After my niece was born, I became fascinated by the way that she responded to music. Skeptically, I had always imagined stories of music’s effects on children to be somewhat exaggerated, and believed that an emotional response to music was more of a learned behavior. However, witnessing my niece’s immediate attention and reaction to music convinced me that some portion of our response is indeed innate.
Inspired by seeing music have such a visceral effect, I began to explore the idea of writing a lullaby for a chamber ensemble. It became an interesting experiment, as lullabies have aesthetic goals very different from those of most concert music: rather than serving to entertain, or inspire, or convey a dramatic arch, they have the practical purpose of being able to soothe and quiet through their static and often plaintive character. As I wished to write a piece that was longer than that of a typical lullaby, I extended my piece into a fantasie, a set of free variations that reinterpret the lullaby theme. The particular choice of instrumentation (“Pierrot Ensemble” plus percussion) proved to be challenging because it included instruments of dissimilar timbres, whereas I was interested in creating a more unified sound. However, the addition of alto flute and bass clarinet and the substitution of the viola for the violin helped to establish the more peaceful and cohesive character suggested by the idea of a lullaby.
This piece is dedicated to Eleanor.