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Ulad of the Dreams

Composer: Tim Porter. Music drama,1971

Based on a story by Fiona MacLeod.

Composer’s Note:

The drama seeks to show a man’s destiny in the form of a pyramid, whose two sides converge upon a single inevitable point in the future, his Fate.

The pyramid is build in layers, starting from the bottom. Its symbolic construction is shown in the “reels” which occur between the six parts of the drama. Each component of the pyramid is one of the people whose influence becomes part of Ulad.

The agency of magic was largely responsible for translating this basic idea into the musical terms. The ratio 7:5:3:2:! Appears as first unnoticed in the music:

This musical idea was found to relate not only to the formation of the orchestra, which has been deliberately arranged on this plan, but also, nearly, to a curious anti-alphabetical order in the names on the pyramid: Fand - Donncha - Colla - Bel - Aithne. What was responsible for placing this exact expression of the situation in the music is more than I shall ever know.

Each of the five reels is based on this ratio of prime numbers. The reel starts with the number of people presecribed for that given popint, and during its course selects on or two of these people to add to the growing pyramid. The music of the reel dwells upon whichever pair of notes corresponds to the given numbers.

A point of interest concerning the compostion of this piece is that very few of these phenomena were contrived. Most were discovered later, having risen unbidden in my mind as I wrote by instinct alone, using little method. This was helped by the fact that the period of compostion was short, concentrated and solitary. The music took about two months to write, compared with the two years of Artan Sleeps.

On the whole, I regard “Ulad of the Dreams” as the best piece I have ever written, and it contains everything that I have any wish to say at this particular time.

The drama of Ulad of the dreams is in six parts:

              Part One:   Hy Brasil
              Part Two:   The Battle of the Rising Moon
              Part Three: The Darkness
              Part Four:   Green Branches
              Part Five:   The Harping of Bel
              Part Six:     The Festival of Peace

Between the parts occur Reels of seven, Five, Three, Two and One, wherein is presented the essence of the Drama.

Tim Porter

“The days have trampled me like armed men,
Thrusting their spears as ever on they go:
And I am weary of all things save the stars,
The wind, shadows, and moonrise…”

(The Immortal Hour)

Cast list

The Questioner
Duach the Druid
Ulad the Lonely
Bel the harper
Doncha the Wise
Cormac of the Rocks
The Bandruidh
Colla the Wise
Colla’s Servants
Two Warriors


2 recorders
2 flutes
1 oboe/english horn
1 french horn
1 trombone
1 tuba
celtic harp
2 percussion
2 violins
1 treble viol
1 tenor viol
1 viola
2 cellos


Aug 1971: Cheltenham College Junior School Assembly Hall