Her love is an object of ridicule, her husband plots to steal a baby boy from her, but when morning comes, she calls for music and all is set magically aright.
These are the plot strands of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that provide a backdrop for There Sleeps Titania, a new trio for clarinet, cello and piano I’ve completed this week. The piece features hallucinatory passages, devilish dances, darkly comical interludes and foreboding twists.
One midnight last summer, after my wife had endured over twenty hours of gut-wrenching labor with little progress, she was given a narcotic so she could sleep through the contractions and gather strength for what would surely be a strenuous delivery. Instead of sleeping, though, she wound up coping with a series of waking nightmares. I sat beside her in her delirium, half delirious myself with hunger and exhaustion, listening to her hallucinatory ramblings in the disorienting dimness of the hospital room.
After a couple of hours, she was given an epidural and slowly subsided into fitful sleep. The nurses encouraged me to sleep as well, but I was feeling too helpless, too confused and too frazzled to drop off.
We’ve all had nights that felt like they will never end. This one was spent nodding, twitching, drifting in and out of fantastic visions. Despite years of experience to the contrary, my magical self had given up hope that morning would ever come.
Fortunately, daylight finally trembled through the blinds, my wife moaned awake, and events rushed forward faster than I could take them in. At 8:44 am, after 31 hours, a baby boy arrived on the scene.
He has been casting a spell on both of us ever since.
Magic, delirium, poetry, dread, comedy, a new life: in the foreground, a few notes coalesce into tentative harmonies and motives, pick up momentum, twisting and swirling around one another, pulling disparate thoughts and experiences into their embrace.
Eventually the tumult subsides, the air feels oddly different — more transparent — and a new piece emerges: There Sleeps Titania.