Ideated by Benjamin Franklin and first implemented during World War I, daylight savings time keeps stretching further and further into our year. Originally intended to conserve energy by extending the amount of natural light available for daily activities, studies have found that the redistribution of the hours so that sunrise and sunset each arrive later might lead to greater energy consumption while helping stimulate the economy—with more daylight hours remaining after work, people are more inclined to leave their homes to shop or eat at restaurants. Because of the uptick in retail sales associated with the time changes, we keep extending the portion of the year spent in the non-standard time. Originally, we moved our clocks forward into daylight savings time in April and back to standard time in October. Currently, most of the U.S. spends one week shy of eight months in daylight savings time (Arizona and Hawaii remain on standard time throughout the year).
In Baltimore, this year’s time change has been accompanied by extraordinarily beautiful weather, with mild sunny days giving way to refreshing overnight rain. Abundant daffodils dot the gardens and the blossoms on cherry and tulip trees are beginning to unfurl.
Each spring, I teach a graduate music theory seminar in song analysis. We consider the relationship between poetry and music, and how they work together to create specific denotative meaning. The class begins by discussing “Come Lovely and Soothing Death” from George Crumb’s Apparition, with its conflation of spring imagery and renewed mourning, and currently we’re in the midst of an in-depth examination of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, in which the flowers and birds of spring evoke memories of lost love. Part of the visceral enjoyment that we derive from these songs arises from this unexpected juxtaposition of hermit thrush or nightingale songs and lilacs or lilies with opposing emotional reactions.
For me, this year’s time change and move towards spring have elicited a refreshing renewal of creative energy. I’m working towards the completion of projects whose deadlines quite recently had appeared menacingly improbable. As the burnout I experienced this winter slowly fades, I see new paths emerging that had been hidden from my view. Artistic conundrums that had seemed overwhelming suddenly appear manageable.
Most years, I abhor the start of daylight savings time. I like morning sunshine, and the first few weeks that I’m forced to awaken in darkness again can feel onerous. The loss of an hour always seems to arrive in the midst of a crunch of deadlines. I find it difficult to understand why we keep switching back and forth between two different time streams, and wonder why we can’t simply remain in daylight or in standard time. However, this year the arrival of the new time seems to have functioned as the true harbinger of a new season. The spring forward appears to have awakened my creative drive. I hope that all the readers of NewMusicBox are experiencing a similar renewal of energy.