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on the edge of a dream

for flute, oboe and piano / 2013



On the Edge of a Dream was composed during the hopeful time period of May 2013, when I was starting a joyous new chapter of my life. I traveled to China, staying from June to August. By the time I went on this trip, the piece was left unfinished as my ideas seemed to be dried out. Little did I know, what I just gained would be lost soon after I left. The compositional process never resumed until my return to Toronto. As I finished the piece in late September, I realized with great shock that the story that I had envisioned to build the architecture of the piece actually predicted what would happen in my in July.


The piece depicts one's state of mind of desiring something wonderful but seemingly unreachable, and his/her journey of pursuing it. The concept of being on a dream's edge can be perceived from two levels, as the composition tells the story in two stages. First, after a surreal and chaotic introduction, the flute states the theme, which immediately modulates from G major to Eb within 4 measures, as if the protagonist awakes from a beautiful dream, the sudden modulation representing his shock upon realizing that he has once again dreamed of something/someone he/she so desires. This metaphor establishes the key of G as the state of the dream, or the ideal, and the key of Eb as that of the reality. Upon awakening, the protagonist ponders his/her thoughts on the edge of the dream in a literal sense. Second, after a brief section of sweetness and joy, the music turns dark again with the flute and oboe playing melodies of such longing and struggle, eventually intensified dramatically in a collapse of frustration. The piece closes in a tone of grief and sorrow, but with a dim light of hope as the the theme appears in the piano in G major again. Nonetheless, it descends to an Eb chord, bringing the piece to an end. After all the efforts, attempts, and belief that he/she has reached the dream, the protagonist is only to realize that he/she never truly had what he/she so desired, and that he/she was merely on the edge of the dream this whole time. He/she keeps hoping and waiting, while accepting the bitter reality.


Sara Constant, flute
Boris Chang, oboe
Gina Lee, piano


Recorded live in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, on 4 February, 2014



Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2013

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