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GNicholls

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About GNicholls

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    Composer
  • City**
    Toronto
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**
    Canada
  1. I noticed this comment while reading my older posts. Thanks vagansmom for noting the Irish slip jig, which is new to me. Being a music theory teacher, just want to mention that 9/8 time is a compound metre, not a complex (irregular) one. In compound metre the top number of the time signature is always a multiple of 3. It shows how many subdivisions of the beat there are in each measure (here 9 8th-notes). In 9/8 metre the 9 subdivisions (8th-notes) are grouped into 3's. Here there are 3 groupings, each of 3 8th notes. Each grouping adds up to 1 beat, represented by a dotted note (here 3 beats, each a dotted quarter note). The system developed historicaly and is not entirely logical! Rule of thumb: In compound metre the top number will be 6, 9, or 12 (divisible by 3). In simple metres the top number will be 2,3 or 4. In complex metres the top number will be 5, 7, 11, 13 . . . Besides the gig, other dances in compound metre include the siciliano and the tarantella.
  2. I agree with Quiggin's points. With such an emotional subject, I feel that the director lost control of the tone of the film. Intentionally or not, to me it opened the tear ducts, frankly -- perhaps that's because I worked as a volunteer for our local March of Dimes organization during the 90's and 00's, and learned a lot about the early years of the Salk vaccine which were very tense indeed. The script didn't really present enough of Tanaquil Le Clerc as a dancer and artist for me -- it was about the person and her life story. As a non-ballet expert I could see some of her greatness in the wonderful archival footage, would have liked more depth on her as a ballerina.
  3. An exhibit at the Design Exchange in Toronto on the history of design at the National Ballet of Canada runs July 11-September 2, 2012. See here: http://www.dx.org/index.cfm?PAGEPATH=Exhibitions&ID=42850
  4. Bart, I think you have a good point, that though it's obviously suited to dancing and to theatrical dancing, the Great C Major Symphony may be too rich, too full of subtleties of musical metre, harmony, melody, orchestration and texture that capture our attention and emotions to be a viable ballet. Also, the complete work is very long. So I think of it as a king of imaginary ballet, with imaginary "Petipa-choreographed" large ensembles that go on and on, almost hypnotically. Continuing in the Romanticizing direction, there's the long tradition of considering Schubert's very late works as being already half way to the world beyond us, and I can't help being influenced by this tradition in musing that only divine choreography would do for this work! At the end of the thread from 2009 below, there's a discussion about a possible DVD release of Massine's choreographed Beethoven Seventh Symphony. Does anyone know if it was released? http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/30144-upcoming-release-from-vai/page__p__254999__hl__+massine%20+and%20+beethoven%20+symphony%20+seven__fromsearch__1#entry254999
  5. I've seen several references on Ballet Talk to Franz Schubert's "Symphony No. 7" or "Symphony No. 9." These are the same piece, also called the Great C Major Symphony and now numbered as Symphony No. 9. But older sources and some more recent ones may use "No. 7." Actually No. 7 is a symphony Schubert sketched but never wrote. No. 8 is the famous two-movement Unfinished Symphony. No 9 is the completed four-movement Great C Major Symphony. Leonid Massine and Salvador Dali's Labyrinth (1941) was choreographed to the Great C Major, and William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (1996) to the Great C Major's last movement. Are there other ballets using this music? Last night I heard it live on NPR (Chicago Symphony/Muti) and, having had my initiation to ballet, it almost seems to me to be an imaginary ballet. Now Wagner called Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 "the apotheosis of the dance," but I hear the Schubert Great C Major as more choreographic. I can "see" large ensemble numbers, the laendler and waltzes and endlessly inventive marches. On Saturday I heard the National Arts Centre Orchetra perform Schubert's Symphony No. 3 under Pinchas Zukerman, who commented on how tricky Schubert can be for musicians -- I think partly because of his use of syncopation both obvious and subtle, at different levels of the metre.
  6. Undecametric. The Latin scholar here here hypothesizes "undecuple."
  7. Thanks for that, Mel. This music is so familiar that I was finally able to imagine in audio terms what one of these meters sounds like.Is there a way we can post audio links to illustrate our threads about music, just as we do with photos and videos on other threads? There's a good example of 5/4 time here. The Danse Générale from Ravel's Daphnis and Chloë. It's clear for counting off in 5 when the clarinet comes in at 0:56. Incidentally, the Philadelphia Orchestra is conducted at a reasonable tempo by the old-school master Wolfgang Sawallisch. Most conductors take this incomparable finale too fast.
  8. Not sure if this will yield any 5/4 waltzes, but there are plenty more examples of 5/4 metre in 19th-century classical music here. The search terms "quintuple metre" and "septuple metre" are useful. (By the way, what would 11/4 be called?!) To clarify my previous post, "irregular metre" means a metre whose subgrouping is not exclusively into 2's or into 3's, but rather is into different groups. Common examples are 5/4 (subgroups of 2+3 or 3+2) and 7/4 (subgroups 2+2+3 or 2+3+2 or 3+2+2). Subgroups may be of numbers other than 2 or 3 also. Like you, for these metres I prefer the terms "complex metre" or "asymmetric metre" to the older "irregular metre." Whew!
  9. Does anyone have information about Elliott Carter's significant involvement in the early years of Ballet Caravan? Having long admired Carter as a rather cerebral composer I was surprised to learn recently that he was "musical advisor" for the troupe from 1935-1940. Some sources say "music director," which implies "conductor," but I'm not sure he did much conducting. Anyone know? He composed the score for Pocahontas (1936, 1939), choreographed by Lew Christensen. Some sources mention as well The Ball Room Guide (1937, chor. L. Christensen). Only suite from his last ballet The Minotaur (1947)is still performed occasionally. As musical advisor, he was the link to Copland for Billy the Kid (1938, chor. Eugene Loring), and to Virgil Thompson for The Filling Station (1938, chor. L. Christensen). Exciting times! Carter is known for the musical device "metric modulation:" an irregular subdivision of the beat in one tempo becomes the main beat in a new tempo. By around 1950 he'd moved from neo-classicism to a complex modernist idiom, and now at the age of 102 he is still composing. His most recent premiere is described here My link. I remember him being interviewed at a New Music Concerts premiere here in Toronto at age 80, looking and sounding not a day over 60. And he had some short works premiered here just last December. The idea of Carter as a ballet composer and advisor intrigues me and I'd love to learn more about his work.
  10. "Irregular metre" is just a traditional Western classical music theory term, maybe obsolete now, for metres that aren't duple or triple. "Mixed metres" is sometimes used when the metre changes frequently. I think the Slavic and Hungarian composers of the early- and mid-20th centuries, influenced by folk music, were the greatest metric innovators of their time in ballet music and indeed in classical music.
  11. There's an exciting and almost violent Finale in 5/4 time in Florentt Schmitt's ballet "The Tragedie of Salome," which featured Loie Fuller. Stravinsky was fascinated by this work, which is said to have influenced The Rite of Spring.
  12. I just listened to a new recording of La Tragedie de Salome by the Orchetre Metropolitain de Montreal conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin. What a beautiful score! My link
  13. I cannot recall other productions of this ballet other than those mention. The ballet was originally performed in 1907 by Loie Fuller. Schmitt revised the score for Natasha Trouhanova in 1912 which was choreographed by Nicholas Guerra. In 1913 the Diaghilev’s company staged a version with the choreography by Boris Romanov starring Tamara Karsarvina. There was a Later production by Serge Lifar. Thank you for the information!
  14. I'm also relatively new to ballet. My reaction to Black Swan was like my reaction to Hitchcock's Psycho which I also saw recently -- a completely drained feeling, followed by anger. Like the latter film Black Swan succeeds as a psycho-sexual thriller. One could stop there. However, I personally have a hunch (as a musician) that in his choice of subject matter Aronofsky is wrestling with Romanticism as well as (more than?) with ballet. Swan Lake is considered by many the high point of Russian Romantic ballet, which as revamped by Petipa-Ivanov and in later versions has remained at the pinnacle for over a century. Its libretto is based on Germanic folk tale elements, as are many nineteenth-century German musical and dramatic works. Here are some associations that come to mind -- the swan imagery and Tchaikovsky's leitmotif reference Wagner's arch-Romantic opera Lohengrin; the leitmotif gives more than a wink to the first movement theme of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony; Schubert's last volume of lieder (songs) -- containing many of his greatest -- was published as Schwanengessaenge. Tchaikovsky would have been well aware of these associations. And then there's Tchaikovsky's own swan song, the Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) whose premiere he conducted nine days before his death. The Unfinished Symphony, Swan Lake and the Pathetique are all in the key of B minor, which seems to be a key of personal tragedy for Tchaikovsky. In Black Swan's portrayal, the ballet Swan Lake is hoist on its own petard, its evil side seeping out from the work to become the ethos of the whole production. Long-standing critiques of nineteenth-century Romanticism as being too morbid, inflammatory of unhealthy passions, and connected to mental illness are familiar. I find that Black Swan's hyper-emphasis on the demonic invokes these same critiques and is really over-the-top. There is personal tragedy in life and in art, and to me Swan Lake and the other Romantic works cited above are very touching and meaningful if considered in this light.
  15. Exactly. For example I'm a seasoned four-star party general (though in my old age recovery takes longer) and I thought the scene where Nina and Lily are dancing with those two guys brilliantly captures the moment of full-on clubbing. Much more so than many movies "about" clubbing. I'm relatively new to the world of ballet and since "a little learning is a dangerous thing," I'm deadly. So watch out here come my comments. I watched Black Swan three times. When done well, I enjoy being bombarded with lots of stuff going on at once and in my opinion BS nails that, not only visually but in underlying story. The pre-ballet me says thumbs up, solid film. The beginner ballet enthusiast me is bipolar though. When I first heard about this Darren Aronovsky project, I was excited. What a happy coincidence now that my interest in ballet is sparked, a talented director is taking on the subject. Disappointment followed when I heard Nat Portman was the lead. "She doesn't even LOOK like a ballerina!" I sulked. All interest was zapped out of me when I saw the trailer, it just hit me the complete wrong way. But I gave in and saw it. I was thrilled. Now after discovering this forum and reading comments from a slew of folks much more ballet knowledgeable than I am, it's even more thrilling to discuss. Does BS Accurately Depict The Ballet World No clue, I have zilch personal experience with the ballet world other than attending an adult intro course. But from reading autobiographies and biographies and watching documentaries plus witnessing the way some dancers behave in the wings, I wager at the elite level ballet is definitely competitive and demanding. What a great environment for self-doubt, anxiety and resentment which are key components of BS. N.B., of course there's more to it but those things are present. The filmmakers did their homework. Way too many instances of things found in ballet lore are present: the company members at rehearsal frantically removing all warm up clothes when Thomas enters; a quick Bolshoi reference right at the beginning; lugging a practice tutu like a post-battle Spartan. Did Nat Portman Train Hard We've all heard Mary Helen Bowers praise Nat Portman for putting in the hours. And we've watched the brief "making of" footage. I don't think we'll see more of Nat Portman's actual training regimen until the DVD extra features are available. I for one don't feel bamboozled Nat's head is stuck on a real dancer's body. Not once did anything in BS look fake to my untrained eye. If the training Nat did at least contributed to CGI being that much more seamless, mission accomplished. Physically she was believable too, at least enough to shut me up about that. Is BS Good For Ballet I'd say yes or at least it isn't bad for it. No existing or budding ballet enthusiasts are going to be put off by the movie to stop liking ballet. But if it attracts folks to ballet, whether in a small or big way, great. My concern is watching interviews where the interviewer obviously is on the hunt to get the guest to say the worst possible thing about ballet (e.g., Oprah looking mortified as she asks Jenifer Ringer about the shocking practice of point shoe destruction). Does A Movie About Ballet Need Gimmicks To Be Appealing To A Wide Audience A poster here mentioned this and I think it's fascinating. After watching Nina twirl and whirl and transform into a winged, feathered black swan, might someone who is amazed be bored with the real-life production? That makes me cringe but part of me recognizes why someone would think so. In closing, I'm glad this movie was made, I'm glad I saw it and I'll be buying the DVD. But guess what, if I really feel like watching a movie about ballet I'll do what another poster here wrote and Netflix The Turning Point.
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