Hello! The concept and lyrics behind the Dreams of Winter album is only a couple of weeks from completion now. In this post I will give a little bit of depth into the different characters and narrative voices present in this work of art. The latest tracklist is as follows. Keep in mind this is still a tentative layout, and the name of the album and songs, as well as the order of the songs is subject to further change.
Dreams of Winter - Delicate Flowers
- A White Rose
- The Delights and Dangers of Ambiguity
- Lithophanic Eternities (instrumental)
- These Winter Dreams
- The Only Immortality You and I May Share
- Triumph and Disaster
With this little piece of background information, we are ready to proceed. I do not go into too much depth here, but it is enough to give a general idea about who or what is singing in the album.
Altman: Altman is one of the main protagonists of the story. He is an old soldier who is embittered with war and death. Partially as a reaction to this sort of life, he has become a sort of escapist romantic, who yearns for a simple life devoid of troubles and suffering. In character he is quite weak, and prone to relapse into litanies of regret. A certain fatalist tendency is detectable in his character, as he often resigns himself to the will of fate and sighs that it is useless to try to take action against life’s injustices. Through the course of the album grows to love Marzena in a manner that is so pure that it is almost child-like, but eventually ruins himself over her as he is torn by the oscillations of his heart between the passion she instills in him and his survivalist reason and logic that has kept him alive in the battlefield for so many years. For the majority of the album, Altman is portrayed through a spoken voice medium, and his voice represents written letters. However, the voice of Altman does sing in Vignette, and represents direct dialogue in both this song and Triumph and Disaster. In Leiden, the voice of Altman directly conveys his intimate, internal thoughts. The name Altman is derived from the German elements ald and diener which mean “old” and “servant” respectively. This is indicative of his lifelong subordination to the forces of war and death.
Marzena: In many ways a character foil to Altman, Marzena is the youthful, energetic daughter to a man who was by chance killed by Altman in a battle (more on this when I write about the plot in a later post!). She is passionate and restless, and is frustrated with her current situation in a rural village as it lacks transience. A rather morbid defining trait of hers is her obsession with death. Often she contemplates subjects such as suicide, and concludes that it is even a good thing since she believes, among other more or less absurd yet romantic notions, that when one dies at the peak of one’s love for another, that love is immortalized through death. Her love for Altman arises out of his association with death, but eventually seeds of hate towards him begin to sprout as she begins to progressively despise his lack of vitality and resignation with life. At this point however, she has already lost everything else but her love for him, due to the sacrifices she makes in order to bring change into her life, and so commits suicide. As with Altman, Marzena’s voice on the album is mostly spoken word representing letters she wrote, and she sings on Vignette, representing direct dialogue in both this song and Triumph and Disaster. Her name is a Polish name that means “dreamed one.” This is symbolic of both the nature of her existence in this album (see my inscribed self below to understand this) and the perception Altman has towards her.
Passion: The voice of Passion is a female voice that narrates in third person, but identifies more closely with Marzena, the female character. Passion is very active, and often spends much time on the subject of the future. It is mainly responsible for providing vivid narrative details to the story, but one can expect that when the mellifluous crooning of Passion is present, the corresponding text is equally as tumultuous and multifaceted as the emotion this voice represents.
Melancholy: The narrative complement to Passion, Melancholy, is a male voice that speaks in third person, but identifies more closely with Altman. Melancholy is palpably regretful, and can be expected to linger in things past. The mournful melodies of this voice are made up of antitheses and lamentations. The role of Melancholy is to provide emotional narrative details, as well as some description of setting within the context of the characters’ perception of their surroundings and how it is influenced by emotion.
Death: The embodiment of Death’s voice in the Dreams of Winter album is a low, pained growl. Throughout the songs, Death addresses either Altman or Marzena, often calling them “old friend” or “my daughter” respectively. It speaks only in poetic verse, and in general is a very enticing voice (in text, not in sound). Death attempts to portray itself as a solution to problems, and uses both Altman’s weariness with life and Marzena’s attraction to the unknown as ways to attract them both into its grip.
Reason: Reason is easily the most vicious, angry voice of them all. Represented by a high scream, Reason, like Death, addresses both characters throughout the album. However, Reason has its own character in a sense, which is more closely linked to a personification of the reason and logic ”belonging to” Altman. It is the enemy of passion, and is condescending towards melancholy. It struggles against Death’s allure, and defines suicide as a moment of weakness, not a solution to problems. Overall, Reason is characterized by its need for survival, both for itself as it grapples against Passion and Melancholy within the context of the two character’s emotions, and for the characters as Death uses its silver-coated tongue to entice them into oblivion.
My inscribed self: I, Ray Heberer, appear as a character in my own album! My inscribed self is dreamy and confused, and appears (singing) only in These Winter Dreams. The reality my inscribed self is that the world of Altman and Marzena and the essences of Passion, Melancholy, Death, and Reason accompanying them are merely voices whispering in my ear as I lie dreaming in my bed. It is not necessarily Winter in season when these dreams occur, but it is the Winter of my life, as I am diagnosed with a terminal illness and have but a few weeks left to live, suffering in my deathbed. I see how human and real these characters in my dreams are, and believe their story must be preserved. Hence, I decide to immortalize the short-lived love of Altman and Marzena in an album, which you will happen to be listening to when my inscribed self makes its appearance.
The Chorus: The chorus is responsible for the recitation of three sonnets during the album. There is the Dream Sonnet in These Winter Dreams, as well as the Second Dream Sonnet in Triumph and Disaster. These two poems are read by a chorus of whispers and they and their content is symbolic of the multiple planes of reality present in the album, as well as a certain recurrent theme of dreams themselves in the plot of the album (again, I’ll write about the plot soon!). Finally, there is the Nightmare Sonnet which is found in Vignette, which also recited by a chorus of whispers. More shall be said about the Nightmare Sonnet later, but it is essentially a warning from an unknown source directed at the two characters at the peak of their love.
Well, I hope you’ve found this interesting. Soon, I will write about the plot of the album. Unfortunately, the release is still over half a year away, but I promise I will do my best to make it worth it!
Ray (the real one, not the terminally ill one)