Gwyneth Walker

When Music Sounds

for SATB Chorus and Piano (2020)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog


Commissioned by the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus

When Music Sounds is based on the poem "Music" by English poet Walter de la Mare (1873-1956). Although the words were written in a previous century (the poem was published in 1917), many of the sentiments are timeless, speaking to us today.

When music sounds, gone is the earth I know is a beautiful expression of the transportive quality of music. When we sing or hear music played, we often leave behind the real world of our day-to-day lives. Instead, we enter a lovely realm where forest trees lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

This is a world where fantastic creatures rise out of the water. These are naiads (which the composer has renamed aqua-nymphs, due to the sonorous nature of this adaptation). The nymphs bedazzle us, and then sink to their dwelling place, at the bottom of the ocean. The song opens with a short pattern of notes in the piano right hand marked music in the distance. These notes, in this high range, are set apart from normal, daily sounds. This signature musical motif returns throughout the accompaniment, including at the end. The message is that our imagination may be delicate, but it endures.

This music was composed during the COVID pandemic of 2020. This was a stay-at-home time when concerts and concert travels were cancelled. Yet, with composing music as the center of daily thought and activity, the "physical limitations" of a confined life were transcended. Music, aqua-nymphs, loveliness, ecstasies, and imagination prevailed!

Notes by the composer