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.

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

Look Out, World, Here Comes docwallacemusic.com!!

Look Out, World, Here Comes docwallacemusic.com!!

Rock violist David Wallace DocWallaceMusic

Dr. David Wallace performing at The Bell Center

DocWallaceMusic has a website? I can hardly believe it. . . After years of dreaming, procrastinating, and pouring all my energy into living the life of a musician, composer, and teaching artist based in New York City, I’m finally launching a website!

What’s that, Vi?  (Vi Wickam‘s my web guru / personal-mentor-in-all-things-internet). This post is actually the beginning of the DocWallaceMusic blog?

Oh, man, I should say something pithy, momentous, or engaging. . . but I’ve only got a few hours to pack all my clothes and electronics gear for Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp and Music Festival!! Come to think of it, MWROC is extraordinarily momentous; I’ll let next week’s events do the talking!

I’ll be performing on every faculty concert next week at the Bell Center in Olathe, Kansas. My own set is Wednesday, July 17th. I’ll be performing a movement from a string quartet I’m writing for the Marian Anderson String Quartet, some Lead Belly, my ever-popular Nahum: An Apocalyptic Prophesy for Electric Viola, as well as some surprises. Other highlights include performing a Mahavishnu Orchestra chart with Joe Deninzon, Tracy Silverman, Lucas Shogren, and Matt Vanacoro on Monday; shredding heavy metal medleys and a movement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 with Rachel Barton Pine on Tuesday; and joining the MWROC Beatles and Zeppelin orchestras for the final concert on Friday night.

[2017 Update: You can actually view the full MWROC 2013 set on my YouTube Channel.  Here it is, in all its quirky glory:]

Spread the word! I sincerely hope some of you can make it out to some of the concerts. Here’s a sample from last year to whet your appetite. This is a 100% improvised psychedelic jam based on Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company’s cover of Moondog’s All is Loneliness: 

Can you see why I’m so excited?! But that’s just part of the adrenaline and endorphins:

During the day, I will be teaching and coaching inspired musicians of all levels and ages how to improvise, rock out, create their own arrangements, and thrive in an atmosphere where everyone is unconditionally loved, celebrated, and accepted.

So, I think that’s plenty of material for this first entry. DocWallaceMusic.com is still a work-in-progress, but it gets a little better and more complete each day. I’m editing and uploading new content constantly, so bookmark the page, and check in frequently. My goal is to have all sections fully developed by the end of July. Meanwhile, please browse!

Thank you so much for sharing the journey with me!

Rock on!

Doc Wallace

13 July, 2013

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PS While you’re at it, check out the Doc Wallace Music YouTube channel.  I’ve been developing it for over a year now, and it’s another great place to keep up with me.  If you like what you see, please subscribe.  That way, you don’t miss any updates!  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a Gmail account; you just need to sign in.  Google will kindly walk you through the process.