Gwyneth Walker

Trails and Open Spaces

for String Quartet (2022)

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View/download a PDF file of the full score of this work. Parts are available upon request.

Download an MP3 file of a MIDI demo of "I Go to the Woods" from this composition.

Trails and Open Spaces for string quartet is a suite of short "excursions" inspired by the hiking trails and open land in the composer's home town of New Canaan, CT. Various woodland acres, ponds and paths have been set aside for the natural enjoyment of the residents. And this composer has explored them all!

While hiking the trails, words of New England naturalist H. D. Thoreau come to mind. Therefore, selections of Thoreau texts have been included in the musical score for possible reading before the playing of each movement.

I Go to the Woods is "setting out on a walk" music. The style is light and rhythmic, with energy and joy. The Violin then introduces the "Woodland theme." How gentle and clean are these phrases! The key of A Major (bright) seems well-suited. Intermediate sections are flowing (one may walk past a brook) and very sparse and rhythmic, with the energy of walking in the woods. The "Woodland theme" returns leading to a quiet ending.

Trail - Winding Path features a gentle theme in Viola, leading to triplet patterns, perhaps reflective of the winding path.

Shimmering tremoli, sul tasto, are inspired by the surface of the pond - still, yet glistening. Later the tremolo shift to a scratchy sul ponticello, as insects are heard. Glissandi reflect the smoothness of the pond's surface.

"Everywhere there is dew on the cobwebs!" Short glissandi, "wisps of sound," are the cobwebs. A 3/8 dance follows, as if to suggest the rhythm of exclaiming "Everywhere, everywhere, cobwebs!"

Gratitude is the most extended of the movements, for the composer is truly grateful for the open land. Descending scales (blessings) open the music. Then, Violin 1 enters with the "I am grateful" stepwise theme. The "pure" key of C Major was chosen for this simple expression. A middle section is rhythmic, with tapping on the body of the instruments. This may be heard as branches, or light woodland sounds. The theme returns, now with a counterpoint of "cascading scales of overflowing gratitude" in the Viola. The final ascending run in Violin 1 ends with the stepwise "I am grateful" motive. As the composer has written, "here I can walk in peace. Thank you."

Notes by the composer