The Story of Dreaming As I Knew

I first met Carl Clements in February 1985 when we were both students at Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Our first performance together was a concert of some quartet compositions of mine which took place at the Berklee Concert Pavilion in June 1985.  Carl was also the saxophonist in The Kevin Kastning Unit between 1985 and 1988.  Since then, we have performed various concerts together.  Aside from a few recordings of the Unit in 1988, strangely enough, we have not recorded together.  I've always felt a true artistic connection with Carl; the fit was always great; we seem to be able to almost read each other's minds in performance.  

Around 2008, we began to discuss doing an album of guitar and woodwind duets.  Though we are both prolific composers, we agreed that we didn't want to bring written compositions to the recording sessions.  Instead, we both brought in conceptual ideas and verbal descriptions of form and composition.  Due to very active and full calendars, we were only able to schedule a couple of  recording sessions per year.  Though sessions began in 2009, the pieces on Dreaming As I Knew all date from our 2010 and 2011 recording dates.  For these sessions, Carl utilized tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, and several Bansuri flutes, which are bamboo flutes originating in India.  For our sessions, I utilized various instruments, such as 12-string guitar, 6-string bass-baritone guitar, 12-string extended baritone guitar, classical guitar, 12-string Alto guitar, and the 14-string Contraguitar.  After we selected the pieces which would become Dreaming As I Knew, those compositions featured 12-string Alto guitar, Classical guitar, and 14-string Contraguitar.  These very different instruments and registers provided excellent contrast with Carl's varied instruments, and added to and enhanced the textures and atmospheres of the overall album.  Indeed, this record represents the first time in history that this combination of instruments has existed.

Though Carl comes from a strong jazz background, and my background is more classical-centric than anything else, we both agreed that the duet compositions for this album project should have no direct reference to, or grounding in either classical or jazz.  Our intent was for the compositions to be architecturally free-standing structures, not requiring the support or framework of any genre; nor reference points such as classical or jazz.  I believe we have achieved this.

Titling conventions are usually arduous for me.  My goal and intent is that non-numerical titles (String Quartet No. 3, Symphony No. 1, et. al.) should have a connection to the composition; yet not be so obvious as to give away the composer's meaning to the listener.  Or, equally disdainful, precondition the listener so as to disallow them to find their own meaning and interpretation of the piece.  Album titles present a unique conundrum, as they are an overarching umbrella; a method of and vehicle for tying all the pieces together and making a statement about them.  Carl has provided some insightful theoretical readings into the title of our album.  My take on the title was an alteration of an idea as it came to me one night: what if everything you knew was wrong?   What if you learned something new, or came to a new realization, which so changed your way of thinking, of perception, that all else you knew up to that moment seemed wrong in comparison?  What if the dream turned out to be the reality?  The dream in this case being what was previously ephemeral and ungraspable.  The dreaming becoming what you now know as the reality. The concrete. The truth.  What if?

  - Kevin Kastning
    Groton, Massachusetts
    March 11, 2012


It has been a pleasure delving back into serious music-making with Kevin Kastning. Over the nearly thirty years that we’ve been friends, we’ve had many opportunities to perform together, but never got around to making a recording. Life has taken us to different places in the country and the world, and for some time, distance and circumstances got in the way of pursuing a joint project. After finally renewing our musical partnership several years ago, it was gratifying to find that our rapport hadn’t suffered, but rather our individual musical directions had converged even more closely. While our paths have followed different routes, the core of compatibility that we share seems to have been strengthened by our many musical explorations in the interim. It is not easy to find musical partners with whom one can explore freely-improvised music that results in coherent pieces with clear compositional integrity. As with Kevin’s other projects, I feel that Dreaming As I Knew presents a series of dialogues and musings on subjects that cannot be articulated through words. I’m confident that our collaborative efforts will continue to strengthen in what I hope will be many future projects.

Dreaming As I Knew: Notes on the title

This title suggests to me a number of different interpretations and concepts.

1. Dreaming as if I knew. What I thought I knew was in fact a dream. All knowledge of life is a sort of dream, in that what we perceive is a very limited interpretation of the totality of the universe. We exist as part of the oneness of all things, now and always, and the temporary state we consider to be reality is just one brief variation on a miniscule manifestation of the indescribable all.

2. In my pursuit of knowledge, I also dream, and these dreams are what inspire a deeper knowledge.

3. That which I dream is often based on that which I have known in my waking life. This knowledge from my waking life provides the materials and metaphors that form the building blocks of my dreams. This is not to say that the dream is any less real than the waking life. In fact, the dream may be in many ways more real, as it shows the transience of any interpretation of existence. In art, we do not simply describe the world around us, but rather, much as in a dream, we reconfigure and reinterpret facets of our perception of existence in ways that express something beyond simple temporal, earthly “reality.”

4. Life as an artist is a kind of continuum between knowing and dreaming. We declare an idea, theme, form, concept, arbitrarily as a postulate of existence. This postulate is taken through a journey of validation, reconfiguration, replication, retrogression, inversion, and transformation. But ultimately we know this postulate is only valid for the context we have created. At best, this reminds us that our knowledge of life is just as arbitrary, contextual, and transitive.

5. Dreaming, as (because) I knew. My realization that life is essentially a dream occasionally gives me flashes of deeper knowledge of the oneness of things. This knowledge of oneness feeds my conviction that dreaming can be closer to ultimate reality than traditional ideas of solid knowledge. Thus, my dreaming is validated for me by this deeper knowledge (I can be confident in my dreaming, because I know something deeper and indescribable).

6. Dreaming what I knew. Memory is often imperfect and distorted, and one’s past can take on a dream-like quality. What we remember isn’t always quite what happened. We may remember what and how we choose to remember, and memories sometime transform and recombine to take on new meanings and realities.

7. I am intrigued by the idea that one should live one's life in such a way that one has better dreams. What we know, what we think, what we do, what we create, where we go, who we love, how we behave, what we imagine, what we experience, what we aspire to, all contribute to the character of the world we enter when we dream. A better life leads to better dreams. And perhaps better dreams lead to a better life. What is meant by "better"? I believe that is something one must decide for oneself, and perhaps one's dreams can help to provide an answer.

  - Carl Clements
    Amherst, Massachusetts
    February 2, 2012