2016: Take a Career and Creative Inventory

2016: Take a Career and Creative Inventory

2016 was the worst year ever?!! Enough bellyaching. Set aside death, disappointment, and global chaos for a moment. Take a creative inventory of your life and career. Reflect on the good things that happened over your past 12 months. Document them, and celebrate!

At the end of each year, I take a “career and creative inventory.” To get a better perspective of what actually happened, I list all of my performances, publications, compositions, workshops, new repertoire learned, and any professional or personal highlights.

Get your calendar out and try it! You will discover just how far you’ve come (probably further than you think). When you write your accomplishments down, your dreams become concrete. In the process, you also keep your resume and c.v. up-to-date for that next big opportunity!

Once you’ve documented your year, start planning for the next. Here are select highlights from my 2016:

NEW RECORDINGS FOR 2016

Hat Trick trio debut album released in 2016

On December 9th, Bridge Records released Hat Trick’s debut CD, “Garden of Joys and Sorrows.”

This month, Bridge Records released Garden of Joys and Sorrows, the debut CD of Hat Trickmy classical trio with harpist Kristi Shade and flutist April Clayton. David Frost (multi-Grammy winner for Classical Producer of the Year) did a fantastic job of bringing out our best!

In addition to featuring beautiful trios by Claude Debussy, Toru Takemitsu, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Theodore Dubois, the CD opens with the world premiere recording of Miguel del Aguila‘s Submerged. We commissioned Submerged from Miguel in 2013. In our opinion, it’s a masterpiece.

Miya Masaoka Triangle of Resistance 2016

Miya Masaoka’s Triangle of Resistance: Heavy stuff!

Late August marked the release of Miya Masaoka’s Triangle of ResistanceReleased on Innova Records, this eerie, emotion-laden work explores Masaoka’s mother’s recollections of life and community during her detainment in the American World War II Japanese-American internment camps.

This CD instantly received a rave review from the Wall Street Journal.  Subsequently, Miya’s composition made the 2017 Grammy long ballot in two separate classical categories. Certainly, I am proud to be the violist in this world premiere performance and recording!

Finally, I am pleased to report that in 2016, The Doc Wallace Trio finished mixing and mastering Live at the Cornelia Street Café. We are embarking on the final stages of the liner notes and artwork. Hopefully, we’ll have the new CD ready by June.

NEW WORKS FROM 2016

Robert F Ryan and Qin C Ryan Foundation Composition AwardIf 2015 was the year of Personas for Rachel Barton Pine, 2016 was the year of Array of Irrevocable Light. “Array” is my new through-composed tone poem for six-string electric viola (or violin). Commissioned generously by the Robert F. Ryan and Qin C Ryan Foundation’s Award for Composition, I composed the work over the first six months of 2016.

Array of Irrevocable Light‘s program wrestles with Faustian bargains, the loss of innocence, and our world’s looming, growing nuclear threat. During its composition, I sketched and improvised some terrifying and mind-bending explorations using extended string techniques, digital delay, twelve-tone techniques, and jazz modes. The piece is entirely composed, but with a few aleatoric moments where the performer creates specific textures for set durations.

Fortunately, the MWROC Festival filmed the July 12th premiere.  When I have the video, I’ll share it with you in a future post. Meanwhile, check out the program note, which some have deemed a “powerful philosophical statement” in its own right.

Throughout 2016, I sketched new solo works for electric viola and for acoustic violin. Stay tuned. . .

2016 CONFERENCES AND MUSIC FESTIVALS

In September, I delivered a Talk 21 (“Becoming Village People”) at DePauw University’s 21CMPosium. In short, the 21CMPosium is a paradigm-shifting conference dedicated to defining 21st Century musicianship and training. Speaking of which, do you have the skills to become a “Village Person?”

Berklee String Faculty Global String Program Creative Inventory 2016

Berklee’s 2016 Global String Program faculty!

For the second year, I produced and directed the Berklee Global String Program. This is a wonderful, immersive week of concerts, jams, and intensive ensemble experiences with the phenomenal Berklee String faculty. Presently, there’s still room for you to join us for year 3!

Doc Wallace Rock Violist at MWROC Creative Inventory 2016

Doing my best to embody all of MWROC’s slogans for 2016! (Leave Your Comfort Zone at Home! Unleash YOU! Love, sing, play, rock!)

July is always one of my favorite months because I spend a full week teaching and performing at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC) and Music Festival. The faculty and students are a wild, boisterous, creative extended family; for this, I love them dearly.

Soon, I will have videos from my 2016 set uploaded to my YouTube channel. Join us in 2017! -If you them I sent you, you get a discount!

AMERICAN STRING TEACHERS ASSOCIATION 2016

Naturally, a career and creative inventory should include service. I rounded out my first year as Member at Large of the American String Teachers Association’s (ASTA) National Board. I’m a firm believer that string teachers must band together, collaborate, advocate, educate, and make this world a better place. Thankfully, ASTA members are succeeding in every regard!

At the 2016 National ASTA conference, I co-presented two sessions. With Trickle Up Stringonometrics (If you Build It, They Will Come), phenomenal educators Elizabeth Fortune, Bob Phillips, Kelly Barr-Clingan and I shared how to develop multi-stylistic string programs in secondary schools and higher education.  In Tools for the 21st Century Musician, Joe Deninzon, Sean Grissom, and I gave the standing-room-only crowd a whirlwind tour of looping, jamming, transcribing, and transposing.  So that you can benefit from our resources, practical advice, and lesson plans, I’m linking the session’s handout.

Don’t miss the 2017 ASTA conference in Pittsburgh! I’ll be co-leading a half-day pre-conference session (Cultivating Creative Musicians) with master artist-teachers Matt Turner and Darol Anger. I also look forward to joining sensational artist-composer Martha Mooke for Violists on the Verge.

On a phone call with the Chicago Symphony Creative Inventory 2016

I don’t get to post this on my door every day. . .

TEACHING ARTISTRY

In November, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago hosted me for a two-day teaching artist residency. To demonstrate principles of interactive performance, I led workshops and gave performances of Array of Irrevocable Light and Heinrich Biber’s Passacaglia. Additionally, I coached orchestra fellows on their own interactive concerts. We immersed ourselves in Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos (-How can we share them with diverse audiences?). Afterwards, I enjoyed coaching their stunning memorized adaptation of Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote.

NEW [My] talent FORGE VIDEOS IN 2016:

My Talent Forge

Since January, I filmed 26 new video lessons for MyTalentForge.com. The lessons support four series: Secrets for Shifting Success, Shifting Practice, Left Hand Life-Hacks, and Quick Tips. To watch some of my MyTalentForge.com video lessons, click here. You can subscribe at this link.

BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC:

When you make your creative inventory, do not neglect your primary work. For me, that’s being Chair of Berklee College of Music’s String Department, which still feels like a dream. I’m incredibly blessed to work with a magnificent team of teachers, artists, and composers.  Consequently, I’m challenged and inspired create the best musical environment I can imagine each day.

Because our string population keeps growing, I hired three wonderful new professors in 2016. Joining us are cellist Natalie Haas, violinist-violist-multi-instrumentalist Beth Bahia Cohen, and violinist Sharan Leventhal.  Notably, Sharan is the first String Department professor to serve jointly on the faculties of Berklee and The Boston Conservatory, which merged in June.

David Wallace Bruno Raberg and Dave Tronzo Doc Wallace creative inventory 2016

Performing at the Equinox Festival with the Bruno Råberg Trio with Dave Tronzo on Guitar

Next year, you’ll find me performing frequently with my colleagues from other departments. I’m thrilled that my longtime collaborator, Richard Carrick, recently joined Berklee as Chair of the Composition. (As a side note, Rick conducted the recording of Triangle of Resistance).

Reflect on Your Creative Inventory

So, it has been a full year. -A good year. Take stock accordingly. Although 2016 may have been challenging, distressing, or disappointing, look closely. Because you surely can find blessings and accomplishments, you can settle the past and find hope for the future.  Take your creative inventory.

Wishing you all the best for 2017,

Doc Wallace, December 31, 2016

Personas for Rachel Barton Pine

Personas for Rachel Barton Pine

I am thrilled to announce the world premiere of Personas, my five-movement solo sonata commissioned by violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine. Rachel premieres Personas at the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music on November 13th. In accordance with the festival’s sacred theme, Rachel has creatively programmed a recital inspired by Abrahamic traditions. The first half consists of Baroque works by Bach, Biber, and Corelli; in contrast, the second half features modern works by Yale Strom, Mohammed Fairouz, and myself. [Get your tickets here!]

Still life of "Ruth," the third movement of "Personas."

Still life shot at my kitchen table in New York City on August 8, 2013 while composing “Ruth,” the central movement of “Personas.”

Writing Personas was truly a labor of love, with a compositional process spanning a full two years. I challenged myself to realize the full potential of Rachel’s phenomenal musicianship and stylistic range. To that end, I drew from diverse musical reservoirs, including bluegrass, heavy metal, Hebrew prayer-modes and folk songs, bel canto operatic cadenzas, Paganiniana, and baroque counterpoint. Rachel is truly one of the few violinists who can navigate so many diverse styles and genres equally well.

In mid-October, I traveled to Chicago to meet with Rachel for an intensive 24-hour session of sharing, coaching, experimenting, and revising. Two days before my flight, I experienced a customary bout of “composer’s panic.” [“What if this piece really is awful? What if those chords don’t work? “Maybe I was thinking too much like a violist in this passage?”]. Silly me! In Rachel’s hands, every note easily surpassed my best hopes and expectations. One day of working together proved sufficient to refine Personas into its final form.

The Chicago skyline view from Rachel Barton Pine's music studio.

The Chicago skyline viewed from Rachel Barton Pine’s music studio.

I hope to see you at the premiere or to share a recording soon!  In the meanwhile, please enjoy a synopsis:

Personas

In August 2013, Rachel Barton Pine asked me to write “something of you, for me.” She was unaware that I was already in the process of adapting Nahum: An Apocalyptic Prophesy (a heavy metal instrumental for six-string electric viola) for her unplugged, standard violin.

After some excited discussion, we agreed that I would compose a five-movement sonata based upon Nahum and four other diverse and compelling Biblical personas. Because we both value inclusion, we agreed to make great women a priority.

The soloist embodies the characters’ personas. In some cases, the music parallels their actual messages or narratives. In others, the music projects an essence.

I composed the sonata in arch form: lighter, energetic outer movements flank dramatic, complex inner movements. In turn, the inner movements border an emotional, lyrical central movement. Personas commences and concludes with ecstatic rejoicing. Along the way, we encounter a prophesy of doom, a love story, and an intricate, suspenseful political thriller. Meet the personas:

Mary of Bethany:

Mary of Bethany is the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus publicly raised from the dead. She is most remembered for sitting at Jesus’ feet listening instead of helping her sister prepare for a meal. She also anointed Jesus’ feet with her hair and priceless ointment, just days before his crucifixion. In this movement, the soloist projects the joy and reverie Mary finds in the presence of the divine and in knowing the power of resurrection.

Nahum:

Doc Wallace Rachel Barton Pine Chicago October 2015

Rachel Barton Pine and David Wallace after a successful 24 hours immersed in the score of “Personas.”

A few generations after Jonah, the Hebrew prophet Nahum delivers another message of impending doom to the people of Nineveh, capitol city of the ancient Assyrian empire. In beautiful language, but graphic and unsettling terms, Nahum foretells an ultimate end to the Lord’s patience with a violent, imperialistic nation. The prophet predicts a siege, a flood, and the bloody and fiery annihilation of the Ninevites. Unusually sonic in his imagery, Nahum’s oracle describes galloping warhorses, clattering chariots, clashing swords, ravening lions, wailing refugees, whirlwinds, storms, and widespread panic. The prophesy was fulfilled to the letter when Nineveh fell to the combined forces of the Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians in 612 BC. Our soloist channels the essence of Nahum’s prophesy through a four- string acoustic violin.

Ruth:

If the Book of Ruth conveyed only the courtship of Ruth (a young, expatriate widow), and Boaz, (a righteous, aging, wealthy, but solitary, childless man), its tenderness would still make it one of the great love stories of the ancient world. However, the book transcends two-dimensional romance. Some of the most moving and famous passages depict the deeply loving and faithful relationship between Ruth and her bereaved mother-in-law, Naomi. (Without intervention, both faced an impoverished and heirless existence.)

In this movement, the soloist portrays the story’s emotional drama as related through Naomi and Ruth’s recurring conversations. We hear Naomi’s perspective in the more troubled, dissonant passages; Ruth melodiously speaks through the warmth and assurance of A flat major. Improvisatory cadenzas give voice to changing perspectives, potentialities, realities, and dialogues.

In this interpretation of Ruth, Boaz does not speak directly. Rather, the majestic, penultimate, climactic section belongs to the narrator. The narrator proclaims blessings, marriage, and consummation, then traces Boaz’s genealogy (and the couple’s subsequent progeny) through several generations to King David. The humble tale ends royally, but in this telling, Ruth gets the last word.

Esther:

Still Life of Musical Score of Esther from Personas for Rachel Barton Pine

Still-life shot immediately after composing the final episode and coda of “Esther,” the fugal fourth movement of “Personas.” (April 18, 2015)

Esther, Jewish queen of the Persian king, Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), remains one of the most celebrated heroines in Judaism. With shrewd guidance from her cousin and adoptive father Mordecai, Esther uses her beauty, diplomacy, and rhetorical skills to save her people from a genocidal plot instigated by Haman, an arrogant, powerful noble.

The music begins with a modal, improvisatory invocation, which unveils important musical motives and introduces a three-voice fugue. The soloist chronologically relates the entire drama from Esther’s soprano perspective, balanced by Mordecai’s tenor and bass.

Ever-changing harmonies and keys transform the fugue theme as the plot thickens. At times, the soloist becomes more omniscient or gives voice to the thoughts and plans of Haman and his wife, Zeresh. Intervening episodes freely develop fugue material, as well as melodies borrowed from the liturgy and folk songs of Purim1.

At the crux of the story, Esther reveals Haman’s treachery against Mordecai, who had previously foiled a plot to assassinate King Ahasuerus. The king is outraged. Haman appeals for mercy, but instead, he is hung on the gallows he had been preparing for Mordecai. To conclude, the Feast of Purim is decreed, and the triumphant celebration of Esther’s extraordinary heroism continues to this day. . .

John, Son of Zebedee:

John: Son of Zebedee; son of thunder; brother of James; fisherman; prophet; disciple whom Jesus loved; witness to the Transfiguration; author of one gospel, three epistles, and the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. Saint John.

John’s writings (and writings about him) reveal him to be strong, gentle, powerful, mystical, ambitious, self-effacing, personal, paternal, earthy, cosmic. As a whole, his words encompass the terrestrial, the celestial, the temporal, and the eternal.

To capture John’s visionary perspective, the musical variations combine pyrotechnic Paganiniana with grassy southern fiddling. In essence, the soloist exults in musical realms that simultaneously span the natural and the supernatural. (Yes, the variations are partly inspired by decades of improvising on the popular Gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away!”)

Although each movement can be performed individually, combined, the movements of Personas create a broader context and message. In the hands of a virtuoso, John: Son of Zebedee makes a rousing encore on its own. However, as a culminating movement following Mary, Nahum, Ruth, and EstherJohn drives home Personas’ central theme: divine hands transfigure ordinary lives.

David Wallace 19 August 2015  (Soli Deo Gloria)

1 Jewish holiday commemorating and celebrating the story of Esther.

Johnny Gimble: A First-hand Reminiscence

Johnny Gimble: A First-hand Reminiscence

UPDATE:

iFiddle Magazine issued a June 2015 Johnny Gimble commemorative edition. They asked me to film a video tribute where I shared a few memories and performed one of his tunes. -What an honor to share “Gardenia Waltz” in tribute to the great Johnny Gimble:

The Day the World Stopped Swinging

Today during Berklee College of Music’s graduation, Matt Glaser nudged me and shared somber breaking news: “Johnny Gimble just died.” In a split second, the world became a little less swinging.

Johnny Gimble and David Wallace; Waco, TX, July, 1996

Johnny Gimble and David Wallace; Waco, TX; July, 1996. Note “Roly Poly” chord progression on the blackboard in the Nashville number system.

Johnny Gimble: legendary fiddler; consummate entertainer; deft bandleader; witty raconteur; kind, generous teacher; family man. Only last week, Matt and some of our string faculty were enjoying and analyzing Johnny’s extraordinary “Beaumont Rag” solo from his “Fiddlin’ Around” LP (Capitol 11301, 1974).

After the second hearing, Mimi Rabson shook her head in admiration: “What a sound! We should require every Berklee string player to learn that!” Matt agreed: “It’s the greatest improvised violin solo on record.”

“Never Play it the Same Way Once!”

Though Johnny would have been tickled to see the joy his solo gave us, he would have shrugged off our urges to canonize it.

Johnny frequently summarized his improvisational approach by relating a life-altering conversation that he and his elder brother had when they were teenagers. One night, after a Saturday night dance in rural Texas, his brother took him to task:

As he was driving me home in his pickup, my brother said, “Johnny, I’m disappointed in you.” I said, “Why?! I thought I played well tonight!” He said, “Johnny, you played the same solo you played last Saturday.” From then on, I decided to never play it the same way once!

I spent many happy hours listening to Johnny Gimble, learning from him, jamming with him, and even teaching by his side at Mark O’Connor’s San Diego String Conferences. Ceaselessly, Johnny amazed me with the freshness of his improvisations and musical ideas.

Johnny Gimble, Fiddling Scholar

In reality, his fecundity was rooted in an encyclopedic knowledge of Texas swing. He could teach you classic riffs and solos that he had learned from many of his heroes and role models: Cliff Bruner, J.R. Chatwell, Jesse Ashlock and many others. By breaking tricky licks down, he made them simple and accessible. If you did want to learn a tune or a solo note-for-note, he would teach you.

Johnny constantly enriched and deepened other musicians’ knowledge. If you loved Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, he made sure that you also knew Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies. If you admired one particular “Beaumont Rag” solo, he made sure you knew about several others by multiple artists from different eras. Often, he would demonstrate them from memory.

When Johnny found out that I also played viola, the first thing he asked me was “Have you heard Don Decker? He played viola in T. Tex Tyler’s band. There aren’t a whole lot of records, but he was really good.” Johnny should know; he was one of the first fiddlers to add a fifth string to his fiddle so that it could encompass the viola’s deeper range.

The Ears Behind Johnny Gimble’s Distinctive Voice

Throughout his career, Gimble also distinguished himself with his voice. Fronting his own bands with lead vocals, he also sang in unison with his improvised violin lines and harmonized fluidly. I can’t recall a concert, class, or jam that didn’t include a healthy dose of Johnny’s singing.

Johnny Gimble knew his music theory. More than anything, though, his playing was rooted in his ears and in hours of listening, both on the bandstand and off.

At his 1996 Texas Swing Camp, Johnny taught an advanced group one of his formidable, double-stop augmented riffs. I asked, “How do you know when to use it?”

He smiled. “Just keep your ears open. You’ll start to hear it.” Surely enough, time proved him right. Hear that augmented lick for yourself at 2:36 in this video of Johnny playing “Fiddlin’ Around.

We musicians could easily spend the rest of our days studying Johnny’s music, striving for his impeccable rhythmic drive, and seeking to embody his generous, gregarious stage presence and personality. However, in many ways, we would be missing the point.

Johnny Gimble strove to be creative, not merely imitative. In full measure, he shared his musical gifts for the joy and the sake of others- not for his own gratification or glory. We should definitely transcribe his solos, teach his licks, and play his tunes. More than anything, though, we should preserve his legacy the way he lived it: jam, sing, laugh, share, teach, and never play it the same way once!

Thank you, Johnny!

Doc Wallace, May 9, 2015

Enjoy an excellent documentary on the life of Johnny Gimble:

And a vintage “Sweet Georgia Brown” video featuring yours truly. There’s certainly a lick or two from late night jams on this tune with Johnny at fiddle camps:

 

Berklee String Chair: A New Life

Berklee String Chair: A New Life

Berklee Logo Berklee String Department

It hardly seems possible, but it’s been a full semester since I moved to Boston and became Berklee College of Music‘s String Department Chair. Beyond the busyness and the whirlwind of changes, I feel a tremendous joy and excitement:

As Berklee String Chair, I serve and lead the most creative string department in higher education. I have so much to share, but for now, I’ll do it through a few media items:

Violist David Wallace Takes the Reins at Berklee College by becoming Berklee String Chair

Check out the third headline: Violist David Wallace Takes the Reins at Berklee College!

Strings Magazine Cover Story

The December 2014 edition of Strings magazine includes a cover story about my transition from New York City to Berklee. It’s rare that something another person writes or says about me brings tears to my eyes, but writer Rory Williams really got the story right. -That includes the embarrassing and difficult parts of my musical journey.

Life in the Berklee String Department

As I work to stay one step ahead of my students, I sense that my ear, technique, and rhythm improve each week. Through the walls, I even learn by osmosis as I hear amazing Berklee String teachers impart their wisdom.

Without a doubt, I look forward to Mondays more than I have in years. When you watch this four-minute video that we produced, you’ll know why!
Each week, new opportunities surface as I learn of new job responsibilities, or find myself faced with unexpected opportunities. (The latter has ranged from redesigning Berklee’s summer string program to being called to play “Songs in the Key of Life” with Stevie Wonder.)

Recruiting Berklee String Department’s Next Generation

Naturally, one of the major responsibilities of the Berklee String Chair is recruitment. You might enjoy a fun video describing some of my job responsibilities that I posted to my YouTube channel. Because this particular video targets my high school YouTuber audience, the style is quirkier and less formal:

Doc Wallace, Berklee String Chair, 16 November, 2014

Ear Shot: Eavesdropping at the NY Philharmonic

Ear Shot: Eavesdropping at the NY Philharmonic

With Ear Shot, The New York Philharmonic issued a bold new call for scores. Ultimately, six finalists emerged from dozens of submissions. Let’s listen!

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listen at New York Philharmonic Ear Shot

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listening to “Innumerable stars, scattered in clusters” Photo credit: Chris Lee

Hands down, leading pre-concert talks is one of the best perks of my job as Senior Teaching Artist at the New York Philharmonic. Why?

For one thing, I actually get paid to study great music. Then, I excitedly speak about it and listen one to of the world’s greatest orchestras dazzlingly perform it. What’s more, the concerts usually feature marvelous soloists like Midori and Alisa Weilerstein (both performing this weekend)!

Preparing the Biennial Concert Talks

This year, my opportunity comes June 5-7, during the NY PHIL BIENNIAL. In short, the biennial is an eleven-day, twenty-one-concert, new music extravaganza. At last Saturday’s concert, soprano Lucy Shelton and Philharmonic musicians premiered my own orchestral song cycle, William Blake Rhapsody.

Currently, my music studio is totally cluttered. I’m surrounded not only with pages from complex scores by Christopher Rouse, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, and Peter Eötvös, but also with SIX amazing new scores that were read at this morning’s Ear Shot National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network readings in Avery Fisher Hall.

After this morning’s reading, Philharmonic musicians, Music Director Alan Gilbert, Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse, and other esteemed composers will give feedback to all six finalists. Later, a top-secret committee selects three of the works to include on this weekend’s concerts.

Ear Shot #1: Dark Sand, Sifting Light

Julia Adolph’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light automatically gets a strong nod from me because she features our Principal Violist Cynthia Phelps in a gorgeous solo. The rest of Julia’s score is lyrical, colorful, well-balanced, and clear, with other engaging instrumental spotlights.

Ear Shot #2: Into Focus

William Dougherty’s Into Focus gets a prize for most direct and instrumentally idiomatic application of the overtone series. As a meditation on how our consciousness tends to drift between different degrees of focus and clarity, it relies heavily on drones. The orchestra resonates naturally in ways that truly do, in fact, impact our consciousness and sense of time:

Ear Shot #3: Bismuth

Bismuth crystal Max Grafe New York Philharmonic Earshot Max Graf

Can you imagine this crystal as music?

Max Grafe’s Bismuth: Variations for Orchestra aims to embody the structure of a pure Bismuth crystal.  (The chemists in my family surely would want me to lobby for this one).  Indeed, Grafe’s structure is clear, bold, angular and colorful. Moreover, the score contains some of the loveliest oboe and bassoon writing of the six:

Ear Shot #4: Innumerable Stars, Scattered in Clusters

Jesse Jones’s Innumerable Stars, Scattered in Clusters sounds exactly like one would expect from his title. Brimming with harmonics and bright mallet percussion, his orchestration undulates, swirls, and sparkles.

Ear Shot #5: Scenes from the Bosco Sacro

In contrast, Wang Lu’s Scenes from the Bosco Sacro musically depicts some of the fantastic monsters from Rome’s sacred grove of the same name. Hers was by far the most grotesque and dissonant work of the day, but with a good dose of playfulness, quirkiness, and humor. Judging from photos of her inspiration, I think she succeeded marvelously.

Ear Shot #6: Strobe

Andrew McManusStrobe rounded out the set.  Strobe presents a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of musical images, which McManus describes as “flashing lights, stop motion, faded, photographs, electronic dance music.”

You can learn much more about each piece and each composer at the American Composers Orchestra’s Sound Advice blog.  I must say, I’m glad that I wasn’t on that secret committee because I enjoyed all six scores immensely. In my book, each piece is a winner.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Julia Adolphe, Andrew McManus, and  Max Grafe. Respectively, the Philharmonic will perform their works on June 5th, 6th, and 7th. Let’s catch ’em all!

Doc Wallace, 3 June 2014

Biennial! – My New York Philharmonic Premiere

Biennial! – My New York Philharmonic Premiere

I am SO EXCITED that the New York Philharmonic and soprano Lucy Shelton will perform the world premiere of my orchestral song cycle William Blake Rhapsody! Part of the Philharmonic’s 2014 Biennial Festival, my concert is on Saturday, May 31st at 11:00AM at Merkin Hall.

Curated by Jon Deak, this free program features music from the Philharmonic’s  Very Young Composers project.  Emerging teen composers will have their own new works performed alongside premieres of their mentors (me, Daniel Felsenfeld and Richard Carrick).

I genuinely believe that William Blake Rhapsody has something for you. . . so, let’s take a closer look!

NY Philharmonic Biennial Rehearsal of “William Blake Rhapsody:” (l to r) Michael Adelson, Lucy Shelton, David Wallace

William Blake Rhapsody

William Blake Rhapsody embodies our struggle to find enduring love, joy, and faith amidst a broken world fraught with suffering. Blake’s poetry and imagery drive the work.

In each of the three songs, a soprano personifies, amplifies, and deconstructs Blake’s poetry with her melodies. (Yes, you heard that right: I’m a composer who actually believes that singers should have melodies.)

As the soprano projects our love, joy, grief, and woe, the orchestra conjures Blake’s poetic images with sound. Sometimes, we hear literal depictions of birdsong or infants. Other times, recurring themes and motifs symbolize Blake’s theology and worldview. Occasionally, the orchestra represents malevolent or benevolent forces acting upon the soprano’s personal Heaven or Hell.

Are you curious to know which poems I chose, and to hear how the music sounds? You can read the full program note and libretto here, but I also play and sing a bit of it in the “making of” video below:

The Making of a Philharmonic Biennial Premiere

Because I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes secrets, I filmed a “Making of the William Blake Rhapsody” video for my YouTube channel. Although I’m embarrassed to be singing instead of Lucy, you’ll still get a sense of the piece:

Lucy Shelton

Lucy Shelton, soprano & Elliott Carter, composer.

Premiere Musicians

As I mentioned, William Blake Rhapsody features phenomenal soprano Lucy Shelton. Through the years, Lucy has premiered and recorded works of Elliott Carter, David Del Tredici, and countless other masters. Longtime New York Philharmonic conductor Michael Adelson conducts a chamber orchestra consisting of New York Philharmonic members. To a person, everyone involved in the project has been a dream.

William Blake Rhapsody Eternity Manuscript David Wallace New York Philharmonic Biennial

Blake’s Manuscript for “Eternity,” the first song: “He who binds to himself a joy / Does the wingéd life destroy / But he who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity’s sunrise”

NY Phil Biennial in the News

For more information on the New York Philharmonic Biennial, please enjoy this NPR All Things Considered broadcast. Since this festival only comes every two years, I really hope you’ll make it!

Doc Wallace Joins My Talent Forge

Doc Wallace Joins My Talent Forge

David Wallace Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp My Talent Forge

Berklee String Chair, Dr. David Wallace sharing secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

As a longtime violin and viola teacher, I am thrilled to join [my] Talent Forge! By joining this curated online learning community, my accumulated teachings are more available and affordable than ever.

The digital age has profoundly changed the way we can learn music. We now have twenty-four hour access to digital libraries of sheet music, recordings, and tutorials. As a result, we can study in the comfort of our homes without worrying about schedules or geographical access to a great teacher. What’s more, with [my] Talent Forge, you can gain access to an entire team of diverse expert string teachers.

I am particularly happy to align myself with [my] Talent Forge because this site exclusively features musicians with established reputations as outstanding teachers and performers. Without the quality control of sites like [my] Talent Forge, your job of separating the wheat from the chaff becomes prohibitive.

For example, type in “vibrato tutorial” into Google. You get over 386,000 results. Some are laudable, but far too many give horrible or even crippling advice. When I see bad lessons uploaded by amateurs who have no business teaching you anything, it breaks my heart!

In contrast, [my] Talent Forge subscribers learn vibrato from my nine-lesson series of vibrato secrets. You get the best exercises, information, and shortcuts I have gleaned and taught over the past three decades. Step by step, the videos sequentially teach you potent tips that I learned from my Juilliard professors and other legendary string pedagogues.

Given a choice, would you rather get the best vibrato lessons straight from a Juilliard professor, or do you want to try your luck with YouTube’s 103,000+ vibrato tutorials?

My Talent Forge has Zen Bowing Exercises

Some of my videos walk you directly through simple, powerful exercises. When practiced on a regular basis, these routines vastly improve your playing. For example, here’s a lesson that teaches a phenomenal tone production and relaxation exercise that I learned directly from Josef Gingold, Joshua Bell’s teacher:

 

My Talent Forge Brings Ergonomic Comfort

Other videos give you a few simple tips that instantly improve technique and comfort:

 

My Talent Forge Perfects Peak Performance

Recently, I’ve begun a whole series of videos to coach you on stage performance, performance anxiety, and peak performance.  Ever wonder how to conquer the problem of cold hands?  Here’s how!:


To date, I’ve created dozens of videos, and about forty pages of sheet music. My lesson topics include vibrato, tone production, comfort with the instrument and bow, stage presence, stage fright, left-hand short cuts, and revolutionary scale exercises. And [my] Talent Forge has literally hundreds of lessons by our other expert teachers.

Moreover, we continually develop new content according to the needs and requests of the [my] Talent Forge community. I love to respond to questions and custom requests from subscribers. So if you have topics you’d like to see, please leave a comment. I’ll gladly respond.

Ready expand your repertoire and skills? If you are, please join us! Oh, and when you do, use the coupon code DavidWallace for added savings! (Seriously, who doesn’t like a discount code?!).  Keep calm, and fiddle on!

-Doc Wallace, January 18, 2014

Zorn at 60: An All-Star Orchestra Concert

Zorn at 60: An All-Star Orchestra Concert

Composer John Zorn

Composer John Zorn

My mind and body still resonate from last night’s opening concert of Miller Theatre’s Zorn at 60 festival. In mid-August, I received an invitation from conductor David Fulmer to join a “mega-orchestra to include all the most distinguished contemporary ensembles, quartets, and chamber formations here in New York City.” Together, we would perform an evening of John Zorn’s new or rarely played orchestral compositions.

An All Star Orchestra

David wasn’t exaggerating; the all-star roster of eighty-eight musicians represented a staggering array of ensembles and renowned soloists. To name contemporary string quartets alone, we had representatives or founders from Kronos, Flux, JACKEthel, Mivos, and Momenta. Moreover, we had musicians from mixed ensembles like Tashi, Decoda, Ensemble ACJW, International Contemporary Ensemble, Hat TrickTalea Ensemble, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Also present were legendary downtown musicians, and artists with rare pedigrees like Avery Fisher Career Grants and Juilliard doctorates.

From the first reading to the final concert, enthusiastic commitment drove us to deeper aesthetic extremes and fuller musical realizations. Although critics frequently evoke words like “anarchy” or “chaos” to describe Zorn’s music, an incredible amount of structure and detail underlies his seemingly frenzied exterior.  When performers fully realize every nuance and instruction, Zorn’s complex rhythmic juxtapositions and colorful orchestrations emerge as intricate, expressive, and oftentimes humorous tapestries.

Zorn’s Vintage Garden Shears

If complex new music exceeds its performers’ limitations or receives too little rehearsal, a jumbled, sonic mess can result. Believe me, John was pushing our ensemble to its absolute limits, and each second of rehearsal counted.

As we did our utmost to prepare the music, Zorn vigorously guided our process. He coached the trumpets’ dynamics for “murmurings.” Because a percussionist’s “cheap 1990s hedge clippers” just wouldn’t do, Zorn replaced them with his “1950’s vintage garden shears.” -When you want to punctuate a phrase with the perfect chop, actual sounds must match your imagination.

As always, Zorn embodied the perennially youthful, joyful, downtown “bad boy.” Sporting his signature camouflage pants and black t-shirts commemorating past seasons of his East Village new music venue The Stone, Zorn dropped double entendres and cajoled players by name.

I’m happy to report that our entire concert will be available on CD from Zorn’s record label Tzadik. Instead of pursuing commercial success, Tzadik has focused on supporting creative, non-mainstream artists, as well as his own work.

Can’t Get Enough Zorn?

This week, Miller Theatre features additional concerts Zorn’s chamber music and game pieces. All year long, venues and festivals around the world will celebrate his vast and contrasting legacy.  If you don’t already know Zorn’s work, check out one of the many YouTube documentaries or listen to a piece.

For a taste of  Zorn’s eclectic downtown scene, enjoy the opening improvisation from my band KNOT’s debut at The Stone:

For further insight, read Steve Smith’s rave New York Times Concert review and 60 tributes for Zorn at 60. I also highly recommend this current,  in-depth NPR Radio interview.

Peace!

Doc Wallace

26 September 2013

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Yes, it’s true! This fall, the Doc Wallace Trio will record a new live album at The Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. Join us for one hot live set at 6:00PM on Thursday, September 12th and another at 6:00PM on Monday, October 14th. A $15 cover charge includes one drink.  Although reservations are not required, they are recommended.

A Follow-Up to a Live Album

Live at The Cornelia Street Café will be a long-overdue sequel to Live at the Living Room (2001), our first CD as a trio. In keeping with the original CD’s spirit, the new live album will consist of complete, unedited live takes. Once again, the repertoire will consist of rollicking old-time fiddling and swing tunes from the Texas fiddling tradition.

Live at the Living Room completely sold out of its first printing, but is still available for download. The entire album may now be streamed from the Doc Wallace Music YouTube channel; however, your purchases help us to fund the new record:

The Cornelia Street Café

Designated as a New York City culinary and cultural landmark, The Cornelia Street Café combines great food with over 700 stimulating performances a year. The warm ambiance and professional sound system make it an ideal venue for our jazzy, soulful music.

To get a better picture of the venue’s history and significance, please enjoy this short documentary. Learn why singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega, Tony award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, jazz musician Gerald Cleaver, and other artists love The Cornelia Street Café:

Our New Record Needs YOU!!

As you can tell from this performance at Lincoln Center, the Doc Wallace Trio definitely plays its best in the presence of friends and fans:

For that reason, we want to record our second record with YOU in the crowd at The Cornelia Street Café. Please join us for one or both nights!

-Doc Wallace 9 September 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

David Wallace gives an emotional electric viola performance at the 2013 MWROC Festival

David Wallace gives an emotional performance at the 2013 MWROC Festival

I owe a musical debt to fiery collaborators of the great cellist Pablo Casals: Karen Tuttle, Julius Levine, Felix Galimir, and Alexander Schneider. Whenever these gurus conducted, coached, or taught me, they demanded 110% emotional commitment. Anything less was a crime. Just as they shared Casals’ passionate approach with me, I aim to impart their fervor to the next generation.

Going for the Emotional

This year, “Going for the Emotional” was my mantra at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC). My general sessions explored Karen Tuttle’s compendium of the five human emotions: love, joy, anger, fear, and sorrow.

An Emotional Facsimile of Karen Tuttle's Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

Facsimile of Karen Tuttle’s Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

Through gut-wrenching actors’ studio work, we conjured up deep personal experiences. We then modulated our emotional intensity using a 1 to 10 scale. (1 represents a mild manifestation of a chosen emotion. At the opposite end of the scale, 10 is where a person overflows, loses control, or has nothing left to give.) In addition to expressing ourselves through vocalizations and dramatic poses, we improvised and composed with our instruments.

Building Emotional Ensembles

In my small ensembles, we deepened our initial emotional explorations. One group, The Indubitably Sunny Phish, explored the mellow end of the spectrum. Since their improvisatory performance of Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall’s Wading in the Velvet Sea greatly moved me, I vowed to sing it in 2014:

Meanwhile, a technically advanced ensemble, Harbingers of Darkness, explored the dark recesses of the human psyche. As a group, we reconstructed Tet Offensive from Billy Bang’s Vietnam: The Aftermath.

When the entire faculty and student body came together as a magnificent orchestra for the final concert, we were not just playing loudly. Yes, we were rocking out, but we were filling every note with uttermost feeling. Without a doubt, my mentors would have been proud.

Walking the Emotional Walk

Because credibility means everything for a teacher, I must practice what I preach.  For my faculty concert on July 17th, I put together as emotionally loaded a set as I could envision. When you watch the performance, you’ll see that we encompassed all five of Tuttle’s human emotions. I actually pushed myself quite close to a 10.

After the concert, my collaborating MWROC faculty member, producer Matt Vanacoro sent me a priceless text:

Best. Text. Ever!

Best. Text. Ever!

Hey, David!  Karen just texted me. They found your soul onstage after you ripped it out and showed it to everyone. Might want to run back and pick it up!

Be Expressive!

-Doc Wallace, 29 July 2013