Gwyneth Walker

Footsteps of Spring

a walk in the woods with Henry David Thoreau
for Piano Trio and Narrator (2004)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog
Read Thoreau-ly Enchanting: A Prolific Composer and a Northwest Chamber Group Call on the Spirit of Spring by Jefferson Robbins, Go! Magazine.

Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work by the Cascades Trio with Robert Bode, narrator.

View a video presentation of a spoken introduction to this work by Gwyneth Walker.
View a video presentation of a performance of this work by the Cascades Trio with Robert Bode, narrator.

View/download a PDF file of excerpts from the full score of this work.
View/download a PDF file of excerpts from the violin part of this work.
View/download a PDF file of excerpts from the cello part of this work.


Commissioned by Woods House Conservatory in Wenatchee, Washington for the Cascades Trio: Alex Russell Violin, Kara Hunnicutt Cello and Duane Funderburk Piano

Footsteps of Spring is a musical and literary journey into the world of New England naturalist, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1872). The intent is to bring the beauty and imagination of Thoreau's words to life on the stage through readings and through musical portraits of the words and images.

The readings are taken from two sources: Walden and the Journals. Selections from Walden open and close the narrative. At the beginning, the writer explains why he undertook his journey into the woods. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life..." At the end, he reflects upon the transcendent beauty which he has seen. "Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in... Its thin currents slide away, but eternity remains."

The middle sections of the work draw upon entries in Thoreau's Journals. Here, he observes the natural world around him. There is the rumbling of thunder and the whispering of wind. There are the silent footsteps of spring. Mornings bubble with energy. The hazy, June weather is oppressive. There are berries falling to the ground. There is dew on the cobwebs everywhere! [The cobwebs are dropped by the fairies.] Throughout, the Observer has an insatiable thirst for acquaintance with his surroundings. "I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth!"

On each step of the narrative journey the music is there for correlative expression. This may take the form of texture (perhaps the opening sparse sonorities represent the peacefulness of the woods), rhythm (the repeated eighth-notes in the strings might be the footsteps on the journey), a "walking" theme (played by the Violin near the beginning) or chord clusters in the piano for the heaviness of summer. The listener might hear thunder, the rippling of the stream or the dance of the fairies. At the ending, perhaps the sky is "pebbly with stars." An active listener imagination is encouraged!

Notes by the composer