It’s 8 AM and I’m going into labor. That’s me on the left. Fortunately, I’ve drafted this before. (I may be crazy, but I’m not crazy.)
The run up to this performance of a lifetime has been a journey, as they all are, and one that I imagine won’t end once we hit parenthood. But it raised one question pertinent to this blog: what music should we listen to during the birth?
At first, I assumed I’d want Cageian silence. Any music or sound during a yoga class grates on me, and when I’ve pictured the meditational resources I’d need to muster for this one, I’ve imagined no distractions. But…. how will you know until you’re well in the moment? So, after some thought, here’s our Childbirth Playlist for Classical Music Listeners.
As my attitude toward birth has gone from overwhelming panic to stoic acceptance, I’ve gravitated to music that is either primal or resolute. My first pick in the primal department is Stravinsky’s Les Noces, especially the opening wails and the grim chorus of women attendants:
If I’m really feeling primal, we can call up some Rite of Spring. If I’m looking for creative movement to distract myself during labor, I can crib a few moves from the blood-curdling choreography of Pina Bausch, yipes!
In the primal category but really more emotional is Ottavia’s Addio Roma from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, sung just before the happy evil couple celebrate their blessed union. Something about the gaspy, overwhelmed sensation seems just about right, and even though birth has a joyous result, leave it to me to feel a little bittersweet saying addio to my wild and crazy pre-natal life. Here it is with Gloria Banditelli:
When I’m done being primal, music that is rhythmic, repetitive, and builds in intensity will do the trick. What else but Ravel’s Bolero?
Sergiu Celibidache was one of the few who took it appropriately slow, as the composer wanted it.
After all that resolution and primalness, a girl’s gotta rest. For that, we’ll toss in the album that transfixed me as a teenager and brings back smiles today, The Hilliard Ensemble’s Motets and Chansons of Josquin Desprez. Listen here to a few tantalizing excerpts on Amazon.
And maybe because I just heard it, I’d like some pretty wind music as well. Here’s my favorite, the third movement of Dvorak’s wind serenade, with Kubelik and the Bayerischen Rundfunk.
Rewind for the whole delicious piece.
The wind serenade by the very young Strauss is also warm and attractive. And with all the breathing I’ll need to be focusing on, more wind music could only help.
At the same time, I’ve read that having a mantra or chant is incredibly useful. It really can be anything. I heard of one woman chanting “blue, towel, blue towel, blue towel” to get her through contractions. Having just seen the show, maybe we’ll pull this one up, it’s certainly hypnotic:
I’m hoping we’re able to rally some humor to get through this. In which case, we already have a chant that we intone over and over again around the house:
Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?
That’s all I got! Off to birth and report back.