Gabriela Lena Frank's (b. 1972) compositions incorporate South American mythology, art, poetry, and folk music into western classical forms, reflecting her Peruvian-Jewish heritage. Her song cycle, Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea, received its Carnegie Hall premiere in October 2004. In Spring 2004 her Three Latin American Dances received its premiere and was subsequently recorded for the Dorian label by the Utah Symphony Orchestra with Keith Lockhart conducting.
Frank has been a recipient of the Gerard Schwarz/ASCAP Prize and a Global Connections grant through Meet the Composer, which will send her to Brazil in the spring of 2005. During the 2004/2005 academic year she will be resident at several prestigious universities, including Rice University and the University of Southern California.
Frank is also active as a pianist, currently collaborating with renowned Peruvian ethnomusicologist Raul Romero in recording the piano music of indigenous composers of coastal and Andean Peru.
Born in Berkeley, California, Frank holds degrees from Rice University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. Her composition teachers have included William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, and Samuel Jones.
The composer has provided the following note:
Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2001) mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions, drawing inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by the Peruvian writer Jose María Arguedas, wherein cultures co-exist without the subjugation of one by the other. "Toyos" depicts one of the most recognizable instruments of the Andes, the panpipe. The largest kind is the breathy toyo, which requires great stamina and lungpower and is typically played in parallel fourths. "Tarqueada" is a forceful and fast number suggestive of the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. Tarka ensembles typically play in casually tuned fourths, fifths, and octaves. "Himno de Zampoñas" takes its cue from a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown flatly so that overtones ring out on top. "Chasqui" depicts the chasqui, a legendary runner from the Inca times who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light, so I imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which influence this movement. "Canto de Velorio" portrays another well-known Andean personality, a professional crying woman known as llorona. Hired to render funeral rituals (known as velorio) even sadder, the llorona is accompanied here by a second llorona and an additional chorus of mourning women (coro de mujeres). The chant Dies Irae is quoted as a reflection of the llorona's penchant for blending verses from Quechua Indian folklore and western religious rites. "Coqueteos" is a flirtatious love song sung by men known as romanceros and is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sang in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars, which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (storm of guitars).