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sandik

most popular composer for dance

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Mulling this over after responding to another comment (about upcoming work by Millepied to Phillip Glass) I'm wondering about who might be the most often used composers in dance.  Some composers seem to come into play over and over again -- their works are dansant (one of my favorite French words).  Without asking anyone to do a statistical analysis, who are the most frequently-used composers in dance?  Why do you think they're so popular?  And has that popularity waxed or waned over time?

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Historically? And only concerning ballet? For all-round popularity (with critics, dancers and audiences alike) I would have to say Tchaikovsky (or Tschaikovsky as Mr. B. liked to see it spelled). Balanchine put Stravinsky scores to great use, but Stravinsky's music remains controversial enough that I wouldn't say he was entirely "popular" with everyone. Other favorites like Bach and Chopin I have to think will fall out of favor with the younger generations coming along. Classical music is in for some tough times ahead.

 

It's probably easier to talk about particular scores that are much used and interpreted.

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It would be interesting to know what composers, in the last 50 years or so, have been receiving the most commissions for dance works. But I'm not sure if there is any easy way to find that information out.

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My somewhat subjective list would include (not in any order):

 

Satie – used by Massine/Picasso, Ashton, Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Rene Clair (Entr'Acte) and, even once in the twenties, by Balanchine (Jack in the Box).

 

Cage – Cunningham used him many times. But also his chance operations ideas influenced choreographers like Trisha Brown and filter down through other composers.

 

Stravinsky – Rite of Spring alone has been choreographed, what, 100? times. Justin Peck used Pulcinella as a score for his most recent ballet.

 

Chopin – Fokine, Robbins, Ashton.

 

Bach – Balanchine, Paul Taylor (several times), Trisha Brown.

 

Interesting how Doug Varone makes almost throwaway use of Chopin and Bach at Jacob's Pillow:

 

https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/doug-varone/nocturne-e-minor-opus-72-1/

 

https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/doug-varone/the-bench-quartet/

 

Why: Stravinsky for complex and solid percussive lines. The others for the structure and portals through which to enter and leave the music(?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 10/6/2017 at 12:38 AM, pherank said:

Historically? And only concerning ballet? For all-round popularity (with critics, dancers and audiences alike) I would have to say Tchaikovsky (or Tschaikovsky as Mr. B. liked to see it spelled).

 

It's probably easier to talk about particular scores that are much used and interpreted.

 

On first consideration, I would say Tchaikovsky absolutely, but I wonder how much my sense of that ubiquity comes from seeing multiple productions of a limited number of ballets.  Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty are certainly responsible for Tchai being associated with classical ballet (and for the composer's popularity with future generations of choreographers) but Petipa and his ancestors used a much wider variety of composers, some of them not particularly distinguished as far as contemporary music critics are concerned.

 

And yes, let's talk about multiple uses of the same score -- I think that deserves a thread all its own.

 

On 10/6/2017 at 6:52 AM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

If you'd asked me five years ago, I would have said Arvo Pärt . I'm only half kidding. 

 

And I'm not kidding at all -- there was a big business in Part for quite a while.  It seems to have calmed down now, but yes -- Fratres...

 

13 hours ago, pherank said:

It would be interesting to know what composers, in the last 50 years or so, have been receiving the most commissions for dance works. But I'm not sure if there is any easy way to find that information out.

 

I think we could manage a little research here.  Let me see what I can figure out.

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44 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

My somewhat subjective list would include (not in any order):

 

Satie – used by Massine/Picasso, Ashton, Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Rene Clair (Entr'Acte) and, even once in the twenties, by Balanchine (Jack in the Box).

 

Cage – Cunningham used him many times. But also his chance operations ideas influenced choreographers like Trisha Brown and filter down through other composers.

 

Stravinsky – Rite of Spring alone has been choreographed, what, 100? times. Justin Peck used Pulcinella as a score for his most recent ballet.

 

Chopin – Fokine, Robbins, Ashton.

 

Bach – Balanchine, Paul Taylor (several times), Trisha Brown.

 

Interesting how Doug Varone makes almost throwaway use of Chopin and Bach at Jacob's Pillow:

 

https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/doug-varone/nocturne-e-minor-opus-72-1/

 

https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/doug-varone/the-bench-quartet/

 

Why: Stravinsky for complex and solid percussive lines. The others for the structure and portals through which to enter and leave the music(?).

 

Bach was a huge favorite of the early moderns as well -- Louis Horst really wanted them to work with pre-classical music and Bach was easy to find at the time.

 

I'm fascinated by the way that composers go in and out of fashion -- everyone was using Scott Joplin in the 1970s, and now he's practically unknown.

 

Off the top of my head I'd add Aaron Copland here, and Leonard Bernstein.

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There are also composers who've had collaborations with specific choreographers, like:

  • Willems with Forsythe
  • Talbot with Wheeldon
  • Muhly with Millepied

After not hearing the Poulenc Concerto for Two Solo Pianos since Peter Martins' ballet for Watts, Soto, and Andersen, two young choreographers are using it:  Troy Schumacher and PNB soloist Ezra Thomson, who will make his company main stage choreographic debut with that ballet next Spring.  In addition to composers, some pieces are used for multiple works, like Part's Spiegel im Spiegel.

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Adding to Helene's list:

Martins with Michael Torke

Peck with Sufjan Stevens

 

Also forgot to mention that Ravel has provided the basis of many ballets.

 

Purcell through Sadler's Wells (& Constant Lambert's affection for his music) – and Mark Morris.

 

Douglas Dunn's use of Mozart, Handel, Bellini, etc:

 

https://vimeo.com/149334099

 

Joplin's music seemed safe and got overly familiar quickly. Maybe Glass's? – from overuse in commercials, backgrounds etc.

 

 

 

Edited by Quiggin

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7 hours ago, Quiggin said:

Adding to Helene's list:

Martins with Michael Torke

Peck with Sufjan Stevens

 

Also forgot to mention that Ravel has provided the basis of many ballets.

 

Purcell through Sadler's Wells (& Constant Lambert's affection for his music) – and Mark Morris.

 

Douglas Dunn's use of Mozart, Handel, Bellini, etc:

 

https://vimeo.com/149334099

 

Joplin's music seemed safe and got overly familiar quickly. Maybe Glass's? – from overuse in commercials, backgrounds etc.

 

 

 

 

Joplin's music is very danceable -- the soundtrack for The Sting really sparked an interest.  I think we forget, now that we can hear almost anything online, how tricky it was to do music research even as recently as 20 years ago.

 

But two words strike fear into my heart -- Pachelbel's Canon.

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That wouldn't be impossible for a defile, but that's abiut it.

 

It used to be the theme music for Morning Music on WNYC.  Once during a fundraising drive host Steve Post played it over and over and droned to it like a kid making fun, and he threatened to continue until the show's daily goal was met.  

 

I always had to stop myself from calling in, because the station took that as a vote on the show, and I needed to "vote" for Tim Page's or John Schaeffer's afternoon new music shows.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

That wouldn't be impossible for a defile, but that's abiut it.

 

It used to be the theme music for Morning Music on WNYC.  Once during a fundraising drive host Steve Post played it over and over and droned to it like a kid making fun, and he threatened to continue until the show's daily goal was met.  

 

I always had to stop myself from calling in, because the station took that as a vote on the show, and I needed to "vote" for Tim Page's or John Schaeffer's afternoon new music shows.

 

I would have caved right away with that kind of threat.  Many years ago, when I first started dancing, a modern choreographer at my college made a lovely work to that score -- it just slays me that the music has become so overused that I can't even think of that dance without cringing.

 

And I think one of the best pieces of music for a defile is the finale to Stravinsky's The Firebird.  It's meant to be a procession, and it's easily repeatable.

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43 minutes ago, sandik said:

I would have caved right away with that kind of threat.

It made me get out of bed very quickly and not have to rush to work, as it was ~8:05am.  No, ~8:10:  Morning Music started after the top-of-the-hour NPR news summary.

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