Schirmer Serenade: a cure for Sam’s insomnia

Last night Sam the dog went to bed but didn’t close her eyes. It’s disturbing. As you may have read in other recent posts, she’s sick. The liver isn’t working right, an incurable malady whether you’re a human or a dog. No she isn’t an alcoholic, and we’re not sure what might have caused the problem. She’s only come into our lives recently, late in Sam’s life, given that she’s a rescue and we (me & Erika) are Sam’s third home, after two previous owners.

Yes she was awake in the night. I am not sleeping terribly well to begin with, but also I have to check in on her when I wake up. She lies on the floor right beside my bed. And so while lately we are glad not to see any of the nastier symptoms from before (vomiting or peeing on the floor…at least not very much), every time I looked at her (at 1 am, at 2 am, at 3 am, at 5 am and again at 6:30): her eyes were wide open.

So it was an unexpected relief when I saw her eyes finally closed today in the afternoon, under the piano. I played a series of pieces out of an old anthology of modern piano pieces.

It’s a wonderful chestnut this Schirmer book. Speaking of things I miss during the pandemic, I miss browsing in bookstores, especially used bookstores, where I found this anthology selling for all of $3.00. There are several major works in it such as Ravel’s Jeux d’eau or his Pavane that in new 2020 editions would easily set me back $3.00 all by themselves.

On this occasion I didn’t play the big loud pieces (fast pieces from Percy Grainger, Igor Stravinsky or Bela Bartok). And I softened the dynamics to mezzo-piano or softer in everything I played. In effect the interlude was curated by Schirmer.

1 Serenata Andaluza by Manuel de Falla

2 Träumerei op 9 #4 by Richard Strauss… I really love this enigmatic little piece.

3 Romance op 24 #9 by Jean Sibelius: but always as softly as possible even when the piece calls for big effects. Yes I omitted the big powerful passages near the end, going for something softer instead. While Sibelius might have been offended, Sam seemed to like it.

4 Spring Night op22#8 by Selim Palmgren. One of the great things about anthologies is how you can encounter a composer you’ve never heard of.

5 Étude op4 #3 by Karol Szymanowski

6 Mazurka op25 #4 by Alexander Scriabin, played very softly.

7 Gavotte op12 # 2 by Serge Prokofieff, also very softly.

8 Prelude in E flat op23 #6 by Sergei Rachmaninoff… Rachmaninoff is “Sergei” when Prokofieff is “Serge” and that they say “Prokofieff” not “Prokofiev”. The title page of the book says “1940”, when there likely would be more inconsistency in the transliteration than what you’d see in 2020. But aha the accuracy comes at a price, right? much more than $3.00….In this lovely collection there are supposedly thirteen nationalities represented in 51 compositions. But I suspect it’s all the same to Sam.

9 Élégie op3 no 1 by S Rachmaninoff

To be honest I wasn’t watching her, I was playing. She lies underneath, and I was told her eyes were closed.

Oh but I did hear her loudly snoring, which is the ultimate compliment.

I think it’s a really useful pedagogical exercise to play as though you’re trying not to wake the old dog lying under your piano. Sam is a great teacher.

Sam in her bed under the piano
This entry was posted in Animals, domestic & wild, Books & Literature, Music and musicology, Personal ruminations & essays and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Schirmer Serenade: a cure for Sam’s insomnia

  1. Helen says:

    Wonderful parent!

  2. Janet Heise says:

    Music helps us cope with so many of life’s problems. Thanks for sharing this.

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