Swahili Lullaby Variations

This would probably count as my first musical composition. It was composed during my time at the University of Vermont Music Department. My composition teacher was Larry Read, a fine teacher and composer.

My father Edward was born on the island of Zanzibar in 1904. Then part of British East Africa, his father Harris Childs ran an import business and was also a Vice Consul. According to my mother, Edward’s nurse sang him to sleep with a Swahili lullaby. His mother Eleanor was a professional singer who had given up her career to marry Harris. I’m guessing that it was she who brought the melody down through the family. The Prelude of the quartet consists of the theme in a contemporary setting. The second movement is in the style of a Bach fugue, whose subject is related to the lullaby theme. However, the fugal entrances occur at the interval of a minor third instead of the customary perfect fifth. The rhythm of the scherzo is borrowed from that of Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, however the thematic material is also related to the lullaby.

The sound files are from a live recording of a concert at UVM showcasing student compositions. Larry played first violin, with UVM students (whose names I unfortunately do not recall at this moment). There is one early violin entrance in at the beginning of the scherzo da capo.