Daisy Bell

for flute or viola or cello and piano


I wrote this piece for my friend Kevin Jim's viola recital. The other duo pieces on the recital, Britten's Lachrymae and the Bax sonata, both depend heavily on English folk song, so I thought it would be fun for my piece to do the same. I chose to do variations on Daisy Bell, written by Harry Dacre in 1892.

Daisy Bell appears in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I saw for the first time upon its re-release in 2018. In it, a rogue computer named Hal is on a space voyage with several astronauts. Due to faulty programming, Hal murders all the astronauts save one. The last astronaut manages to disable Hal by unplugging its memory banks and computational equipment. During this unplugging, Hal sings Daisy Bell, which is incidentally the first song ever synthesized by computer.

When I was writing this piece I hadn't watched Hal's death scene in a year. I must have subconsciously remembered the hissing sound in the background, because I decided to include a rainstick, which can be played from the audience or by the pianist’s right hand. The first and last variations are fragmentary, while the middle two have more complete statements of the theme. The last two variations are homages to Bartok and Berg, respectively.

Brenda Sakofsky and I premiered this arrangement for flute and piano at Hot Air Music Festival in 2020.