Woman of the Water CD
Songs by Frank A. Wallace
Nancy Knowles, soprano
Frank Wallace, lute, guitar, baritone
Released January, 2004
Guitars by Ignacio Fleta, 1964 and Dake Traphagen, 1997; 10-course lute by Joel van Lennep, 1981
All compositions by Frank Wallace
A Single Veil
02 Radiance Rumi 1:14
03 A Falling Darkness Shem Tov Ben Palquera 2:18
04 A Single Veil Eugene Guillevic 1:38
05 Towards the Sun Nancy Knowles 1:59
06 Love Comes Quietly Robert Creeley 4:19
07 Dake’s Song 3:21
08 Débil del Alba 6:41
09 The Sloth Theodore Roethke 2:47
10 The Cow Roethke 0:31
11 The Lady and the Bear Roethke 3:15
12 The Star-nosed Mole Nancy Knowles 1:24
13 The Snake Roethke 0:54
14 The Serpent Roethke 3:29
Woman of the Water poems by Theodore Roethke
15 The Young Girl 1:15
16 Her Words 1:42
17 The Apparition 2:50
18 Her Reticence / Her Longing 4:04
19 Song 1:36
20 The Moment 4:02
21 The Restored 2:35
22 Meditation 2:06
All compositions ASCAP, copyright Frank A. Wallace, and available for purchase here on www.gyremusic.com.
My inspiration as a composer of songs is John Dowland. His lute songs were inspired by the lyric word and the great polyphony of his time and yet he brought new instrumental color to his writing, such as tremolo in one fantasy. While some guitar composers may have come close to his high level of solo composition, none have matched the depth and elegance of his songwriting, save perhaps Benjamin Britten, whose output was tiny in comparison. As a rare heir to the renaissance tradition of singer/instrumentalist/composer, I aim to bring back the richness of the art song to the classical guitar repertoire. It is odd that our popular culture has championed the guitar as the ultimate accompaniment to the voice, but as yet the classical world has not embraced this magical combination.
As a songwriter I am blessed by having not only a soprano, but also a poet, as my partner. Nancy has long been the creative force behind the programming for our concerts. Now she helps me shape my song cycles, from the choosing and sequencing of texts to writing new poems conceived for a specific work. For the newest cycle on this recording, and its title piece, Woman of the Water, Nancy put together a moving group of poems by the late American poet Theodore Roethke (pronounced ret-kee). The poems are from The Far Field, Roethke’s last book of poems, published in 1964, one year after his death. In the context of our settings, the poems trace the passions of a woman who lives by the sea, from her awakening young body and the beginnings of love, through longing and frustration to union and joy in her later years. In his lifetime Roethke was honored with many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; in spite of recurring bouts of depression, he produc ed an inspiring body of work. It is interesting to imagine Woman of the Water as an allegory of his own soul’s journey. The lute was chosen as a more graceful, or feminine accompaniment to this delicate tale. The lute part is not unlike those of Dowland; my SATB orientation creates simple but rich chords, yet with impressionistic flourishes and instrumental fantasy. Throughout, a repetition of motives and chord progressions unify the work as a whole.
The recording opens with Pearly Everlasting, a lament on the death of our musical partner, John Fleagle, who founded LiveOak with us in 1976. Nancy wrote the poem during the last month of his life. The style of this duet combines many influences, from medieval drones to 17th century lute writing with dense counterpoint freed from any metrical ties. One of John’s favorite tunes, Comment Qu’a Moy by Machaut, weaves through the various counterpoints.
A Single Veil sets a wide collection of verse from several cultures and eras. Opening with a brief raga-like statement of melody, an homage to Rumi’s Persian roots, the songs progress through anger and dissonance, to a final lullaby with parallel thirds and simple, folk harmonies welcoming the arrival of peace. This piece is particularly poignant for us, as it debuted a few weeks after 9/11/01. Its texts (and tunes) helped us through that difficult time.
I composed Dake’s Song for guitar builder Dake Traphagen as a piece to show off the beauty of his guitars. Débil del Alba (Tenderness of the Dawn) was conceived as a duet for guitar and dancer; I wrote it for my son Adam Wallace and dancer Jessyca Dudley. The title comes from Pablo Neruda.
Bestiary was composed as a little circus piece to round out our concerts. The beasts are from Roethke once again, as well as Star-nosed Mole of Nancy’s creation. The musical language of each varies greatly from the slow imitation and waddling rhythms describing The Sloth; an English country tune with some off-color harmonies presenting The Cow; a 15/8 meter bringing on The Lady and the Bear; while the dark world of The Star-nosed Mole is gently crawled through on a 12-tone row; and The Serpent just has to sing in some shade of blue.
Copyright ©2004 Frank A. Wallace
Cover design by Nancy Salwen
All rights reserved.
Listen to A Single Veil song-cycle from Woman of the Water CD
–David Vernier, CLASSICS TODAY
Composer/guitarist/baritone Frank Wallace and soprano Nancy Knowles have been performing together as Duo Live Oak for years and have built quite a following for their unique programs that often include original works by Wallace, either for solo guitar or for voice. This one features an entire Wallace program, with several texts provided by Knowles, the rest by various poets, primarily 20th-century American Theodore Roethke.
The songs are all well suited to Knowles’ clear, warm-colored, wide-ranging soprano, and the musical settings reveal a strong focus on long-lined, lyrical melody. The guitar accompaniments obviously were conceived by one who not only knows the instrument, but is a master of it. Wallace uses articulation effects that exploit the instrument’s multi-faceted technical and timbral possibilities–and indeed the guitar parts are an equal partner with the voice, supportive but often highly independent melodically and rhythmically (and often very busy). There’s also a fascinating array of styles and influences at play here–none of which dominates…Spanish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and especially the polyphonic lute-song style of Dowland are happily evident and effectively employed.
…[T]his very well recorded and expertly performed program is welcome…for the adventurousness and skill exemplified by both of these dedicated and personable artists in a field of music all too rarely appreciated by public and record companies.
– Jane Eklund, The Monadnock Ledger (NH)
It’s a bit like inhabiting a mythical world, listening to these new songs by Frank Wallace… Woman of the Water offers the texture of early music combined with lyrics gleaned from poems by the likes of Theodore Roethke, Rumi and Robert Creeley, in addition to several by Knowles. Performed with the range and intensity of Duo LiveOak, the result is exquisite. On lute and classical guitar, Wallace brings a lyrical complexity to the music that’s quite remarkable: you hear simultaneously the whole and all the parts of the whole, each note distinct. And Knowles’ singing–rich, swooping and sublime–is a tangible reminder that the voice is, indeed, an instrument, one she plays with elegance and grace.
– John W. Lambert, Classical Voice North Carolina
In over 25 years of writing about music on recordings and in concerts, I have rarely been as captivated and enchanted by any item as this new CD from Duo LiveOak, a new – to me – ensemble… This is a first-rate chamber music duo with a new and refreshing twist. Its artists are steeped in early music, and Wallace’s songs and duets, deftly accompanied, evoke memories of our distant cultural past, ever so gently wrapped in occasional quasi-contemporary enhancements… The CD’s only major drawback is its brevity, for it ends sooner than any reasonable person who hears it would wish…Go for it!