concepts we use to interpret the world, leading to lucid dreams, trancelike conditions, and moments of experience unconstrained by our usual mental filters and cognition.

One common phenomenon experienced during hypnogogia is that time and chronology start to become untethered; two minutes may feel like three hours, and vice versa, and events – whether imagined or memories of actual occurrences – can happen simultaneously, out of order, or repeated in quasi-loops.

It was during this state that I heard this piece almost in it’s entirety: a suite of five distinct movements for piano, yet they unfolded simultaneously – but not in the definition of “simultaneous” in the real world. Imagine playing, say, five pop/rock songs at the same time; in the real world, the resultant sound would be a jumbled mish-mash of simultaneous and conflicting soundwaves. But in hypnogogia, five songs can play at the same time while remaining entirely discrete.

An alternate title might have been “Homage to Jonathan Kramer,” referring to his groundbreaking writings about multiple temporalities in music: real time (clock time), musical time, and non-linear time. The prelude, chorale, toccata, chanson, and fugue are not intended to be heard as five movements shattered like broken stained glass and reassembled as a postmodern mosaic, but rather as five continuous, uninterrupted movements played intact and sequentially yet simultaneously.

Ensemble Type: 

solo keyboard

I. Prélude
II. Choral sans fin
III. Petite toccata fragmentée
IV. Chanson
V. Une petite grande fugue

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