Suite #2 for Piano Solo - The Doll’s Dream

The Second Suite, as the sub-title implies, is a curated encyclical compendium of a collection of dolls. Loosely linked by a narrative story composed by artist- raconteur Kathi Martin-Flood, each movement in the suite tells its own story.

In the doll shop, we are quickly transported to another time. Hundreds of lovely ladies are perched alluringly in multiple rows arrayed from ceiling to floor. The atmosphere is sentimental, demure, eyelashes fluttering in anticipation of romance. In contrast to contemporary women who are calculating, desensitized, bottom- lining and far less sensual than Victorian women here represented, the dolls are picturesque, statuesque, poised and graceful. Small things like ceremonies, symbolic intentions, and treats are very special. Each of these carefully detailed personages embodies a feminine mystique that is at once universal and unique. One doll in particular engages us with her bemused smile, and her longing gaze. Her thoughts reflect the thrills she feels at every little thing, nothing escapes her notice, and she communicates the soulful sensitivity of her feelings to us effortlessly with a non-verbal eloquence that can only be approached suggestively through the descriptive poetry of music. Her visage, like an actress, conjures up images of reality the clarity of which belies the careful artifice of her being. Some of these are memories, preciously guarded, some hopes and aspirations, full of exuberance and anticipation, and some are full of bittersweet, resigned melancholy for time that might have been.

1. PROLOGUE: The evening of the ball, Caterina Magdalena Blotista (these are but three of her many names and titles) enters the hall at the appointed fashionably late hour, and looking around, compares herself to others and wonders how people see her. She’s impatient, hopeful, and crisp, with lump-in-her-throat expectations. Cinderella she is not and therefore need not be in any hurry to choose among eligible suitors or to exercise her feminine prerogatives. She’s from a time before photography, so she realizes that her attention must be keenly aware so that she can relive this night all of her life. Oh, how she wants to remember it all! Not a wrinkle in her dress, nary a snag on her fingernails. She is living completely in the moment, posed for her part in a painterly scene, possessing a calm within her that reinforces the heartfelt grace that palpitates in the night. She knows that she will meet and know hundreds of people in her life, and is welled up with possibilities; whose presence will become irreplaceable? Who will matter, who will cause tears and laughter, who will gain her complete trust and loyalty? What about love?

2. NURSERY RHYMES: As she listens, the music underscores philosophies gained from stories heard in childhood, She especially loves the ones where children had privacy and went on adventures, like, for example, Little Red Riding Hood, when she paraded into the forest unescorted and unafraid. She’s not so keen on talking animals, as she’d rather have them just be animals...she’d prefer to watch them frolic, faint, and foam at the mouth as they wish instead of requiring them to self-consciously invent a human persona. Anthropomorphic deities swarm the annals of poetry, but early memories of childhood are bathed in the soft light of simplicity and faith. She loves to listen to nursery rhymes, eyes squeezed shut, spontaneous pictures popping in front of her, but HATES to look at illustrations, someone else’s interpretation. “Tacky, and invasive,” she thinks to herself. “Give me some credit,” she thinks, “to hold the magic and expand upon it.”

3. GAMES: She loves the orderliness of games, the absolute expected behavior, the elusive objective of fairness, the equalizing forces of chance and luck. To stop the world and be able to concentrate on sliding little pieces of wood over colorful cardboard squares, or squeaky toys, or buzzers, to announce a clever move. Parlor Games like Look-a-bout, Blind Man’s Bluff, Change Seats or Forfeits cause her to blush with enthusiasm. “Playing piano is a sort of game also,” she surmises. “Music is full of games that require skill but rely on chance.”

4. WALTZ: As they dance, she’s worrying about every aspect of her physicality – her earlobes, the curve of her elbow, the cowlick in the center of the nape of her neck. Wondering what’s most attractive about her as he holds her gingerly, if she is symmetrical enough to command admiration, if she smells like a lilac meadow or the underside of a carriage. She wants to keep her eyes closed in order to listen more carefully to the music. In fact, she resents his presence, intruding on her listening pleasure. She feels restricted, in the lock-step tradition of the swaying waltz, and yearns to swoon freely on her own, without the constricted harness of her corset, tightly laced under her bodice. “How many foolish girls (like me) are swept up in the romance of the waltz as it weaves its magic about the room? So many young women swoon as if bewitched by the music, seemingly entranced in its spell. Is it because they are overcome by emotion, or the giddiness induced at the first touch of a gentleman’s hand on her waist as he confidently guides her in the dance?” Another reasonable possibility suggests itself to her, “Perhaps a fainting swoon is merely a strategic affectation effected to produce admiration and at the very least, get attention.” She, laughs bemusedly to herself at the idea as she opens her fan and lets it flutter delicately.

5. REVERIE: She’s thinking about how she could have been born anywhere, and marvels at her fortune. She could have been an Ethiopian cobbler, a motivational speaker in Clackatic, Alaska, or a Chinese firecracker manufacturer. She thinks about the traveling she’s done and the roaming that lies ahead. There is some fear, but also an overarching confidence that no matter what happens, she will land on her feet. Her sweet little Victorian steps tiptoe along the shore, carrying flowers up rocky hills, stomping through the great cities of the world. She yearns to go everywhere, immediately, but not until she has had her afternoon nap.

6. SCHERZO: Proud of her sense of the absurd, she is quick to verbalize her observations and hopes to get a strong, approving reaction. When people take things too seriously or excess in any goofy direction, she delights in her homemade bombastic descriptions. With ten hours of heavy sleep and a mug of artichoke skin soup under her belt, she is ready to skip around town and watch the local oafs and village smoothies operate in the town square. The accordion player on the street- corner plays the instrument upside down for her amusement.

7. BARCAROLLE: The swaying of the gondola gives her the same feeling as the waltz, but the water makes a much better dance partner. She feels so tiny in the water, having the same fate as a stray leaf or a slithery little fish. Yes, nauseous, swaying somewhat unsteadily from side to side, and because the water never smells right, especially in Venice, always betraying an acrid, moldy pungency, but is full of abandonment and romance. The boat ride is a metaphor for life, as petals drop from the fading rose, leaving a drying stalk and thorns, the kind of frozen, unforgotten moment that makes you who you are. Across the lapping sound of the water, she hears echoes from the land warp in her ear, and she tries to decipher emotional conversations, the hellos and good-byes that travelers know well as the river flows onward, disappearing around a curve and away into the distance.

Suite #2 for Piano solo (The Doll’s Dream)

  • This includes the Program Notes as a separate PDF, and the PDF musical score file.