frank wallace

2014.07.14

Review of ELEMENTAL in American Record Guide

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from American Record Guide | July/August 2014 | page 158
Frank Wallace | Elemental | Gyre CD 10172 | released April 1, 2014
purchase at Gyre Music

This is the third volume of Wallace’s solo guitar works (the first was warmly reviewed in S/O 2001). His works, print and sound recordings, are all published through his site, www.gyremusic.com, and he also performs traditional repertory, and on vihuela, on 10-string guitar, and in a voice and guitar duo, [Duo] LiveOak.  All the music here is 21st century - The Elements from 2004, Sonata 1 from 2005, the rest from 2012 or 2013.

Wallace’s music is gestural and mostly non-tonal (the sonata uses the 12-tone system). Above all he is concerned with the sonorities of the guitar, and as a performer he employs a huge range of timbre and dynamics. He obviously composes on the guitar—passages recall Villa-Lobos or Brouwer, two other composers who let the structure of the instrument lead to compositional possibilities. His wide ranging exploration leads occasionally to harsh sounds, because those are appropriate for his music, not because he is a careless player.

His works are, except the sonata, all programmatic to some degree, and all on an epic scale. Even the two single movements works, ‘A Heavy Sleep’, written for Britten’s 100th birthday and based on the Nocturnal, and ‘Black Falcon’ are serious and substantial. As for the rest, I found The Elements, a meditation on earth, water, air and fire to be particularly moving.

I enjoyed this recording very much. Wallace has a unique and compelling voice as a composer, and he is a superb player,  He use a 1931 Hauser guitar, a magnificent instrument ideal for his works that explore so many different sonorities. I found that his gestural language often steps out of meter—too often for my taste, but that is a minor quibble. A rewarding performance.

KEATON

2014.07.01

This video is of Pandora Duo performing So to Serenade as part of the  The Hartt School Guitar Program 50th Anniversary gala concert on April 12, 2014. The event featured the world premiere of Frank Wallace’s As It Could Be, an eight movement chamber suite with: Phenix Trio - Richard Provost, guitar; Rita Porfiris, viola; Anton Miller violin; Pandora Duo - Janet Arms flute, Christopher Ladd guitar; Alturas Duo - Scott Hill guitar, Carlos Boltes, viola; Kaleidos - Yovianna Garcia, guitar, Sayun Chang, percussion; New England Guitar Quartet - Christopher Ladd, Dan Hartington, Nick Cutroneo, Jeremy Milligan.

Thanks to Richard Provost for 54 years of service to the Hartt School, and to the Augustine Foundation and alumni for their tremendous support. Score available at http://gyremusic.com/products/so-to-serenade/

Video by Lief Ellis; audio by Matt Baltrucki; edited and mastered by Frank Wallace.

2014.06.15

My Father Sobbed

This is only my second Father’s Day without my Dad. I miss him. About a year after my mother died, my father had forgotten, yes, forgotten that his wife, my mother, was not in the other room any more. It took us time to learn that we must not remind him. I wrote this poem after one of those early unwelcome reminders.

My father sobbed
     My God, he sobbed.
A mountains of tears
     A lifetime of moist
     emotion
So morphed by time’s
     cruel tangle of
     mangled memory.
He thought he had hid
     them, those he
     loved, or had he?
Had he loved or
     had he not even
     lived?
She cooked for him,
     She loved for him,
     or so he thought.
Perhaps not,
     it now occurs
     to him.
Perhaps not,
     as he sobbed.
My father.

2014.06.13

MORE TRILLIUM
THE FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE TO A PRIVATE REACTION TO MY TRILLIUM ARTICLE IN WHICH THE WRITER EXPRESSED ADMIRATION MIXED WITH CONFUSION OVER SOME OF MY RECENT COMPOSITIONS.  HE COMPARED THE EXPERIENCE TO HIS DIFFICULT FIRST EXPOSURE TO STRAVINSKYI’m honored that you took the time to write - whether or not you “get” In the Well!  I fear, of course, that lots of guitarists and listeners also feel somewhat confused by the directions of my new pieces.  My current style has “evolved” a lot in the last few years and I love it myself.  I don’t know if that means I’m not self-critical enough, but I see it like they are my kids. I made ‘em, and I love ‘em, but I certainly don’t always understand them or know how they got to be the way they are!  I am happy that I like everything I write (and my kids!) - not to say that I don’t erase and scratch out or throw away an occasional piece. I came to composition out of some mysterious confidence that took hold of me.  I have not lost faith in that.  So as I write and my ear says, “YES!”, I leave it alone and move on. I don’t seek any further justification than that and my general sense of compositional integrity, though I am seeking to achieve some level of surprise. The “quirkiness” of my new style gives me great joy and I love exploring new ways of organizing ideas and notes. As I tried to say in my last article, if feel lost while composing, I usually go back to the core material or what I have already written to figure out where to go next. It is a constant sense of wonderment that so many variations on simple ideas can be found. Even simply changing octaves can be brilliant.  Looking for the trillium!  I recall in my early days discovering that I could transpose on the computer and so took a large section and raised it a fourth and pasted it in - it was perfect, and so easy.  Though that wouldn’t always work on the guitar, it did in that case.  In my new quartet, I used the retrograde tool in Finale for the first time - loved the results, and used it for a rather intentionally chaotic section.I’m trying to say that things don’t always have to make sense and may, as you say, take days, weeks, months, or even years to “get”.  Your example of Stravinsky is certainly apropos. I find when I listen to symphonic music, I feel the same way you do listening to some of my music. Even in standard rep I don’t understand why everything always has to go back to the strings: a lovely 4 bar oboe melody, then an interruption of horns, three notes on the Eng horn, then back to tutti on the strings!  Always!  That seems artificial, or even chaotic to me.  I’m obviously not in the majority on that one, however!Certainly we do not live in a sensible, logical world!  My music reflects that, for me.  Random chaos; atonal cacophony in the streets; mechanical and unnatural hypnotic or maddening rhythms. My intent is not to glorify that, but it has no doubt affected me.Thanks again for your interest and comments.

MORE TRILLIUM

THE FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE TO A PRIVATE REACTION TO MY TRILLIUM ARTICLE IN WHICH THE WRITER EXPRESSED ADMIRATION MIXED WITH CONFUSION OVER SOME OF MY RECENT COMPOSITIONS.  HE COMPARED THE EXPERIENCE TO HIS DIFFICULT FIRST EXPOSURE TO STRAVINSKY

I’m honored that you took the time to write - whether or not you “get” In the Well!  I fear, of course, that lots of guitarists and listeners also feel somewhat confused by the directions of my new pieces.  My current style has “evolved” a lot in the last few years and I love it myself.  I don’t know if that means I’m not self-critical enough, but I see it like they are my kids. I made ‘em, and I love ‘em, but I certainly don’t always understand them or know how they got to be the way they are!  I am happy that I like everything I write (and my kids!) - not to say that I don’t erase and scratch out or throw away an occasional piece. I came to composition out of some mysterious confidence that took hold of me.  I have not lost faith in that.  So as I write and my ear says, “YES!”, I leave it alone and move on. I don’t seek any further justification than that and my general sense of compositional integrity, though I am seeking to achieve some level of surprise. The “quirkiness” of my new style gives me great joy and I love exploring new ways of organizing ideas and notes.

As I tried to say in my last article, if feel lost while composing, I usually go back to the core material or what I have already written to figure out where to go next. It is a constant sense of wonderment that so many variations on simple ideas can be found. Even simply changing octaves can be brilliant.  Looking for the trillium!  I recall in my early days discovering that I could transpose on the computer and so took a large section and raised it a fourth and pasted it in - it was perfect, and so easy.  Though that wouldn’t always work on the guitar, it did in that case.  In my new quartet, I used the retrograde tool in Finale for the first time - loved the results, and used it for a rather intentionally chaotic section.

I’m trying to say that things don’t always have to make sense and may, as you say, take days, weeks, months, or even years to “get”.  Your example of Stravinsky is certainly apropos. I find when I listen to symphonic music, I feel the same way you do listening to some of my music. Even in standard rep I don’t understand why everything always has to go back to the strings: a lovely 4 bar oboe melody, then an interruption of horns, three notes on the Eng horn, then back to tutti on the strings!  Always!  That seems artificial, or even chaotic to me.  I’m obviously not in the majority on that one, however!

Certainly we do not live in a sensible, logical world!  My music reflects that, for me.  Random chaos; atonal cacophony in the streets; mechanical and unnatural hypnotic or maddening rhythms. My intent is not to glorify that, but it has no doubt affected me.

Thanks again for your interest and comments.

2014.06.11

Changes Upon the Guitar
Eight works composed by Frank A. Wallace in winter 2014 comprise As It Could Be, a chamber suite commissioned by and dedicated to the Hartt School of Music Guitar Department and its founder/director Richard Provost on the occasion of their 50th anniversary.

Changes is the first movement for seven guitars with violin and viola. Performers are: Phenix Trio - Richard Provost, guitar; Rita Porfiris, viola; Anton Miller violin; with Christopher Ladd, Scott Hill, Yovianna Garcia, Dan Hartington, Nick Cutroneo, Jeremy Milligan.

2014.06.02

A Profusion of TrilliumI live in the woods. It’s quiet. It’s gorgeous. It’s buggy. It’s mysterious. Gun shots ring in the distance thanks to America’s twisted sense of freedom. Trillium grows in the undergrowth thanks to Nature. I write music here. Thanks to what? Circumstances? Luck? My convoluted history of birth in Texas to liberal Lutherans who moved to California; my accordion teacher who brought a guitar one day and said I should play two instruments (shucks, no more champagne bubbles on Lawrence Welk); the electric guitar morphed into a flamenco on which I studied Carcassi etudes due to the fact that my parents bought a three record set of the Romeros for my birthday - they had no clue what a guitar was.So I write music. What kind you ask? Abstract music, that’s what I write. It just hit me that that is the word for my style. I abstract ideas and meaning from morsels of musical material that often come to me randomly. My music comes from a scattered knowledge of styles mixed with my heart. It’s the heart that makes the decisions, not my head. The head has ideas, but the heart chooses which are good and which are useless. After Carcassi studies I found a teacher who threw me into Bach - but I liked the Bream record of 20th century guitar music - Britten, Martin and Henze. Why? I will never know! But then I stumbled into Boston - that is after being forced to learn to sing because I could not match pitches in my entrance exam to SF Conservatory of Music. Joined a chorus. Why? To meet girls. My Dad always got compliments in church on his voice but refused to join the choir because it was not God’s will that a church should pay money for an organ and a choir director - so he was protesting. Pretty cool, actually! I guess I was protesting his protest. Met my wife, my future, the vihuela, lots of early music friends.Abstract music?  Well it’s just like the trillium in the forest, which is just like this essay. They are just an idea, a form, a color. They pop up anywhere, within a general area. They give form and meaning to their surroundings, which are chaotic. Some are much bigger, some are distorted, some are perfect, but alone, away from the others. So I choose a theme, most recently a B chord with a flat 9 and sus 4 = B, F#, C, D#, E. I build melodies from those notes, rebuild the chord in as many ways as possible. Whenever I get lost in the woods, I look for one of those chords, one of those special flowers. Some are ugly, some are gorgeous, some alone, some clustered together, but all related to one another. Like the trillium in the woods, surrounded by twigs, dead leaves, myrtle, fern, bittersweet, ash, oak, maple and poplar, and shoots of every kind, we also stand alone or together, all giving meaning to our surroundings.Too much music today is pablum, sweet and pretty, identifiable, predictable. No moss, or dead leaves or dirt to get dirty with. Predictable pavement - good for auto-pilot. Or else it has a shtick - serial music or minimalism or modernism. Why can’t we all just be ourselves, our fantastic, curious and peculiar selves. Mixed up. A little bit of this and a lot of that. Loved because we are different, because we hear things differently, we play things our way, for no other reason than we are who we are.

A Profusion of Trillium

I live in the woods. It’s quiet. It’s gorgeous. It’s buggy. It’s mysterious. Gun shots ring in the distance thanks to America’s twisted sense of freedom. Trillium grows in the undergrowth thanks to Nature. I write music here. Thanks to what? Circumstances? Luck? My convoluted history of birth in Texas to liberal Lutherans who moved to California; my accordion teacher who brought a guitar one day and said I should play two instruments (shucks, no more champagne bubbles on Lawrence Welk); the electric guitar morphed into a flamenco on which I studied Carcassi etudes due to the fact that my parents bought a three record set of the Romeros for my birthday - they had no clue what a guitar was.

So I write music. What kind you ask? Abstract music, that’s what I write. It just hit me that that is the word for my style. I abstract ideas and meaning from morsels of musical material that often come to me randomly. My music comes from a scattered knowledge of styles mixed with my heart. It’s the heart that makes the decisions, not my head. The head has ideas, but the heart chooses which are good and which are useless. After Carcassi studies I found a teacher who threw me into Bach - but I liked the Bream record of 20th century guitar music - Britten, Martin and Henze. Why? I will never know! But then I stumbled into Boston - that is after being forced to learn to sing because I could not match pitches in my entrance exam to SF Conservatory of Music. Joined a chorus. Why? To meet girls. My Dad always got compliments in church on his voice but refused to join the choir because it was not God’s will that a church should pay money for an organ and a choir director - so he was protesting. Pretty cool, actually! I guess I was protesting his protest. Met my wife, my future, the vihuela, lots of early music friends.

Abstract music?  Well it’s just like the trillium in the forest, which is just like this essay. They are just an idea, a form, a color. They pop up anywhere, within a general area. They give form and meaning to their surroundings, which are chaotic. Some are much bigger, some are distorted, some are perfect, but alone, away from the others. So I choose a theme, most recently a B chord with a flat 9 and sus 4 = B, F#, C, D#, E. I build melodies from those notes, rebuild the chord in as many ways as possible. Whenever I get lost in the woods, I look for one of those chords, one of those special flowers. Some are ugly, some are gorgeous, some alone, some clustered together, but all related to one another. Like the trillium in the woods, surrounded by twigs, dead leaves, myrtle, fern, bittersweet, ash, oak, maple and poplar, and shoots of every kind, we also stand alone or together, all giving meaning to our surroundings.

Too much music today is pablum, sweet and pretty, identifiable, predictable. No moss, or dead leaves or dirt to get dirty with. Predictable pavement - good for auto-pilot. Or else it has a shtick - serial music or minimalism or modernism. Why can’t we all just be ourselves, our fantastic, curious and peculiar selves. Mixed up. A little bit of this and a lot of that. Loved because we are different, because we hear things differently, we play things our way, for no other reason than we are who we are.

2014.05.29

NAME at Eurofest 2014

The New American Mandolin Ensemble performs in the opening concert tonight in Bruchsal, Germany. Included on the program will be my award-winning piece My Vital Breath.  Very proud papa here - thanks Mark and Beverly and all the rest of you guys!

2014.04.25

2014.04.08

Elemental FANMAIL:

“The music is incredible and the versatility of musical styles and genres is incredible. Your synthesis of style is remarkable… I felt transported to the world of Albeniz, de Falla and Montsalvatge one minute and another I was in a new and unknown realm.
—Orlay Alonso, Seconda Prattica

An epic work.  This album signifies not only a major musical statement by Composer Frank Wallace, but a much needed sonic statement by Guitarist Frank Wallace.   Elemental delightfully demonstrates what a master guitarist can do with a seemingly unlimited tonal palette.”
Aaron GreenLuthier

Your CD is mind blowing… Your evolution as a composer and player continues to astound me.  Your playing is immaculate.  The guitar sounds magnificent.
David Isaacs, professor of guitar

The music is definitely elemental — powerful and poetic!”
—Jonathan Richmond, writer and music critic

“I’m just now listening to your new CD Elemental. God it is good!!!  Really - it is just a terrific combination of composition, performance and recording. Oh and the art work’s not bad either!” 
Mark Davis, Director of New American Mandolin Ensemble

2014.04.02

I am thrilled to announce the release of my new CD Elemental at Gyre Music, CDBaby and Strings-by-Mail and as MP3 downloads at iTunes, Amazon and Naxos Music Library [click on Preview, if you are not a member].  This album [other than my two sons!] is the most important creation of my life, it is a pure statement of my soul and spirit. The music was written within the last 10 years and contains elements of all my musical experiences, alchemically fused together. Thanks to my late dear friend Edmund Brelsford and his wife Veronica, I was able to record this very special moment on an incredible 1931 Hauser guitar that was built for Andrés Segovia, who in turn gave it to his student Blanche Honegger Moyse.  She eventually brought it to Brattleboro VT where I first encountered it in the hands of Edmund in the mid 1990’s.

REVIEW: “From brittle cutting chords to silky melodic lines, Wallace has a very wide range of expressive and coloristic abilities on the guitar. The expressive qualities are equally matched by virtuosic playing in rapid flourishes and voice separation.  /  Frank Wallace plays his own works with inspiration, determination, and a wealth of creativity. With top notch playing and excellent compositions, this synthesis is a spectacular success.  /  …he can match the musicality of any player out there…”  Read the full review: This is classical guitar – Bradford Werner