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Classical 101

Set Your Clock Back with a Musical Sleep-In

FIVE AUDIO PIECES We all love the fall time change, when when Daylight Savings Time comes to and end and when, if only fleetingly, there really are more than 24 hours in a day. But if you're like me, this coming Sunday morning, Nov. 1, you'll just wake up at the time you usually do, and to rub salt in the wound, your clock will tell you you've woken up an hour earlier than usual, just because you've set your clock back an hour.  This can be a distressing state of affairs. If you can't sleep more this Sunday, maybe you can at least listen to music about sleep.  Here are some musical works about sleep that, if they don't carry you off to la-la-land, might at least give you something to do to fill the time when you wish you were asleep but find yourself vexingly awake. John Dowland's Orlando Sleepeth, beautiful though it may be, comes as close as anything on this list to being a cure for insomnia.  It's a gentle little tune with nice, angst-free accompaniment.  I especially like lutenist Paul O'Dette's performance, which, in an appropriately somnolent tempo, removes any hint of lilting rhythm.  No rocking cradle in this lullaby. [audio:dowland_orlando_sleepeth.mp3] Then there's William Albright's Sleepwalker's Shuffle, a movement from his Dream Rags.  Aptly named: only in my dreams are my insomniac moments this upbeat.  Still, it's fun music.  Here's a snippet performed by pianist Gloria Cheng: [audio:albright_sleepwalkers_shuffle.mp3] Eric Whitacre's choral work Sleep shows us what falling asleep might actually sound like.  As you might expect, the piece begins somewhat subdued: [audio:whitacre_sleep_beginning.mp3] Then it builds in intensity until at the climactic text "And I surrender unto sleep" the chorus sings at full voice, sopranos wailing away in the stratosphere like a sleep-engulfed mind might sail into the ether.  I might wonder how anyone could sleep through all that caterwauling, but that's beside the point.  Here's Stephen Layton's brilliant recording with the British choral ensemble Polyphony: [audio:whitacre_sleep_climax.mp3] We'll end with the mother, or father, of all lullabys, the Magic Fire Music from Act III of Wagner's Die Walküre.  At this point in the drama Brünnhilde, one of the Valkyrie daughters of Wotan, the leader of the gods, has angered her father, whose midlife crisis is what perpetuates the dramatic conflict throughout the four-opera Ring of the Nibelungs cycle.  Wotan punishes Brünnhilde by putting her under a spell that makes her fall asleep on a mountaintop surrounded by a protective ring of fire.  Even if, as her father's favorite, Brünnhilde's overconfidence got her into this mess, she does have the gumption to negotiate a pretty good deal for ending her punishment: only he who is brave enough to arrive at the mountaintop and break through the ring of fire will be Brünnhilde's mate, and only to him will she wake up.  That mate is Siegfried, too silly to be brave, but a girl can do worse.  Anyway, Wotan sings an aria ("Der Augen leuchtendes Paar") to put his favorite daughter to sleep.  Then some of the most beautiful instrumental music in the entire cycle lulls Brünnhilde to sleep.  This music is so hauntingly gorgeous that I don't see how anyone could sleep through it, but that's beside the point: [audio:wagner_walkure_instrumental.mp3] So if the sandman doesn't pay you a visit during your extra hour this Sunday, consider turning to music (preferably that which we offer on WOSU 89.7).  It might not cure your insomnia, but, we are told, it will at least soothe your savage breast. --Jennifer Hambrick

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.