Composer: Liza Wallace
Performers: Lily Press, harp; Simon Linn-Gerstein, cello
Recorded August 15, 2019 in Los Angeles
Strange Interlude is very excited to present Liza Wallace’s sonata Al Otro Lado – a large-scale work for harp and cello that allows both instruments to alternate and exchange roles and explores a variety of Latin American music rhythms and styles, all infused with a healthy dose of Liza’s own compositional voice. In composing the first movement for her sonata, Liza drew from the unique rhythms and harmonies of choro music, a Brazilian style that became popular in the late 19th-early 20th century. As choros are not commonly played on the harp, Liza has spent the last eight years developing techniques for playing these melodies, bass lines, and rhythms.
Note from the Composer:
I began composing Al Otro Lado when news first broke about the family separations taking place at the United States southern border. It was with a breaking heart then that I was compelled to create this cello and harp sonata and composing became an expression of horror, outrage, sorrow, and resolve. My objective became to present a different narrative, one of inclusion and hope, of opening borders, of supporting existing communities and creating new ones.
The first movement took on a storyline which seemed to pull the music out of me, that of an epic battle between the traveler and the wall, the border, the crossing. The harp most often takes on an angelic role but I chose to have it represent the wall, the phantom blocking the path of the hero. The cello then became the traveler striving to climb the wall and reach the other side. I centered this movement around the Brazilian style of music, Choro, because the underlying rhythm of Choro music gives a sense of climbing, perpetually moving forward, once you start playing you have to just go, there is no looking back or stopping. The wall and traveler battle throughout this movement and the wall almost wins when the cello must assume the harp’s opening theme. However, the traveler finds a way to get to the top and the movement ends with the victorious leap over the edge into new territory.
The second movement focuses on three melodies which were the first musical phrases that formed in my mind when I was beginning to imagine this sonata. This movement reflects on the universal experience of parent and child, that sacred bond which is so poignantly expressed through singing a lullaby. The cello and harp share roles, at once depicting the mother singing, the wind blowing through the desert, the shining star guiding the travelers to their destination, the sleeping child safe in his/her parent’s arms, the heartache from leaving home.
The final movement concentrates on the first style of harp playing that I fell in love with as a little girl; Venezuelan/Columbian Joropo music which utilizes the arpa llanera. When I went to Venezuela to study the arpa llanera, I loved to watch how the music and dance fit together and to witness the music bringing everyone together. I loved being part of this musical community, finding connection through the rhythm, the melodies, the dance steps. This third movement strives to create a sense of that joy, that elation of being all together, with friends and family, dancing, playing music, sharing smiles and laughter.
Al Otro Lado is also the name of a bi-national, direct legal services organization with offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, serving indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees, that is deeply engaged in efforts to protect the familial rights of migrants. The not-for-profit organization is also a central player in litigation and other advocacy efforts challenging the systemic human rights violations brought about by governmental policies and practices that infringe upon the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico Border.
For more information: alotrolado.org
Friends of Orange County Detainees is another wonderful organization in Southern California facilitating ways to get involved in providing support to those seeking asylum: www.friendsofocdetainees.org