Hiking Haiku 12/25

Water tapestries:

Leaves beneath a film of ice,

Motion suspended.

Confession Time

Projects like Where Sound and Motion Meet are artistically and intellectually interesting adventures, but they also allow me to indulge my various passions. I love to dance – it doesn’t matter what kind. My current favorite is Argentine tango.

More recently, I have found dance to be a powerful teaching tool – one that helps us understand music and music making. Dance also has important physical ramifications for the musician. By embodying the music, we reinforce our sense of rhythm and heighten our kinesthetic connection to music.

I have fantasized about creating a class at the conservatory called Dance for Musicians. The rough draft includes three types of dance, for specific reasons.

  1. South African boot dance – to help internalize rhythm and overcome inhibitions. Rhythmic control is an essential part of good musicianship. It also plays an important role in relaxation. If we are not ‘on top of’ the rhythm, we grab at things, which causes tension.
  2. Baroque dance – because much standard repertoire is based on baroque dance forms. Feeling the dance within the body provides insights into interpretation. Authentic movements are readily available. Notation for the dance steps was developed in the late 17th century, and there is a large body of choreography.
  3. Argentine tango – an improvised dance that depends upon the same skill set as chamber music playing: communication of intent, feeling/listening and responding to one’s partner, while expressing the music. In addition, it requires a strong relationship with the floor – an important component of relaxed playing.

For boot dance, students create their own variations and teach them to the class. For baroque and tango, students both play and dance.

Next semester, serious conversations with the dance department will finally begin. It will be very exciting to see what they suggest. The best part is that I would get to work with the dance faculty. What a fantastic learning opportunity for me!

Shall We Dance

A few years ago my colleagues in Gramercy Trio and I embarked on an interdisciplinary project with dance, called Where Sound and Motion Meet.

Of all the art forms, music and dance in particular have intertwined histories. With the Sound and Motion project our aim is to explore and experience the special relationship between music and dance… the place where sound and motion fuse and create something new.

We look at different ways in which music and dance can interact, from the mirroring of sound through the movement – where dance is a reflection of music – to the more abstract, where dance enters into a conversation with the music.

We try to get the audience to ‘dance’ with us. At the debut concert in 2010, when asked how the first piece made them feel (a really wild merengue by Stephen Dembsi), an elderly gentleman yelled out “Fantastic!”

At the most recent presentation (Nov. 30, 2012), one audience member expressed surprise at finding that, instead of being a distraction as she had expected, she seemed to hear the music better with the dancers.

A full Sound and Motion presentation is a true ‘community engagement’ event, as it includes a tango lesson for the audience before the concert and a dance party after. But the best part is using the performance to examine our implicit feelings and assumptions about music and the movement it evokes, and make them explicit.

A Song in My Heart

Steven reminds me that this is exactly the kind of gathering that would always spring up around another American master, George Gershwin. We did make our way through two of his marvelous songs that evening.

Last night I went to a concert to hear the premiere of a gorgeous piece by one of my favorite composers, Scott Wheeler. Also in attendance – Tom Lehrer.

It did the heart of this fan good.


All Together Now

A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a party in which the entertainment was provided by those present. There were 2 guitars, a mandolin, a keyboard, a cello and a violin. First there was chamber music. Then, everyone sang rounds. Finally, least a dozen people – perhaps half of the revelers – got up to sing, either alone or in pairs. They offered original creations as well as old and current popular hits.

The great delight that we took in each other still brings a smile to my face.

This sharing generated a joy that went far beyond what is possible in our more passive forms of entertainment. Of course, before technology made everything available at the push of a button, active creation was the first, most important element to any such gathering – whether it was story telling, acting, singing, music making, dancing….

It brought to mind that great man, Charles Ives. Ives disliked and avoided recordings and radio, feeling that these kinds of technology interfered with the direct, experience of live music. A step down the slippery slope…

He would have loved that party.