CriticalDance Forum

Music for dance
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Oct 18, 2000 1:57 am ]
Post subject:  Music for dance

An interesting article in which Judith Mackrell tackles the question of composing for dance. She interviews Michael Nyman and Orlando Gough on this theme. I spoke to a dance composer the other day who was interested to explore this aspect of the production process, so I think that this is the right place for such a discussion. <P> <A HREF="Http://,4273,4078015,00.html" TARGET=_blank>Http://<BR>/Article/0,4273,4078015,00.html</A> <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited October 18, 2000).]

Author:  Azlan [ Wed Oct 18, 2000 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

This is an interesting topic. I've asked this question of choreographers, "How do you work with composers?" to which I've received very different answers. I suppose it depends on the individual styles of the choreographers and the composers.<P>It is interesting to read Michael Nyman's quotes in the above article in which he describes his own understanding of dance. It shows how composers can affect choreography (laying out the beats, for example) as well as how sometimes their intentions can be completely ignored by the choreographer.<P>As for the music itself, I sometimes find music composed for dance, although essential to the dance work it is created for, to be lacking in cohesion and complexity to stand on its own (I also find music for the ballet classics unbearable without the dancing -- however, Michael Tilson Thomas' interpretation of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" is quite remarkable and refreshing).<P>I saw two performances within the last month or so, in which commissioned scores were used. In one, the music was perfect for the contemporary ballet work. However, when listened to by itself, it seemed to sound more like a sampling of different sounds borrowed from other works, with special effects thrown in to add depth to the dance but not necessarily to the music, making the composition sound amateurish.<P>OTOH, the music composed for the other performance was complex and richly textured, something you could listen to on its own. The fact that it was mostly based on percussive instruments played by dancers on stage makes it even more remarkable. Perhaps also this is the reason why this particular composition worked very well for the dance while at the same time maintaining true to its original idiom. This music was the work of a mature composer.<P>How many brilliant composers for dance are there like these today? Nyman and Orlando Gough come to mind but even they don't touch the genius of Prokofiev or Stravinsky.

Author:  Cronos [ Sun Oct 22, 2000 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

but azlan the music composed for the dance must be heard in connection to the dance. the responsibility of a good composer for dance must put the dance ahead of the music

Author:  Basheva [ Mon Oct 23, 2000 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

The other side of the coin is interesting too - it what order does the choreographer compose? For me - and I think most people who have "made" dances, the music comes first - I hear a piece I like - and then compose the dance. But, I have seen it done the other way around. <P>I was once in a dance that was choreographed and THEN the music was found. As we were rehearsing we were told that the music we were using was NOT the music we would perform to. The choreographer told us that the music had not as yet been selected. I held my breath about that one. In the end it did work out. But, I could never work that way. It is the music that turns me on both when I am choreographing and when I am dancing.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Oct 26, 2000 2:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Jenny Gilbert interviews Orlando Gough and tells us that: <P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>It's all starting to come right....with his scores for 'The Tempest' and a leading dance company....<P>Contemporary dance, however, is a different animal. One of the attractions for Gough is that choreographers generally want to spend a lot of time talking about what they want, how it's going, where it's going, and what it should be called. "They're wanting you to inspire them, of course, but I try to drag a bit back and get them to inspire me. I'm still a bit alarmed about starting the ball rolling. It's an odd process, because you know the thing is going to end up as a kind of duet between dance and music, but you have to produce one part before the other exists, remembering to leave cracks and voids for the dance to shine through."<HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank><B>now read on</B></A> <P>I'm very keen to hear more about this process of choreographers working with composers.<P><BR>[Edited by Azlan to correct UBB code]<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited October 26, 2000).]

Author:  nigelmcbain [ Wed Nov 08, 2000 5:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

I think, having worked on a small sclae ballet, that the composer needs the choreographer to be quite clear about what he or she wants to do. The number of bars and the timing of music needs attention, sure, but I think the libretto/scenario-stage directions and style of the dance needs to be taken into account when the music is being written specifically for the performance. Also the composer should have some idea of the way the dancers will be moving, what sorts of jumps and so on, to help him or her compose the music which both accompanies and inspires the dancers in their movement. This is why the choregrapher needs to be very clear and the composer needs to listen and observe closely the way the scenes are put together. Cheers Azlan and crowd, it is an interesting discussion and a valuable area. We should always be creating new works for the ballet, if it is to remain a contemporary art form.<P>Nigel McBain.

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Nov 08, 2000 6:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Elizabeth Sawyer. I worked with her at Purchase College.<BR>

Author:  Priscilla [ Fri Nov 10, 2000 1:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

I've really enjoyed working with musicians in dance - both in jazz dance and in modern though most of the original compositions have been part of the modern dance pieces. <P>One thing I found important - <P>finding a common language - can range from recognizing the musicians are counting in fours and all the dancers are counting in eights - extends to informing players what the "Up-Down" or "Ragdoll" section is - includes musicians letting choreographers and dancers know what some things mean, like "head of the tune" <P>Also - try not to be totally separate - "these are the music people" and "these are the dance people" - this may not suit every creative situation, but in my experience there are things I know about music and what I want for music, but I recognize it's not my specialty. The give-and-take of working with responsive, interesting musicians is very rewarding. I carry stuff for them sometimes and try not to break anything. Image<P>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Nov 10, 2000 2:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

The most extraordinary interaction I saw between a dancer and muscians was Akram Khan and an Indian music ensemble. They were performing Kathak style dance and Khan would sing a rhythm before each new section. Then both he and the musicians would improvise to that rhythm. The respect that they had for eachother was a joy to behold and the synthesis of these dynamic art forms and fabulous exponents made for a magical experience.<P>The UK dancer Sheron Wrey does improvised jazz/tap dance to improvised jazz and that's also rather exciting.

Author:  Basheva [ Fri Nov 10, 2000 6:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Speaking of interaction betwixt musician, improvization and dance is very much a part of Flamenco.<P> There is a wonderful flamenco cafe here in San Diego - and I love to watch and listen. First the guitarist starts off as the dancer listens for a moment and then they literally "sense" one another's moood and procede upon a road together discovering twists and turns - painting a scape for the audience - always new and never known before. The audience joins the travels and it is a real symbiosis. Like the Yellow Brick Road of Flamenco - a pas de trois - musician, dancer, audience.

Author:  Maggie [ Fri Nov 10, 2000 7:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Basheva, they do sense each other's mood. To keep this simple, the mood is also established by the type of dance that is done, ie; soleares, bulerias, alegrias, etc. Then, the mood is further enhanced in the moment of performance. The dancer also cues the guitarist with "calls." Simply put, it can be a specific action with the feet, for example. The dancer and musician cue each other throughout the dance. To sum up, the music indicates the mood, and contains certain changes within it that can cue the dancer, including when it is a song. The dancer and guitarist can cue each other throughout with known dance/musical cues.<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited November 10, 2000).]

Author:  Basheva [ Fri Nov 10, 2000 6:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Along with a good plate of paella - and it can't be beat, Maggie............

Author:  Maggie [ Sat Nov 11, 2000 6:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Basheva, I LOVE paella! Great way to feed a crowd. I have seen paella pans nearly 4 feet across!

Author:  Basheva [ Sat Nov 11, 2000 7:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

MAGGIE !! Come to San Diego - we will go to Cafe Seville - paella - flamenco - and then Mexican food - the best in the country (all the great Mexican cooks are here in San Diego) - Bazaar Del Mundo - my favorite dress shop - the Gas Lamp District .....<P>Your sculptures are exquisite - I can only dream of doing something like that .......

Author:  Azlan [ Sat Nov 11, 2000 7:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Music for dance

Somehow trying to bring all these straying topics together, did any of you ever go to a Neville Brothers concert? The talented brothers play <B>music</B> and <B>feed</B> home-cooked gumbo to their fans, who <B>dance</B> all night because they are all so happy.

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