Aki Pasoulas
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Commentary

Was There A Time

Was there a time when dancers with their fiddles

in children's circuses could stay their troubles?

There was a time they could cry over books,

but time has set its maggot on their track.

Under the arc of the sky they are unsafe.

What's never known is safest in this life.

Under the skysigns they who have no arms

have cleanest hands,

and, as the heartless ghost alone's unhurt,

so the blind man sees best.


Dylan Thomas - from Collected Poems 1934-1952, 4th edn (1977, London: Dent).


The poem is used as a point of departure - a vehicle for the imagination. My interpretation does not necessarily reflect the poet's thoughts. When I first read the poem, I visualized a scene; a crowd of people, standing, all alike and grey. I imagined that I could hear their thoughts which, under the predominant grey colour, seemed to have been merged, amalgamated into one and the same thing. A lone dancer was moving grotesquely among the crowd, stirring the people who started to move around. I imagined someone observing the scene from above, without being able or even not wanting to interfere. Then, that person, cold and unapproachable, started a monologue, stating what the crowd of people were thinking already but feared to admit. By the end of the soliloquy, the crowd realized the significance of their thoughts. Shaken up by the pressure of their realization, they tried to suppress it and to stop thinking.

Throughout the entire imaginary scene, although most of the action was centred around the person who went into a monologue, my attention was caught by the stillness and watchfulness of the crowd; something was happening outside their vicinity, and they could only watch. Also, what was appealing to me, was that everything went very quickly, yet it was very detailed.

I tried to accommodate my ideas of the stillness of the crowd and the shortness and haste of the whole event. Therefore, although different musical ideas follow the text closely dividing the main section into several smaller units, all the musical elements are time-compressed; the separation between these events is only just perceptible, so as to cause a stillness (and emptiness) generated by the swift delivery of the piece. Theatrical elements in the piece involve the crowd at the beginning of the piece (asynchronized thoughts) and at the end (while trying to supress their thoughts). The fear of awareness is intensified, until the crowd succeeds in subduing their inner voices.

2014© A. Pasoulas