Becky Billock | Mother Earth

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Mother Earth

by Becky Billock

Music to inspire better care of our planet. A walk in the forest, a mountain stream, a dog chasing squirrels, a polar bear sauntering across the ice--all these and more are explored in this imaginative solo piano album.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Seule Dans La Foret
Becky Billock
1:51 $0.99
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2. Lyric Pieces, Op. 43, No. 4: Voglein
Becky Billock
1:38 $0.99
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3. Forest Bird
Becky Billock
4:38 $0.99
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4. A Hermit Thrush at Morn, Op. 92, No. 2
Becky Billock
3:58 $0.99
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5. Visions of Dunbar, Op. 25
Becky Billock
14:31 $0.99
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6. Children of Light 5: I. Northern Lights
Becky Billock
1:23 $0.99
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7. Children of Light 5: II. Galapagos Land Iguana
Becky Billock
1:28 $0.99
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8. Children of Light 5: III. Marsupial Mole
Becky Billock
1:57 $0.99
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9. Children of Light 5: IV. Florida Panther
Becky Billock
2:04 $0.99
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10. Children of Light 5: V. Polar Bear
Becky Billock
3:38 $0.99
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11. The Tides of Manaunaun
Becky Billock
3:04 $0.99
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12. Water Dance III: Very Lightly, Like a Harp
Becky Billock
3:44 $0.99
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13. Meditation Prelude No. 4: Cumulus Humilus
Becky Billock
2:56 $0.99
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14. Sounds of a Fjord for Piano and Electronics
Becky Billock
5:06 $0.99
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15. Pole Mountain Suite: I. First Light
Becky Billock
1:18 $0.99
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16. Pole Mountain Suite: II. Old Happy Jack Trail
Becky Billock
1:06 $0.99
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17. Pole Mountain Suite: III. Mountain Stream
Becky Billock
1:50 $0.99
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18. Pole Mountain Suite: IV. Autumn Sky-Fog, Sunbreak, Lastlight
Becky Billock
3:05 $0.99
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19. Mirage
Becky Billock
9:15 $0.99
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20. Rhythms from the North Country
Becky Billock
3:42 $0.99
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21. Children of Light 1: I. Blue Planet
Evelyn Aldrich
2:01 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
The view of earth is absolutely spectacular …it makes you appreciate, actually, how fragile our existence is.
~ Sally Ride, first American woman in space

I love this planet we call home. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many parts of it and everywhere I go, I find more reasons to cherish and preserve its beauty. From the clover necklaces I constructed as a child to the crusty ice at the summit of Mount Adams, from the majestic condor soaring over the Andes to the teensy lady bug on my windowsill, there is so much to take in. For me, time spent in nature is an unparalleled journey of awe and wonder, beauty and humility. It is medicine for the soul and rejuvenation for the body. With every fiber of my being I want to hang onto this precious resource—this life-sustaining, drop-dead gorgeous, spinning ball of matter in the universe. Mother Earth, in short, is a celebration of the rich diversity of life here on earth.

Below are the program notes for the music included on the album. Every one of these pieces has lodged itself firmly in my heart and I hope you will feel the same when you read about and hear them. In addition, the Mother Earth project is a call to action for better stewardship of our planet. Thanks for taking the time to learn about the Mother Earth project.

With gratitude,
Becky Billock

Seule dans la forêt by Germaine Tailleferre
Together with Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric and Louis Drury, Germaine Taileferre was a member of the composer group Les Six. These composers collaborated in Montparnasse in the 1920s and their work communicates a simple purity, juxtaposed against the post Romantic excesses of Richard Wagner, and the blurred harmonic language of the impressionists. In some ways the Les Six composers echo the clean structure of Haydn and Mozart which followed the florid and polyphonic styles of the baroque period.

The miniature gem, Seule dans la forêt (“Walking Alone in the Forest”), sets the stage for the musical exploration of the natural world in Mother Earth. It’s not clear when the piece was written, but it was published in 1952 during a time when Tailleferre was ensconced in writing works of a much larger scope—two ballets, multiple operas, a musical comedy, at least five concerti, and several sonatas, in additional to a laundry list of film and television scores.

Considering that Taillefferre spent most of her life in the bustling urban environments of Paris and New York, she no doubt appreciated moments of solitude in nature. During the early 1920s she spent a good deal of time with Maurice Ravel at his home in Montfort-l'Amaury which is surrounded by beautiful forested areas. Perhaps her inspiration came from those excursions.

Against her father’s wishes, Tailleferre secretly entered the Paris Conservatory to study composition, winning first prizes in solfege, counterpoint, and fugue. To further establish her independence, and distance herself from her unsupportive father, she also changed her last name to Tailleferre (it had been Taillefesse before). For some added perspective, it is worthy to note that her father had forced her to cut off an engagement with a man she loved in order for her to marry a young suitor named Arthur Taillefesse—ostensibly for the simple reason that he had the same surname! The marriage was short-lived, as were several later marriages.



Vöglein, Op. 43, No. 4 by Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg claimed nature as his primary muse in composition. Tired of the chaos of city life, he moved out of the bustling port city of Bergen, Norway and built his dream home in the countryside about 12 miles away from the metropolis. From his composition hut, built just below the house, he could look out over the Fjord and gain inspiration from the spectacular view. He and his wife are buried only a few steps away from the still-standing composition hut, where the peaceful scenery continues to inspire future generations. Vöglein (“Little Bird”) is among the 66 short works for solo piano that make up Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, published in 10 volumes between 1867 and 1901. The pieces describe a wide array of scenes and imagery and draw extensively on Nordic folk music.


Forest Bird by Katherine Hoover
Katherine Hoover was a NYC-based American composer who is perhaps best known for compositions written for her own instrument, the flute. No doubt in part due to her interest in extended techniques on the flute, she found ways to express musical ideas through unconventional sounds and harmonies.

Forest Bird evokes not a stylized and romanticized version of a bird such as we hear in Edvard Grieg’s Voglein, but rather a more realist approach with attempts to express the actual sounds of a forest replete with a variety of creatures and rustling foliage.

A Hermit Thrush at Morn by Amy Beach
Amy Marcy (Cheney) Beach (1867—1944) wrote: “How inevitable it was that music should be my life’s work. Both in composition and piano playing, there seemed to be such a strong attraction that no other life than that of a musician could ever have been possible for me.” Beach’s compositions for piano are products of those powerful dual attractions.

A child prodigy, at age sixteen she made her debut in Boston as a concert pianist: within two years she was playing solo with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Beach soon had an equally stunning breakthrough as a composer with the premiere of her monumental Mass in E-flat, Op. 5 for vocal solists, chorus, and orchestra. This led to her acceptance as a member of the Second New England School of composers. She found further support for her concert career and her compositions from major performing organizations—not only the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but also the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, and the Kneisel Quartet, this last consisting of first-desk men from the Boston Symphony. During her lifetime she created over 300 compositions, almost all published, and performed from the United States to Australia. Indeed, Amy Beach became the most frequently performed American composer of her generation. The piano works in this collection cover a period from 1892 to 1922, and, stylistically, from the late Romantic to the Expressionist.

A Hermit Thrush at Morn (1922) is introduced by John Clare’s short poem, “I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush/Sing hymns of rapture, while I drank the sound with joy.” Beach too heard the song of a thrush, in 1921 at the MacDowell Colony in Petersborough, New Hampshire, and wrote it down note for note. The bird’s song is heard in the three A sections of the piece. Alternating B sections develop motives from the bird’s song while suggesting its high-soaring flight.

Notes by Adrienne Fried Block, New York, Winter 2000. Adrienne Block is the author of the Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Work of an American Composer, 1867—1944 (Oxford, 1998).


Visions of Dunbar, Op. 25 by Robert Schultz
Completed in 1992, Visions of Dunbar is unusual among many of Schultz’s other compositions, in that its origin was extra-musical. Dunbar is the name of a Pennsylvania trout stream where Schultz and his family spent many hours fishing while he was growing up. As Schultz describes it: "The water is crystal clear and cold. The pines, mountain laurel, and ferns that overflow the banks are wonderfully green and lush. The sounds of the stream and the woods are quite amazing--so peaceful and tranquil that one can get lost in it, just watching and listening. The water in the springtime is fast in most places, swollen by the melting snow. From May to September the water slows and becomes quieter but is no less beautiful."

From the time Schultz moved to Miami in 1978, he did not return to fish in the Dunbar until 1992. He began to work on Visions of Dunbar soon after that. While the piece unfolds in a single movement, it is made up of distinct, contrasting sections that flow directly from one into the next. Schultz engages in tone-painting in some of the episodes, using rapid, swirling figurations to evoke the motion of the water; some of the episodes are more lyrical and meditative. While a brief bit of a theme from the beginning of the piece returns at the end, there otherwise are no overt musical connections among the sections. "This is the way the stream moves--nothing returns, it just continues. You pause to fish in each section, drinking in the scene and sounds that are within your immediate fishing boundaries. You become immersed in the theme, rhythm, tempo and harmony of the section until the fly has drifted over every square foot of water that might hold a trout, or until the fish has been landed or lost. Very quietly, you move a little way up or downstream and begin again."

Robert Schultz, American composer, arranger and editor, has achieved international fame during his career in the music publishing industry. The Robert Schultz Piano Library, established in 1980, has included more than 500 publications of classical works, popular arrangements, and Schultz’s original compositions in editions for pianists at every level from beginner to concert artist. In addition to this extensive library of published piano works, Schultz’s output includes original orchestral works, choral and vocal works, chamber music and works for solo instruments.

The premiere of Visions of Dunbar and the definitive recording of the work were produced by American pianist Tina Faigen on her 2006 album of Schultz’s original compositions and transcriptions. Visions of Dunbar doubles as the piece’s title, as well as the title of the Schultz/Faigen album which can be found everywhere music is sold.


Children of Light
The 20th century gave birth to a remarkable revolution in science and technology. But it was also a period of environmental destruction. The beauty of nature and its resources, that took millions of years to develop, have been damaged and depleted in just a few decades. Many wild animals have become extinct because their living environment has been destroyed, or because they have been hunted. The theme of Children of Light is wild animals in danger, and environmental problems, such as deforestation, sea pollution, ozone depletion, global warming and so on.

Children of Light is comprised of five sections as follows—
Blue Planet—Animals living in the sea. Green Paradise—Animals living in the African jungle and savannah. Prisms in the Forest—Animals living in Asian forests and swamps. Air—Birds. Northern Lights—Animals living in the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, and the USA. (The final section, Northern Lights, is the one featured here in the Mother Earth program.) The twenty animals named in the full collection were selected from the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. It is deeply painful for me to look at this enormous list of threatened animals. Children of Light was composed in 1998-99 as a homage to endangered animals and to the planet Earth, and also as a message to children of the future, entrusting them with the protection of the natural environment.

Notes by Karen Tanaka. Karen Tanaka is an exceptionally versatile composer and pianist. Her works have been performed by distinguished orchestras and ensembles worldwide. Karen Tanaka lives in Los Angeles and teaches composition at California Institute of the Arts.


The Tides of Manaunaun by Henry Cowell
“Henry Cowell’s music covers a wider range in both expression and technique than that of any other living composer.” So wrote composer-critic Virgil Thomson. To some, Cowell is a radical experimenter, to others, a tuneful lyricist; to some he is primarily a symphonist—over a dozen symphonies to his credit—and again to still others, an orientalist, a writer of Irish reels and ballads, or a composer of Hymns and Fuguing Tunes which re-state an old American musical tradition.

Born in San Francisco, March 11, 1897, Henry Cowell spent his childhood in an area in which the Celtic and American folksongs of his parents and the music of Asian playmates became equally natural to him. In 1912 he gave the first public performance of his piano compositions, using broad chords of massed seconds, which he called tone clusters. Programmed on this 1912 recital was The Tides of Manaunaun, one of his earliest piano compositions.

The story of Manaunaun, according to John Varian: “Manaunaun was the god of motion, and long before the creation, he sent forth tremendous tides, which swept to and fro through the universe, and rhythmically moved the particles and materials of which the gods were later to make the suns and worlds.”
Notes by Oliver Daniel



Water Dance III by Karen Tanaka
Water Dance is a three-movement piece, the third of which is featured on the Mother Earth program. The set was commissioned in 2008 and premiered by Signe Bakke in Bergen, Norway in 2011.

The title, Water Dance, suggests cool, transparent water flowing freely. The work is a joyful dance with pleasant feelings of a pulse, where the water occasionally whispers to us through its shimmering play with light. The music presents a rich, flickering and changing texture: just as the water flows constantly and never the same phase.

Notes by Karen Tanaka. Karen Tanaka is an exceptionally versatile composer and pianist. Her works have been performed by distinguished orchestras and ensembles worldwide. Karen Tanaka lives in Los Angeles and teaches composition at California Institute of the Arts.


Meditation Prelude #4: Cumulus Humilus by Patrick Burke
Meditation Prelude 4: Cumulus Humilus is one of twelve piano preludes meant to facilitate contemplation, and perhaps to serve as an actual prelude to meditation. Cumulus humilis are “fair weather clouds.” As I was watching them float by one day, I was inspired to make this music, thinking about the complex and wondrous cycle of water moving from the earth to the sky and back.
You can find more of these preludes at: patreon.com/patrickburke.

Notes by Patrick Burke. Patrick is a composer and educator originally from Pittsburgh, now living in Albany, NY. He cofounded NOW Ensemble, cowrote Rounder Songs with his wife, Emily Pinkerton (recorded and released on New Amsterdam Records), and composed many pieces for orchestra (e.g., Pittsburgh Symphony) and chamber groups (e.g., eighth blackbird). He continues to compose and focus on community-building in Albany.

Patrick is donating 100% of his royalties from Becky Billock’s upcoming album to The Indigenous Environmental Network. (http://www.ienearth.org)


Sounds of a Fjord by Kaja Bjørntvedt
A fjord is a fantastic story of water, with many chapters going back all the way to the ice ages. The fjords were carved by a massive sheet of ice up to three kilometers thick that covered the land. Over time, the glaciers expanded and contracted as water accumulated or melted. These changes created movement that scoured the land beneath the ice mass. As the glacier melted, the mass of ice crushed rock and earth, generating a deep U-shaped valley called a fjord.

Living by, and having grown up next to a fjord, I have always had the sea close to heart. The fjord has a vast complexity of sounds, sounds that I like to imagine reflect the creating of the fjord throughout the ages: deep and pulsating, sometimes wild, sometimes calm. Sometimes like a stream where the water meets the land, yet deep and dark the further out you are. Never still, always moving. Reminiscence of waves that have formed far out at sea. Reminiscence of ice melting and land crumbling. The wind travelling in a passage between the mountains on either side, creating a flute-like sound.

Kaja Bjorntvedt (born 1981) is a Norwegian composer with international engagements. She creates electro-acoustic soundscapes for performances within contemporary dance, theatre, art-installations and films, as well as writing acoustic music for various ensembles. She also loves mixing live instruments with electroacoustic music. In her work, she explores the connection between sounds, movements and visuals, whilst searching for different ways of presenting music to the audience. Her music is published by Musikk-Husets Forlag and Tetractys Publishing, with music included in the Trinity Guildhall Graded Exams Syllabus.



Pole Mountain Suite by Bonnie McLarty
Pole Mountain Suite was inspired by my frequent excursions into the National Forest east of Laramie, Wyoming. First Light recalls the quality of the first down rays filtering through the changing aspen leaves, magical and elusive. Old Happy Jack Road is my dogs’ favorite trail. It winds along a waterway filled with ducks and through the trees, whose many resident squirrels scold and tease (chasing these “squeakers” is a favorite canine activity). Mountain Stream depicts the dual qualities of serenity and alien wildness of the mountain waterways. Autumn Sky again features the main character of this suite—the light—as it changes from cold and foggy to bright sun and then fades to dusk.

Notes by Bonnie McLarty. Bonnie McLarty (b. 1983) is a composer, arranger, pianist, and teacher. She holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Wyoming, where she studied piano with Theresa Bogard and composition with Anne Guzzo. She is currently pursuing a DMA in Composition at the University of Kansas, where she studies with Forrest Pierce. Ms. McLarty endeavors to create music that both is intelligent and emotionally compelling. Notable influences include Shostakovich, Copland, ethnic traditions from around the world, and the innovative synthesis of classical, traditional, and popular idioms by performer-composers such as Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, and Chris Thile. She is particularly inspired by the strength of spirit in the compositions of fellow women composers, from Fanny Mendelssohn to Jennifer Higdon and Gabriela Lena Frank.

Mirage by Elisenda Fábregas
The subtitle of Mirage comes from a fragment of one of Elisenda Fábregas’ own poems, setting the mood for the shimmering beginning of the piece. “…I felt myself floating in a vast and magic space among tingling and shining stars…” The poem, in this context of the Mother Earth program, conjures up imagery of our planet as seen in its entirety from space. As Sally Ride noted after her first space mission, “The view of earth is absolutely spectacular… it makes you appreciate, actually, how fragile our existence is.”

Mirage was commissioned for the San Antonio International Piano Competition in 1997. The premiere took place at the competition, performed by Silver Medalist Roger Wright. The New York premiere subsequently took place in 1998 and was performed by the competition’s Gold Medalist Mi-Jung Im. The San Antonio Express News wrote “…the piece makes equal demands on a pianist’s pyrotechnics, lyricism and sense of form…”

Spanish-American composer Elisenda Fábregas has been praised for writing with an “imaginatively colored… idiom” (The New York Times) and for possessing an “individuality [which] shows through in yearning dissonances, quirky juxtapositions of thematic material and a pervasive sensuality not unlike that of her native Barcelona” (San Antonio Express News). Fabregas earned a doctor of musical arts degree from the Barcelona Conservatory in 1978. She subsequently came to the United States on a Fulbright grant to study piano at The Juilliard School with Beveridge Webster, Joseff Raieff and Samuel Sanders, and received a bachelors and masters degree in 1983. She later earned a doctorate in music from Columbia University Teachers College in 1992. In addition to performing in major concert venues throughout the world, her compositions have likewise been commissioned and performed by notable soloists and ensembles from multiple continents and have received accolades from top music publications.

Rhythms from the North Country by Gwyneth Walker
Rhythms from the North Country for solo piano is structured by a clear and icily-stark harmonic framework. Against this simple background, various performance possibilities are explored -- strumming of strings, tapping of the lid and a finger tremolo on the side of the piano. The piece is athletic, unusual, and playful as it uses the piano lid, sides, and strings as percussion instruments of their own. The "north country" referred to in the title is the state of Vermont, the composer's home for the past many years.

Notes by Gwyneth Walker and Carson Cooman. Widely performed throughout the country, the music of American composer Gwyneth Walker is beloved by performers and audiences alike for its energy, beauty, reverence, drama, and humor. Dr. Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She holds B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in Music Composition. A former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer. For nearly 30 years, she lived on a dairy farm in Braintree, Vermont. She now divides her time between her childhood hometown of New Canaan, Connecticut and the musical community of Randolph, Vermont.

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