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  • Writer's pictureAnna Byrne

Dream Theme: Music for Existential Wonderings

I often think about existential questions—the stuff of birth and death and what happens in-between. Perhaps it’s a leftover from years of cancer treatment, but I also think of it as an inseparable part of human being-ness, of being alive on this planet at this time, and engaging with what that means.

Sometimes, this is a gentle exchange, with questions that arise during my walks, or a sense of rightness about the world that comes like a back rub. But other times, it’s a wrestling match with angst, and I wonder about the finiteness and grandness of life and how they exist together. There’s joy and beauty and love and gratitude and all of that lives alongside grief and doubt and frustration and pain.

Wonder and Wondering. We move together, existentialism and me.

I think part of my writing—maybe the biggest part—is wrestling out in words the contours of this existential wondering. I fumble along for its edges, both sharp and soft, and try to wring out some wisdom for me and for the earth.

So I’m drawn to other creative souls who are joining in, looking to shimmy or scuffle—poets, storytellers, and shamans. I happen to share a bloodline with a songwriter of 25 years. My brother, Peter, is an astounding lyricist—his words are like pebbles that drop down into these cavernous questions and breathe out an echo of the soul. His songs have held my hand during many of my life’s transitions.

Right now, I keep listening to one in particular. It’s called Meet Your Maker, and for someone who has literally struggled to stay alive, this song captures so much of that struggle in just over five minutes. The first time I heard it—when Pete performed it live last May on Salt Spring Island—I could barely keep it together.

All these years being alive

I think and dream of my demise

Painting pictures with my mind

Just what the end will look like

The music is so rich, so layered. It speaks so much to the sense of unknowing that life asks of us, even as we need to keep moving through it with physicality and intention.

We live inside a mystery

How could all this come to be? The yin and yang, the ebb and flow

The mind cannot begin to know

For me, the whole album touches the core of the human experience—unrequited love, hope for a child, hurtful relationships, eco-grief. It’s hopeful and haunting and it evokes questions about life even while pointing to some of the answers. It’s strands of wisdom pulled from the edge of a dream.

The purpose of existential questions, I think, is not angst but engagement. It’s so that we can make informed decisions in order to live how we truly want to live.

And with the time that I have left

I will vow to do my best

To right the things that I’ve done wrong

To speak my truth, to share my song

If you, like me, seek the marrow of life and its lessons, listen to the album. I think you’ll find something of wisdom there—music for birth, death, and what happens in-between.

As for the truth I have not found

Well, place my body in the ground

And I will meet my destiny

‘Cause in good time, we’ll all be free

Dream Theme on Spotify

Dream Theme on Apple Music

This debut album by Dream Theme is a lush and elaborate dreamscape that meticulously stitches together moods of brooding confusion with lightness, surrender, and ultimately humility. It's exceptionally well-realized and features an array of unexpected songwriting turns and production twists. This is a headphones album. It plays like one long dream, each song representing a different scene and atmosphere. Bright acoustic guitars and hummable banjo melodies mix with sustained keyboards, muted electronic drums, and layers of haunting vocals, as if they were always meant to co-exist. The payoff at the end of Dream Theme’s ambitious first album is Got It Wrong, a loose, tongue-in-cheek lesson in levity that awakens the listener from their fever dream. You got it wrong — and that’s alright.

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