Recording the Video of Windy Place

20151102_170028Once again I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to play a very special instrument which is currently for sale through Aaron Green’s Vintage Classical Guitars. While this is not a flamenco guitar, it is cypress with a very crisp sound and the action is set rather low – very low for my personal preference. So I was struggling a bit in this session to find the right piece that would show off both the guitar and me. After sometime working on Sor and Tárrega (coming later), I played a few chords of From the Windy Place, my first full length and through-composed piece. Then said, “Let the cameras role.” Most of what you hear here is the first take played straight through with two cameras rolling at once. Some reverb was added to enhance the sound of a fairly bright, though not terribly large room. Mics were two Schoepps omnis up close and a Neumann U87 on the room. From the Windy Place is on my first recording of original compositions: Frank Wallace: his own new works.

See the video on the video link tab or at Aaron Green’s YouTube channel. Thanks to Nancy Knowles, Emily Taub and Amber Martin for creating this video with me.

Four Extraordinary Spanish Guitars at CDBaby

Buy Four Extraordinary Spanish Guitars CD or MP3 download at CDBaby now.

 

Four Extraordinary Spanish Guitars – a brief history

About the Instruments on Four Extraordinary Spanish Guitars, a new CD from Frank Wallace on Gyre

M Ramirez, c. 1910 and Gutierrez, 1854

M Ramirez, c. 1910 and Gutierrez, 1854

In the mid-late 19th century, the vibrant Sevilla school of guitar building centered on one street, the Calle de la Cerrajería, where at #32 renowned builder Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892) did his most creative work from 1856-1869. Arriving in 1845, he lived in Sevilla for almost a quarter century. Before opening his own shop in 1854, Torres worked up to five years in the shop of Manuel Gutiérrez Martínez (1773-1857) at #36 Calle de la Cerrajería. Since Torres and Gutiérrez were close friends, one assumes Gutiérrez shared his knowledge and skills with the younger Torres. The oldest guitar on this album, an 1854 Gutiérrez built the year Torres made his first known guitar, is remarkably similar to an 1857 Torres guitar (FE 07) in the Yale University Musical Instruments Collection.

I had the opportunity to compare the two instruments some years ago. The resemblance is stunning. They are alike in size, shape and lightness of construction. Both have three-piece backs, five radial struts, a v-shaped shaft splice, and an almost identical headstock, in a shape reminiscent of bull’s horns. The two luthiers clearly used similar techniques to refine the tops. (The Gutiérrez varies widely from 1.4-2.2 mm, corroborating Torres’ famous statement that his secret is in the feel of the tips of his thumb and forefinger). With different woods for the back and sides, their sound is remarkably similar: rich, dark, full and complex. Since Torres built this guitar in the older, smaller style of Gutiérrez the year the elder luthier died, one wonders if he built it in honor of his friend.

Manuel de Soto y Solares (1839-1906) took over Gutiérrez’ former shop at #36 (renumbered as #4) in 1868 then moved to #7 in 1875. From a distinguished family of Sevilla guitar builders (his father, both grandfathers, his brother, his children and grandchildren), he is credited with developing the tablao guitar for the burgeoning flamenco market, with its shallow depth, cypress back and sides, and domed top and back. My Soto y Solares is a superb example, showing the influence of Torres, whose instruments were fast becoming famous. It was exhibited at the 2000–2001 Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ Dangerous Curves: Art of the Guitar Exhibition.

Manuel Ramírez (1864-1916) changed guitar history when the young Andrés Segovia walked into his Madrid shop asking to rent a guitar. The 1912 instrument that he gifted him became Segovia’s principal instrument until 1937, when he began concertizing on a 1937 Hauser I. Both instruments are now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The influence of Manuel Ramírez’ exquisite Torres-inspired instruments still resonates today, with good reason. Santos Hernández*, Domingo Esteso, and Enrique García among other great builders all worked in his shop.

The instruments of Ignacio Fleta (1897-1977) were made famous by many twentieth century virtuosos, including Segovia and John Williams. Like Madrid’s Manuel Ramírez, Fleta in Barcelona had the opportunity to repair many Torres guitars. By the late 1950s Fleta was pioneering his own style of guitarbuilding, veering away from his earlier lighter Torres construction to satisfy his clientele, who were performing in large halls. His early training and building was in violins, cellos, and bass viols. No wonder his guitars have such a soul-stirring sustain. In an interview shortly before his death, he spoke of the pivotal influence of Torres on his work.

— Frank Wallace with Nancy Knowles

*Santos Hernández built the Segovia 1912 Ramírez

Film Scores lives on

2015-09-11 09.04.35Given there were too few submissions to the Film Scores Video Contest this past summer to choose a winner, I have decided to extend the deadline a whole year, until Labor Day 2016. So much positive feedback came in about the idea, and several people indicated that they simply did not have enough time to finish a project, it seems only proper to continue. If this is new to you, please read about the Competition here.

Mandolin SPECIAL for 2015 CMSA CONVENTION

25% OFF MANDOLIN SCORES
type MANDOLIN into PROMO CODE at checkout

IMG_1509The 2015 CMSA Convention takes place this week in Austin TX. All mandolin music of Frank Wallace is available at 25% off for the week, PDF downloads or printed editions. Ensemble pieces are complete with parts and each page has extensive information and samples of the score, as well as audio or video when available. Click on title to view more information and purchase.

The Coming of Arthur  $19.95
2009 – mandolin and guitar; for Mare Duo

Nocturne  $15.95
2010 – mandolin orchestra; for Das JugendZupfOrchester des Landes NRW

New England Quintets or Quartets  $13.95
2011 – mandolin orchestra, arrangements of NE Sextets

On the Sol, in Mi  $6.95
2011 – 2 mandolins and guitar; for Mark and Beverly Davis

Night Owl  $7.95
2012 – mandolin solo; for Annika Hinsche

Blue Heron  $7.95
2012 – mandolin or violin; for Robert Margo

Gargoyles  $11.95
2012 – 2 mandolins and guitar; for Mare Duo

like black snow  $13.95
2012 – alto voice, clarinet or liuto cantabile, and guitar; poems by Nathan G. Wallace; for Asteria Ensemble

My Vital Breath  $19.95
2013 – mandolin orchestra; Prize-winner José Fernández Rojas 2013 International Composition Competition; for New American Mandolin Ensemble

Gargoyles CD features the mandolin and guitar music of Frank Wallace as played by Mare Duo and Friends.

“… range of moods and colors … is quite astonishing. …an exquisite canvas… palpable excitement…stylistic variety… consummate skill… virtuoso playing…” —  Fanfare Nov/Dec 2014

“Mare Duo has a great sense of sound, a perfect playing-together and an uncommon high-leveled musicality. Wallace as a composer fascinates me. His music is modern but characterized by beautiful harmonies, colors, and a lot of vivacity in pitches and rhythm.” — Prof. Marga Wilden-Hüsgen

“Annika and Fabian Hinsche with their wonderfully united sound and their boundless energy combined with Frank Wallace’s rich compositional style, which seems to float freely and unselfconsciously between contemporary and early music inspirations, will, without a doubt be a winning combination.” — Mike Marshall

Film Scores Summer Video Contest

Make a video using one of Frank Wallace’s newest pieces from the collection Film Scores and win a new composition from the composer. Start by downloading Film Scores for free with the promo code MOVIE.

Record one or more of the ten short preludes that comprise Film Scores, then make a video with it and post on YouTube and/or Vimeo anytime in August, 2015. The video can be a creative collaboration or a straight up performance, you choose. On Labor Day, September 7, 2015 the video with the most views, most time watched and best judgement from the composer will win a new composition by Frank Wallace. At the composers discretion, depending on number of participants and overall quality of the competition, 2nd and 3rd place winners may also receive shorter compositions. Go to http://gyremusic.com/products/film-scores/ and order the music as a PDF download; type MOVIE in the Promotion Code box and download the music for free. You will need to fill in all personal information in the process. The Code applies to PDF download only. Learn any one of the pieces, or more, and make your video.

Prizes

  1. 1st Place: a new composition by Frank A. Wallace; $200 gift certificate toward purchase of any products on www.gyremusic.com; 3 Skype or in-person lessons
  2. 2nd Place: $150 gift certificate toward purchase of any products on www.gyremusic.com; 2 Skype or in-person lessons
  3. 3rd Place: $75 gift certificate toward purchase of any products on www.gyremusic.com; 1 Skype or in-person lesson

Rules of the competition

  • 1. Judging will be done on a ranking system. Four categories will be used: total views, total time watched, a subjective judgement of the composer on musical performance and sound production quality, and lastly overall creativity of the video. Participants will be ranked in each category with the highest total winning.
  • 2. Winner will receive a composition from Frank Wallace within one year, length and difficulty to be determined by the winner’s abilities and general level of the competition; other prizes will be available with the announcement of winners
  • 3. Register for the competition by downloading the music at http://gyremusic.com/products/film-scores/; then when ready, notify info@gyremusic.com that you have posted a video by sending a link to it
  • 4. Videos may be posted at anytime in August 2015, but not before August 1.
  • 5. You may post on more than one platform, statistics can be combined
  • 6. Relevant production and performance information MUST be included in the Description box on YouTube: include all parties involved in production and performance, and name of the work followed by “by Frank A. Wallace, published by http://gyremusic.com/
  • 7. All video links received will be posted on Gyre’s blog and Facebook page as received
  • 8. Collaborations with film makers, editors, storytellers, actors, artists, etc. are encouraged; you may make a video of the performance itself or use the music as background for a video; film a story, a scene, a performance, a poetry reading or make a slide show, anything you want. Creativity of production as well as performance quality will be judged by the composer
  • 9. Your recording may be edited and mastered
  • 10. You may include more than one song from Film Scores or any other Frank Wallace Gyre composition in the video
  • 11. You may embellish or arrange the works, but must include at least some of the original solo guitar score
  • 12. All data for videos must be sent to info@gyremusic.com on September 7, 2015, midnight at the latest, EST. Include Total views, Total time watched, a link and comments if you wish.
  • 13. Length is not important, though longer videos may have some advantage in total time watched
  • 14. Your email will automatically be included on future email promotions from Gyre Music – you may opt out at any time after the competition.
  • 15. Encourage your friends to watch and share your video on all social media platforms, anything goes to get the most hits.
  • 16. All music remains in the ownership of the composer and Gyre Music

DOWNLOAD RULES – Film Scores Video Contest

The Music of Bret Williams – CD review

Bret Williams is a funny guy. He’s friendly but edgy, likes to push the envelope in his podcast interviews. Here’s a couple of quotes from his website: “I don’t play strings not made by D’Addario. I’d rather die.” Or, “I hate Apple’s recording software, but I love the head of University of Washington’s guitar department, Michael Partington.” So this music is not what I expected. Williams’ music is sweet rather than ironic, it’s lyrical and nostalgic rather than biting and bitchy. It’s downright beautiful. Melody is king on this disc and the lovely interweaving of each line carries me through the whole CD time and again. The titles are worthy of comment: Pick That Up, Please; I Remember Dancing; and my favorite You’ll Tear Your Dress. While these come from Bret’s love of humor and irony, [that sometimes verges on vulgarity] they betray a love of the common, the mundane, the daily life of a Joe in New York City. But one who is not jaded by the need to conform to a style. Bret has created his own style. And it’s daring is to say, “I dare to love;” “I dare to laugh at myself;” “I dare to wear my heart on my sleeve.” “I dare to write beautiful music!”

This is a rare and fresh piece of work. It’s not daring in the sense of way out experimental music, dissonant harmonies or incessant repetition. But it is daring that one composer has chosen to write so much music for one unusual ensemble. And a nice one it is! With guitar, violin, clarinet and bass, Williams manages to use every instrument (except the bass) in every role he can conjure: solo, accompaniment, duets, dialogues. There is always a fresh texture and new rhythmic groove. Only the bass stays in its relatively typical role of being bass – usually plucking, or is it always, hmm, have to listen again…

I have just completed an interview with French composer Pascal Jugy who is about to release a CD of flute and ten-string guitar music and both have much in common. Both clearly love life and show that through an underlying pop/jazz feel. Through melody. I dare say Bret’s music is almost cabaret in style – a touch of the elegant Parisienne. It’s intimate and caring. It’s flirtatious. It says, “Have a seat and enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine.”

Towards the end of the CD, I did want to hear something distraught, pissy or pissed off. A little anger, an argument, “Hey Bret, your music sucks, wanta fight?!” Or: Hey Jerk, You Spilled My Milk. But that’s just me and maybe it will come next time. I hope there is a next time, with or without spilled milk. We need more guitarists willing to join forces with other instruments and make a statement, commit to a new sound. We need more composers to care about guitar ensembles. We need to try new sounds and break away from the ordinary. This album is proof that one can do that without being weird or controversial, yet still new and relevant.

I have to end with another quote from Bret, “Why don’t you buy a CD from me? You can buy it from iTunes too, but Apple doesn’t care about me. They only care about themselves. You’ll also find me on all your favorite streaming services if you prefer to kill art in America.”  http://www.bretwilliamsmusic.com/

Do It!

Frank Wallace
www.frankwallace.com

PS – I sent this review to Bret and invited his response before publication. I thought there might be some further dialogue that could be interesting…here it is:

Holy shit Frank.

You almost made me cry in public. This is amazing. You should be writing at the Times and teaching at Juilliard. Let me know where you decide to post it. Feel free to post my response.

Bret

My response to Bret: Cluster Pluck, by Frank Wallace, from a new collection of seven short works entitled Film Scores, click on the title to read more and purchase. A free copy of Cluster Pluck and Sweet Betrayal is in the Sample PDF on that page. Keep your eyes peeled for a Movie Contest coming up this summer.

Recent and coming performances

Performances of music by Frank Wallace, all available for purchase here at www.gyremusic.com

Last fall — Mark Davis played A Heavy Sleep and On the Sol, en Mi at Hingham Pulbic Library and has played the pieces at other local venues; The Bridgewater State College Guitar Ensemble under Dan Acsadi and the Hartt School Guitar Orchestra under Christopher Ladd both played New England Sextets

January 10 — The first NH All-State Guitar Ensemble gave the world premiere of Spring Symphony

January 23 — The Boston Guitar Orchestra under direction of Scott Borg performed Spring Symphony as a prelude to Sharon Isbin’s Boston concert`

February 4 — Josh Nakama played From the Windy Place at the Hartt School in Hartford CT

February 7 — Jarring Sounds performed Speak Love in San Francisco

March 4 — Frank Wallace will perform Passing in the Night and Black Falcon at his guest faculty recital at Keene St. College, Keene NH

March 12 — Mare Duo will present two works off of their Gargoyles CD, Night Owl and White Albatross, in Eutin/Germany

March 25 — Nick Ciraldo‘s students at Univ of So. Miss play Sketches for Two

April 15 — the Keene State College Guitar Ensemble will perform Spring Symphony under the direction of Frank Wallace

April 23 — Mare Duo again plays Night Owl and White Albatross, at the Long Island Guitar Festival

April 26 and May 10 — Atlanta Guitar Guild performs Spring Symphony under the direction of Amy Ashley and Timothy Allen

May 30 — Marshall Willner debuts Enfin for percussion and guitar

June 12 & 27 — Biedermeier Duo: Nikolaos Kapnas (violin), Bo Isholm (guitar) at the Summartonar Festival in the Faroe Islands

June 19, 20, & 21 — Mare Duo plays Night Owl and White Albatross, at the Summartonar Festival in the Faroe Islands

June 23-28 — Scott Borg will direct Spring Symphony with the 2015 GFA Youth Ensemble

September 2015 — Krystin O’Mara will release her second CD including Black Falcon

The Guitar Symphony

Spring Symphony for guitar orchestra will receive its second performance on January 23rd, 2015 by the Boston Guitar Orchestra, Scott Borg conductor, as a prelude to Sharon Isbin’s concert for the Boston Classical Guitar Society, First Lutheran Church of Boston, 7:30pm; 299 Berkeley St., Boston, MA.

My orientation to the guitar is through the voice and choral music. The guitar is an extension of my voice: I can speak, I can sing, I can recite poetry with the guitar. I think this came from two experiences: 1) growing up in the sixties, loving every form of band from Peter, Paul and Mary to the Supremes to the Beatles, all with lead vocals and wonderful harmonies; 2) my audition to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music made it clear that I could NOT sing and I was required to take voice lessons to aid in getting through sight-singing classes. It changed my life, I have sung ever since, often with a guitar, lute or vihuela in hand. When I change colors in my solo playing, I feel it as a vocal expression of different vowels and consonants, a constant flow of subtle gradation of tone and personal story.

When I began to write Spring Symphony for the NH All-State Guitar Ensemble, I wanted the guitar to do something special, something big, bold and bright. I realized my model needed to be different than a four-part chorus or a harmonized melody and accompaniment. A gentle flow of colors would not be as dramatic as I envisioned. I wanted the grandness of a full symphony orchestra that achieves colors through different families of instruments. We guitarists achieve color by changing attack on the string, sul tasto or sul ponticello, or by the number of notes we play. With a 4-part guitar orchestra, I had 24 strings to use and I wanted to use them in as many ways as possible while keeping to a fairly conservative language and tonality.

In my inner ear, the upper voices as accented chord became trumpets, high melody could be flutes, violins or oboes, the mid-range melodies might be clarinets or cellos; full chords are the string section, low pizzicato is the contra bass section. While the rhythms of this piece are complex, they fit together to create colors as in a symphonic work. When the parts scramble around in short bursts, they are like the percussion section. Of course in a symphony, it is the contrast of these colors which can happen separately or together that make it compelling and different from the experience of an intimate solo work. That is what I hope to have achieved with Spring Symphony. I look forward to the day when guitar orchestras play mostly original music conceived with all its native sounds in full glory.

Fanfare’s David DeBoor Canfield reviews Wallace CDs Gargoyles and Elemental

WALLACE The Elements. Black Falcon. Passing in the Night. A Heavy Sleep. Sonata One — Frank Wallace (gtr) — GYRE (62:06)

WALLACE Gargoyles. Nocturne. The Coming of Arthur. White Albatross. Night Owl. New England Quartets — Mare Duo; Anne Wolf (man); Kristina Lisner (man); Melanie Hunger (man); Thomas Kolarczyk (db) — GYRE   (63:19)

I would hazard a guess that unlike most other instruments, the majority of those who have composed for the guitar have also played the instrument to one degree or the other. This is due to the difficulty of writing playable music for the instrument barring some degree of knowledge of its technical capabilities. Thus, in the first disc of the two under review here, the reader is afforded the opportunity of hearing a recital of music by the composer-performer guitarist, Frank Wallace. In this case, the composer is the equal of the performer, or vice versa, and both are very good.

Because of the tuning of the instrument (normally from bottom to top, E-A-D-G-B-E), much music for this instrument is written in guitar-friendly keys, such as E Minor or D Major. The reason is simple: Music in certain keys is easier to play, and music of extended tonality or atonality is much trickier. From the very beginning of the solo CD, Wallace proves that he is not limited to the diatonic keys involving frequent use of the open strings. The first movement of the opening work, The Elements, is entitled “Fire,” and it involves some quite complex sonorities, interspersed with chords that utilize the open strings to provide a greater resonance than is achieved through stopped notes and chords. The effect is dramatic and very evocative. The movements of this suite, which also includes “Earth,” “Air,” and “Water,” are obviously derived from the four elements of the ancient Greeks, thought to be the components of all matter. Wallace uses these “elements” in a poetic fashion to depict the creation of the world–the initial explosion, the congealing of the ground, and so forth. Whether the listener would get any of this simply from hearing the piece is beside the point. The work exudes drama, and sustains interest throughout.

A Heavy Sleep draws its inspiration from the well-known Nocturnal of Benjamin Britten, by now ensconced as a staple of the guitar repertory. Commissioned on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the composer, this work evokes the Britten’s masterpiece through its textures, gestures and harmonic language. Sounds of the night are plentiful, but the work is not soporific in its effect: I stayed awake and quite interested throughout! Black Fountain, based on the octatonic scale, and a commission by guitarist Edel Muñoz, exhibits a bit more Spanish flavor in its quasi-flamenco rhythms and chords, but retains Wallace’s distinctive compositional voice.

The Bells consists of three preludes that exhibit Wallace’s experimentation in more dissonant sonorities. The latter two pieces in the set are also based upon the letters of their respective dedicatees’ names. Sonata One, on the other hand, is described by its composer as utilizing a “romantic 12-tone style.” This work was inspired by memories that the composer had of the influential LP by Julian Bream, “20th Century Guitar Music,” a disc which contained music by Britten, Smith Brindle, Martin, and Henze. Judging by the number of copies of this LP I’ve seen as a dealer, it must have sold very well, and influenced a lot of other guitarists and composers. Two virtuosic and note-rich outer movements flank a quiet “Grave” interior movement that produces much of its effect from changes in the kind of plucking of the strings that is called for. The use of different parts of the finger, or plucking closer to, or further away from the bridge of the instrument all contribute to this variety in color. The CD concludes with a moving tribute written on the passing of Wallace’s 94-year-old father, and commemorates him by depicting his love of travel, various activities, and fondly remembered sayings. The last movement, “I’m still your pappy,” includes some very non-guitar-like sounds, which must have been produced by striking various parts of the instrument.

The second CD, entitled “Gargoyles” after one of the pieces on it, combines guitar with various numbers of mandolins. If you, the purchaser of this CD, can figure out which performers on the second CD play in which pieces (Wallace himself does not play on this disc), you either have better eyes or more patience–or both–than do I. Suffice it to say that the Mare Duo, comprised of mandolinist Annika Hinsche and guitarist Fabian Hinsche, play on the majority of the works here included. Given that the mandolin is, unlike the guitar, a rather mono-chromatic instrument (most of its music consists either of plucked single lines or tremolo on notes or chords), I was not expecting to enjoy this CD as much as the solo guitar. I was quite surprised, therefore, to find myself enjoying these works every bit as much Wallace’s solo guitar works. Indeed, the range of moods and colors he extracts from the combination of guitar and mandolin(s), with occasional recourse to a double bass, is quite astonishing. The soft tremolo passages of the mandolin in the background allow the guitar to paint upon an exquisite canvas. The louder tremolos are more akin to tremolo passages in violins or other bowed string instruments, and can and do produce palpable excitement. Then, too, Wallace finds some colors on the mandolin that I had yet to encounter. In With a Wink his Dream was Changed, for instance, he calls for his mandolin performers to employ a technique that makes the mandolin sound very much like a harpsichord with the lute stop engaged, a really interesting sound. The quick juxtaposition of single plucked notes and tremolo in Night Owl was further evidence of this composer’s imagination. There was even a quick glissando in this work, something I’ve never heard on a mandolin previously.

Part of the interest in the music on this CD is the stylistic variety that the composer uses from one piece to the next, or sometimes even within the same piece. One hears everything ranging from firm tonality in Gargoyles to mysterious sonorities in White Albatross to dramatic contrasts in The Coming of Arthur. Some of the works exhibit a sort of almost Baroque counterpoint, while others use extended chordal technique to make their effect. The variety is such that my interest never flagged for a moment during the course of the CD, a fact abetted by the consummate skill of all the performers. One hears some really virtuoso playing during the course of these two CDs.

Although these two well-recorded CDs will unquestionably appeal to collectors of music on plucked instruments, I believe that their value will also be recognized by repertory collectors generally, and on that basis can give them a firm recommendation. David DeBoor Canfield