NewMusicBox asks: Can music for dance stand alone? Behzad Ranjbaran



Dance Music or Music for Dance?

It is an exciting opportunity when a composer is commissioned to write for dance since dancers are some of the most open-minded champions of new music. Several years ago, this opportunity was awarded to me when I was commissioned by Nashville Ballet and Meet the Composer to compose music for a story ballet in collaboration with choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning. Nashville Ballet and the Nashville Symphony premiered the new ballet, The Blood of Seyavash, which was inspired by an ancient Persian legend in September 1994.

In the process of conceiving the work, I contemplated whether to write the music specifically for the ballet or to compose program music that is suitable both for a story ballet and the concert stage. As the episodic and sectional nature of many story ballets did not appeal to me, I settled on an organic and cyclical organization for the music. Subsequently, the ballet was composed for an epilogue and seven scenes that could be performed in two versions: first, with pauses to accommodate for scene changes in the ballet, and a second, a concert version that could be performed continuously without pause.




From Ranjbaran’s ballet The Blood of Seyavash


As a result of the success of the ballet, the idea of an orchestral trilogy based on Persian legends was born. Of course, there are many successful works, which are written for dance, and the music is most satisfying when it is accompanied by dance. However, I am delighted that by choosing to write concert program music, I was able to include the music of the ballet in my Persian Trilogy of orchestral works. These three works have become the fulfillment of my life-long desire to create a body of orchestral works that are inspired by the Persian legends that have fascinated me since childhood.