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The Brass Music of Gwyneth Walker: an Overview

Kevin Patrick Madden, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Gwyneth Walker (b.1947) is an American composer known primarily for her choral music. Dr. Walker’s catalog contains over 350 works for all types of ensembles. Research exists about Dr. Walker’s music. It is in the form of reviews, notes, and journal articles. There have been three major research papers on her music. They are Carson Cooman’s 2005 essay “Defining a Personal American Quartet Tradition: The Four String Quartets of Gwyneth Walker”, Tana Rene Field-Bartholomew’s 2007 DMA dissertation “A Performer’s Guide to the Songs of Gwyneth Walker” focusing on her solo songs, and Vicki Lynne Burrichter’s 2003 DMA dissertation, “The Choral Music of Gwyneth Walker: An Overview”. These theses address Dr. Walker’s work, but do not include her composition for brass instruments. The list is extensive and includes five works for solo trumpet with various accompaniments, six for accompanied solo tuba, and thirteen for brass chamber ensemble (quintet or trio). Brass ensembles are also often the instrumental accompaniment of choice for many her choral works. Despite her prodigious output for brass there are no research papers written about it. I will create a general summary of what Dr. Walker’s musical language is, with focus on textures and tonalities. I will then go on to explore how her brass writing fits into this thesis. I will provide a description and analyses of five of her brass chamber works. These works are; her 2007 setting of Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silent titled The Light Descending; 1989’s Bright Brass; 1987’s Raise the Roof; 2007’s A Season of Wonder”; and 1994’s Shaker Tunes. Shaker Tunes is a five-movement setting of traditional shaker melodies. Walker made simple vocal arrangements of the five original tunes and intends for the tunes to be performed by a choir (or the audience) before the performance of each brass setting. This leads to how “Each movement would explore, expand upon, or reinterpret the original.” (notes from the composer). This thesis will include appendices listing all her works that include brass (including the choral works with brass accompaniment) and a discography of recordings of her quintet works.

Subject Area

Music|Music education|Performing Arts

Recommended Citation

Madden, Kevin Patrick, "The Brass Music of Gwyneth Walker: an Overview" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28031463.