Gwyneth Walker

Four American Folk Songs

for Guitar (2006)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog
Read Premiering New Music by Michael Howell, The University of Idaho Argonaut. (2006)
Read a review of Four American Folk Songs (2006) for guitar, Soundboard.

Download an a MP3 file of the first movement of this work performed by James Reid, guitar.
Download an a MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an a MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an a MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.

Download a PDF file of the full score of this composition. This score may be printed and duplicated for the purposes of performances. However, please send a message to performances@gwynethwalker.com, notifying us of the date/location of the performance.


Commissioned by James Reid

These are four American songs, diverse in character, reshaped and explored for guitar. The musical language remains mostly in the diatonic, folk idiom. Yet guitar techniques, and some formal structuring, have been brought into the crafting of this music.

"Blow the Candles Out" is a ballad a sailor's song to his beloved. In this guitar version, the song opens slowly, rhapsodically. The harmonics might be suggestive of sparkling candlelight. A quick section follows, in guitar-picking style. This is a rather lively song. The tapping on the guitar is intended to add energy to the driving rhythms.

"Sinner Man" presents the song theme several times, with slight variations. A middle section, scalar, is inserted for contrast with the angular theme. The melody returns, this time with rolling chords and tapping of strings.

"Every Night When the Sun Goes Down" comes from the American spiritual tradition. This gentle song is introduced by a few measures in triple meter, with falling intervals, perhaps as "tears of sorrow." The lamentation of this song is heard especially in the occasional use of the lowered 6th step (B flat in the key of D Major). In the original song, this coincides with the word "mournful" in the lyrics. The guitar emphasizes this heaviness with glissandi.

"Drunken Sailor" expands upon the original tune in several ways. Additional measures are inserted within each phrase, perhaps as commentary. And a middle section, marked "more reflective and relaxed," is created to allow for time to catch one's breath (or perhaps to down a pint of ale!). This is followed by a virtuoso race to the end for the guitarist.

Notes by the composer