Reverie is a dreamy or musing state. When we calm ourselves emotionally and mentally, we allow our minds to engage in the relaxing play called reverie.
I have sat for hours in a sort of reverie, letting my mind have its way without inhibition and direction, and idly noted down the incessant beat of thought upon thought, image upon image. I have observed that my thoughts make all kinds of connections, wind in and out, trace concentric circles, and break up in eddies of fantasy, just as in dreams. One day I had a literary frolic with a certain set of thoughts which dropped in for an afternoon call. I wrote for three or four hours as they arrived, and the resulting record is much like a dream. I found that the most disconnected, dissimilar thoughts came in arm-in-arm--I dreamed a wide-awake dream. The difference is that in waking dreams I can look back upon the endless succession of thoughts, while in the dreams of sleep I can recall but few ideas and images. I catch broken threads from the warp and woof of a pattern I cannot see, or glowing leaves which have floated on a slumber-wind from a tree that I cannot identify. In this reverie I held the key to the company of ideas. I give my record of them to show what analogies exist between thoughts when they are not directed and the behaviour of real dream-thinking. [Helen Keller, The World I Live In (1907), chapter XV, “A Waking Dream.”]
- Salvador Dali, White Calm (1936)
- Salvador Dali, Boat (1918)
- Isaac Levitan, Twilight Moon (1899)
- Alphonse Mucha, Evening Reverie (nocturnal slumber) (1898)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Boating at Argenteuil (1873)
- Ivan Aivazovsky, Moonlit Night (1849)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Frédéric Chopin’s twenty-one nocturnes for solo piano capture the spirit of reverie (performances by Rubinstein, Engerer and Chaplin).
- Op. 9, No. 1 in B-Flat Minor - Larghetto (1833): like Bach’s opening pieces for his Solo Cello Suites and his Well-Tempered Klavier, Chopin’s first nocturne most compellingly captures the overarching musical idea.
- Op. 9, No. 2 in E-Flat Major - Andante (1833): feelings of comfort and assurance underlie the predominant tone.
- Op. 9, No. 3 in B Major - Allegretto (1833): playfulness alternates with reverie.
- Op. 15, No. 1 in F Major – Andante Cantabile (1834): the mood begins calmly with overtones of reverence and is interrupted occasionally by what for these pieces could be characterized as tumult.
- Op. 15, No. 2 in F-Sharp Major - Larghetto (1834): curiosity and a muted sense of adventure are the occasional interlopers here.
- Op. 15, No. 3 in G Minor - Lento (1834): hints of skepticism color the dream-like dominant tone.
- Op. 27, No. 1 in F Minor - Larghetto (1836): this nocturne highlights the mysterious quality of dreams, then gradually and in fits and starts the vision becomes clearer.
- Op. 27, No. 2 in D-Flat Major – Lento sostenuto (1836): the emphasis here is on nostalgic reflection.
- Op. 32, No. 1 in B Major – Andantino sostenuto (1837): this nocturne expresses fond thoughts of a dear friend.
- Op. 32, No. 2 in A-Flat Major - Lento (1837): the tone is one of serenity and rest.
- Op. 37, No. 1 in G Minor – Andante sostenuto (1840): the dominant theme-of-the-soul is contemplative, introspective reflection.
- Op. 37, No. 2 in G Major - Andantino (1840): with its simple, repetitive affirmations, this nocturne emphasizes reverie’s restorative and healing qualities.
- Op. 48, No. 1 in C Minor - Lento (1842): this nocturne’s tone of uncertainty interrupts the dominant mood.
- Op. 48, No. 2 in F-Sharp Minor - Andantino (1842): the contemplative mood suggests a re-evaluation.
- Op. 55, No. 1 in F Minor - Andante (1844): this nocturne offers a straightforward expression of the main spiritual theme.
- Op. 55, No. 2 in E-Flat Major - Lento (1844): suggesting a reassuring look within.
- Op. 62, No. 1 in B Major - Andante (1846): this nocturne’s self-consciousness renders it somewhat out of place until motifs of reassurance restore the main idea.
- Op. 62, No. 2 in E Major – Lento (1846): reassurance re-affirmed, with increasing emphasis.
- Op. 72, No. 1 in E Minor - Andante (1855): Chopin’s returns in his final nocturne to mystery, with an unsettled quality suggesting the macabre, as though he had second thoughts about the main idea of the nocturne. The piece was published six years after his death. Perhaps Chopin was not ready to say goodbye.
- Op. posthumous in C-Sharp Minor – Lento con gran espressione (1830): this nocturne displays a brooding quality.
- Op. posthumous in C Minor (1848): the brooding quality in Chopin’s earlier unpublished nocturne is ominous here, as though Chopin sank into despair as he approached the end of his too-brief life.
Gabriel Fauré composed thirteen nocturnes over a span of thirty-six years. These works are prime examples of French impressionism, with its inherently dream-like quality. Here are performances by Hubeau, Crochet and Collard.
As most commonly interpreted today and for many years, Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (Sonata quasi una fantasia) (“Moonlight”) evokes a romantic moonlit evening. The too-slow tempo in most modern interpretations (performances by Arrau, Freire, Rubinstein and Backhaus) was not what Beethoven intended. Each phrase was supposed to be connected to the next, as though the phrases were building a bridge, with the main chord in each phrase bringing the bridge together. A performance by Glenn Gould retained much of romantic quality without sacrificing Beethoven’s intent.
- Foote, Nocturne and Scherzo for Flute and String Quartet (1918)
- Flagello, Nocturne for Violin and Piano
- Carlos Salzedo, music for harp
- Janáček, In the Mists, (V mlhách) JW VIII/22 (1912): In the Mists “paints a mesmerizingly foggy atmosphere that, upon closer look, is hiding all kinds of imagery and imagination.”
- Rachmaninoff, Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36 (1913, rev. 1931)
- Keeril Makan, Dream Lightly: “Composer Keeril Makan contextualizes silence, connects past and present, and explores dream states and reality . . .”
- Kevin Kern, “Summer Daydreams”
- Jakob Bro, “Uma Elmo”
- Katherine Priddy, “The Eternal Rocks Beneath”: “To listen to The Eternal Rocks Beneath is to sink into a reverie. Elemental and evocative, the much-anticipated debut from Katherine Priddy finds the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter putting a contemporary spin on the mythological.”
- Arushi Jain, “Under the Lilac Sky”: “Throughout the album, these percussion-less tracks are propelled by their own sense of momentum, grounded by the pace of Jain’s repeating synth patterns and the reassuring constant of her vocal melodies, heard with particularly piercing clarity in the bass-led My People Have Deep Roots.”
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Patrick Modiano, Sleep of Memory: A Novel (Yale University Press, 2018): “The Nobel laureate’s dreamlike novels summon elusive, half-forgotten episodes. Here, that means Paris in the ’60s, love affairs, a flirtation with the occult and a shocking crime.”
- Asali Solomon, The Days of Afrekete: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021): “Solomon’s novel is a feat of engineering. It’s also a reverie, a riff on ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ and a love story. In Liselle, Solomon has invented a character who comes to the mind’s eye in HD, with anxieties, jokes, memories, furies and survival instincts all present in prose as clear as water.”