Time Variations

Mark Edwards Wilson composer

Release Date: June 24, 2022
Catalog #: RR8069
Format: Digital
20th Century
Vocal Music
Piano
String Quartet
Voice

Composer Mark Edwards Wilson and Ravello Records present TIME VARIATIONS, a stirring journey through the dimensions of musical style. Wilson blends soprano vocals with piano and electroacoustic synthesizers, flute with electronic tape, and experiments with the stylistic boundaries of solo violin and chamber ensembles in works inspired by poetry, Greek mythology, and various musical expressions throughout time. By fusing the idioms of early music with contemporary compositional concepts, Wilson has created a modulating and continuously transforming stylistic synthesis that awaits listeners.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Time Variations Mark Edwards Wilson Left Bank Quartet | David Salness, voilon; Sally McLain, violin; Katherine Murdock, viola; and Evelyn Elsing, cello 13:11
02 Three Songs: Impression Mark Edwards Wilson Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano; Ruth Ann McDonald, piano 5:00
03 Three Songs: Portrait Mark Edwards Wilson Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano; Ruth Ann McDonald, piano 1:47
04 Three Songs: In Just Spring Mark Edwards Wilson Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano; Ruth Ann McDonald, piano 2:47
05 Sappho Mark Edwards Wilson Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano 9:09
06 Aeolus Mark Edwards Wilson William Montgomery, flute 10:45
07 Soliloquy Mark Edwards Wilson David Salness, violin 7:27
08 Ancient Ways: Awakening Mark Edwards Wilson Hollywood Chamber Players | Mark Edwards Wilson, conductor 6:27
09 Ancient Ways: Ricercare Mark Edwards Wilson Hollywood Chamber Players | Mark Edwards Wilson, conductor 4:24
10 Ancient Ways: Conclusion Mark Edwards Wilson Hollywood Chamber Players | Mark Edwards Wilson, conductor 5:34

Cover Photo Mark Edwards Wilson
Edited and mastered by Antonino D’Urzo, Opusrite
Tracks 5 and 6 recorded and edited by Curt Wittig

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Mark Edwards Wilson

Composer

Born in Long Beach CA, Mark Edwards Wilson is a composer of remarkable artistic range and diversity. His earliest influence was undoubtedly his mother, Rosalie Brashears Wilson, a talented pianist, who, as a teenager, was among the last generation to work as an organist for silent film theaters in the Los Angeles area. In a recent interview, Wilson commented on his earliest memories of her playing. “I can remember her thundering away at the family piano. Given a melody, she could improvise on the spot, filling the house with cascades of show arpeggios and runs.” Wilson began his musical training in earnest with violin studies starting at the age of six and he played in various chamber music groups and orchestras throughout his youth and early twenties.

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Left Bank Quartet

Ensemble

The members of the Left Bank Quartet (David Salness and Sally McLain, violins; Katherine Murdock, viola; and Evelyn Elsing, cello), with their diverse and colorful backgrounds, came together through the auspices of the Theater Chamber Players and rather unexpectedly discovered the joys of a vibrant and enthusiastic collaboration. They have been a quartet since 1999, taking their name from the fact that the Kennedy Center, their first regular venue, is situated on the left bank of the Potomac River. Their combined experiences include participation in the major festivals of the musical world: Aspen, Banff, Chautauqua, Marlboro, Mostly Mozart, Prussia Cove, Ravinia, Sante Fe, and Spoleto, to name just a few.

Phyllis Bryn-Julson

Soprano

Born in North Dakota of Norwegian parentage, Phyllis Bryn-Julson is American educated and began her musical career as a pianist. She is known for her musicianship, lustrous voice, pitch-perfect three-octave range and her ability to sight-read the most difficult scores. At ease and in command of both the traditional and contemporary repertoires, she has performed with all the major European and American orchestras.

William Montgomery

Flute

William Montgomery is a professor of flute and the University of Maryland and performed as a principal flutist with the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, the National Gallery of Art Orchestra, the Washington Opera, and the Washington Chamber Orchestra and has performed numerous solo recital tours in the United States and Europe. He holds a Ph.D. in historical musicology and studied flute with Marcel Moyse at the Marlboro School and with William Kincaid and the Curtis Institute.

Notes

TIME VARIATIONS is a radical application of a technique Wilson has dubbed “style modulation,” where the style of a composition is not fixed, but subject to transformation as might be expected of any other aspect of music. The form of the work might best be described as a journey through the dimension of musical style using a single unifying thematic idea. To some extent this is not unlike a variation form, but one where the style of the piece continually evolves.

Wilson first became intrigued with the idea of integrating older musical styles into the context of contemporary music in the 1970’s, during the high-water mark of the original instruments movement. In program notes on the subject Wilson writes: “The freshness of early music performed on period instruments impressed me greatly. In many ways this music seemed more like new, rather than old music, as if it were a subset of contemporary music. I began to consider the possibilities of incorporating certain aspects of early music into my own compositions, but I was not interested in a hybrid, neoclassical approach, nor was I interested in collage techniques. Superimposing styles seemed destructive to both. Instead, I began to explore ways of transforming one musical style into another.”

Although TIME VARIATIONS begins and ends in a modernist style (coming full circle in the process), much of the piece employs techniques first used in the music of earlier times. On the surface this might seem like an abandonment of the ideals of contemporary music. This is in no way Wilson’s intention. Indeed, writing work like TIME VARIATIONS would be inconceivable in any era other than our own, as the all-embracing awareness of music from all style periods and cultures is a unique and defining characteristic of our time.

— Alex Radcliffe

Three Songs, on texts of E. E. Cummings, was written in 1980 especially for the internationally acclaimed soprano Phyllis Byrn-Julson. The first is a setting of the poem, Impression, which begins with images of dawn and the awakening of both the city and the poem’s speaker, who then dreams before a mirror. It concludes with all returning to sleep and the coming of the night. Similarly, the music of the first part of the song is mirrored in the conclusion. The second song, Portrait (Buffalo Bill’s defunct), deals with the mortality of man. The piano renders a jazzy, sardonic version of the Dies Irae from the mass for the dead, while the voice intones the text of the poem as if in plainchant. The final setting uses one of Cummings’s most famous poems, “in Just-spring”, and songs of childhood with the ironic voice of the adult.

— Alex Radcliffe

Sappho, an electroacoustic work for soprano, is also dedicated to Phyllis Bryn-Julson. The text for the work is a mosaic of fragments from a number of lost poems of Sappho. The electronic music is a mixture of synthesizer sounds and pre-recorded vocal music. Of Sappho the composer writes: “Time has been merciless with the works of the great Greek poetess; only a few complete poems survive. I was particularly attracted, however, to the fragments of her works that remain, some edited by the caprice of time down to a few words. There is a mysterious and poignant beauty inherent in these relics, like that of the ruins of a great ancient architecture, invoking a sense of grandeur, yet touched with the sadness of a lost past.”

Eternal Aphrodite, I beg you, do not break me, lady. 

…now I shall sing these songs, beautifully to my girls…the Cretan women once danced this, elegantly…a dear and delicate child gathering flowers…about the altar…Come here, lilting Graces and Muses with your lovely hair…Come here, again, Muses, leaving the golden…Come, Graces and Muses…

Stepping on the soft flower of the tender grass, they crushed the lovely things beneath their feet…like the hyacinth, which shepherds in the mountains trample underfoot…gathering flowers…and the purple flower lies scattered on the ground. Come to me…here…from Crete…to the sacred temple of the lovely apple grove…your altars are fragrant with offerings of frankincense…and cool water rustles through the apple shoots…stars…moon…earth…

All the place is shadowed with roses and deep sleep slips down through the shimmering leaves. There is a meadow, with horses grazing, alive with spring blossoms and breezes that blow redolent. 

Envoy of spring whose very voice is yearning, nightingale…And here may you, Aphrodite, pour with graceful charm your nectar, mixed with our own festive rites into these golden cups…nightingale…

— Alex Radcliffe

Aeolus, a work for solo flute and electronic tape, was completed in 1979 in fulfillment of a Creative and Performing Arts Award from the University of Maryland and was written for Wilson’s friend and colleague, William Montgomery. The work begins with a solo for flute containing all the essential pitch material for the entire composition. The main body of the work is composed of electronically modified flute sounds derived from fragments of the opening flute solo and other directly synthesized sounds, combined with the live flute. Aeolus contains many contrasts in texture from the single strand of music in the opening to the massive density of the climactic section, occasionally reaching a complexity of forty parts. Meditative and introspectie in character, the work at times reflects a gentle melancholia. Aeolus takes its name from the guardian of the winds of Greek mythology.

— Alex Radcliffe

Soliloquy (2000) is a work which continues Wilson’s exploration of style modulation. The work travels between two stylistic regions. Along the way tonality itself gradually emerges and then evaporates. In Soliloquy the style to which the work moves, the goal and climax of the piece, is that of a composition for unaccompanied violin from the baroque era. Although it uses no Bach quotations, it is an homage to the Sonatas of Partitas of J.S. Bach. From the standpoint of the theatrical aspects of the work, one might consider Soliloquy as a performance by a single musical protagonist alone on the stage. With no other actors present for dialog and interaction, the sole direction that the drama can take is into the tragic core of the character being portrayed. The work was written for Wilson’s friend and colleague, David Salness.

— Alex Radcliffe

Ancient Ways is a work for chamber orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, harp, celesta, piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass). Some of the music for Ancient Ways was originally used in a film of an abstract ballet employing a mixture of live action and animation and was written in fulfillment of the Henry Mancini prize. Subsequently, it was adapted into a concert work. Ther version recorded here was commissioned by the Chamber Symphony of St. Louis for the National Bicentennial. The work begins with an evocation of dawn. At the heart of Ancient Ways is a fugue (Ricercare), based on a sinuous 12-tone melody, which is set, however, in a mysterious tonal context. The work, although abstract in nature, generates its own powerful dramatic narrative.

— Alex Radcliffe