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Project 440

Daniel Felsenfeld

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Insomnia Redux; 4am

Performed by the New England Conservatory Symphony; conducted by John Page.

I can’t sleep.  I’ve tried just about everything for years and it still eludes me.  So, in 2003, when pianist Jenny Lin asked me to make her a piece, I decided to try to make music about my nocturnal life, not so much for therapeutic purposes (I’ve never felt composing was good for that) but rather to outline the feeling of a single moment of sleeplessness—that in-vain few seconds in the night when you beg to drift off but a seemingly unstoppable force prevents it.  In a way, the piece is about that moment, but it is more an emotional response to it, the splaying out of this instant of sheer terror, anxiety, exasperation, exhaustion and resignation. When I wrote the piece, I knew the piano version was a stepping-stone to larger, fuller, more colorful versions for full orchestra, a safe place to rehearse what were, for me, some wilder ideas. The ecstatic virtuosity of the piano piece gave way to a virtuosity of color.

In 2008, when the New England Conservatory awarded me a Distinguished Alumni Award, the fantastic student orchestra there performed this iteration of Insomnia Redux; 4am in a school concert.