Sleep at the Feet of Daphne

Stuart MacRae (1976)

Sleep at the Feet of Daphne 1999

3(pic)213(bcl)21/433(btbn)1/timp.perc/hp/str
Duration 
13
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

The title of this piece comes from a passage in General Lew Wallace's book 'Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ', which I was reading as I began work on it. The line comes at a point in the story when Ben-Hur is confronted with the futility of an existence at the Grove of Daphne at Antioch, an earthly paradise he passes through on his quest to find his lost mother and sister. The passage asks questions such as: what is 'peace without fear'? And 'love without law'?

This seems particularly pertinent in our time, when increasingly we must ask ourselves challenging questions in order to maintain the fragile balance of our complicated existence. And as this new millennium approached, many of us will have been re-evaluating the past, and trying to envisage the future. Bleak pictures will have been painted; bright hope nurtured.

I do not hold the millennium to be a significant date - a number, a religious construct, an accident. But I have come to appreciate its significance as a focal point - a referential date from which events telescope both backwards and (tentatively?) forwards.

The piece does not attempt to take a standpoint as to the passing of a century, or a millennium; nor does it look forwards with either hope or despair, though I have done all of these while I wrote it. As the artist Mark Rothko wrote: "It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one's arms again". Perhaps the new millennium gives us this opportunity. The piece does what it can do, says all it can say, and leaves speculation to the listener.

© Stuart Macrae

Performances 
25.8.02 Usher Hall, Edinburgh: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Ilan Volkov
1.3.04 Bute Hall, Glasgow University: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins
3
Flute
3rd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd cor anglais
3
Clarinet
3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
1
Percussion
(Esc)