Insomniac's Lullaby

Album: Stranger to Stranger (2016)


  • The first song written for Stranger to Stranger, "Insomniac's Lullaby" makes usage of unusual instruments created by Harry Partch, such as the Cloud-Chamber Bowls and the Chromelodeon. The American was one of the first 20th-century composers in the West to work systematically with microtonal scales. He built custom-made instruments in these tunings on which to play his compositions.
  • Simon came up with the song title first and found its perfect instrumental backing with the slightly uncomfortable feeling that comes with listening to semitonic music, after being introduced to Partch's music by his longtime guitarist Mark Stewart. "Until then, I didn't know that Harry Partch was dividing octaves to anything from 30 to 43 notes," he explained. "But I understood that our ear goes beyond the European definition of intonation, about what's in tune or not."

    "An easy example of this would be when you hear a great R&B horn section and they're playing fantastically, but slightly out of tune," Simon continued. "Now, if you gave that same part to members of the Philharmonic, it would sound lousy. Sometimes the thing that's just a little bit off is just right. And I think the ear is telling you something."
  • Simon came to know musician Dean Drummond, who was the custodian of the original Harry Partch instrument collection then stored at Montclair State University in New Jersey. To capture Partch's semitonic sounds, Simon briefly moved the album sessions to the laboratory at Montclair University so that he could use Parth's experimental instruments. Ultimately, Simon grew so fond of the Chromelodeon that he bought one.
  • Paul Simon told Mojo the story of how he came up with the title.

    "It started with a guitar song, I was singing the melody and I asked Ed (Brickell, wife), how would you describe this song? And she said a lullaby. I thought, it feels a little discordant for a lullaby. And then I thought, it's like an insomniac's lullaby and I thought, that's a good title, I'll do that."


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