In preparation for our January 20 and 21 concerts, PSO Assistant Conductor Chad Goodman reached out to composer Gwyneth Walker, whose work “Concert Suite” will open both performances. Gwyneth was kind enough to share some insight into her work, her influences, and her compositional process.
CG: When were you first introduced to music and what led you into composition?
GW: I first became completely enthralled with music at age 2, when I heard my older sister practicing the piano downstairs, in the early evening, when I had already gone to bed. The sound and sensation of music awakened me, and I am still “awake!”
By the next morning, I had crawled over to the piano bench, climbed up, and started playing…emulating what I had heard the night before and then making up my own sounds. Soon enough I had learned how to write down my musical creations on music paper. By first grade, I had organized my friends into my little orchestra to play my compositions once a week.
I am the daughter of an inventor. Perhaps this helps to explain my desire to create.
CG: What is the compositional process like for you? Is there a particular time of day that you like to write music?
GW: I compose music every day starting in the morning, and going into mid-afternoon. Then I take a break (get some exercise) and return to my desk for a few hours in the evening.
While in the process of creating a new work, I do not listen to any other music. But when I travel to concerts (such as out to the Bay Area to work with the Peninsula Symphony), I listen attentively to the repertoire on the entire program. This is one very good way to expanding my musical awareness.
CG: What’s your favorite non-musical activity?
GW: When not composing, I get up from my desk or piano for exercise, which I greatly need for my health and happiness. I play tennis, swim and walk as much as possible.
CG: Have there been any composers or professors that have had a profound influence on your musical voice?
GW: I studied composition at Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. I was fortunate in having excellent teachers. My teacher at the Hartt School was a strong-minded Italian named Arnold Franchetti. All of us who studied with him started experimenting in the language he brought to this country in the 1950s. He liked Bartok’s music a lot. So perhaps we all dabbled in that. But as soon as my studies were over, I returned to composing in my own style.
Friends who have known me and my music since childhood say that my style sounds just the same. “I would recognize that music anywhere” says a friend who went for 30 years without hearing any of my music, and then hearing it again (before being told that it was my music).
This is a long way of answering that I do not believe that there was a composer who had a profound influence on my music.
I have sounded just like Gwyneth Walker from the start.
For more information about Gwyneth Walker please visit her website: http://www.gwynethwalker.com/