|listen (mp3) score (pdf)
WE WERE SITTING AROUND in the living-dining room of a big house we used to rent for a week with six friends, in Ashland, there to see five or six plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Tuesday through Sunday we went to the theater, both afternoon and evening performances many of the days: Shakespeare, classic American plays, new plays.
We rose at different times, colliding in the kitchen putting our breakfasts together; we lunched and dined together often, or broke up into smaller ensembles to accommodate maverick tastes.
We discussed the plays, occasionally played games, read aloud to one another. But we also dropped out from time to time for some individual work. Gaye worked at a newspaper column; Mac proofread a grad student paper; Stefan sketched at a musical idea of some kind.
I checked my email: Eliane, a marvelous pianist who'd played my first sonata, was thinking of putting together a recital of lullabys. Would I write one for her? I gave it a little thought. What is a lullaby actually? The word has come to connote sentimentality… a pretty tune, meant to ingratiate a child into giving up consciousness yet again. I didn't need that: what I needed, in those days, was something that would put an adult to sleep. A soporific, not a lullaby.
I"d recently installed a music-notating application on my laptop, and thought I'd try it out. It didn't take more than a couple of hours to play my Lullaby into the laptop. The result, a little over four minutes long, seemed to need something to follow it, to get the blood moving again, so I added a Finale. That was a dozen years ago; now I'm beginning to think it needs another movement to come before the Lullaby. I'll keep you posted.
Eliane played the piece not long after it was completed, on a program of piano lullabys by a number of composers. It didn't have the desired effect; it seemed to me the audience listened rather intensely, as if expecting something to happen; no one fell asleep. The Finale broke the tension nicely.