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Carelessness re: music for ballets

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In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer piece on PA Ballet's new Peter Pan by Trey McIntyre, music critic Peter Dobrin takes on some of the ballet world's bad habits in re music adaptation, arrangement, and crediting. From the article:

"Ballet companies routinely slight the music (as do many critics in reviews), so Pennsylvania Ballet isn’t the first to commit this small crime. But isn’t it reasonable to expect one art form to be respectful of another? 'Music is the floor we dance on,' said Balanchine. Do the musicians in the pit contribute less to the experience than dancers on stage?"

The interview with the Company's PR person and with the music arranger/composer show them in a poor light.

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I don't know... Seems like putting Elgar down as composer on the postcard would have been misleading, implying he wrote a piece for this Peter Pan.., I suppose they could have put music "taken from Elgar," but it sounds a bit off... And it was proved several times in the twentieth century that dance can stand on it's own without costumes, lighting or music... Maybe not for children, but presumably ballet isn't just for children... And he is faulting a musician for not respecting music... For heavens' sake, the program usually lists the composer's name before the choreographer's... Doesn't that show considerable respect? Sounds like someone with an axe to grind... There have often been issues between dance and music, but this one seems a little forced.

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I disagree; and often it's really just about proper attribution, even if the respect is there in intent. I find that program books that are careful to list the specific piece of music (i.e., rather than just "Music: Beethoven"), are the exception; additionally, I've seen very few program notes (for ballets to canned music) that tell us who's playing and what the recording is. That's just unethical.

I will concede that dance is of course often overlooked in music and art discussions (i.e., Big Art Books about the Ballets Russes will sometimes neglect to say anything about the choreographers involved).

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I agree with Ray that dance documents like press releases and programs often do a poor job of giving "credit where it's due" -- I'm sorry to say that many young choreographers seem to think that classical composers have only one name ("Bach," "Mozart"). And as more and more people download music from the internet (where there might be only minimal information about performers/conductors/ensembles) rather than buying a CD with liner notes, we will probably see more and more of less and less when it comes to attribution.

But I do know that in some cases, artists who cannot afford to pay royalties to copyright owners hope that they can fly under the radar by not including that kind of identification.

I don't know that Dobrin really had this goal in mind, but I thought the interview with Niel DePonte included a great description of the task arrangers face when they are compiling and combining disparate works, making a whole out of independent parts. Some of the most beautiful works in the ballet repertory include compiled and arranged scores, but this is one of the more detailed discussions I've seen of the process.

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