Gwyneth Walker

By Walden Pond

for Orchestra and Narrator (2009)
for Woodwind Quintet, Percussion, and Narrator (2013)
for Piano and Narrator (2013)

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View a video presentation of a performance of this work (orchestra version) by Lee Warner, narrator and the Carson City Symphony, David Bugli, conductor.

Download a PDF file of the full score (orchestra version) of this composition.

Premiered by the Carson City Symphony, David Bugli, Music Director, Lee Warner, Narrator, October 25, 2009, Carson City, Nevada

By Walden Pond, subtitled "a celebration of the writings of Henry David Thoreau, for Orchestra and Narrator," brings Thoreau's words to the concert stage, through readings and musical expression. As the Narrator presents Thoreau's observations on Nature, the orchestra provides a musical commentary to the "expedition."

The texts are taken from Thoreau's Walden and the Journals, dating from the 1850s. These writings chronicle the writer's sojourns in the woods of Massachusetts. But, Thoreau's exploration is beyond a geographic location. He is seeking the depths of life's meaning, the truth that comes when one chooses to "live deliberately, to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." He wishes to know "an entire heaven and an entire earth!"

His writings are sincere, and often ecstatic - a reverence for the beauty of the woods; a delight in the small berries and cobwebs; the fresh energy of "mornings of creation." Seeking eternity, he writes: "I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars."

By Walden Pond comprises ten short movements, framed by a Prologue and Epilogue. These outer sections portray the young writer heading off into the woods, and later returning home. Marked "at a jaunty tempo, as if setting out on a walk into the woods," the Prologue introduces the "setting forth" theme in the Clarinet, a theme that will later return when Thoreau prepares to head home (right before the Epilogue).

The central movements are brief observations on Nature. The listener might choose to hear these as "journal entries," rather than complete movements. The readings and music focus on a few images or perceptions:

"Remember Thy Creator" - let the thunder rumble
"I Seek Acquaintance With Nature" - I wish to know and entire heaven, and an entire earth
"I Perceive the Spring in the Softened Air" - the softened air of Spring
"Mornings" - a coffee percolator (!)
"Interlude" - more morning joy, and the percolator
"Dry, Hazy June Weather" - heaviness, exhaustion from summer heat
"Dew on the Cobwebs" - dropped from the fairy shoulders that danced on the grass last night!
"The First Star is Lit" - evening sky, a single star

This is the world of Henry David Thoreau - a world of beauty and imagination for those who sojourn "by Walden Pond."

Notes by the composer