Elusive Sleep

by Pamela J. Marshall

for cello, piano

Duration ~5.5 min.


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Elusive Sleep is a restless piece that resulted from trying to write a lullaby. This music is dedicated to Boston Symphony cellist Luis Leguia. He played the premiere on his Luis & Clark carbon-fiber cello. For information on his cello, visit the Luis & Clark site.

The composer writes:

I was asked to write a piece in the mood of a berceuse or lullaby, but what came to mind was not the rocking rhythms that cradle us in sleep, but the wandering mind that defeats our attempts to let go of the day and find sleep. Sometimes the events of the day are just too interesting and we can’t let go! I also find something obsessional in the rhythms and pacing of the mind’s wanderings among my available thoughts.

The piece begins with a descending major 6th. Although a beautiful and relaxing sonority, it returns insistently in both the piano and cello part and is the core motive of variations of the music. The piece makes a slow climb from the opening sections centered around C#; through a darker, heavier episode in D minor; finally rising to end in a tuneful section in a modal D#. For me, this upward direction represents letting go to float in the peace of sleep.

In the final section, the cello plays a more contented and serene melody. The cello is again accompanied by lots of 6ths, but now they are delicate and gentle, in the tempo of a dream, rather than full of waking, erratic thoughts. Sleep may be elusive but we do—we must—find it in the end.

Pianist Karen Sauer, who attended the premiere, had these comments:

“I thought the piece was wonderful, really lyrical and graceful. They [Luis Leguia and Carmen Rodriguez-Peralta] played it beautifully and looked like they really enjoyed doing it.”


SoundClick streaming: Listen to Elusive Sleep and buy the MP3 at SoundClick.

Elusive Sleep is on the CD Just In Time Now and Then, with Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello, and Carmen Rodriguez-Peralta, piano. Get the CD from Spindrift, or Amazon, or CDBaby.


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