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(Photograph of Gwyneth Walker with Pearl Yeadon, David Hays, and Peter Collins, who performed this work in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)
Commissioned by Donne e Doni (Susan Pickett, Violin; Sonja Gourley, Soprano; Debra Richter, Piano).
The texts for The Laughter of Women are found in "Alive Together", the 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems by Lisel Mueller. This poetry encompasses a broad spectrum of mood: reverent, irreverent (!), witty, poignant, independent, reflective and triumphant.
The musical interpretations aim to explore the imagery evoked by the poetry. For example, in the opening song, "The Laughter of Women", the jagged patterns introduced in the violin/clarinet might be suggestive of laughter. And the glissandi which occur mid-way through the song are associated with the text of "wipes the spectacles of the old," to be heard, perhaps, as "wiping" motives. The image of fire in this song is suggested by swirling patterns in the piano, later adopted by the violin/clarinet. And daylight shines through, perhaps, in the violin harmonics (clarinet high arpeggios).
In general, the voice presents the lyrics, the piano offers the underpinning, and the violin/clarinet is the primary image-translator, offering motives which endeavor to reflect the words. The piano occasionally joins in this activity as well, "scampering" up the keyboard when the words "they laugh as if they were young again" are sung. The listener might therefore enjoy detecting possible correlations between the poetry (as expressed by the singer) and the musical accompaniment.
The poems presented in this work were selected in chronological order from "Alive Together." Certainly, "The Laughter of Women", with its energy and triumph, appeals as a strong opening selection. And, "There Are Mornings" closes with its own form of triumph -- the transcendent beauty of when "the sky opens and pours itself into me."
Notes by the composer