Posted in Assignment 1

Assignment 1 – Wild Dance

Note: Before you take a look at my example, you can read my research about ballet. Beside that, I wrote a post about the congas, while for other instruments, you can take a look at my older research for projects 1, 2 and 3. 


Brief

Continuing on from project 4, where I set some groundwork for the structure of the piece, some things changed, while other remained. Generally, I kept the rondo form, but it differs a bit from my initial plan. I also decided to keep the Wild Dance as the title for the whole piece.

The score is rather long to include, so you can download it here.

You can listen to the piece below:

Choice of instruments

As for the instruments, it will be evident that throughout the piece, they actually represent different characters, just like in my project examples, such as Zortziko Fantasia, the Chinese New Year duet and the Midnight Carousel Waltz. Note that I’ve added some changes along the way of completing the course. After the feedback on assignment 4, it was suggested that I could include the list of instruments for easier tracking. I thought I could include it here as well. Another change I’ve added is to hide the instruments when they are not needed, which I’ve also learned along the way.

I’ve decided to keep the four instruments – snare drum, bass drum, suspended cymbals and tambourine, as the instruments representing the demons. Since they are mostly reoccurring, I’ve grouped them separately in the lower position. Above are the instruments that appear and then disappear, depending on the scene and they portray the other two characters. For the girl I’ve chosen the triangle, congas and woodblocks – you will see their meaning in the outline, while for Mephistopheles I used the clash cymbals.

Notation

The given material already showed me to include the text for easier understanding of the story and perhaps to cue the dancers. This is, of course, something standard for the form of ballet. Again, I’ve made some changes since the first version of my piece. Beside those I’ve mentioned regarding the instruments, I’ve also made sure to include my name and to double check the way I notated the rests – just as the feedback mentioned. Another thing my tutor mentioned is that codetta doesn’t have to be separated – I’ve corrected this as well.

Choice of tempo and time signatures

Contributing to the instruments, in describing the characters, are tempo and time signatures. While the demons are characterized by the instability and rapid changes in time signatures, the girl is portrayed with mostly stable 3/4, until the demons don’t capture her. Likewise, Mephistopheles is characterized by 5/4 and you’ll see that demons can’t mimic, and that they modify this time signature in the march.

Structure and description of the Wild Dance

The final outline of the piece is A A1 B A2 C A3 + Codetta.

I’ve imagined the whole piece taking place in a gloomy enchanted forest. Differing from my initial plan, right after Section A (bars 1-14), I’ve added its first variation Section A1 (15-33). It is similar to A, but by changing the arrangement of the instruments, and reversing their timbre and their functions, it comes with a sort of effect of the dominant region. I’ve done this in a few of my other examples, especially in my Sonata Allegro, where I wanted to have an illusion of contrasting tonal plans of the exposition and its recapitulation. As I’ve given this effect of the dominant tonal region, I think I’ve also created a variation where it seems like more demons are entering the scene. Hence, I wrote: “Enters another group of demons”. There is a little bit of variation towards the end and an abrupt closure – as if demons have scattered, making place for another instrument, triangle, introducing and representing a new character – a girl wondering through the forest.

Section B (bars 34-50) is, just as I planned, a contrasting section, especially in its first Subsection a (bars 34-41), which is of much slower tempo comparing to A – with steady ¾ measure. I also added a bit of melodic element by using bongo to represent the girl’s careless and unsuspecting walk, and perhaps, her naiveness. The subsection a is made of two similar musical sentences, with the difference being that in the second, the other instruments, representing the demons starting to follow the girl, join in, one by one. This gradation of adding in instruments reaches the Subsection b (bars 42-50), where the change of meter introduces more drama. Here, the demons slowly hunt the girl, who becomes alert, but a bit too late. I should mention that the subsections aren’t something that I had in mind at first, but something achieved along the way.

It all culminates into Section A2 (bars 51-67). It begins with a short transition, the same as the introduction, only with added instruments. As the girl is captured, scared and helpless, the demons once again begin their usual dance, here in a celebratory way. Near the end, we hear a new character entering, represented by the clash cymbals, introducing a new section.

Section C (bars 68-84), starts with the entrance of a demon by far more powerful than the previous – the King of the Underworld, Mephistopheles. He starts his march, which has majestic character to it. It is perhaps odd for a march to be in 5/4 measure, but I actually think it suits him, and the mystery he brings. The demons are almost silent, with no choice but to march shyly with a bit of a change in rhythm from 5/4 to 4/4, maybe demonstrating their unwillingness to do so. In the second part of C, starting on bar 75, the girl also starts the march, altering the 5/4 to her dance-like triple time – 3/2, in a lyrical way, which is why I stripped the bongos away. Instead, I added the two woodblocks, in the distance of a major third that show how she’s begging for help. The woodblocks give a sad, but also grateful feeling, which lead into her release.

This section can also be understood as Mephisto questioning the other demons of why they captured the girl, and also the girl responding and telling her side of the story. Either way, Mephisto releases the her. The triangle’s sixteenth notes from bar 81, imitate her rushed steps, as she escapes and runs away. Some of these acoustic effects is something that I definitely didn’t have in mind while making the structure for the piece – not until I started experimenting en route. After a short pause, in the final two bars, the first part of the C section is repeated, and Mephisto marches briefly and disappears.

As he leaves, Section A3 (bars 85-108) begins. This time it doesn’t start with demons’ confident introduction, but with one of the demons shyly pretending to march in Lento, bar 85-86 – in case Mephistopheles is still there. As it is finally clear they are alone, the wild dance starts again. This time – it sounds like they are disturbed, and annoyed by what happened. Especially the rhythm of the 7/8 starting from bar 99, sounds very military-like, as if they are plotting a revenge and with that, the section closes off with the usual scattering, only this time as if in anger.

The whole scene ends with a Codetta (bars 109-114). In the codetta, we have a surprise. In distance, behind a tree, we hear the triangle and bongos in ¾ representing the girl, as in the subsection a of section B. But soon the woodblocks are added and the girl reveals herself to be the mastermind – a witch that plotted the future war. The whole scene ends with the triangle sixteenth notes, the ones heard before from bar 81 of C part. However, the context is changed, and now we hear these not as steps of girl’s relief after escaping the darkness, but as the evil laughter of a witch. The overall context of the instruments also change – the congas no longer represent her naïve and innocent nature. Now they represent her cunning. Conversely, the woodblocks are no longer heard as begging, but acting. We question what we’ve heard before.

I hope you liked this piece! You can look at my reflections regarding composing this piece here. In the same category, you can also find my general reflections about the first part of the course, and also the reflection I wrote regarding my tutor’s feedback on this assignment.

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