NewMusicBox asks: Can music for dance stand alone? Margaret Fairlie-Kennedy
For me, an avid dance lover, writing music for dance should be an in-depth collaboration with the choreographer. In the mutually achieved entity neither dance nor music is subservient; the music, however, should be able to stand alone. Initially, I must know the choreographer’s musical experience, relationship to sound with movement, communication goals, and the predominant context of the dance. A structured working procedure can then be discussed and established.
Peggy possessed an intense musical awareness. Her project, Waiting and Listening, was inspired by James Agee‘s text describing night sounds in a forest. Responding to her concept of translating the text to dance, including context, structure, duration, and pacing, I heard sounds emerging for woodwinds, strings, percussion. Peggy’s movement concerns urged fluidity, merging tones and textures, and extended lines toward a climactic point; she did not want pulse or constricting rhythms. Her structure was ‘layered,’ combining groups in different tempos, contrasting moods, shadowy flitting figures, sudden bursts of energy; I layered live and synthesized sound. Nature sounds were blended on tape with a synthesized background through which loon wails and owl calls emerged at intervals. Tape and live sound were first used separately, then interwoven, ending with lone loon wails.
Hear a RealAudio sample from the tape part of Waiting and Listening (Night Calls)