NewMusicBox asks: Can music for dance stand alone? Paul Dresher



Photo courtesy Paul Dresher

I have three different approaches in writing for dance: 1) works that are primarily recorded; 2) works to be performed by my own electro-acoustic ensemble; and 3) acoustic chamber works for other ensembles. In all cases I feel a great freedom to use composition for dance as a testing ground for developing new ideas and typically, some of ideas first developed in the dance form will beg for further exploration and will end up in works (recorded or performed) that don’t require the dance in any way. In fact, this commerce between performance media has gone both ways. In 1984 a work composed for the San Francisco Symphony, re:act:ion, had the main element of one section developed in a vastly different (but still readily recognizable) fashion for a small electro-acoustic group in Shelf Life (1987) for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. More typical would be the circumstances that yielded Double Ikat (1990), a work for the Abel/Steinberg/Winant trio. This score began as the work Loose The Thread by choreographer Brenda Way and ODC San Francisco. The form of this 30-minute collaboration was largely determined by the choreography. After the dance work was completed, I took the most promising material and recomposed it into Double Ikat, a two-movement, 23-minute work. In the process, a number of sections were thrown away and the work was completely reformed with new transitions and with much more development within each section.

Watch a video clip from The Gates with music by Paul Dresher