A Dream, Analysis, and Daily Experience.

Posted: February 16, 2012 at 10:26 am

I had a dream last night. I’m writing about it here because it is relevant to the project in that it is an usual dream for me. Also after spending so much time reading about dreaming, I found a number of features of it quite interesting. I’ll start with the dream itself…

The Dream

I was living in a dorm or something, sharing a room with the cook from “2 broke girls”. At some point I found an instrument, it had a plywood base shaped like a stubby coffin and had about 8 strings which were attached to the nails. Each pair of strings was linked at the top at a nail, and anchored through the wood via a third wire. It looked something like a guitar without a neck. I played with this instrument a bit, and realized that when running my fingers along the strings I could hear the faint sound of a voice saying something. In the dream I went through this analytic process of understanding how this could be possible. I thought about how each string is actually a core wrapped in fine wire. I also thought that a record stored sound in the depth of channels in the vinyl. I came to the conclusion that the wire wrapped around the string was modulated in its thickness. When I ran my fingers over the string the frequency of the signal was proportional to the thickness of the wire at that point in the coil. By running my finger along the string I could hear the sound as a modulation of the frequency over the length of the wire.

Context

I had watched an episode of “2 broke girls” that night, but much more interesting is a message I wrote to the empyre discussion list that morning. The message was regarding the role of interfaces in the interpretation of voltages in analogue vs digital systems. I used the example of a analogue system where a microphone signal travels down a wire, and is broken into a number of components (frequency ranges) by a filter bank. The output of each filter is another wire, thereby breaking the signal into a number of components.

Analysis

While I was writing the message to empyre I did not specify the number of filters, but the corresponding mental image included 4 filters, and 4 output wires. Each pair of strings in the instrument in the dream was attached to the board at a single point resulting in 4 anchor points. Additionally, the empyre message was about encoding sound waves into the change of voltage over time, which seems very similar to the encoding of sounds into the thickness of a wire in a coil. There seemed to be some analogical mapping between my mental image from earlier in the day, and the structure (and function) of the guitar like instrument in the dream. Also when I learned electronics in highschool we used to built them on pieces of wood with nails in them, though I don’t recall this as an aspect of the mental image used while thinking through the analogue system while writing the message.

What is most interesting to me is the process of analysis I went through to figure out how a string could encode a sound. I would not have initially thought that this kind of analysis was possible in non-lucid dreaming. I normally have NREM-like dreams which are “…short, thought-like, less vivid, less visual and more conceptual, less motorically animated, under greater volitional control, more plausible, more concerned with current issues, less emotional and less pleasant” Nir and Tononi (2010). In this case the dream was by far much longer than most of my dreams (more like a REM dream), but it involved the highly conceptual process of making sense of the phenomenon, which is not correlated with REM dreams where there is often a reduced degree of voluntary control and self-awareness. In terms of dream qualities this dream seems to stand somewhere between REM and NREM reports. One thing I cannot be sure of is how much of this analysis occurred during the dream, and how much of it was me thinking about the dream after the fact and during in the transition between sleep and waking.

Either way, it was a striking example of an apparent conceptual relationship between the days experience and the dream itself (which is a known property of dreams, but most clearly seen in cases where the few hours of waking experience before sleep are incorporated).