Deceptive Cadence
4:51 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Coaxing The Baby To Sleep: A Violinist's Hand-Picked Lullabies

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 6:48 pm

In German, it's wiegenlied; in French, berceuse; in Norwegian, vuggevise. In any language, the universal effect of what we know as the lullaby is, of course, to coax a baby to sleep.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine had her own baby in mind when she decided to record a collection of lullabies. Her infant daughter appears on the cover of the new album Violin Lullabies — all folded up, fast asleep, so tiny she just about fits in her dad's hands.

"When I wanted to make sure that I was really capturing the right flavor, I just thought of my daughter in the recording studio," Barton Pine says. "And that sort of made me feel the music in the right way every time."

Barton Pine describes herself as a sheet music geek. From her collection, she created a shortlist of lullabies from composers including the biggies — Brahms, Schubert, Schumann — but also a number of surprises.

"There are some composers here who are known, but lesser known," she says. "And then, there are some composers who are absolutely, completely obscure. Like, who had ever heard of Antsev and Rebikov and Schwab?"

For the record, those are composers Mikhail Antsev, Vladimir Rebikov and Ludwig Schwab, who contribute three of the diverse batch of works — 25 in total — that Barton Pine interprets on the album.

"Some of them are about lulling the baby to sleep, some of them are about describing the baby who's sleeping, and some of them might even be describing a dream itself," Barton Pine says. "And that's also how I chose which mute to use — the little special things that sit on top of the bridge to give the tone quality of the violin an even more covered, more delicate and impressionistic sound."

Barton Pine says that even the family histories of the composers themselves influenced her performance. To hear more of her conversation with NPR's Melissa Block, click the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In German, it's wiegenlied; in French, berceuse; in Norwegian, vuggevise. In any language, the universal effect of what we know as the lullaby is, of course, to coax a baby to sleep.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: Violinist Rachel Barton Pine had her own infant daughter in mind when she decided to record an album of lullabies. That's her baby on the cover, all folded up fast asleep, so tiny she just about fits in her dad's hands.

RACHEL BARTON PINE: When I wanted to make sure that I was really capturing the right flavor, I just thought of my daughter in the recording studio and that sort of made me feel the music in the right way every time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: Rachel Barton Pine describes herself as a sheet music geek and from her collection, she narrowed it down to 25 lullabies from composers including the biggies - Brahms, Schubert, Schumann - but also surprises.

PINE: There are some composers here who are known but lesser known and then there are composers who are absolutely completely obscure, like who had ever heard of Antsev and Rebikov and Schwab?

BLOCK: I had not heard of Schwab, in fact, Ludwig Schwab, and this is his Scottish lullaby.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PINE: This is my own imagination, but I really categorize them as some of them are about lulling the baby to sleep and some of them are about describing the baby who is sleeping. And some of them might even be describing a dream itself. And that's also how I chose which mute to use, the little special things that sit on top of the bridge to give the tone quality of the violin an even more covered, more delicate and impressionistic sound.

BLOCK: Let's listen to one of the lullabies that uses the mute that you call the mysterious mute and this is a lullaby from the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: And this piece, to me, has really a spooky sound.

PINE: Absolutely. Well, it kind of makes you think about how, you know, dreams are something that we still don't fully understand. It's like entering into this magical otherworld.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PINE: It's like you're watching the sleeping baby, thinking, you know, where are they? Where have they gone? What are they doing in their dream?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: I'm talking with violinist Rachel Barton Pine about her album of violin lullabies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: This is the lullaby by the Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaye, written for his son, called "Child's Dream."

PINE: Yeah. So, Ysaye was actually the teacher of the teacher of my teacher. So he's my great grand-teacher and I've always loved his music. I asked the program writer to dig up a little bit of information about each of the composer's family life and I was very discouraged to find out that Ysaye was a jerk who cheated on his wife. But, in fact, the story of this (foreign language spoken) "Child's Dream" is very touching because he was off on tour and he was missing his new baby boy.

And so he wrote this piece thinking of his son whom he had left behind back home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: Well, Rachel Barton Pine, it's great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

PINE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: And you can hear other selections from Rachel Barton Pine's violin lullabies at NPRMusic.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.