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"Wave of Emotion" (Photo (c) Jeanette (Stringham) Vonier 2022)

("Ein Traum" by Grieg (orchestral version))

"Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear."

So said Beethoven. Perhaps he was referring in some way to lucid dreaming?

Lucid dreaming has been around for a while, but as usual, I'm a bit late to the game. No matter, a seat has been held for me...and for you.

"Been around for a while" likely means at least since the 1970s when I was overly-busy with a three-year "near death experience" being in law school, busy after that for16 years when I was lawyering, and thereafter in recovery from PTSD and learning that there is life after law.

Of course, as with any "new" approach to knowledge outside of what is "scientific", provable, replicable, and derived from random controlled trials (the gold standard of "proof"), many people discounted lucid dreaming. For those who think this process is a bit "airy-fairy" and pretty far out, consider what the credible WebMD says about it:

"Lucid dreaming is when you know that you’re dreaming 

while you’re asleep."

Just having a dream, waking up, and remembering that dream is not lucid dreaming, but a normal dream.

Some say that an additional feature of lucid dreaming is sometimes or often being able to influence the outcome of the dream while you are in it.

For a deeper dive, consider a March 2019 article by the NIH National Library of Medicine that reviews the neuroscientific literature on lucid dreaming. That paper reports that serious research started in the 1970s but after that "it was another 2–3 decades until the idea of studying lucid dreamers in the lab started to gain more mainstream scientific acceptance. Despite popular interest in lucid dreams as techniques for self-discovery, improvement and therapeutic gain, the acceptance of lucid dreaming within the scientific community has been fraught with controversy".

As a pianist and poet I'm not so much interested in lucid dreaming for the above-stated reasons (I have a therapist and often meditate), but I am interested to enhance my creative expression, especially in writing poetry.

Aristotle (not the first in history) apparently referred to lucid dreaming in his writings, but the modem nomenclature of lucid dream was not introduced until 1913 by the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Van Eeden. More modern research starting in the 1970s indicated that lucid dreams occur in activated periods of REM sleep, as opposed to, for example, a state that is intermediate between waking and REM sleep.

While I have not read about lucid dreaming by poets (absent the presence of drugs; consider the opium-induced poem "Kubla Khan" by S. Coleridge), I'm intrigued by the possibility of creating a poem inside of a dream, then -- being conscious that I am dreaming -- influence the development of that poem.

I've never really lucidly dreamed, that is, I've never realized that I am dreaming and also writing a poem. I do wake up during the night or in the morning with a poem or part of one on my lips and in my mind, and I often write it down. When that first happened it amazed me, but I just went along with the flow.

Craig Sim Webb, a researcher of lucid dreaming referenced below, suggests that in my act of doing the conscious work to write down a poetry snippet from my dream - my subconscious recognized that I'm "showing up" and the next step (of where to take the poem) "was given to me" during my waking hours.

I recently started to wonder whether composers and lyricists can lucidly dream and influence the development of a new melody or dream the words to a song? (I asked my fine artist friend Jordan if he had ever lucidly dreamed and he said: "I have indeed been lucky enough to have several lucid dreams. Have not turned them into artwork but enjoy them thoroughly.")

The question about musicians led me to Webb and his 2016 book "The Dream Behind the Music" (I ordered the book but have not yet received it). I found a March 2024 YouTube interview "Create Music in Your Dreams" wherein Webb discusses what he knows and says in his book.

It also led me to question a composer friend about his dream experiences. Like me he has not lucidly dreamed but on a notable number of occasions he has heard music in a dream and during waking hours it "served as an impetus for independent compositions. I usually can’t remember all the details of music I hear in a dream. It remains more as a general shape, emotion, or frame of mind." 

Webb says he has lucidly dreamed parts of melodies many times but usually just in "riffs, seeds, hooks, or main themes" as he describes it. He usually immediately records it (now with an MP3 player) then the next morning sends it to his email and works on it right away during that week so as to "get a lot more from the (intuitive source spring of the) dream." In his video interview, Webb did not speak about being able to influence the development of a riff while he was inside the dream

A Japanese composer Webb mentions, actually sleeps hunched over his piano and immediately starts to work on his riff if he wakes with one. (Webb says Mozart saw [some of?] his entire compositions full blown in his dreams but Webb doesn't offer the source of that information.)

Wanting to know more about the background of Webb, I visited his website and learned that he is a singer, song writer, performing guitarist, digital artist, author, TV guest, podcaster, TEDx presenter (of course), and experienced researcher about what it is and how to lucidly dream. One might get the idea that he is some kind of super-human-genius being, and that might not be far from the truth, but he is surely at least one step outside of the norm and, well, notably different.

I wondered if lucid dreaming could result in any kind of improved endeavor other than in music or poetry, such as enhancing a sense of calm and well-being? For some answers, I turned to my delightfully artistic, long-term friend Jeanette Stringham Vonier.

She's been a close friend, sister feminist, and sometimes a colleague-in-mischief for about 35 years and is six years behind me in age. Jeanette is also a retired Bay Area concert violinist. She is the professional fine art photographer who created the "Wave of Emotion" portrait above, an image to which I was immediately drawn when I first saw it. I asked to purchase a print but a perfect solution prevailed! She gifted one to me and it now hangs by my bedside. It was a natural and happy exchange for my pastel "Cala" that she saw and fell in love with, and that now hangs in her bedroom.

Like me, but in far greater detail and with more consistency, most of her life Jeanette has periodically tracked dreams in writing, including lucid ones when she knows she is dreaming and can sometimes influence them. Some observations and experiences she recounts below:

"It takes a while for most people to achieve lucid dreaming but I had that experience several times. It was easier to lucidly dream when I was younger because now I have more issues getting enough sleep. I had some advanced lucid dream experiences, such as partially passing through a closed window glass and a wall. Two other times I held conversations with "the dreamer" who apparently controls dreaming, where I was able to make and have requests and specific questions answered that I had asked before falling asleep. I have also received specific directions and inspirations at times through lucid dreaming, and experienced a couple of precognition dream episodes.

"I learned the hypnogogic technique for entering into a lucid dream, which Buddhist monks consider the best method to do so, and I agree. It is similar to surfing the boundary between being awake and asleep and dropping in at the key moment so that you can control the dream. I was part of an online lucid dream community for a few months. It was very interesting but it takes a lot of preparation, focus, and desire to dream lucidly, and few of the members achieved success in the time they participated." (N.B. in another paper to be discussed in a following blog, I oted that the author who was studying atheletes, said that lucid dreaming "can be leaned within half a year under right circumstances.")

When I asked Jeanette what she hoped to accomplish when she was actively pursuing lucid dreaming, she told me that it was principally insight work to better understand what her soul's direction and purpose were. She explored lucid dreaming out of curiosity, to see "and better understand (her) inner archetypes and myths", and to consider using dreams to inspire her painting. She feels lucid dreaming connects her more intimately to her soul's voice whereas in daytime, the conscious mind tends to dominate. She felt she had lost some of her natural creativity after retirement from owning and operating a very challenging photography business.

As for other results, none were specifically project oriented, such as dreaming or manipulating an image in her dream then subsequently working to completion on an embellished photograph or painting of it.

To extend her knowledge of the process, Jeanette read the Tibetan Book of Dreaming and referred me to her key teacher of the methodology, Charlie Morely who directly studied the topic with Tibetan monks. Some years ago she took a six-week online course with Morely.

Morely in his book "Lucid Dreaming Made Easy" and in videos reports possible physical health benefits of lucid dreaming such as better sleep, reduction in stress, and an ability to "integrate" nightmares.  Jeanette explained that integration occurs by being able to confront one's "monsters" or fears while in the dream state, then embrace them and transform fears while dreaming and later on when awake, into a better state of calm.

it's a complex psychological process that emanates from Jung's archetypes, but that's a topic for another time.

Wikipedia has a page listing artistic and scientific "works" from dreaming, but I cannot verify if these are just waking dreams and not influenced by drugs, or truly lucid dreaming per the definition above. Still the list is fascinating. (At first glance through Webb's book that just arrived, there are numerous similarly fascinating stories in the world of music!)

I would love to hear from any artist of any art form who has used lucid dreaming to dream or influence a work of art, then in waking hours create a specific image, poem, fine artwork, dance or choreography, or piece of music or song.

However, an interesting question just occurred to me. Can lucid dreaming increase a skill at the piano? Might my piano practice become less difficult and progress quicker in technique and expression and with less effort - if I learn how to lucidly dream it happening?


*After completing this blog I ran across this statement from Charley Morley as I was exploring his website and classes: "Did you know that you can use lucid dreams to rewire your brain and develop mastery in a specific skill set like painting or playing the piano? It’s scientifically proven that lucid dreams activate your prefrontal cortex and engage neuroplasticity. Imagine getting better at a skill while you sleep!" I have emailed Morley to see if he would further elucidate his topic.


THE MYSTERY (from Vol. I "Poetical Musings")

Ah! The mystery of it,

The composer’s soul,

Her talents and vision,

A story foretold.

His drive and his goal,

Then both enmeshed:

Technique and the dream,

With both he is blessed.

Where do they get it?

The mystery unfolds,

There’s only one answer,

That I now behold.

All melodies exist

Already composed,

Floating in air,

But not yet exposed.

So one day she hears

A gossamer thread,

Reaches to the skies

Where her ear has led.

Grasps at the thread,

And gently tugs down,

This thread then another,

‘Til many abound.

Then relying on grace

With undeniable talent,

He weaves a fine carpet,

His time well spent.

But who is beneficiary,

The composer, or us?

Who flies on the carpet?

The listener, of course!

We mount to the skies

On her inspired grace,

His vision completed,

The circle in place.


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