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I. COMPOSER AND CHOREOGRAPHER:
A STUDY OF COLLABORATIVE COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS
II. THE LOTUS FLOWER, BALLET MUSIC FOR
CHAMBER ENSEMBLE AND TWO-CHANNEL AUDIO
CHAN JI KIM
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Chan Ji Kim
First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents who live in Korea. Without
their endless support I could not finish my studies. My first music teacher, my mother
Kun-Ja Song, who went far beyond the standards of maternal duty, lovingly and
gallantly, struggled to provide me the best possible musical training. With immense love
and gratitude go to my father Dong-Sik Kim, who taught me to be creative and to do my
best in any circumstance.
My deepest gratitude and appreciation go to Dr. James Paul Sain, who has
provided constant and invaluable assistance during this whole process. His confidence in
my ability allowed me to explore new musical directions and is deeply rewarding
I would like to offer my gratitude to Dr. Paul Koonce, whose enthusiasm and
honesty have helped me to find that nothing can be gained without effort.
I thank Dr. Paul Richards, who has enriched and stimulated me during this project
and throughout my doctoral study. His creativity has inspired me to search for my
I would like to thank Professor Mitchell Estrin and Professor Kelly Cawthon
whose profound insight revealed various points of view, and for their generosity with
taking time out of their busy schedule to be a part of my committee.
My immense gratitude goes especially to Dr. Dinu Ghezzo, Professor of Music
Composition at New York University, who opened my collaborative world and supported
numerous experiences and interchanges with many artists. His endless support is
incredible and his personal magnetism is unforgettable.
I thank my former composition teacher, Eun-Hye Park, Professor of Music
Composition at E-wha Women's University, who had a great impact on my early career;
her lessons are still with me today.
I deeply appreciate all composers and choreographers for their brilliant work and
for the special time they generously gave to this project, especially, Dr. Ron Mazurek,
Associate Professor of Music Composition at New York University; Dr. John Gilbert,
Professor of Music Composition at New York University; Dr. Esther Lamneck, Professor
of Music at New York University; and Tom Beyer, Technical Director of Music
Technology Department at New York University.
I thank my collaborator Teresa Fellion, who helped vastly increase my knowledge
and appreciation of dance, added to my awareness and perception.
And special thanks go out to Mark Quathamer, Laura Turner-Reed, Dr. Marin
Simpson, Dr. James Paul Sain and Dr. Paul Koonce who took time away from their own
work to do a very detailed editing job on this project; their corrections always enhanced
my words without changing the meaning.
Without all of them this project would not have been possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ...................................................................... ...................iii
L IST O F T A B L E S .........................................................................viii
LIST OF FIGURE S .............. ......... ..................................................................... ix
LIST O F O B JECTS ......................................................................... .......................
AB STRACT ................. ..... ... .. ........... ............... ............. xi
PART 1. COMPOSER AND CHOREOGRAPHER: A STUDY OF
COLLABORATIVE COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS
1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................. ... ......... 2
P u rp o se .................................................................. .................................. . 4
C o n ten t ............................................... 4
N eed for the Study .................. ................................ 5
Problems within the Collaborative Process ....................................................... 6
L im station s ........................................................................................... . 6
N o te s ................................................. 7
2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND .........................................................................8
Introdu action ........................... ......................................... 8
Historical Relationships between M usic and Dance ................................................9
Igor Stravinsky and V aclav N ijinsky .................................................................. 12
Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine ......................................... 13
Aaron Copland and Martha Graham ..................... ....... 16
Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins .................................... ... ....... 17
John Cage and Merce Cunningham ....... ..................... ....... 18
S u m m a ry .................................................................................................. 2 4
Notes ............. ... ...... ..... ............................ .............. 24
3 ISSUES OF COLLABORATION .................................... .................................... 27
W ork P process ................................................................................................... 28
D dependent C reaction ............................................................ .............. 28
Synchronous dependent creation ............ ...................................... 29
A synchronous dependent creation......................................... .............. 34
Synchronous/Asynchronous Independent Creation ....................................... 39
P perform ance A esthetics .............................................................. .............. 42
Live Performance versus Recorded Music .................................................... 42
Improvisation versus Composition.................. .............. .......................... 45
Integration of Technology ........................................................... .............. 50
Technology as a Compositional Tool ............ ...................................... 50
Technology within the Collaborative Process ............................................... 52
Internet collaboration.................. ... ...... ..................... 53
Alternative real-time performance collaboration.............. ...................... 55
S u m m a ry ....................................................................................................... 5 7
N o te s .......................................................................................... 5 8
4 METHODS AND STRATEGIES OF COMMON VOCABULARY...................... 62
Identification and Discussion of Common Vocabulary .......................................... 63
D design ............................................................... ... ..... ..... 64
R hythm ............................................................... .. ..... ........ 67
T em po ............................................................... ... ..... ..... 78
Tim e (or D uration) ...................................................................... 82
P hrase.............................. ............ ...... 84
D ynam ics ................................................................................................ 89
Texture and Effect .............................................................. ......... 96
Form.................................... .. ..... ............. 99
Space .......................................................................................................... 102
Style ................................................................. .... ..... ......... 105
S u m m a ry ................................................................. ..................................... 1 0 6
N o te s .................................................... 10 9
5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ........................................ 114
N o te s .................................................... 1 1 9
PART 2. THE LOTUS FLOWER, BALLET MUSIC FOR CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
AND TWO-CHANNEL AUDIO
6 THE LOTUS FLOWER, A BALLET BASED UPON THE KOREAN FOLK
TALE THE STORY OF SHIM CHOUNG ........................................................... 121
Program N otes............... .......................... 121
Instrumentation ................ ......... ........ ..... ........ 122
P perform ance N otes .................. ............................... ..... ............. 124
A COMPOSER/CHOREOGRAPHER INTERVIEWS............................................ 126
Dinu Ghezzo, Composer..... ................................... 126
R on M azurek, C om poser ...................................................................................... 130
Tom Beyer, Composer..... .................................... 135
John Gilbert, Composer..... ................................... 138
E sther L am neck, P perform er ............................................................................... 140
Teresa Fellion, Choreographer........................... ............. 142
B COLLABORATION CHRONOLOGY .......................................................... 146
Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky ............ ................................ ............ 146
Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine ........................................ ............. 146
Aaron Copland and M artha Graham ............... ... ............................. ............. 146
Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins....... .......... ............... ............ 146
John Cage and Merce Cunningham............................. ............. 147
LIST OF REFEREN CES........................................................... .... ............. 151
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................... .......... ..... 156
LIST OF TABLES
6 -1. S cen e d description s ............................................................................. .. ........ 12 2
6-2. Instrumentation in The Lotus Flower .............................. ............. 123
6-3. Percussion instruments in The Lotus Flower...... ..... ................................ 123
6-4. M allets in The Lotus Flower ......... .. ............... ......... ......................... 123
6-5. Performance notes in The Lotus Flower ........... ............................................. 124
B-1. Collaborations by Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky .............. ..... ........ 146
B-2. Collaborations by Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine................................ 146
B-3. Collaborations by Aaron Copland and Martha Graham............... ................. 146
B-4. Collaborations by Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins........................... 146
B-5. Collaborations by John Cage and Merce Cunningham ................................. 147
LIST OF FIGURES
6-1. Multiphonic Fingering for Clarinet in Bb........................................................ 125
6-2. Multiphonic Fingering for Alto Saxophone ................................................... 125
LIST OF OBJECTS
6-1. Full score of The Lotus Flower as a PDF document............................................. 125
6-2. Sound file of The Lotus Flower, the first section of electroacoustic music in scene
2: The Blind Father and a M onk ................................................... ........ 125
6-3. Sound file of The Lotus Flower, the second section of electroacoustic music in
scene 2: The Blind Father and a Monk ..................................................... 125
6-4. Sound file of The Lotus Flower, electroacoustic music in scene 5: Under the Sea,
The D ragon Palace .......................................... ........................... ........ 125
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
I. COMPOSER AND CHOREOGRAPHER:
A STUDY OF COLLABORATIVE COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS
II. THE LOTUS FLOWER, BALLET MUSIC FOR
CHAMBER ENSEMBLE AND TWO-CHANNEL AUDIO
Chan Ji Kim
Chair: James Paul Sain
Cochair: Paul Koonce
Major Department: Music
This study examines the relationship between composers and choreographers in
collaborative work, including an in-depth look at basic processes, issues of collaboration,
and barriers to collaboration. A discussion of an ideal or ultimate collaboration and the
balance of creativity between composing and choreographing is furthered by tracing the
historical background of the collaboration of different composers and choreographers in
modern music and dance, specifically the work of Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky,
Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine, Aaron Copland and Martha Graham, Leonard
Bernstein and Jerome Robbins, and John Cage and Merce Cunningham.
By addressing different processes of collaboration used in contemporary works and
examining the different ways music and dance use terms such as rhythm, tempo,
duration, dynamics, articulation, phrase, texture, effect, form, space, and style, useful
vocabularies and compositional processes can be identified. Informal interviews and
discussions with composers and choreographers about their experiences reveal the
advantages and disadvantages of different types of collaboration. Through examination of
different collaborative processes, this project develops strategies and exercises that assist
in creating environments conducive to collaborations.
Part I of this document examines the relationship between composers and
choreographers in collaborative work, while Part II is an original composition, The Lotus
Flower, for flute, clarinet, saxophone, violin, viola, double bass, piano, percussion, and
tape. The piece is for a ballet in six scenes which is based upon the Korean folk tale, The
Story of \ln, Choung.
PART 1. COMPOSER AND CHOREOGRAPHER:
A STUDY OF COLLABORATIVE COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS
In collaboration, rule one is you're dealing with a human being, a real personality.
Not with your press, not with some projection generated by media. I need to work
with passion, with urgency. From my perspective, you want first of all for them to
share their questions with you, what they find urgent or beautiful.1
-Bill T. Jones, 2002
Through collaboration, composers and choreographers create unique works of art.
Gaining collaborative experience, appreciating the history of successful collaborative
efforts, and understanding the common vocabulary of two disciplines involved are
important components in each artist's development. An understanding of each other's art
and creative approach will help ensure a successful collaboration. Collaborators must be
aware of various circumstances and be able to adjust to different situations. As composer
Tom Beyer says, "You always have to look at the circumstance because each
collaboration is a different situation. You must be willing to have an open-mind when
you decide to work with choreographers. Collaboration depends on your ability to give
up things. That needs to be understood. I do not insist on using only my work, instead I
think of the art, and think how we can achieve the goal together."2 A composer and
choreographer each develop their own method of reaching equilibrium in a collaborative
work. They need to share ideas and develop respect for each other's view. By
participating in interdisciplinary art forms, collaborators are exposed to new performance
possibilities and gain exposure to new audiences. Many other benefits arise from
collaborations. As composer Dinu Ghezzo says, "Yes, of course I want to have my own
composition, but I learn from my colleagues and collaborators, and I expand my creative
ideas in my composition."3 By sharing ideas and learning from each other, collaborators
develop their creative ability.
To understand how composers and choreographers reach artistic equilibrium in a
collaborative work, a brief historical review is needed. A review of successful
collaborations between music and dance gives insight into various collaborative
processes. It can also answer the question of how creators reconcile the potentially
competing roles of the two arts. The artists involved in noteworthy collaborations
covered in this study are: Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky, Igor Stravinsky and
George Balanchine, Aaron Copland and Martha Graham, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome
Robbins, and John Cage and Merce Cunningham.
Collaborative approaches can be distinguished in several ways. At one level, the
approach to collaboration can be distinguished by whether the components of a
collaborative work are created at the same or different times, and whether they are
designed independently or not. In each collaborative venture, artists benefit by exploring
different processes. Describing his class, Collaborative Production Project, John Gilbert
says, "In class, they [students] develop connections, learn how to communicate with
other artists, and how to balance freedom and control in collaboration."4 Finding comfort
within collaboration can provide artists with an environment that is conducive for
creation, and which allows them to have artistic input and full participation in the
Collaborating on a work of art is not always easy, and it can sometimes be very
difficult. Many artists create their work independently, without interference from another
artist's opinion. While many artists prefer to work alone, with effort and understanding,
collaboration can be a very fruitful venture. Choreographer Doris Humphrey says, "The
choice of music [for dance], in theory, is fairly simple, but in practice there are so many
complications to consider in a given situation that it is a major problem, to be met with all
possible knowledge, experience and advice."5 Likewise, composing music for dance may
seem straightforward, but when all aspects of the dance are taken into consideration, the
compositional process can become involved and complex. It can be difficult for the
composer and choreographer to find equilibrium between writing the music and
choreographing the dance.
This study examines the relationship between composers and choreographers
working collaboratively. Insight into various collaborative processes is gained by tracing
the history of different collaborations in modern music and dance. This study examines
the balance of creativity between composing and choreographing, and different processes
of collaboration used to create contemporary collaborative works. This study is primarily
for composers who are interested in collaborating with choreographers. This study is
especially valuable for composers who are interested in the collaborative compositional
process early in their artistic career. By identifying and comparing the common
vocabulary of music and dance, composers and choreographers can better understand
each other's compositional process and communicate with each other more effectively.
This study consists of three parts: a historical review of collaborative works, an
analysis/discussion of collaborative processes and issues of collaboration, and a
discussion of the common vocabulary used by music and dance. Chapter 1 is an
introduction of the study. Chapter 2, Historical Background is the first part of the study,
which covers several noteworthy collaborations in the twentieth-century that can serve as
models for artists to explore interdisciplinary art forms.
The compositional process within a collaborative work and the choices made
regarding performance aesthetics are discussed in Chapter 3. The different collaborative
work processes discussed include the synchronous and asynchronous forms of dependent
and independent collaborations. Performance aesthetics are addressed through the
comparison and contrast of different tools, such as live performance vs. recorded music
and improvisation vs. composition. This chapter also discusses collaborations that have
involved the integration of technology.
Chapter 4 examines the similarities and differences of collaborative compositional
methods and strategies that allow composers and choreographers to develop a common
vocabulary. Terms such as rhythm, tempo, duration, dynamics, phrase, texture and effect,
form, space, and style are addressed for their parallel usage in music and dance.
Drawing on information from the previous chapters, the study concludes with an
overview of the project, including an examination and a discussion of the results.
Appendix A includes transcription of excerpts from the interviews with contemporary
composers and choreographers about their own collaborative experiences, and Appendix
B details the collaboration chronology discussed in Chapter 2.
Need for the Study
This study is important because it provides information on previous successful
collaborative efforts, and discusses issues crucial to the collaborative process. Music and
dance share many basic compositional elements and use similar vocabulary to describe
the compositional process. Although these vocabularies are used in both disciplines, their
meanings vary slightly. Learning how each artist uses different terminology is important;
however, little academic research has been devoted to this issue. It is valuable to study
the varied meanings of common vocabulary between music and dance because adopting a
commonly understood vocabulary will allow composers creating music for dance to
better understand the intention of the choreographer during a collaboration. Not only is it
necessary to introduce aspects of dance to composers, but also to introduce aspects of
music to choreographers. The compositional processes in music and dance are similar,
but each creator has different perspectives on how to combine elements when working
Problems within the Collaborative Process
It is difficult to analyze the relationship between composing and choreographing.
Although music and dance share some fundamental characteristics such as rhythm,
structure, and function, the composer and the choreographer often approach these
characteristics from different viewpoints. Composing concert music and composing
music for dance are different activities. In the latter, composers have to interact with
another artistic world, that of dance. A primary purpose of this study is to highlight the
differences in vocabulary and approaches to the creative process as well as to provide
ways to bridge the gap between artists.
This study focuses on contemporary collaborative work in music and dance. For
the purpose of this study the term "modern dance" refers to works from approximately
1900 to the present. The primary audience for this study is the composer seeking an
understanding of the possible differences between the tasks of composers and
choreographers. Theatrical production and logistics are not discussed, nor are financial
issues discussed in detail.
1 Joyce Morgenroth, Speaking ofDance: Twelve Contemporary Choreographers on
Their Craft. New York and London: Routledge, 2004, p. 151.
2 This quote is taken from an interview with Tom Beyer at New York University on May
2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
3 This quote is taken from an interview with Dinu Ghezzo at New York University on
May 2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
4 This quote is taken from an interview with John Gilbert at New York University on
May 2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews. The class,
Collaborative Production Project, involves Internet collaboration with students at the
University of California Santa Cruz.
5 Doris Humphrey, The Art ofMaking Dances. Barbara Pollack, Editor. Princeton:
Princeton Book Company, Publishers, 1987, pp. 132-133.
In working with Merce [Cunningham], the first thing we did was to liberate the
music from the necessity to go with the dance, and to free the dance from having
to interpret the music.'
-John Cage, 1965
Experimenting with compositional approach is an important part of collaboration.
Artists strive to understand each other's compositional process or develop a new process
together. This chapter explores the genesis and development of music and dance as
dependent art forms and discusses how they developed into independent art forms.
Although the specific origins of ancient music and dance are not known, it is theorized
that music and dance were first created for ritual activities. People taking part in the
rituals would sing and dance, and the music was related to the dancers' body movements.
In addition, this chapter discusses the historical relationship between music and dance, as
well as the development of collaboration in modem dance by focusing on five important
partnerships in modern dance and music: Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky, Igor
Stravinsky and George Balanchine, Aaron Copland and Martha Graham, Leonard
Bernstein and Jerome Robbins, and John Cage and Merce Cunningham. The chapter
covers examples of their most noteworthy collaborations, significant features and unique
qualities in their collaborative works, the influences their work had on others, and their
Historical Relationships between Music and Dance
Particularly in agricultural communities, rituals are group activities that are firmly
rooted in tradition. Primitive societies used rituals, which combined cultural elements
such as music, dance, painting, poetry, and drama, to connect with their gods. Sometimes
lasting for days, these rituals were all-inclusive collaborations that required creative
visual designs, including costumes, bodily decoration, ornaments and symbols, and used
sound and movement as essential elements. The performance of music and dance were
dependent social activities, developing naturally from bodily rhythm. The combination of
activities such as drumming, singing, chanting, dancing, clapping, and stamping made the
ritual complete. Although dance and music were often interdependent in antiquity, they
later began to develop independence.
The separation of music and dance occurred at different times in Western and
Eastern cultures. Music began to develop independence in Western culture with the rise
of Christianity. Henry Cowell discusses the separation between music and dance in
Dance Observer in 1937:
The Christian church adopted music as part of its method of worship, and fostered
its study and development; while, except for the comparatively slight dance
interest in the early ritual, it abandoned the dance as a means of worship,
relegating it to paganism, except in a few isolated instances.2
Throughout its history, the Christian church has tended to exclude all forms of dance
including ritual dance. Outside of the church, however, dance continued to develop as
secular art and entertainment. For example, folk dance and music continued to develop
dependently, resulting in the creation of national folk dances. Cowell discusses the
difference in the development of dance between Western and Eastern cultures:
But being disassociated with religion, it was not cultivated as a fine art and made
into a composition, in the sense of concert dance, nor in the sense of a ritual. The
art-dance almost died out in the Western world. In the Orient, the art of the dance
and its association with music developed continuously, and there is no problem in
the relationship there; since in all Oriental cultures, both the movements of the
dance and the sounds that go with them have been formalized, and certain
philosophical meanings are ascribed to them.3
Ballet developed in Europe during the Renaissance period (approximately 1300 to
1600 C.E.) in the courts of the Italian and French nobility.4 In European society, ballet
existed as a form of court entertainment until the beginning of the Romantic period. In
ballet, musical elements and dance movements tend to be co-dependent and closely
related. Music for early ballet combined with the dance movements to tell a story.
Although some music written for ballet corresponds precisely with the dance movements,
some were less closely synchronized to the dance. Many works of ballet music contained
prominent use of leitmotifs, meaning "leading motive" in German. The leitmotifs-a
musical fragment, related to some aspect of the drama that recurs in the course of an
opera-was used to characterize different narrative elements in the ballet.5 Leitmotifs
contributed to the formal design of the work and could help the audience recognize
important moments. The structure and drama between music and dance are typically
interdependent in traditional ballet. With the appearance of modern dance, however,
music and dance are no longer automatically linked.
During the twentieth-century, the interdependence of music and dance was
deemphasized. Henry Cowell comments on the effect of various modern ideas in music
as far as music is concerned, [music for the dance has] arisen from the natural and
correct desire of the dance to be independent and not reliant on the music for its
form and content. There have been dances without any music or sound. There
have been dances to percussion sound only. There have been attempts to write the
music in the studio at the same moment that the dance is being invented. There
have been many dances composed first, after which music was written for them.
This reverses the older idea that the dance should be made to the music.6
Simultaneously with the twentieth-century breakdown of the interdependence of
music and dance came the development of new methods of collaboration. Revolutionary
concepts and technical methods of modern dance (of the past 100 years), credited to
choreographers such as Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey,
contributed to a new approach to movement. Further, Merce Cunningham and John Cage
experimented with a new concept of space and time in their collaborative work. Attitudes
toward music and collaboration between composers and choreographers changed in the
late twentieth-century. Sally Banes distinguished three phases in the development of
modern dance. She states in Choreography and Dance in 1992:
In the Sixties, choreographers broke away both from Horst's restrictive musical
prescriptions and the Cunningham-Cage model of "collaboration at a distance" to
explore every possible relation between the two arts. In the Seventies, the avant-
garde arts tended to separate, with artists seeking to refine the essence of their
chosen medium, and dancers often eschewed the use of music altogether. In the
Eighties, the tendency toward spectacle and virtuosity, an interest in popular and
non-Western dance, and the simultaneous move of new music toward social-
dance forms has led to a new alliance between dance and music.7
Many contemporary composers and choreographers have challenged the
historically rooted styles of the Sixties, and even now, new concepts of collaboration
continue to appear. The products of collaboration continue to evolve into new forms: the
separation of music and dance, the effect of mixed cultures, the use of alternative
performance spaces such as museums and laboratories, and the involvement of
technology. Composers and choreographers explore the limits and possibilities of
collaboration while incorporating different types of media to produce a total artwork.
Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky
Igor Stravinsky and Vaclav Nijinsky's most famous collaborative work, The Rite
of Spring, was conceived as a complete artistic work, integrating music, dance, drama,
staging, and set design. This successful collaboration was very different from traditional
ballet, and was shocking to audiences. Stravinsky's musical evocation of pagan Russian
rituals complemented Nijinsky's strong, rhythmic choreography. The production of The
Rite of Spring, from the choreography to the costumes and sets, was just as shocking as
the music. In The Rite of Spring, the underlying story for the ballet is present not only in
the music and dance, but also throughout the entire production. All aspects of the
collaboration create a total artwork, a Ge,\,ukmttn\i m eik.
Music from The Rite of Spring emphasizes brief melodic fragments of folk-like
simplicity, which combine to produce larger, more complex units throughout the piece.
Many twentieth-century composers used small fragments of folk music within their
modern musical scores; the scores of Aaron Copland, composed for Martha Graham, are
one example. The use of folklore in Graham's choreography created new compositional
possibilities for modern ballet as well.
Both Stravinsky and Nijinsky worked in very close contact with the other artists
on all aspects of the production. The scenario for The Rite of Spring originated from
Stravinsky's own idea.9 The music was designed to contribute to the entire staged work,
which had a pronounced effect on the formal characteristics and compositional plan.
While Stravinsky composed the music, Nijinsky choreographed the dance, working
separately yet with a strong understanding of the music's planned sound and feel. While
Stravinsky composed the music, he envisioned certain dance movements and even
offered suggestions to Nijinsky. Both intended to create a work with radical rhythmic
characteristics, which are arguably the most significant feature of The Rite of Spring.
After the 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring in Paris, many composers and
choreographers broke from traditional ways of thinking about compositions for ballet and
dance and followed new artistic paths.
Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine
Stravinsky and Balanchine had similar backgrounds. Both men were raised and
educated in Russia and came from wealthy, artistically active Russian families. Both also
traveled for long periods of their lives and were influenced by Western European,
especially French, culture. Eventually, both Stravinsky and Balanchine came to America
and successfully collaborated on many productions. They shared artistic direction in their
collaborations. Both adhered to a traditional conception of the creative artist, viewing
composition and choreography as two distinct and relatively autonomous art forms.
Stravinsky describes his concept of choreography saying:
Choreography, as I conceive it, must realize its own form, one independent of the
musical form though measured to the musical unit. Its construction will be based
on whatever correspondence the choreographer may invent, but it must not seek
to duplicate the line and beat of the music. I do not see how one can be a
choreographer unless, like Balanchine, one is a musician first.10
Because Balanchine respected the autonomy of music, he conceived his
choreography as an extension of Stravinsky's music. He comments on how he maintained
equilibrium between Stravinsky's music and his own choreography:
When I choreograph Stravinsky's music, I am very careful not to hide the music.
You see, usually choreography interferes with the music too much. When too
much goes on stage, you don't hear the music. Somehow the messy stuff obscures
the music. I always do the reverse. I sort of subdue my dances. They're always
less than the music. As in modern architecture, you rather should do less than
Stravinsky and Balanchine agreed on their artistic direction under the guidance of
specific stylistic and practical restrictions. Their work was the result of a new artistic
atmosphere that they developed. Both collaborators discovered restraint and compactness
through their collaborative work. In addition, Stravinsky paid close attention to timing
when working with Balanchine, as seen in the carefully timed durations found throughout
his sketches. He talks about the importance of precise timing in his ballet:
We decide the exact length of the music or rather the exact duration of each
movement ...[time is] a thing much more important in a ballet than in any other
dramatic form. Precision of timing and the physical capabilities of the dancers are
primary factors which I have always considered in constructing the proportions of
In Orpheus (1948), instead of using the whole story of Orpheus, Stravinsky and
Balanchine incorporated a conceptually sophisticated formal construct. They insisted
their concept of Orpheus not only re-describe a Greek myth but also re-create their story.
The audience's recognition of sophisticated concepts depends to a large extent on their
educational background and familiarity with cultural events. For example, a thorough
knowledge of Orphic mythology is vital to appreciating the underlying subtleties of the
relationships between the music and choreography in Orpheus.
In Agon (1957), both artists adhered to the same constructive guidelines such as
strongly rhythmic gestures, the artful use of stasis or silence, counterpoint, and textural
variety. Stravinsky and Balanchine were motivated by neo-classicism, which is a modern
interpretation of baroque period dance and music style. They restrained their respective
artistic languages, limiting themselves to only the most essential expressive tools for the
task. Both artists had a thorough understanding of each other's artistic direction, and this
understanding of the nature of each other's work helped the collaborative process
Apollo, which premiered in 1928, was a great success. It is a ballet with a simple
set design and only four performers, Apollo and three muses. The ballet exhibits Neo-
classical restraint and a deliberately restricted vocabulary, which contrasts with the
drama. Each muse is stylized and concentrates on the characteristics of the mythological
archetype. The characteristics of Neoclassicism in Apollo were also influential on other
composers and choreographers. The classical presentation in music and dance of the
adapted Greek myth influenced American dancers and choreographers, especially the
New York City Ballet.
After the turn of the twentieth-century, contemporary ballets were less often
elaborate productions. As is illustrated in Balanchine's book, New Complete Stories of
the Great Ballets, Balanchine's new choreographic approach was inspired by
In its discipline and restraint, in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling, the
Stravinsky score was a revelation. It seemed to tell me that I could, for the first
time, dare not use all my ideas; that I too could eliminate.13
Balanchine drew primarily from the vast repertoire of European orchestral concert music
of the past and from the new music of Stravinsky. The simplification of ballet was one of
the most distinguishing features of the Stravinsky and Balanchine collaborations.
The effectiveness of the Stravinsky and Balanchine collaborations was heightened
through the use of carefully constructed relationships between the music and the
choreography. Repetition, thematic association, the choreographer's and composer's
abilities to play on the audience's pre-existing knowledge of archetypal characters,
musical and choreographic conceits, and other elements make Orpheus and Apollo
successful collaborations. In other words, abstract choreographic constructs-the acerbic,
understated vocabulary ofAgon, for example-are firmly united in matters of aesthetics,
philosophy, and execution to their musical counterparts.14 Many modern collaborators
forcefully express psychological ideas in their work as did Stravinsky and Balanchine.
The similar background of the two artists and their appreciation of each other's work
helped them maintain a close relationship for over forty years, and their celebrated
partnership resulted in many important works that still remain in the repertoire of the
New York City Ballet and numerous other dance companies.
Aaron Copland and Martha Graham
Copland and Graham possessed an excellent sense of thematic development.
Copland's incorporation of folk melodies and jazz elements into his thematic material is
an integral part of the overall sound quality of his dance compositions. Copland and
Graham juxtaposed characteristic features of American folk dance and music with
modern elements to create new atmospheres in modern ballet. This technique set the duo
apart from their contemporaries.
Copland's Appalachian Spring is primarily an original composition, with the
exception of the final melody, which was taken from a hymn. The use of folk-like
melodies and the corresponding choreography characterized the new American ballet.
Building on the modern rhythms and gestures of the European ballet tradition, Copland
and Graham developed their own American style. Copland especially found his own
voice, one with an orchestration familiar to the ear of American audiences that came to
represent American ballet of the time. As a result, other international ballet companies
made conscious decisions to use more of their folk and traditional art.
In Graham's collaboration with composers, which she initiated, the music was
always composed to the dance.15 Her work with Copland was no different. Graham
initially presented Copland with a simple scenario consisting of a young couple's
wedding and house-raising in a new frontier town in Pennsylvania. After Copland and
Graham established a basic plot and dramatic goals, Graham estimated the approximate
duration of each event of the scene. Based on this duration, Copland then composed short
musical ideas or thematic sketches for each event on the piano, which he later scored for
a chamber ensemble of thirteen string and wind instruments. They revised the work
several times during rehearsal in order to resolve conflicts between musical and
choreographic meter. Although both artists created separate titles for the piece (Copland
titled it Ballet for Martha), Graham's Appalachian Spring became the final title over
Copland's title of homage to Graham.16
Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins
The first collaborative work of Bernstein and Robbins was Fancy Free, followed
by another work entitled Facsimile; however, their most famous work was West Side
Story.17 Its popularity was due in part to its familiar story. Shakespeare's tragic love
story, Romeo and Juliet, works well set in 1950's New York City. In addition to the
audiences' familiarity with the subject matter, the work was also successful because the
dance functioned as both action and narrative for the audience. One of the memorable
events was a battle scene between the Puerto Rican and white American gangs on the
West Side. The complex mixed rhythms and street sounds of late 1950s New York City
enhanced the ballet score; Robbins' choreography had a similar character and fit the
music well. Drawing from a well-known story and developing an exciting action-packed
musical contributed to the work's success.
Although the choreography of West Side Story may be better suited for Broadway
musical dancers, Bernstein and Robbins insisted on casting traditional ballet dancers in
the roles. This choice was significant because it involved crossing the boundary between
popular and traditional art. Many artists who have attempted to combine traditional and
popular art have been influenced by the collaborations of Bernstein and Robbins.
The collaborative process of West Side Story was a little bit different from
previously discussed collaborations, because Bernstein and Robbins worked with an
additional collaborator-the playwright Arthur Laurents. Robbins' initial concept was to
translate Shakespeare's tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, into modern day New York
City. Robbins first worked with Laurents, and then shared the story with Bernstein. After
Laurents completed several scenes, Bernstein recommended changing the initial
characters from Jewish and Catholic to Puerto-Rican and white American. They spent a
long time revising and establishing a well-crafted story, which is one of the important
reasons why this work was a success. Bernstein composed complex, mixed rhythms in a
couple of scenes, including the battle scene. After some revision, Robbins provided
choreography to match the pacing of Bernstein's score.18 The collaboration was
successful because of the integration of choreography and musical score through the
catalyst of an updated classic tale of romance.
John Cage and Merce Cunningham
John Cage and Merce Cunningham experimented with a new concept of space
and time in their collaboration. Throughout most of their collaboration, Cage and
Cunningham worked independently. Therefore, the choreography had a more conditional
or accidental (aleatoric) relationship with the music. In Choreography andDance, Sally
Banes called Cage and Cunningham's work "collaboration at a distance."19 The approach
of most traditional choreographers, or even contemporary dancers, often seems
hackneyed or old-fashioned compared to what can be seen in Cunningham's work. Cage
and Cunningham ignored the collaborative tradition and found a new way to work.
Cunningham mentions his new process in his interview with Jane Morgenroth: "The
independence allowed for a sense of freedom. The dancers weren't dependent on the
music."20 In contrast to the romantic expressionism and dramatic irony which
characterized the work of their contemporaries, the fertility of Cage and Cunningham's
new approach was recognized by a whole generation of artists.
The separation between the music and dance, a concept developed by Cage and
Cunningham, was the key to their lifelong collaboration. The independence of their
creative process allowed for freedom of rhythm in dance. Discussing how this separation
idea started in their collaboration, Cunningham says:
When I began working with John Cage in the 1940s we soon separated the music
and the dance. He would compose a piece of music and I would choreograph a
dance of the same duration, but we didn't have to know anything more about what
the other was doing. That independence immediately provoked a whole different
way of working physically. The dancers had to learn how to be consistent in the
timing of their movement so that no matter what they heard in performance, the
dance would take the same amount of time to perform. I began to use a stopwatch
in rehearsal. This way of working was difficult but, at the same time, it was
unbelievably interesting and has remained that way. The dance was freed to have
its own rhythms, as was the music. Steps could be organized independently of the
They both had a significant knowledge of music and dance, but they worked separately in
their collaboration, not encroaching upon each other's artistic freedom. By not
predetermining details of the performance, Cage and Cunningham resisted limitations
and allowed for the elements of surprise and chance.
Cunningham has always chosen equally radical collaborators. For example, his
work with painters such as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Jasper
Johns contributed immensely to the success of Cunningham's career, although his
unorthodox dance philosophy insisted upon the total independence of their input.22
Cunningham remarks, referring to his work with visual artists:
I don't think I've ever demanded a particular thing. My ideas about dancing are
all so flexible, and working with artists has made them more so. I could just as
well tell people to go and dance in a field, with or without a tree-it would be
nice if there were a tree, but not essential. So many people think that decor should
emphasize something, or define it, or frame it somehow, but life doesn't work that
way, and I don't either. I grew up with this business of dance movement [and the
idea that it] could mean a lot of different things, and that it didn't make much
sense to act like a dictator.23
Cunningham's collaborative works were designed to function around not one
center or axis, but a multiplicity of centers that connected and equalized the work and
value of each partner's artistic input. The novelty of this approach made him a leader in
American avant-garde dance. Cunningham and his collaborators developed pieces
individually; indeed, Cunningham's choreographic materials were created in isolation,
relying on neither music nor set design. Cunningham rarely composed dances to existing
music, and often combined his choreography with music for the first time in
performance. He worked mostly with composers who were willing to share his
unorthodox compositional process, such as establishing duration as the only common
The use of chance operations opened up many possibilities in the compositional
process for both Cage and Cunningham. Cunningham noted the use of chance in his own
compositional process and in his collaborations with Cage. Describing their collaborative
approach, Cunningham says, "The use of chance allowed us to find new ways to move
and to put movements together that would not otherwise have been available to us."24
Cage was similarly willing to allow chance to play a role in his artistic process while
composing many of his works. For example, in the piece I Ching, Cage allowed the toss
of a coin to determine different aspects of the composition. Cunningham used chance
operations to determine the sequence of movements and the choice of different spaces. In
fact, Cage and Cunningham regularly used chance to determine nearly all the elements of
a composition except its duration.
Merce Cunningham discusses working with John Cage in his Collaborative
Process Between Music and Dance in 1982:
What follows concerns a selection of the works that John Cage and I have
collaborated on over the past four decades. It is in no sense a complete survey;
there are numerous others not included. But these are some of that history that
reflect to me a change or enlargement of the underlying principle that music and
dance could be separate entities independent and interdependent, sharing a
common time. There is a continuing flexibility in the relation of the two arts. We
are involved in a process of work and activity, not in a series of finished objects.
Whatever tremors it may have provided for the various dancers who have shared
these experiences with me, I think they would agree that it is also exhilarating and
adventurous. It keeps one on one's toes, and jumps the mind as well as the body.25
When Cage and Cunningham started to collaborate, they were both involved in what they
called "macro-microcosmic rhythmic structure" in the compositional process, which is
the relation between the large rhythmic structure and the small rhythmic unit. The two are
related through their division of time. Especially for John Cage, the technique is
constructive-as one of his titles, First Construction suggests-rather than
developmental, a process involving transformation rather than varied repetition.26 Cage
and Cunningham did not strictly adhere to these guidelines, however, and applied their
own individual interpretations.
One of the primary features of the mid-twentieth century avant-garde was the
"happening." This expression embodied two ideas: first, art is play, with the added
element that the player "observes" or is aware of the game; and second, a real fully
realized artwork may well be consumed, used up, in the process of creation.27 The result
of collaboration between Cage and Cunningham was the "happening" in time and space.
As Merce Cunningham states in his book, Space, Time and Dance, "The dance is an art
in space and time. The object of the dancer is to obliterate that."28 Cunningham
abandoned traditional ways of thinking about form and time in dance, and explored the
importance of every moment. He says, "There is also a tendency to imply a crisis to
which one goes and then in some way retreats from. Now I can't see that crisis any longer
means a climax, unless we are willing to grant that every breath of wind has a climax
(which I am), but then that obliterates climax, being a surfeit of such."29 With
Cunningham, the role of the dancer becomes to treat every moment as equally important.
Cunningham continues to describe his thinking on dance:
For me, it seems enough that dancing is a spiritual exercise in physical form, and
that what is seen, is what it is. And I do not believe it is possible to be "too
simple." What the dancer does is the most realistic of all possible things, and to
pretend that a man standing on a hill could be doing everything except just
standing is simply divorce-divorce from life. Dancing is a visible action of
Cage and Cunningham had mutual respect for each other's thinking about space and time
in his arts. Neither tended to adhere to traditional ways of organizing music and
In addition to collaborating with choreographers, Cage also worked in a variety of
mixed media. For example, The Black Mountain Piece, a collaboration involving artists
in music, dance, poetry, painting, and theater, was the first (and best known) of multi-
disciplinary happenings at the dining hall of Black Mountain College in the summer of
1952. Leta E. Miller describes these happenings in The Cambridge Companion to John
The Black Mountain happening was in the broadest sense a collaborative
artwork.. .Cage, [and] Rauschenberg [created] segments that were assembled
linearly or simultaneously by prior plan. But instead of creating a fixed work, they
collaborated in process, governed by rule but free in its realization. This event
has often been cited as a watershed in Cage's career, marking a change in his
compositional procedures. But though it was a beginning, it was also a
culmination: the logical extension of a history of interdisciplinary collaboration
that had engaged his attention for years.31
Although indeterminate in details, this collaborative work took place in the
context of a predetermined overall duration and fixed locations of assigned participants
with the exception of the dog.32 For example, John Cage stood on a ladder at one edge of
the square dressed in a black suit reading his lecture; M.C. Richards and Charles Olson
ascended a ladder to read poetry; Robert Rauschenberg painted on the ceiling; Nicholas
Cernovitch provided the backdrop for slides and a film; Merce Cunningham danced down
the aisles followed by a dog; and David Tudor played the piano.33 Miller remarks:
Process was predetermined; product admitted chance interaction. At the same
time, the happening set the stage for a further (radical) extension of Cage's "time
The performance of The Black Mountain Piece expanded the role of independence within
the collaborative process, and allowed every collaborator's input to contribute to the
Both Cage and Cunningham extended their concept of collaboration by
integrating technology into their process. For example, Cunningham is one of the first
choreographers to use computer technology to create movement sequences on screen
before presenting them to his dancers.35 His interest in technology influenced Cage's
electronic music. As electronic music became more common during the 1970s, it took a
more prominent place in Cunningham's performance with his dance company. Cage and
Cunningham's use of electronic music is discussed in more detail in the next chapter,
Issues of the Collaborative Process, under the heading "Integration of Technology."
John Cage and Merce Cunningham's work has significantly influenced other
composers and choreographers. Cunningham's works are in the repertoire of many
modern dance companies around the world, and his dance company has toured
extensively. Their experimentation with independent collaboration offered new
possibilities and freedoms.
The collaborators discussed in this chapter did not adhere to the popular traditional
conceit of the artist as a genius who worked alone, answering only to his/her own
inviolable vision. Although some allowed many elements to be determined by chance,
they retained their creative artistic direction through communication and understanding.
The relationship between music and dance continually changes, and varies from work to
work in both definition and function. Composers and choreographers often use this
relationship in completely different manners. Successful collaboration depends on both
the composer and choreographer maintaining the equilibrium between music and dance
while acting in synergy rather than independently. Composers and choreographers need
to interpret each other's artistic values and be open to ideas and interpretations from
1 Richard Kostelanetz, C,invei ing i i/h Cage, Second Edition. New York and London:
Routledge, 2003. p.204.
2 Henry Cowell, "Relating Music and Concert Dance," Dance Observer. Vol.4, No.1.
New York: The Dance Observer, 1937, p.1.
4 Joan Cass, Dancing Through History. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1993, p.50.
5 Don Michael Randel, Editor. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge and
London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986, pp.443-444. The term
leitmotif is used most often in connection with Wagner's later works. Wagner achieved
through the leitmotif a synthesis of two important 19th-century compositional techniques:
thematic recollection or reminiscence and thematic transformation.
6 Cowell, p.1.
7 Sally Banes, "Dancing [with/to/before/on/in/over/after/against/away/from/without] the
music: Vicissitudes of Collaboration in American Postmodern Choreography," Journal of
Choreography and Dance. Vol.1, Part 4, 1992, p.5.
8 Randel, p.339. Ge,\iukmilli\ e ik means total artwork in German. Richard Wagner used
the term to describe his mature operas, in which all the arts (including music, poetry, and
visual spectacle) were to be perfectly fused.
9 Robert Morgan, Ti einielt-century Music. New York and London: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1991, p.92.
10 Joseph, Charles M. Stravinsky and Balanchine. New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 2002, p.1.
12 Ibid, p.190.
13 Cass, p.178.
14 Morgan, p.92.
15 Cass, p.261.
16 Estelle Souche, "Dance pages" in the personal website.
http://www.cmi.univ-mrs.fr/-esouche/dance/Appala.html (accessed June 5, 2005)
17 Leigh Witchel, "Robbins-Bernstein: New York City Ballet/West Side Story Suite,"
The Dance View Times. Spring, 2004, p. 1.
19 Banes, p.2. Sally Banes comments in her abstract of the article, "In the Sixties,
choreographers broke away both from Horst's restrictive musical prescriptions and the
Cunningham-Cage model of 'collaboration at a distance' to explore every possible
relation between the two arts."
20 Joyce Morgenroth, Speaking of Dance: Twelve Contemporary Choreographers on
Their Craft. New York and London: Routledge, 2004, p. 16.
21 Ibid., p.15.
22 Debra Craine and Judith Mackrell, Editors. The Oxford Dictionary ofDance. New
York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2004, p. 120.
23 Calvin Tomkins, "On Collaboration (1974)" in Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space
and Time. Richard Kostelanetz, Editor. Chicago: Chicago review press, 1992, p.47.
24 Morgenroth, p.16.
25 Merce Cunningham, "A Collaborative Process Between Music and Dance (1982)" in
Merce Cunningham: Dancing in Space and Time. Kostelanetz, Richard, Editor. Chicago:
Chicago Review Press, 1992, p. 139.
26 David Bernstein, "In Order to Thicken the Plot: Toward a Critical Reception of
Cage's Music" in Writings Through John Cage's Music, Poetry, and Art. Chicago and
London: University of Chicago Press, 2001, p.26.
27 Cass, p.342.
28 Merce Cunningham, "Space, Time and Dance (1952)" in Merce Cunningham, Fifty
Years. Harris, Melissa, Editor. New York: Aperture Foundation, Inc., 1997, pp.66-67.
29 Ibid., p.67
31 Leta E. Miller, "John Cage's Collaboration" in The Cambridge Companion to John
Cage. Nicholls, David, Editor. London: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 151-152.
32 Ibid. The time frame was based on John Cage's "Julliard Lecture." It was about forty-
five minutes long.
34 Ibid., p.158.
35 Craine and Mackrell, p.121.
ISSUES OF COLLABORATION
It is not really natural for artists to work together. There is only uncertainty:
before the collaboration though, you will have revealed yourselves to each other;
you will be absolutely exposed. A certain blind courage is necessary.1
-Martha Graham, 1963
Studying the collaborative relationship of the composer and choreographer
reveals an interdependent pair of artists engaged in vastly different artistic processes,
while often sharing a common goal. Collaborations exist and develop in different ways.
The numerous possible relationships between music and dance may create difficulty
during the collaborative process. The artistic independence of the composer and
choreographer during the collaborative process needs to be addressed.
To explore the different processes that are useful to collaborators, this chapter
addresses work process and performance aesthetics. In addressing work process, this
study focuses on the process of collaboration and the need for communication between
artists. In collaboration, creation can be dependent or independent. In collaborations
where each art form is a dependent creation, the process can be synchronous or
asynchronous. In the synchronous dependent collaboration, collaborators work closely
together at approximately the same time, building a work whose music and dance
components grow contingent with the development of each other. In the asynchronous
dependent collaboration, one half of the collaboration is created before the other is begun.
For example, the music may be completed before the choreography with the
choreographer then responding, or vice versa. Lastly, collaborations can also be
structured around not dependence but independence. In this unusual approach,
collaborators work according to certain large-scale constraints but without specific
knowledge of each other's work, goals, or progress, at least not until the final
performance when the different arts are combined. John Cage and Merce Cunningham
are famous for their use of the independent collaborative process, adopting it regularly
from their first collaboration, Credo in Us in 1942. They kept this approach for almost
fifty years. Within work process, it is also important to address the initiation of the
collaboration. How is it initiated? What is the initial creative goal? The type of
collaborative process should be addressed during the first steps of a collaboration.
In addressing performance aesthetics, this study discusses two categories: live
performance versus recorded music, and improvisation versus composition. This study
also discusses the varieties of improvisation in collaboration, such as music improvised to
choreography, dance improvised to music, or musicians and dancers improvising
together. The integration of technology within a collaboration is yet another aspect of
collaboration that will be covered.
Synchronous dependent creation can be an ideal form of collaboration in which
music and dance complement and reinforce each other; the reinforcing effect of this
approach is achieved by the way collaborators work simultaneously and dependently. In
contrast, asynchronous dependent creations are works in which one art, music or dance, is
composed following the completion of the other. Both synchronous and asynchronous
strategies are possibilities that collaborators can choose to follow in the collaborative
Synchronous dependent creation
An ideal form of collaboration occurs when composers and choreographers work
simultaneously. The term "collaboration" originated from the Latin collaboratus, which
means working (labor) together (col). Working together during the entire compositional
process regardless of how the project begins is important. A collaborative project can
begin as an individual project or may be initiated by collaborators simultaneously.
The most important prerequisite in synchronous dependent collaboration is
communication between collaborators, which should occur during every step of the
process. Because the collaborative process differs in each situation, collaborators
encounter a variety of possible avenues of communication. One scenario of synchronous
dependent collaboration is as follows: establish a concept; decide on the duration of the
piece, the size of ensemble, the form and structure of the composition, motivic ideas, etc.;
develop the work; rehearse; and realize the performance.
When the composer and choreographer begin a collaborative work, they generally
share their initial concepts for the piece. They work together to establish a concept by
striking a balance between each other's ideas. An important factor in determining the
work's concept is its ability to be expressed in both music and dance. A well-formed
concept, focusing on either narrative or abstract ideas, can facilitate collaboration by
exciting the imagination of its collaborators. After agreeing on the overall concept of the
work, collaborators can begin the real collaborative compositional work. Identifying the
work's principle events, points of tension and release, and approximate scene and event
durations can help the early development of the work. These decisions and others-such
as general ideas about the size of the ensemble, instrumentation, number of dancers, and
the role of additional media such as lighting design or projected images-can be made by
either the choreographer or composer alone, or both together.
After initial parameters are established, the composer and choreographer can
discuss the role of form or structure in the work. Sometimes the use of traditional
terminology to describe the form, terms such as Binary (A-B), Ternary (A-B-A), Rondo
(A-B-A-C-A), Theme and Variations, etc., is helpful. After discussing initial concepts,
the composer can work on musical ideas or thematic sketches for each event, while the
choreographer works on gestures and movements. As the artists bring their work
together, they revise and adjust it continuously throughout the developmental process.
During this process, collaborators do not necessarily create every detail together, but
nonetheless maintain communication that is vital for the successful completion of the
work. Once the first draft of the work is successfully in place, rehearsals can help in
developing the details and fine-tuning. This may make it seem as though collaboration is
easy; however, composers and choreographers often encounter misunderstandings during
a collaboration, especially when dealing with compositional elements such as rhythm and
Maintaining good communication during the synchronous dependent creation of
music and dance can help to overcome artistic differences and minimize the
misunderstandings that can create challenges for both artists during the collaborative
process. The collaboration between music and dance is not about music visualization or
making background sound for dance; rather, it is about the synchronized, balanced
presentation of two different art forms working toward a concerted goal. There certainly
can be conflicts of interest between music and dance, not only because they are different
art forms, but also because they involve different opinions. Some basic choices, such as
the choice to use live music rather than recorded media, or to join music and dance
together through constant rhythm rather than allow them to develop independently, can
be addressed before collaborators begin to work. While a more independent approach to
the development of music and dance may allow artists to focus more on the details of
their own work, it is important for collaborators to respect each other's work and to
remember their common goal. A collaboration initiated by both the composer and
choreographer can be ideal as it begins as a partnership of equals, recognizing, from the
very beginning, not only common artistic goals, but the desire of collaborators to be,
when necessary, free to choose.
Because of the intrinsic need of dance to grow out of musical energy, it is most
common for choreographers to initiate collaborations with composers. Existing music
and recorded sounds may not be suitable for a choreographer's conceptual and structural
needs. For this reason, many choreographers prefer to present their work with new music
performed live during the dance, while others may choose to present their projects with
recorded music. Additionally, though most choreographers present their work with
music, some choreographers, such as Trisha Brown, have chosen to perform some works
without music. However, the connection between dance and music is so strong that
inevitably, most choreographers benefit from collaboration with composers. Because
audiences of the two art forms are combined for the performance of a collaborative work,
collaborators often reach different audiences. In addition to new audiences for their
performances, collaborators may also find a supportive partner with common goals.
Choreographer Martha Graham always commissioned a composer to create music
specifically designed for her dance. Her approach was to suggest initial scenarios and
concepts to composers, as she did with Aaron Copland and Henry Cowell, two of her
major collaborators. One of Graham and Cowell's collaborations was rather unusual
because it took place while Cowell was in prison for four years, from 1936 to 1940.2
Graham initiated the collaboration: she visited him and requested music for her work
Immediate Tragedy, a dance dealing with issues from the Spanish Civil War.3 Graham
visited Cowell several times in prison and communicated with him by writing letters.
After initiating the project, she then worked on it at her studio while Cowell, still in
prison, composed the music. Graham reflected on the collaboration saying:
Louis Horst and I looked at it and agreed that we had never seen anything like it.
Cowell had written two basic phrases to be played by oboe and clarinet. Each
phrase existed in two-measure, three-measure, and eight measure versions. All
that was necessary was to fit a five-measure musical phrase to a five-measure
dance phrase-or make such overlaps as were deemed necessary. The total
effect was complete unity.4
Most choreographers choose to use music with their dance. Because composers
do not generally need dance to accompany their music, while choreographers generally
do need music to accompany their dance, choreographers usually initiate collaborations.
Some composers add multimedia elements such as dance, images, or other theatrical
elements to their concert music. Dance is just one of many art forms with which
composers have the opportunity to collaborate. However, because of the need for music,
choreographers, with the support of professional and amateur dance companies, are more
inclined to initiate collaboration with composers. Choreographers who begin their careers
within a dance company may be able to receive grants to commission a composer for
their project. Although several music organizations do support the collaboration of
composers with dance or theater, composers usually have more limited sources of
funding than do choreographers.
Composing music for dance is different from composing for the concert hall.
Most composers who are successful in collaborating with choreographers have at least
some experience with dance or are interested in gaining knowledge about dance in
performance and practice. Composers can gain choreographic knowledge by taking a
dance class, studying recorded dance performances, or serving as musical accompanist
during dance rehearsals. Ken White, a composer, performer, and dance accompanist
commented on collaboration during a May 2005 interview. In order to compose for
dance, he feels that it is important to first play for dance classes and connect with
choreographers and what they do.5 Many choreographers enjoy working with White
because of the experience he brings with him from dance classes. Working with
experienced composers gives dancers and choreographers valuable experience that can
improve their collaborative communication skills. Composition students are also often
encouraged to work with other artists to gain this type of experience.
Today, the composer-initiated collaboration is more common, particularly in
academic settings. Some colleges and universities have diversified their music
composition programs by including courses on scoring for film or multimedia that allow
composition students to collaborate with other artists. With each new project,
composition students have the opportunity to work with a different medium and artists,
and learn more about the collaborative process.
Many problems and concerns arise during the process of synchronous dependent
creation. Although composers and choreographers generally have different points of
view, as do any two artists, clear communication allows those viewpoints to coalesce to
create a new cohesive work. Henry Cowell addressed choreographers directly on the
issue of equality in the collaboration between music and dance in his article, "Creating a
Dance: Form and Composition" in 1941. He says, "Music must become less structured,
dance more so," while also noting that, "Most choreographies are constructed through
casual experiment, by improving [their experiments] and then stringing together a series
of selected gestures."6 In addition, Cowell suggests that dance could be improved if
choreographers would imitate procedures used by composers. He recommends the
following process: devise an initial idea; fix the point of climax; compose the initial
themes (along with the passages leading up to and away from them); build a plan for
repetition and development, (if the piece contains only one idea); determine the balance
between ideas, (if there are two ideas or more); and then compose the details.7
Asynchronous dependent creation
While working together can be invaluable in the creation of collaborative synergy,
practical concerns or preference may necessitate the use of an asynchronous dependent
process. In particular, an asynchronous process can offer collaborators more freedom in
how they manage their own time and deadlines. As well, music's frequent role in
inspiring dance may lead choreographers to prefer to work in response to a finished piece
of music. Asynchronous dependent creation can be divided into two subcategories: one in
which a commissioned composition is composed prior to the choreography, or one in
which the choreography is completed before the music is created. While the use of a two-
staged process is not necessarily a true collaboration in the sense of working together, at
the same time, asynchronous dependent creation is, nonetheless, still a collaborative
process since collaborators, working this way, are no less involved, having initiated their
project together, shared initial concepts, and made plans on how to proceed. In order to
finish an asynchronous dependent creation in a timely manner, collaborators must meet
their deadlines and keep lines of communication open.
The process of composing the music before the choreography is often referred to
as ballet music procedure. Pia Gilbert and Aileene Lockhart discuss ballet music
procedure in Music for the Modern Dance:
[In ballet] usually the detailed choreography does not get under way until the
main body of the music is almost completely structured. The choreographer then
works to the composed music, and that is as it should be in the ballet idiom. The
story and the thoughts expressed [in music] are important .... The
accompanimental scores for the ballet, therefore, can be fully orchestral, complete
pieces of music per se.8
This is the traditional model of a dance-music collaboration in which the composer writes
music specifically for the project with the choreography then set to it. This process works
well for the creation of ballet because the composer knows to use themes and/or a
narrative that will inspire a dance, and to create music expressly intended for dance. The
successful composer of ballet music needs to be aware of the characteristic features of
dance movement and how those features might be used in conjunction with the music.
However, the choreographer is the one who decides which parts of the music will or will
not be choreographed, and therefore, the role of dance-less sections of music. The
development of a ballet usually begins with the composer working out a basic musical
outline. The composer and choreographer then adjust the concept and overall structure to
fit the composer's outline. Sometimes the original concept and the outline are created
entirely by the choreographer.
While choreographers can work out overall concepts before hearing the music,
waiting for the finished music allows them to create their choreography through
interpretation of the music and its structure, in what is commonly referred to as an
interpretive dance. The term interpretive dance is defined as "a style of dance that seeks
to interpret the meaning inherent in music."9 It is "a form of modern dance in which the
dancer's movements depict an emotion or tell a story."10 Interpretive dance translates
particular feelings, emotions, or stories into movement with dramatic expression, and
often relies on creative movement and improvisation. While interpretive dance is often
associated with spontaneous movement and improvisation, the term can also refer to
(non-improvised) choreography designed around the interpretation of a music, or to
improvised interpretations guided by predetermined choreographic elements.
Similar to traditional ballet, an interpretive dance dramatizes previously
composed music. Because interpretative dance is created in response to a music, dancers
have to beware of the servile, response-prone, position they are put in by making their
interpretation less immediate and direct, more delayed. Interpretive dance causes
concerns for collaborators. Dancers often improvise without the benefit of choreographic
structure, and end up following the music rather than performing a truly "interpretive"
dance. Composer Henry Cowell addresses the problem of interpretive dance in his article,
"How Relate Music and Dance?" in 1934. Cowell comments on the major problems with
"Interpretive" dancing came under bad repute not only because under it the dance
was assumed to have no meaning in itself but also partly because in almost no
instance was the music really interpreted. The form, melodic line, and
harmonic structure of the music were not considered. The dance usually has no
outline. .the music was so interesting that it tended to distract the auditor from
the dance. One missed the primitive relationship of the movements to the actual
beat. ... If one watches the dance, one loses interesting musical values. If one
listens to the music, the dance is not duly appreciated."1
As Cowell indicates, music can often overshadow interpretive dance, which may
be why some modern choreographers work entirely without music. Trisha Brown is a
modern choreographer who chooses to dance some of her works in silence. She says:
My analogy was when you look at a piece of sculpture or a painting you don't
need to hear music, do you?. .I treasured the communication, the signaling that
goes on between dancers in a tightly organized ensemble when you have no music
to tell you where you are. I treasured the silence and the sound of our being
present and dancing. It went so much against the convention of how one views
dance; but dance viewed with music and viewed on its own are two separate
Brown sees a problem with the potential lack of communication between composers and
choreographers in the creative process: the musical structure and the choreographic
structure may be difficult to put together. Her solution to these communication problems
is to often work without music.
Just as it is that the creation of the music in asynchronous dependent creation can
precede the creation of the choreography, so too can the music follow the choreography,
responding in a similarly interpretive, dependent way. Several notable composers such as
Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Lou Harrison worked in this manner. Louis Horst, Martha
Graham's resident composer from 1926 to 1948, was familiar with asynchronous
dependent creation and the process of composing music in response to a choreography.
When the choreography is completed before the music, the composer can watch the entire
dance, take metrical cues from the movements, and try to match the composition to the
Some composers prefer to compose while viewing a recorded version of the
choreography as the timing and details it conveys helps to ensure that the music will
work with the choreography. Just as it is with scoring films, scoring music for dance
requires that composers be given the exact duration of the dance and its sections. When a
choreographer has predetermined ideas about what the music should be, the composer's
task becomes more difficult and the musical response the composer crafts less his or her
own; however, respecting a composer's freedom to respond to a choreography as he or
she sees fit can lead to music that is very different from what the choreographer has
imagined. In many cases, the composer writes music to match the exact tempo and counts
of the dance movements. While the asynchronous, staged completion of the creative
process allows both sides to control the artistic direction of their respective part, both
processes-composing the music before the choreography and composing the
choreography before the music-do not necessarily treat both art forms as equals; rather,
they may show bias towards that which is composed first.
Collaborators might discuss the choice of musical instrumentation, regardless of
the type of collaboration they choose and the creative independence it allows. Once an
ensemble is agreed upon, the composer needs to be sensitive to the affect of thick textures
that might overwhelm the choreography. Composer and choreographer should take the
size of the ensemble into consideration and its impact on the project's finances and
aesthetic. Early agreement by composer and choreographer on working process and final
production details can help to assure that the collaboration they pursue, together, will
proceed smoothly to its final form and performance. Most of all, composer and
choreographer should be willing to compromise, since only compromise will preserve the
partnership behind the collaborative process. Negotiating a proper balance between
composition and choreography is key to dependent creation. Developing the appropriate
balance within the composer and choreographer team is an integral part of the process
regardless of who initiates the project. Choreographers and composers should decide with
whom to work based on their agreement upon the concept for the project. Some
collaborations result from the familiarity composers and choreographers have with each
other's work; this familiarity can facilitate communication and lead to a more efficient
and comfortable, if not long-term, working relationship. The long-term dance-music
partnerships of Stravinsky and Balanchine, and Cage and Cunningham, are two notable
examples. While each is distinguished by its very different approach, both, nonetheless,
grew stronger with each successive collaboration, and the knowledge gained from it.
Synchronous/Asynchronous Independent Creation
In seeming contradiction of the idea of collaboration, some collaborators choose
to celebrate and preserve their differences in both working process and respective art by
adopting an independent approach. The collaborations of Cage and Cunningham, in
which the only shared feature is duration, are examples of this. Unlike dependent
collaborations, independent collaborations are not distinguished for the synchronous or
asynchronous way they develop dependency on each other; with independent
collaboration, the question of when the different parts take shape, be it at the same time
(i.e. synchronously) or at different times (i.e. asynchronously), is neither relevant nor
consequential given the independence of collaborators.
Some collaborators find the ideal synthesis of different art forms through creative
independence, be it practiced synchronously or asynchronously. This form of
collaboration uses the unique practice of collage to combine individual compositional
elements from both music and dance, allowing them to merge on the same stage without
reconciliation of their emerging differences. This form of collaboration often produces
complex and surprising work, which is often what its collaborators are pursuing.
Independent creation is no different from dependent creation in that it calls on
collaborators to address matters of composition (form, structure, motivic design, and
development) and performance preparation. Where independent creation differs is in how
much actual collaborative decision-making it employs; in dependent creation,
collaborators decide each step together; in independent creation, however, they make the
majority of decisions separately. In some cases of independent creation, collaborators
meet initially to establish concepts, and then at the end to finalize the performance, but
communicate very little in-between. Collaborators can and may choose to share
compositional elements and ideas, and typically do share, at least, an overall time
structure; however, beyond this, collaborators engaged in independent creation work
separately. While time is an element common to both disciplines, rhythms and event
durations are, by design, composed independently, allowing collaborators the freedom to
work with their own ideas about phrasing.
John Cage and Merce Cunningham's collaborations are famous for their
celebration of creative independence; they never tried to subordinate each other's art.
Their intention was to avoid making any direct connections between the music and the
dance by creating each separately, and presenting each with equal importance.14 Even
though both would take place during the same sequence of time, for them, each was a
separate and unique activity, not dependent upon the other. This process allowed for
more freedom and flexibility during collaboration.
The independence and freedom in Cage and Cunningham's collaborations
allowed each to express his own artistic direction, so much so that they eventually
adopted the practice of choosing separate titles for the music and dance components. One
important consequence of their mutually embraced freedom was the way it allowed them
to adjust dance movements and musical phrases independently. Other collaborators
choosing an independent creative process often do so for similar reasons. Some choose
this process for practical reasons, or to experiment with the element of surprise. Most are
undoubtedly drawn to the process for the freedom and many possibilities it offers.
Achieving equilibrium in the collaborative process is often difficult. Calvin
Tompkins, author of "One Collaboration," wrote that Cage and Cunningham's
collaborations consist of:
not one center but a multiplicity of centers, connected and equal in value.
Cunningham and Cage are there in that expanding field of awareness and we are
there with them, if we are lucky. This is the new situation.15
For a "multiplicity of centers" to emerge out of the collaborative synthesis of different art
forms, a new working process is required, one far different than the process traditionally
used in music and dance collaborations. This new process neither makes nor intends to
connect music and dance beyond their common duration and their final joining together
on the same stage. The process requires no communication, and, in fact, works to avoid
any communication that would lead to more conventional goals such as the matching of
musical form with dance, or the mimicry of dance phrases by musical themes. This is
how Cage and Cunningham achieved equilibrium or equal balance in their collaborations.
When choreographers work independently, they do not need to consider the
similarities between auditory and visual elements. In fact, overemphasizing the
relationship between music and dance can inhibit their individual freedom of expression.
Independent creation allows collaborators to pursue their individual ideals; however, as it
supports individual expression, it can seem to subvert some of the basic ideas of
cooperation. Since "collaboration" means working together; the concept of independent
collaboration might seem, on the face of it, contradictory, and the term problematic.
However, independent collaboration involves more than the simple collecting together of
random events; at the minimum, collaborators working in this way share the common
goals of performing together and, ideally, the introduction into the process of
collaboration of welcome surprises that only independence and unplanned combinations
can offer. Therefore, the process of independent creation does not contradict but expands
the definition of the term "collaboration" by allowing new collaborative situations to
occur, ones made possible through the introduction of the unexpected.
Live Performance versus Recorded Music
Live performance brings excitement to the presentation of both sound and
movement. For many audiences, the suspense of watching and listening to a live
performance cannot be compared to one using only recorded sound. Live music possesses
an intrinsic energy that motivates a dancer's gestures and affects audiences. Without the
presence of live performers, recorded music tends to be perceived as background music.
The excitement of playing and interacting with live dancers has led some new music
ensembles to initiate collaborations. Composers and choreographers usually prefer to
have the music performed live, but there are some issues that need to be considered for
this to be possible.
First, finances should be considered. The choreographer and/or the composer need
to secure funding for the live performance. Scheduling and rehearsal costs could limit the
number of times that dancers and musicians meet. Even if collaborators decide to have a
live music performance, they typically use recorded music for rehearsals. Some dance
companies use a piano accompanist playing a piano reduction of the musical score in
order to avoid the, no doubt, exorbitant cost of hiring performers to play the many
rehearsals dancers require. If the choreographer uses some form of recorded music during
rehearsals, it will be different from the live music performance, especially if the
choreographer uses a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) realization of the
music which can often fail to capture the nuances of live performance. While
collaborators certainly prefer to have live music in every rehearsal, this is very rare and
usually unrealistic. If the choreographer chooses to work with pre-recorded music in
rehearsals, but live music in the final performance, then adjustments to the music may be
necessary come the final performance. Live music has the disadvantage that it is rarely
the same in every performance. However, live performance brings the excitement of the
unexpected, a feature that perhaps explains the interest of audiences in it.
Instrumentation and stage placement must also be addressed in order to create a
balance between the music and dance. The size and type of music ensemble contributes
to the character of a collaboration. Different combinations of instruments can be used to
emphasize certain movements or actions. The special characteristics of each instrument
can be used to enhance the choreographer's intentions, and provide a feeling of flow or
incisiveness in the dancers' movements. Many modern choreographers prefer to use
percussion instruments with their choreography. Henry Cowell talks about the use of
percussion for a dance concert in his article, "A Discussion of Percussion" in 1938. In
this article he explores the many counterpoints between music and dance that percussion
makes possible, saying, "most well-balanced art partakes of both elements injudicious
mixture."16 Collaborators also need to consider the number of musicians and their
availability come the live performance. In ballet, musicians are usually located in the
orchestra pit or on the side of the stage; however, a small theater may make it necessary
to have musicians play from backstage. The ability to send signals or make cues between
the conductor, musicians and dancers is important for a successful performance,
especially at the beginning and ending of scenes or during tempo changes. It is also
necessary to consider the placement of musicians and dancers in order to facilitate clear
communication among the entire ensemble during the performance. If the musicians are
positioned onstage, communication with dancers can be easier; however, if the ensemble
is too large and the stage is too crowded, the entrance and exit of dancers may be
In addition, incorrect positioning of musicians may create acoustic problems.
When an ensemble is set up backstage (without sound reinforcement), the sound will be
weaker and more diluted than if the musicians are placed on the front of the stage or in
the orchestra pit. Use of the stage or pit often enables audiences to enjoy the presence of
the live music and its interaction with the dance, which is one of the goals of a live
performance. Since reliable communication between musicians and dancers is
paramount, collaborators should take the placement of the ensemble into serious
consideration. In addition to the proper placement of musicians, collaborators also need
to determine whether to use amplification (i.e. sound reinforcement), a decision that is
based on the size of the theater and the instruments used.
In some cases, collaborators combine live performance with recorded music,
particularly when using sound effects, spoken words, or electroacoustic music. The use of
recorded music is quite common in music-dance collaborations. Limited finances may, of
course, lead collaborators to choose recorded music given the financial savings it offers.
While the ideal performance often involves live music, the expense can be prohibitive.
Recorded music also has a practical function in dance rehearsals since it provides
choreographers and dancers with consistent tempi. With recorded music, dancers do not
need to be concerned about cues, as they do with live music. The use of electroacoustic
music in collaboration with dance is increasingly common, perhaps because, like
recorded music in general, its invariant timings bring predictability and security to
rehearsals and performances. The use of prerecorded instrumental music is usually
perceived as unnatural because it merely represents the music's ideal medium, that of live
performance. Yet this is not a problem for electroacoustic music which is created with
and reproduced through recording. When recorded music is used in a performance,
collaborators should consider incorporating a quality sound system. Even if the recorded
music is professionally produced, a mediocre sound system can sometimes result in poor-
In addition to the collaborative working process, performance aesthetics should
also be considered. Issues and aesthetics associated with the final performance should be
considered from the outset. The artistic vision of both the composer and choreographer
should shape not only the creative process, but also the final performance. Live
musicians, used from beginning to end, help maintain a sense of collaboration; their
ability to respond and interact with dancers lends credibility to the working process and
final collaborative performance.
Improvisation versus Composition
Improvisation can radically change a work, detrimentally so, leaving the artistic
goals of composer and choreographer unmet; therefore, it is important to carefully
consider the role of improvisation in a work and the freedom and control given to
performers. Improvised works raise many questions, especially when they are
collaborative, for example:
* How much should collaborators depend upon improvisation?
* How will the use of improvisation in the work affect the interactions between
dancers and musicians?
* How will the inclusion of improvised performance allow for the formation of
thematic elements in the piece?
* How much freedom will be given to the performers to improvise, or how closely
must they develop the music and/or choreographic themes?
* How will the use of improvisation challenge the identity of the work as a
During an interview in May 2005, New York composer Dinu Ghezzo said, "The
good improviser needs to be a good observer."17 As a strong proponent of improvisation
in the collaborative process, he believes performers need to use eye contact, and other
forms of non-verbal communication, to establish a kind of continuous conversation that
allows them to respond to each other as quickly as possible. Ghezzo believes
improvisation is an important part of the compositional process in a collaboration. While
close observation of the gestures of other performers (essential to a good performance)
can easily lead to imitation, good improvisation involves more than imitation, relying as
much on the freedom and personal expression of individual performers as it does on the
ability of performers to respond to each other through imitation.
Clarinetist Esther Lamneck, who actively collaborates with both composers and
choreographers, says, "It [improvisation] is a very difficult technique to use. It
spontaneously connects another performer's expression with your own."18 As a professor
in New York University's summer abroad class in improvisation skills for collaboration,
held in Pisa, Italy, Professor Lamneck believes improvisation is one of the most
important techniques that performers can learn and practice. Improvisation challenges a
performer's technical ability and musical sensibility.
There are several ways to involve improvisation within collaboration: music
improvised to dance, dance improvised to music, or both music and dance improvised
together. When musicians and dancers improvise together on stage, the integration of
sound with movement can be quite effective. When musicians and dancers join together
on stage in mutual improvisation, the addition of the musicians' visible movement
expands and enhances the drama and theater of the choreography. Improvisation can
enhance a performance through the excitement and unpredictability it adds.
Improvisation is especially effective when musicians react to the choreography, drawing
upon ideas within the choreography. The musicians' theatrical performance and
accompanying improvised physical gestures add unexpected events to the live
performance. Most dance classes prefer having a live accompanist present who can
improvise music to the dance. An accompanist capable of following cues can allow a
dance teacher to change tempi and moods phrase-by-phrase. This process is similar to the
situation created when music is improvised to choreography. The decision to use
improvising musicians in dance classes often arises out of a desire to extend the
improvisational sensitivity of dancers into the evolving music, and the musicians creating
In his article, "Creating a Dance: Form and Composition", written in 1941, Henry
Cowell discusses the problems of dance improvisation:
Improvisation is useful only as an initial indication of talent, since the improviser
tends to gravitate toward familiar configurations, resulting in a work that is a
jumble of ideas taken from others. At worst, such compositions wander aimlessly;
at best, some balanced phrases emerge.19
While some dancers present improvisation as composition, there are problems in doing
so, as Cowell discusses later on. Cowell says that a 'true composition':
must build up. .every sound and rhythm. .toward an inevitable point, through
many.. .smaller climaxes and recessions. Melodies, rhythms, harmonies, tone
qualities and counterpoint. .enhance each other, and broader unity. .[of these
elements is] achieved through development of motives, contrasts, leading
passages which presage something of importance, and recapitulations of ideas in
which the original form has gathered more meaning through new connotations.20
When collaborators decide to include improvisation in their work, they still need
to discuss the structure and development of the improvised elements. Without a plan,
every rehearsal and every performance will produce different results; therefore, the
composer and choreographer should, at the minimum, create a simple outline for any
improvisation, one that will create continuity from one performance to the next, and bring
identity to the work. Armed with this outline, improvisers need to add a similar
compositional integrity to the work, not by simply improvising, but by taking care to
think about the next phrase, when it will start, what kind of rhythm it will have, and how
long it will last. With improvisation, interplay can take place not only between musicians,
or between dancers, but also between musicians and dancers, the result of which is a
uniquely interdisciplinary work where abstract ideas pass back and forth between
movement and sound. Choreographer Bill T. Jones, while thinking about dance
improvisation, interdisciplinary interactivity, and his responsibility in listening to the
music and responding to it, says:
When I improvise. .I have to listen to it [the music] and think just as I used to
think when I'd stand in front of the jukebox in our living room when I was about
ten or twelve years old and was dancing to that other music. Hearing the
Beethoven, I try to find a groove .how to use it? How to arrange it? How to
When both the music and dance are improvised together, interactively, the
resulting arrangement is spontaneous. When musicians and dancers can see and hear each
other, the music and dance come together in the performance in a way that seems more
natural, more organic. When audiences are aware of the improvisational aspect of the
music and choreography, it affects their perception of the entire work.
While music and dance share some compositional elements, their strongest
connection is through their mutual use of time. When music and dance are improvised to
each other, it is important to maintain control of the duration of the work's different
sections and events; otherwise, the composer and choreographer's outline and formal
plans may be corrupted. Dancers have different approaches to counting and rhythmic
structure. Musicians follow the score allowing them to have a consistent counting system;
however, dancers base their timing on events and phrases. Dancers and musicians need to
be aware of the different counting approaches of each art form. Once the duration of
different sections and events is established, performers are free to improvise changes to
dynamics, rhythm, and accent patterns.
Collaborators need to consider how much improvisation should be involved in
their project. Improvisation can be incorporated into a section of the piece, or it can be
used throughout the entire collaboration. If improvisation is introduced between
composed sections of music, performers should maintain eye contact so they can
communicate with each other during the sections of improvisation and make effective
transitions to and from them. Sometimes a cue helps improvising performers to move on
to the next phrase. In many cases, collaborators need to make a clear outline, with
predetermined materials on which the musicians and dancers can base their
improvisations. Improvisational guidelines, which indicate how performers should
approach improvisation during performance, are useful; they shape the creativity of
improvisers much the way formal structures guide composers.
While performers in an improvisation are free to select their own materials, the
development of those materials during performance is limited and controlled by the
interactions they have with other performers, and the close, observant attention they pay
each other. In fact, improvisational collaborations depend heavily upon the close
attention performers show each other, not only during the final performance, but also
throughout the work's development. Combined with useful guidelines set by composers
and choreographers, the close attention of performers to each other can facilitate inter-
performer communication, and move a collaboration toward its ideal form.
Integration of Technology
Recent developments in technology bring new opportunities to music and dance
collaborations. An extensive exploration of new technology can lead to new ideas and
perspectives about collaboration. Technology offers composers and choreographers new
types of music (recorded music, electroacoustic music, and computer music), and new
tools (like the LifeForms computer choreography program) that can enhance the creative
and collaborative process. New technologies, such as the Internet and alternative real-
time performance controllers, can dramatically change the relationship choreographers
and composers have with each other and their art.
Technology as a Compositional Tool
Using technology as a compositional tool allows for new production methods.
Musical elements such as intensity, timbre, texture, and others, can be affected by the use
of technology. The development of recordings, electroacoustic music, and computer
music has allowed composers to reach beyond traditional music composition. The use of
new music-making technologies can also affect choreographic elements such as
dynamics, acceleration, speed, position, space, and others. The use of alternative
controllers has allowed the transfer of the control of musical parameters to dancers,
allowing them to modify texture, timbre and tempo. The use of electroacoustic music or
live-electronic music can have a profound effect on music-dance collaborations, leading
to new relationships between composer, performer and choreographer.
One of the pioneering uses of technology in collaboration was that of the Cage-
Cunningham collaboration in the 1950s. The use of electronic music in their
collaborations increased in the 1970s, becoming thereafter a predominant musical
medium of the Cunningham Dance Company. The invention of the tape recorder and
amplification had an impact on compositional techniques which influenced John Cage's
compositional practices.22 From early electronic music and magnetic tape to live-
electronic music, Merce Cunningham was interested in using new music systems as well
as technology in his choreography. Cunningham says, "It's not that I'm trying to put
technology into dancing, but it is one of the elements that exists for us now, and then we
should, or I just feel I would like to be involved with it."23
Similarly, the development of the computer dance program called LifeForms led
Cunningham into new choreographic discoveries.24 Cunningham has always searched for
new ways to develop how he thinks about choreography; his search led him to the
I have been working with the LifeForms program since the early nineties. Using
LifeForms, if you put a computer-generated figure into one position and then into
another, the program does the transition from one to the other. You can first make
the phrases on the computer, then teach them to the dancers. The resulting
movements may be more peculiar than a body would tend to do. ... The changes
may be for practical reasons or because I now see other possibilities. I use the
computer as a tool. Like chance or the camera or the other tools I've used, it can
open my eye to other ways of seeing or of making dances.2
The impact of technology on music can be seen in the development of new
electronic musical instruments and new forms of live-electronic music performance.
Computers have, in general, made possible the development of new tools for music
composition and choreography. Developments in software and hardware now allow
collaborating composers and choreographers interested in the transfer of motion to music
to design special-purpose devices and interfaces to meet their particular needs. Some
devices and interfaces can be programmed to recognize the movement, position, and
acceleration of performers and dancers; once captured, the motion can be converted into
standard MIDI and used to control electronic sound or computer-controlled lighting.26
The use of MIDI-enabled sensors mounted on instruments can be used to transfer the
control of real-time electronic devices and sound processors from composers and
technicians to performers. This transfer of control is a new challenge for both composers
Technology within the Collaborative Process
The collaboration that incorporates technology within the entire work may
involve more participants such as engineers and technicians. John Cage and Merce
Cunningham's large-scale multimedia work Variations V, composed in 1965, was one of
the first works to employ an electronic performance system that integrated music, dance,
and some aspects of lighting.27 The stage was rigged with a system of photoelectric and
capacitive sensors; dancers triggered sounds each time Cunningham's choreography
positioned them between light activated photoelectric cells.28 It was a revolutionary work
using technology that challenged traditional ideas about the relationship between the
composer and choreographer.
Since Cage and Cunningham's Variations V, the way composers and
choreographers collaborate has developed in many different ways. In the traditional ballet
model, the dance does not control the music, but rather follows it. However, with the
linking of the choreography to the real-time making of the music, the choreographer is no
longer tasked with synchronizing the choreography to a fixed musical score; the dance no
longer follows, and may actually lead. Using motion-tracking technology establishes a
different collaborative process between the composer and the choreographer. For
example, a dancer's movement could be translated into music or a dancer could directly
control the compositional process. No doubt, the introduction of interactive technologies
and the embrace of the aesthetics behind them have radically expanded the meaning of
Technology also breaks the limitation of space in dance performances. Internet
collaborations give artists another way to create multimedia works involving music,
dance and video. These multimedia works are performed in concert between two or more
ensembles in different places via an Internet connection. Technology offers many new
ways to collaborate; the following discussion focuses on the opportunities offered by the
Internet and new types of performance.
As Cunningham says, dance is art in space and time.29 Space is a very important
compositional element in dance; Internet collaboration expands what space can mean,
both to the choreographers who design in it, and to the musicians who play in it. In
Internet collaborations, the performance, or even rehearsals, can happen in different
spaces using a high-speed Internet connection. The Internet facilitates a collaborative
environment in which composers and choreographers interact in different places in near
real-time. Cameras, outfitted with real-time two-way feeds, are placed in both locations,
allowing participants on both ends to hear music and see each other's movements.
Because of the network's high-speed capacity, audiences are able to watch a dance
concert taking place in multiple locations in near-real time with high-quality video and
Internet collaboration may invite other artists, such as video artists, into the
process. The video artist can introduce new images into the recorded choreography,
creating a form of multimedia collaboration. Interestingly, the Internet can also serve as
the means by which collaborators meet and discuss their collaboration, removing even
the need to meet physically in the same space.
Using technology in collaborations, especially networks, is a growing trend in
higher education. New York University has led this trend with a collaborative project
course, conducted by composer and music educator Dr. John Gilbert. The course is open
to composers, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, stage technicians, video and
image artists, musicians, and others who are interested in learning about multimedia
production, collaboration, and the use of technology and the Internet in the creation of
art. All participants are encouraged to expand their sphere of reference as they collaborate
with others. Students do not need prior experience in technology; however, experienced
arts technologists can use the opportunity to develop additional skills and share their
expertise in creative, collaborative projects.30 The New York University course meets
simultaneously with a class at the University of California, Santa Cruz. These courses
have as their objective the development of projects in the performing arts through
collaborative work facilitated and inspired by Internet 2 communication and current
manifestations of the web.31
Internet collaboration is based on the idea of utilizing new communication
resources of the Internet and related multi-media technology in the creation of
interdisciplinary art. Artists in Internet collaborations face new challenges as traditional
ideas about performance, rehearsal, space, and location are extended, if not redefined, by
the Internet's new forms of real-time communication using sound and video.
Alternative real-time performance collaboration
Alternative real-time performance collaboration is an integration of music, dance,
and technology. Technology expands the relationship between music and dance,
especially through the use of alternative real-time collaboration. Technology allows
choreographers to develop interactive dance environments that detect the movements of
dancers and translates them into musical events.
In collaboration using interactive technologies, sensors (or detectors), interfaced
to a computer, are used to track a dancer's movement. Motion detection technology can
be classified according to the location of the sensors and detectors: sensors placed on the
body to track the motion of different body parts; sensors placed on stage, around the
body; and a combination of body and stage sensors with stage sensors placed in strategic
places.32 Many different technologies have been used for detecting motion in dance;
examples include: data gloves, compasses, head-mounted cameras, video cameras, and
Systems that map motion into music are changing the relationship between music
and dance. These systems translate a dancer's movement into sound; some work by
creating a simple one-to-one correspondence between movement and sound, others use a
number of sensors to feed a more complicated scheme whose linking of sound to
movement is less transparent.
In alternative real-time performance collaborations, the interactive link between
the dance movement and sound-making technology makes dancers into musical
performers as well. Improvisation can be an important element in this type of interactive
performance. The interactive process may be evident or not depending on the goals of the
collaborators; similarly, the type of sound produced may be simple, or complex and
layered, as a result of the interaction between the dancer and those controlling the
Clarinetist and improviser Esther Lamneck talked about the importance of
improvisation in real-time performance during an interview in May 2005. As a performer,
she prefers works that utilize improvisation in real-time performance.34 The balance
between control and freedom is an issue in improvised performance. In interactive
performance and improvisation, performers can control the compositional process; at the
same time, the composer can control the performance through their design and
manipulation of the technology.35 Similar issues arise with dance technology systems that
turn dance motion into sound; dancer and composer work together, exercising different
types of control over the music process.
Composers, choreographers, and performers need to consider their artistic roles in
interactive performance collaboration. The artistic roles of dancer and musician in
interactive performance collaboration are similar to their roles in live improvised
performance in that dancers perform and improvise based on the choreographer's
established forms and structures of movement. Dancers, however, also respond to the
technology and the forms and structures the composer programmed into it. Dancers
control the process; therefore, their interpretation of the original composition and the
choreography will control the image and feel that the work projects. The use of
interactive technology can give equal importance to both creators and performers while
expanding compositional methodology beyond its traditional boundaries. Interactive
technology challenges dancers to perform in a way that realizes the original vision of
both composer and choreographer.
There are as many ways to manage the collaborative process as there are artists
interested in collaborating. Composers and choreographers need to learn many things
about each other's art. Although many collaborators follow a general process of
dependent collaboration, each situation shapes the process differently. Collaborators
encounter a variety of possibilities from the moment they establish a concept to the
moment when they finally put a work together on stage. Therefore, communication is
essential at every step of a collaboration, except, of course, in an independent
collaboration where, paradoxically, the process, and its near absence of communication,
requires not communication, but trust.
The ideal form of collaboration for composers and choreographers may be
synchronous dependent creation; but in spite of this, some collaborations are created
independently in order to preserve the unique vision of each collaborator. Many
collaborators prefer live music performance, but because of financial or other reasons,
sometimes, recorded music is used. The use of electroacoustic music brings a consistency
of timing to the dance that can be useful in both rehearsals and the concert, especially
when the music is composed before the choreography. Improvisation can be an important
element within collaboration, especially when it cultivates a kind of spontaneous
communication that engages performers and audiences alike. The use of technology in
collaboration opens music composition, choreography, improvisation, and performance
to new possibilities. In particular, the use of the Internet and interactive dance systems
can break conventional approaches to space and time and radically change the way
collaborators work. Regardless of the process collaborators choose, their goal should be
to establish an effective collaboration.
While the elaboration of the collaborative process produces numerous examples,
each is distinguished by the basic process underlying it. Robert Cohan, editor-in-chief of
Choreography andDance in 1992, discusses three basic rules for collaboration:
The first and maybe the most difficult is the basic human relationship. Those
things like generosity, listening, caring and understanding are all very difficult in
the throes of artistic creation. Second are all of the work problems specific to each
craft .... The third are all the artistic and creative considerations that the whole
collaboration is about.36
When composers and choreographers collaborate, their role as artists remains the
same as when they work alone. Collaborators remain responsible for the form and
structure of a work, regardless of the collaborative process they choose. They also need to
be aware of the problems that can arise from their particular situation, and from the
collaborative process they choose. All such problems can be easily solved through good
communication. The development of a successful collaboration depends upon the vitality
of its collaborators and the stimulus it provides.
1 Robert Tracy, Goddess: Martha Graham's Dancers Remember. New York: Limelight
2 Leta E. Miller, "Henry Cowell and Modern Dance: the Genesis of Elastic Form,"
Journal of American Music. Vol.20, No.1, 2002, p.16. For details on Cowell's episode in
prison, see Michael Hicks, "The Imprisonment of Henry Cowell," Journal of the
American Musicological Society, Vol.44, No.1, pp.92-119.
3 Miller, p.10. This article was subtitled as "Prison Collaboration: Cowell and Graham."
During the prison collaboration, Cowell explored elastic musical forms, and continued to
contemplate the possibilities of music-dance counterpoint. However, imprisonment
prevented him from visiting Graham's studio or observing the development of her
choreography, a fact that may have limited the development of his ideas.
5 This quote is taken from an interview with Ken White at New York University on May
6 Miller, p.17.
8 Gilbert, Pia and Lockhart, Aileene, Music for the Modern Dance. Dubuque: WM. C.
Brown Company, Publishers, 1973, p.33.
9 Farlex. Inc. "encyclopedia pages" in the Free Dictionary website.
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/interpretive+dance (accessed June 1, 2006)
10 Word Reference website. Adapted from: WordNet 2.0 by Princeton University, 2003.
http://www.wordreference.com/definition/interpretive+dance (accessed June 1, 2006)
1 Henry Cowell, "How Relate Music and Dance?" Dance Observer. Vol.1, No.5, 1934,
12 Joyce Morgenroth, Speaking ofDance: Twelve Contemporary Choreographers on
Their Craft. New York and London: Routledge, 2004, p.62.
13 Miller, p.2.
14 Calvin Tompkins, "On Collaboration (1974)" in Merce Cunningham: Dancing in
Space and Time. Richard Kostelanetz, Editor. Chicago: Chicago review press, 1992, p.45.
See more in Chapter 2, John Cage and Merce Cunningham in Historical Background.
16 Ibid, p.17.
17 This quote is taken from an interview with Dinu Ghezzo at New York University on
May 2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
18 This quote is taken from an interview with Esther Lamneck at New York University on
May 2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
19 Miller, p.17.
21 Morgenroth, p.144.
22 Gordon Mumma, "Electronic Music for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company" in
Merce Cunningham. Germano Celant, Editor. Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1999, p.202.
23 Merce Cunningham, The Dancer and The Dance: Merce Cunningham in conversation
ii ith Jacqueline Lesschaeve. New York, London: Marion Boyars Publishers, 1985, p.129.
24 David Vaughan, Merce Cunningham, Fifty Years. Melissa Harris, Editor. New York:
Aperture Foundation, Inc., 1997, p.276. Merce Cunningham's work changed at four
pivotal junctures in response to his introduction to art-changing work methods, media, or
technology: the first, in the forties, coincides with his work with Cage and the exploration
of the collaborative combination of music and dance created and structured
independently; the second, in the fifties, coincides with his introduction to the use of
chance operations in the random sequencing of dance phrases; the third, in the seventies,
coincides with his film and video work; and the fourth, in the early nineties, coincides
with his work with the dance choreography program LifeForms.
25 Morgenroth, p.17.
26 Wayne Siegel, and Jens Jacobsen, "The Challenges of Interactive Dance: An Overview
and Case Study," Computer Music Journal. Vol. 22, Issue 4, 1998, p. 33. The interface
used is one of the motion-detecting systems commercially available from the company
Big Eye. The system was developed at STEIM by Tom de Meyer and consists of a
software package that runs on a Macintosh computer with a standard video camera.
27 Mumma, p.203.
29 Vaughan, p.66.
30 This quote is taken from an interview with John Gilbert at New York University on
May 2005. See more in Appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
31 John Gilbert, "Collaborative Projects in the Performing Arts" in Dance Education
Program official website at New York University. New York: New York University.
http://www.nyu.edu/classes/gilbert/collaboration/index.html (accessed December 10,
2005). This is the NYU-UCSC collaboration class official website.
32 Roberto Morales-Mansanares, Eduardo F. Morales, Roger Danenberg, and Jonathan
Berger, "SICIB: An Interective Music Composition System Using Body Movements,"
Computer Music Journal. Vol. 25, Issue 2, 2001, p.24.
33 Siegel and Jacobsen, pp.30-31.
34 This quote is taken from an interview with Esther Lamneck at New York University on
May 2005. See more in appendix A: Composer/Choreographer Interviews.
36 Robert P. Cohan, "Choreographers/composers/collaboration," Journal of
Choreography and Dance. Vol.1, Part 4, 1992, pp. 1-2.
METHODS AND STRATEGIES OF COMMON VOCABULARY
The two things that music now is able to free itself from, as I see it, are pitches
and rhythms, because those are the two aspects that were easily measured. It is
difficult to measure tone quality or overtone structure, [and] dynamics, but easy to
measure pitch [and rhythm] so as we give up those measurements. .in dance, if
you give up things that correspond to rhythm and pitch-namely, movement on
two legs-what do you have? It's almost as though you couldn't give it up. ...
There is nothing about scales and periodic rhythm in the art of music that makes
[dancers] so eternally necessary. Rather, I agree with Busoni, who says that music
gains its true nature when it is free of all such physical necessities; and where we
notate regular rhythms, as Busoni says, they come to life only with rubato, they
come to life only with irregularity. But in the very nature of the dance are such
questions as balance, muscle control, left-right, etc.1
-John Cage, 1965
A challenge for composers and choreographers during a collaboration is to
establish parallels between musical elements and individual dance elements. There are
many compositional elements that composers and choreographers use including design,
rhythm, tempo, time (or duration), phrase, dynamics, form, space, and style. Dance draws
its overall formal structure from phrases and rhythms. Dance rhythms are drawn from the
pulse, and the phrases come from natural breathing rhythms. "Breath rhythm" comes out
of the natural physical rhythm of the body, and was formulated under the term
"dynamism" in the early twentieth-century.2 At the beginning of phrases and at cadences,
dance is dependent on the rhythmic units of the music. The mark of a well conceived
work for dance often comes out of the strong stylistic connections it makes between the
music and dance elements and the overall artistic concept. To ensure clear
communication, and the creation of a successful collaboration, composers and
choreographers need to understand each other's viewpoints on the role of different
structural elements and artistic vocabularies.
Because music and dance are temporal art forms, rhythm and duration are,
therefore, fundamental elements. Phrases are measured and coordinated using different
types of temporal units either regular or irregular, fast or slow, obvious or subtle. Because
time is unalterable, it is the structural foundation upon which all musical and
choreographic events are ordered. Composers and choreographers utilize terminology
that deals with the movement through time of music and dance, terms such as phrase,
breath, pause, tempo, and pulse. Although music and dance use similar vocabulary, the
meanings of the words vary slightly. Composers and choreographers express concepts
that unfold throughout the compositional process through the artistic structure of the
work. The primary component of the structure in both art forms is time. The differences
in vocabulary between the two art forms can be subtle or obvious, and terms can function
independently or be strongly connected to other terms. This chapter examines the
respective vocabularies of compositional elements between music and dance.
Identification and Discussion of Common Vocabulary
How do the vocabularies of music and dance differ from each other? This chapter
identifies the common vocabulary used in music and dance, focusing especially on terms
associated with early modern dance. Terms are used to describe the different art forms;
however, the definitions of these terms vary depending on the discipline. Composers and
choreographers can benefit from examining the etymology of a word and how it applies
to music and dance.
A useful first step in the compositional process can be the development of a plan.
Developing a plan (a general term encompassing the overall approach) is different from
creating a formal design (which focuses on structural elements); while the overall plan
relates to the compositional process chosen at the beginning of a collaboration, the formal
design is the contour and structure of something as distinguished from its substance.3
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, "design" is a
drawing or sketch; "the invention and disposition of the forms, parts, or details of
something according to a plan; a decorative or artistic work; a visual composition or
pattern; the art of creating designs; a plan, project, and undertaking; and a reasoned
purpose or intention."4 Design is the compositional plan, or sketch, created by the
composer and choreographer during the initial stage of collaboration that describes the
compositional material such as instrumentation, number of dancers, form, duration, and
The Oxford Dictionary ofDance explains "design" in relation to the stage and
costume design. Since dance is a visual art form, the design of the stage and costumes
naturally plays a major role in establishing the style and tone of any work.5 Stage setting
and costume design are significant, especially in narrative works because they help
identify the characters and plot of the story. Even the mood of an abstract dance may be
drawn from setting, lighting, or costumes. In addition, the stage setting or dancers'
costumes influence the audiences' interpretation of the piece. The choreographer's design
lays the foundation of the work, determining many elements of the production including
the style and overall tone of the dance.
Similar to other twentieth-century artists who abandoned traditional modes of
expression, many twentieth-century choreographers rejected the rules of traditional ballet
by using abstract choreography, stage settings, and costumes. During the development of
twentieth-century art, many divergent schools of thought were established. One of the
pioneers of the modern ballet, Sergei Diaghilev, integrated new aesthetics from visual art
such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism into his stage work. Diaghilev often
commissioned avant-garde painters to produce sets or props for his ballets. For example,
Picasso's setting and costume design for Parade (1917) influenced Diaghilev's
choreography to the extent that the ballet is sometimes referred to as a Cubist ballet.6
Many collaborations of the twentieth-century focused on the amplification of the
symbolism in the dance, music, or other arts involved in a piece. Many of the artists in
these collaborations would share ideas and develop the work together, in collaboration
with each other; however, some choreographers such as Merce Cunningham frequently
approached collaboration with artists in a different way. Cunningham and his
collaborators often discussed the initial ideas, but then developed them independently.
The study of Cunningham's choreography is discussed in chapter two, Historical
Background. Some examples of his collaboration include Andy Warhol's helium-filled
balloons which bobbed unpredictably through RainForest (1968) or Jasper John's free-
standing set for Walkaround Time (1968) which squeezed the dancers into confined
spaces. Such set designs in modern dance usually do not aim to define meanings within
the choreography; indeed, the design creates an independent visual place for the
performance of the dance.
The dance critic Paul Love does not limit design to appearance, but defines the
term in his book Modern Dance Terminology in five different categories:
1. Ordering: composing
2. Design in time: a design in time is one which takes several counts or beats to
be completed. For a simple example, we might take the body that is moving in
a straight line, while the arm is slowly rising and completing an arc over the
head. It will take several footsteps before the arm has finished its pattern.
3. Design in space: a design in space refers to one, which is presented
instantaneously, without occupying several counts to be completed. It is a
movement seen only as an accent. Thus, a leap in the air is a design in space.
It is the pattern of the figure in the air and not the few seconds of leaving the
ground and returning to it which is remembered.
4. Design in dynamics: a design in dynamics refers to one, usually both in time
and space, which emphasizes a crescendo or a decrescendo. It is dynamism
that controls the muscular phrases, that is the succession of variations in
movement which are performed on a sustained muscular impulse.
5. Combination: designs in time and designs in space may be used separately,
that is, with the greater emphasis on the one or the other aspect. However, all
design is composed of both elements, and it is only the emphasis on one or the
other which justifies the use of the separate term for a series of movements.8
Love's definition refers primarily to the choreography of modern dance. The
definition of design is not limited exclusively to the appearance of stage setting or
costumes, but also includes dance composition, or the ordering of events in time and
space. Establishing the time and space in which a choreography will take place is
essential; as well, the composer of the music needs to understand how time and space are
used within the dance, and how they will impact the collaboration's compositional
process. Doris Humphrey also considered time and space to be an important aspect of
design and discusses this in her book, The Art ofMaking Dances:
It must be clearly understood that dance is an art in which design has two aspects:
time and space. We can speak of design in the sense of static line. That is, a dance
can be stopped at any moment and it will have a design in space. ... In addition,
there is the design in time, which exists through any moving sequence, lasting
from a few seconds to a full-length dance. This is much more complex than the
Composers and choreographers set up phrases and transitions either from moment
to moment or from within the overall shape of a design. According to Humphrey, the
design in time of the dance is much more difficult than its design in space, not only for
the choreographer but also for the composer. Designing a dance in time requires the
determination of exact points of transition from one movement to another in order to
establish the overall shape. The shape of a work in time is related to its form. The term
design is an over-arching concept encompassing form as well as other elements. The
overall design of a work should include original material, building blocks that are
essential for the development of a piece. These materials could be sketches for the whole
piece or detailed descriptions for certain parts of the work.
Designing dance is similar to composing music. While composers do not
necessarily think of set design or costumes as much as choreographers, they need to
design in time as well, giving consideration to how mood (drama), dynamics, and
instrumentation support the dance. Establishing the design is the first step in a
collaboration; as such, it can be easily complicated by differences of opinion and personal
taste. Once a plan for the work is set, composers and choreographers can move onto the
next step: considering the main compositional elements in detail.
Simply put, rhythm is a pattern of accents in time, seen or heard, with a
predictable or unpredictable character. Rhythm exists in both music and dance; however,
composers and choreographers approach rhythm from different viewpoints. Doris
Humphrey described rhythm as the most persuasive and most powerful element, with the
possible exception of virtuoso technique and individual personality. She says, "Design is
striking, rhythm is rousing, and dynamics are subtle coloring compared to a driving
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the term
1. Any kind of movement characterized by the regular recurrence of strong and
2. Nonrandom variation, especially uniform or regular variation, of any quantity
or condition characterizing a process
3. In music, a regulated pattern formed by long or short notes, or a specific kind
of such a pattern
4. In painting, sculpture, and other visual arts; a regular or harmonious pattern
created by lines, forms, and colors.11
The word "rhythm" is derived from the Latin word rhythms and the Greek word
rhuthmos, meaning recurring motion and measure.
It is interesting to compare rhythmic patterns of lines or colors in the visual arts to
the patterns of notes in music. Rhythmic patterns can play a strong role in music and
visual art, whether presented forcefully or with nuance and subtlety. The patterns of
accented lines or colors in a painting have much in common with the patterns of notes in
a musical composition; however, where music and dance depart from the rhythms of
visual art is in their presentation in time, a fact that draws in matters of duration and its
impact on the perception of phrase. The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines the term
"rhythm" as the pattern of movement in time. In a general sense, rhythm encompasses all
aspects of musical movement as ordered in time, as opposed to other aspects of musical
sound such as pitch and timbre. Jaques Dalcroze describes rhythm in his book, Rhythm,
Music, and Education: "While precise relations of time, space, and energy determine the
form of the movement, rhythm demands different forms of movement for different
accentuations, in other words, different degrees of muscular energy."12 One form of
richness in works of music or dance often comes from the variety of rhythmic patterns
Some synonyms of rhythm are meter, cadence, and beat, according to the
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Rhythm denotes a regular
pattern, an ebb and flow, of sounds and movement in speech, music, writing, dance, and
other physical activities, including natural phenomena such as the rhythm of the heart.
Meter means measurement and is applied to a system of recurring patterns of length, beat,
or numbers. Cadence refers specifically to the rise and fall of the voice in speech or
singing and to the harmonic sequence of chords in music indicating a conclusion. Beat
refers to rhythmic stress, but it may also be used loosely for rhythm in general.13
Individual beats are not the same as rhythm; however, a pattern of beats and its repetition
is synonymous with rhythm.
The pattern of pulsation (the ebb and flow) of movement in music and dance is
connected with rhythmic variation. Rhythms are patterns, either steady or irregular, the
basic premise of which was explored by modern dancers in new rhythmic theories. Paul
Love discusses rhythm in dance in his book, Modern Dance Terminology:
Rhythm was no longer synonymous with beat but came to mean a sequence of
self-evolved movements, harmonized with the fundamental pulse and flow of the
body-rhythms and capable of repetition. Movements were used only in relation to
a central dynamo of motor power, which Isadora Duncan located in the chest, the
seat of the two vital rhythms of the body, blood and breath. The shift in the
meaning of dance was one from line to mass, from building by accretion to
One of Isadora Duncan's important contributions to choreography is her theory of
breath rhythm, which along with her concept of the wave, is related to dynamics in
modern dance. Natural breathing involves the alternation and counterpoise of two
opposites, inhaling and exhaling, which is related to the concept of tension and release as
practiced in dynamics. The term "dynamic" is discussed later in this chapter. The theory
of breath rhythm, which is similar to Martha Graham's theory of contraction-release, is
also related to dynamics in dance. According to the book Modern Dance Terminology by
Paul Love, breath rhythm is:
one of the natural physical rhythms, which was observed and consciously used by
followers of Isadora Duncan and others. The use of these natural rhythms was
later formulated under the term dynamism. The inhalation and expiration of the
breath, taken as a synthesis, provide a natural physical rhythm and may be used as
a dynamic governing principle, the various lengths and exaggerations providing a
Dynamism is a concept practiced in early modern dance, if not also the music that
accompanies it, that comes out of an interest in the ebb and flow of rhythmic patterns,
and the dance motions that drive them. The use of dynamic rhythms, including precise
rhythmic patterns and loosely flowing rhythms, provides variety in both music and dance.
Doris Humphrey used her term "fall-recovery" as an example of dynamism, which is also
based on the theory of breath rhythm. Doris Humphrey remarks:
The breath rhythm in the time sense is a two-part phrase, the first longer than the
second. In the space sense, it is a filling and expanding followed by a contraction.
In the dynamic sense, it is a continuous movement growing in tension, followed
by a letting of tension, which finishes with an accent.16
Breathing is the basis of human life, and the two-part phrase of inhalation and exhalation
can be accelerated or slowed by the naturally changing state of the body. By
concentrating on these natural rhythms, modern choreographers break from the
traditional rhythmic patterns of Romantic ballet.
Isadora Duncan used the term, "wave rhythm" to describe natural rhythms. She
talks about wave rhythm in The Art of the Dance:
With the strengthening of the breeze over the seas, the waters form in long
undulations. Of all movement which gives us delight and satisfies the soul's sense
of movement, that of the waves of the sea seems to me the finest. This great wave
movement runs through all nature, for when we look over the waters to the long
line of hills on the shore, they seem to have the great undulating movement of the
sea; and all movements in nature seem to me to have as their ground-plan the law
of wave movement.17
This natural rhythm brings freedom to the rhythmic patterns of dance, allowing them to
rise, hold, curl, and break. Duncan's use of these natural rhythms influenced many other
choreographers. The natural character of call and response, introduced into the rhythmic
patterns of dance, brought a similar realism. Composers also experimented with natural
rhythms. In reference to modern music, in a 1939 edition of Dance Observer, Louis Horst
But this experimentation away from rhythmic regularity was not only a desire for
greater rhythmic freedom, it basically was really a desire for greater truth in
action, a way towards a new realism. And it is this view of rhythmic
experimentation in music that links it so closely to the contemporary dance's urge
towards a factual and honest employment of action-rhythms-a true and new
realism based on action, not attitude.18
The use of natural rhythms in music often produces certain irregular patterns
requiring irregular meter or single-beat bars. Certain natural rhythms, which rise and fall
without notice, and exhibit no regular patterns or pulse, require neither meter nor beats.
Some composers have developed new systems of rhythmic notation, such as time or
spatial notation, in which there is no indication of meter in the score, only duration
measured against the tick of an unheard clock. Although some natural rhythms do not
necessarily conform to identifiable metric systems, they still have rhythmic accents. A
metric accent corresponds with the first beat of the bar, but a rhythmic accent may occur
anywhere within a rhythmic group.19 The flow of rhythmic patterns sometimes shapes the
character of a piece.
Choreographers use various techniques to help with the flow of dance and even
create rhythmic dissonance with music. Musical rhythm and dance rhythm are not
necessarily the same. If the music is comprised of sustained notes without any accents or
downbeats, how is the rhythm of the dance counted? Some composers take different
approaches to rhythm, which require new metric systems.
Composer Toru Takemitsu incorporated the distinct and unusual sound and
instruments of traditional Japanese music into his own music, as well as concepts of time
borrowed from Japanese culture. Rhythmic flow is an important musical aesthetic in
Asian cultures. Takemitsu described his music as expressing traditional Japanese musical
aesthetics of time; he expounded on the concept of "ma"-an unquantifiable
metaphysical duration of dynamically tensed absence of sound-as a philosophy of
musical time applied to the majority of his works.20 By incorporating natural flowing
rhythms, composers move away from traditional concepts of metrical organization.
Accents can occur on any beat, or even slightly off the beat, developing naturally without
counting time. With natural rhythms, rhythmic flow becomes more closely aligned with
nature than with mechanical systems. Natural rhythms introduce a flexibility, which
makes metric groupings of traditional regular rhythm in four or eight less appropriate.
Composers and choreographers need to establish a balanced and consistent
metrical relationship between the music and the dance. Determining a consistent system
for counting time, useful to both, is one of the most basic and crucial problems
collaborators face. One of the fundamental issues in this process is the placement of beats
within each phrase in music and dance. It is not necessary to count throughout a piece;
however, because dancers do not dance by following a score, counting during practice
helps them, especially when working in large groups. The decision of whether to count in
exact beats or naturally grouped phrases is a matter of personal taste. For practical
reasons, some choreographers rarely try to connect metrically with the music. For
example, consider the duration of three measures in 4/4 meter which is the same as a
duration of four measures in 3/4 meter. If the choreography is in 4/4 meter and counted 1,
2, 3 and 4, the same amount of music in 3/4 meter would be quite different from what the
composer initially intended, and the placement of accents in the music and dance would
Meter is an element of musical rhythm, which is the result of regular rhythmic
accents. Meter is more applicable to time in music and its notation than it is to time in
dance. The time signature and the basic time-units-whole note, quarter note, and eighth
note-are important to music, but in dance, these are not standard elements. In modern
dance, the choreographer focuses primarily on flow, rather than on a measured rhythmic
system. Musical rhythm is similar to flow rhythm, however, musical rhythm is usually
created using a metric system, whereas flow rhythm is based more on the sequencing of
asymmetric phrases or movements.
Doris Humphrey makes a distinction between meter and rhythm by referring to
metric rhythm or motor rhythm first, and breath 1 ythi/n second.21 Taken literally, the
term meter means measure, and it applies to a system of measured repetitions of length or
beat. Breath rhythm is distinguished from metrical rhythm through its dependence on
flow, which is similar to speech phrase-a series of connected movements or a
movement-rhythm depending upon the breath length.22 Humphrey says, "The speech
phrase, with its pauses similar to those of the spoken phrases or sentence, provides
rhythm."23 Humphrey combined breath rhythm, which is similar to speech phrase, with
kinesthetic phrase, which is driven by body movement, to create what she called
"movement-phrase," a grouping of movements.
Emphasizing breath rhythm in dance gives choreographers more flexibility in the
way they conceive, design, and vary rhythms. In music, some composers found rhythmic
flexibility in new approaches to meter and time; for example, Eric Satie eliminated bar-
lines, and Igor Stravinsky sometimes changed the time signature in almost every
measure. Mixed meters or changing meters in music is not the same as movement-phrase
in dance. While both mixed meter and flow rhythm are distinguished by their
continuously variable rhythms, the rhythmic profile of mixed meters is more pronounced
and articulated through its more common use of metric accents, and accent-induced,
rhythmic variations. Henry Cowell mentions the need for a new metric notation: "Such a
notation would make [composers'] music easier to read, since at present the performer
has no means of deciding where these composers wished notes accented, or where to find
the underlying pulse which at times undoubtedly exists in their music."24 The accent of
the first beat in a musical phrase is similar to the first beat of the movement-phrase,
which is borrowed from speech pattern. A metric system is based upon the counting of
time, while rhythm, taken as simply the sequencing of durations, does not. H. W.
Fowler's definition of rhythm in speech is appropriate to the dance. He talks about
"Rhythmless speech or writing" in the Dictionary of Modern English Usage:
[Rhythmless speech] is like the flow of liquid from a pipe or tap; it runs with
smooth monotony from when it is turned on to when it is turned off, provided it is
clear stuff; if it is turbid. The smooth flow is queerly and abruptly checked from
time to time, and then resumed. Rhythmic speech or writing is like the waves of
the sea, moving onward with alternate rise and fall, connected yet separate, like
but different, suggestive of some law, too complex for analysis or statement,
controlling the relations between wave and wave, waves and sea, phrases and
phrase, phrases and speech. Rhythm is not a matter of counting syllables and
measuring the distance between accents. It does mean so arranging the parts of
your whole that each shall enhance, or at least not detract from, the general effect
upon the ear. Meter is measurement, rhythm is flow, a flow with pulsations as
infinitely various as the shape and size and speed of the waves; and infinite
variety is not amenable to tabulation such as can be applied to meter.25
While choreographers have more flexibility in their approach to irregularities of rhythm,
composers still follow the metric system using mixed or changing meters.
In a collaboration between composers and choreographers, it is necessary to
distinguish the metric pulse from the beat. The meter and its beats is to music what the
overall phrase and its count of movements or steps is to dance. Musicians follow the
meter system, counting the beats in each measure, beginning each measure with beat one,
while dancers usually count beats within a single phrase. Because music and dance utilize
different counting systems, metric and dance accents end up being juxtaposed against
each other. Varied accents can appear in the same phrase of the dance, but this is different
from the kind of accents found in metrically notated music. The term "phrase" is
discussed later in this chapter. Henry Cowell addresses the problem of new metrical ideas
in dance and music collaboration:
What is required to re-create interest in meter is not to do away with so powerful a
musical element, not to keep the bar-lines always the same and then negate them
by accents; because accents within the measure are never felt to be the same as
first beats in the meter. Neither is it necessary to make of meter a sort of skeleton-
in-closet. .essential to preserve, but so unlovely that it must be covered by almost
any accenting of phrase which will disguise the metric foundation. When
meters change frequently, or when harmonies are formed from them, they give
pleasure, and it is again of interest to hear them clearly defined, instead of
Rhythmic accents are essential in the organization of a piece, as they give pattern
and shape to phrases. A rhythm is a patterned configuration of attacks that may or may
not be constrained by a prevailing meter or associated with a particular tempo.27 As
Cowell previously mentioned, rhythmic accents do not necessarily only fall on the initial
beat in any particular meter. Accents play an important role in the structure of dance
phrases. According to Modern Dance Terminology by Paul Love, the accent is:
A stronger or sharper movement in a series of movements, the chief element
being force. Accents may be given to one or more parts of a movement-phrase, or
to a number of movement-phrases in relation to other phrases.28
The term stress is synonymous with accent, which is "the emphasis upon any
movement or group of movements over and above other movements that precede or
follow it."29 Stress may be introduced through an increase in intensity or through a
change in the quality of a movement. It can also be introduced through variations in the
speed of movement. Accents or stresses are the result of the rhythmic dynamics in a
phrase. Variation in the number and placement of accents can lead to variations of
rhythm that can add character to a piece. Doris Humphrey analyzed the principle of
dynamic rhythms, and says:
The Rhythm exercises specify the duality, the conflict which is the basis of
rhythmic movement: fall and recovery, which visualizes the two poles, at each of
which the motion might cease. The initial emphasis is on feeling, on the
definitely receptive reaction of the body to the particular movement. When the
body is not repeating it mechanically by rote, but has accepted it and has complete
control of it, then the 'count' is analyzed and learned; and following this, accent.
To make a bridge between the two, the accent may be placed at first in a simple
routine order, coinciding with the strongest body movement. Later it may be
shifted to the weaker movement, preceding or following the strong movement.
By becoming an off-accent, it increases the student's feeling of the body and also
increases the strength of the strong movement, which has to depend on itself alone
A system for counting time is necessary for both the analysis and effective
rehearsal of a piece. The introduction of accents can help organize how the music and
dance are counted. As previously mentioned, a problem that occurs in collaboration is
deciding how to count. This is not typically a problem for musicians, as they follow the
meter system in the score. However, the absence in dance of both scores and metrical
thinking makes the discussion of how to count a dance not only relevant, but crucial.
Rhythm in dance cannot be organized without first inventing a method by which to count
Musicians may be better at keeping time than dancers; however, musicians follow
a score with a clear view of a conductor. On the other hand, dancers follow the count by
ear, and then express it with their body movements. Counting is important for a group
dance, especially one with continuously changing rhythms. Choreographers can
sometimes capitalize on the way individual dancers count, and their peculiar (or unique)
habits. Some choreographers embrace the issues surrounding the counting of rhythm by
allowing dancers to count time each in their own way. An extreme example of this is the
work of Merce Cunningham whose choreography does not even stress rhythmic issues.
Instead, his choreography focuses on the independence of dancers through the use of
chance operations. This approach not only simplifies how dancers count, but leads to
some surprising happenings.
Doris Humphrey was conscious of the potential rhythmic problems in her
choreography. She says, "Coming to problems of rhythm in dance, every director and
teacher knows the arhythmic individual who has so imperfect a co-ordination between the
ear and the body that he cannot conform to a beat later than he should, and in general is
hopeless rhythmically."31 Because of the rhythmic challenges, she focused on developing
a theory of dance rhythms, such as motor rhythm, breath rhythm, and emotional rhythm.
To perform her types of rhythm structures, dancers count by extension of their breathing,
their bodies, and even, particular emotional states.
Choreographers are aware of the problems of counting that exist between music
and dance as a result of their different theories of rhythm. However, if the music uses
distinctive, repeating rhythmic patterns, it becomes much easier to count and coordinate
dance movements, especially if the movements also repeat. The use of consistent,
repeating, patterns of accents, something similar to single beat bars, can also simplify
how musicians and dancers count and coordinate.
Collaborations between composers and choreographers raise many questions,
especially about rhythm. For example:
* How will choreographers respond to changes in musical meter?
* What if sudden contrasts and changes occur in the musical/dance phrases, how
does the choreographer/composer respond?
* How should the dance respond to silences, particularly those following sections of
continuously changing, highly active rhythm?
* Is it necessary that the rhythms in the music and dance concur?
Rhythm is an important shared element in collaboration. While collaborators may
take a freer approach to rhythmic synchronization, it is still important to understand each
other's approach to rhythm. Dancers express not only mechanical rhythm, but more
importantly and commonly, the natural rhythm of their bodies. Composers, too easily
yoked by notation's rigid and simplistic structures, need to explore the rhythmic
expressions of dancers and their origin in the natural breath with its inhalation,
suspension, and exhalation.
Some music terminology refers to the close relationship of music and dance.
Frequently, musical terms are used to describe motion in dance, for example, ritardando,
accelerando, andante, and so on. The term "tempo" originated from the Latin tempus,
which means "time." The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines tempo as "the speed at
which music is performed." In music, tempo is the rate per metric unit of time in
performance, such as a tempo (return to the original tempo) or ritardando (gradually
slowing down). Dance has its definition for tempo as well. Paul Love defines tempo in
his book Modern Dance Terminology as:
The rate of speed with which a series of movements is performed. Physical
correspondences are found for the following musical terms: hesitatingly for largo,
slowly for lento, smoothly for adagio, moderately for andante, briskly for allegro,
and hurriedly for presto.32
In music, it is difficult to determine the exact meaning of largo and lento, adagio
and andante, or allegro andpresto. This tempo vocabulary is imprecise in music, and it is
further complicated when applied to dance. An interesting aspect of tempo in music is
how it relates to dance. While tempos have their place and meaning in musical scores,
their use by dancers and choreographers requires a more detailed explanation given the
way the body comes into play. Choreographers interpret musical tempo not in terms of
absolutes but in relation to the mechanics of the body. Doris Humphrey provides a
solution to the problem of interpreting musical tempos by explaining, "the measure for
tempo [for dance] is the rate of normal walking-not the heartbeat, although this [musical
tempo] is a contributing factor."33 Dance deals with tempo relative to various walking
and running speeds, which in dance can be classified as different named tempi. Knowing
the previous tempo can help in determining the speed of the following phrase. Humphrey
also discusses the relationships between tempi:
Slow and fast, as related to the walk, have psychological effects. Slower than the
normal pace is always more lethargic, even though it is thoughtful; faster is
always more exciting, exhilarating, indicating a quickened desire and increased
Musicians typically set rates of speed or tempo using a metronome, especially
when exact rates are needed; dancers, however, take their tempos not from a series of
predetermined metronomic speeds but from the piece's changes in character. Doris
Humphrey's ideas about tempo embrace the idea of tempo as a matter of character and
psychology, rather than of the metronome. For example, while short fast motions
typically indicate a fast dance tempo, short passages of fast motion interjected into
otherwise slow moving, long phrases do not change the overall tempo of the phrase
which remains slow; however, the fast interjections can and do change the character of
the phrase. When applied to music, tempo refers to the overall speed of a piece, whereas
in dance, tempo often indicates rhythm, either fast or slow. Tempo in music is basically
the rate of speed. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
tempo changes occur either abruptly or gradually throughout a piece:
But it is worth noting that even within passages that seem to be in stable tempo,
the bare rate is not mechanically constant, save in performances that involve
electronic or mechanical means of articulating beats and rhythms. Rather, in
normal performances tempo systematically fluctuates within the bar and the
Composers indicate tempo on a score with words such as Andante or Allegro, or
with metronome markings. The metronome measures out a specific number of beats to
the minute as indicated by the marking in the music; however, metronome settings
indicate only the proportional time and have no performance implications other than
speed. Since the twentieth-century, most composers have preferred to indicate the exact
tempo of a musical score by providing both descriptive words and metronome markings.
Sometimes the speed of a given tempo may be flexible, as in tempo rubato,
accelerando, and ritardando, three terms originating in music. Tempo rubato calls for a
fluctuating tempo that changes fluidly in conjunction with the expressive goals of the
musical performer. Accelerando and ritardando allow for gradually faster or slower
tempos, and can be handled with some flexibility. The idea of rhythmic freedom, as
practiced in modern dance and music, is often associated with flexible tempo in which
performers freely increase and decrease tempo according to the needs of the performance.
In modern dance, free tempo has a strong relationship to natural rhythm or breath rhythm
in which pulse is drawn more from the body than the metronome and often varies as a
consequence. When variations in tempo are driven by the personal tastes and changing
physical states of a dancer's body, they have a strong connection to the general concept in
dance of dynamics, discussed later in this chapter.
The determination of tempo comes together naturally with the unfolding of other
elements within a composition. David Epstein talks about the 'right' sense of time and
tempo in his book .Vhpiqig Time:
Tempo has generally been acknowledged as a consequence of the sum of all
factors within a piece-the overall sense of a work's themes, rhythms,
articulations, "breathing," motion, harmonic progressions, tonal movement,
contrapuntal activity .... Tempo is a reduction of this complex Gestalt to the
element of speed per se, a speed that allows the overall, integrated bundle of
musical elements to flow with a rightful sense.36
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians provides a similar explanation about
the 'right' tempo:
A true sense of tempo, then, is a product of more than the successive note-to-note
articulations; it involves the perception of motion within rhythmic groups and
across entire phrases. Finding the 'right' tempo within and between sections of a
piece is one of the subtlest and most difficult tasks facing the performer.37
In collaboration, finding the appropriate sense of tempo is essential. The key to
finding an appropriate tempo can be found in the unfolding of all the elements of a work.
Time (or Duration)
Time is the most significant shared compositional element in a collaboration. For
example, although John Cage and Merce Cunningham worked independently, time
remained a primary element in their collaboration. In addition, Merce Cunningham has
stated in interviews that music and dance share only one element, time, and that all other
notions about correspondence between the two arts are "intellectual constructs."38
John Cage considered time to be the most fundamental element in music,
encompassing pitch, loudness, and timbre as well as silence. In John Cage's essay
Experimental Music, he discusses the concept of duration as the basis of musical rhythm.
Cage defines rhythm as durations of any length coexisting in any state of succession and
When music and dance share the same duration in a collaboration, it is not
necessary to fill every moment with sound or motion. Once the composer and
choreographer agree on the duration of the piece, the work's smaller sections can be
determined, either independently or together, by dividing the overall duration and then
filling the sections with single notes, gestures, or even just silence. The equivalent in
dance of musical silence is the absence of motion or the immobile posture. The
choreography and the musical score can also vary from performance to performance and
lead to fluctuations of time that can change the movement itself. It is up to the
collaborators to determine how much temporal accuracy each gesture needs.
In music, time is divided into a variety of lengths of time-units determined by the
notation system used. Individual note values, such as quarter notes or sixteenth notes,
subdivide these time-units in ways that performers are experienced at reading and
interpreting. Although musicians are trained in how to carefully and accurately follow a
metric system and its tempo indications, their personal conceptions of time will affect the
work's actual durations, large and small, and in general, the presentation of its clocklike
metrical design. The same is true for dance; while dancers have set movements to
sequence, the way they perform them and count through them, phrase-by-phrase, varies
in response to the experience they have while performing. Consequently, they too affect
the durational aspects of the work as their experience changes what would otherwise
seem to be driven by the clock and the count. David Epstein addresses the difference
between clock time and experiential time:
Time has dual modes of structure. One is essentially clocklike, a measurement
mode that mechanically delineates equal periods. The other mode relies upon
experience for its demarcation-experience that is particular and unique. Time,
seen in the context of such experience, is anything but mechanical or external;
quite the opposite, it is integral to the experience itself. As a consequence, it is
often measured, or delineated, in terms of that experience.40
The choice of whether or not to use a system of metrical organization is a
significant decision. A work's durations, large and small, will vary from performance to
performance. When the choreography requires rhythms that are evenly measured, it may
be easier to align dance movements and their durations with the metrically ordered music.
Since music and dance need to share the same overall duration in a collaboration,
performers need to control their personal expressions, especially during gradual tempo
changes such as ritardando, accelerando and rubato. It is important to control the
experience to keep the work a consistent duration. Dancers and choreographers deal with
this problem in different ways; for example, Cunningham used a stopwatch for
controlling the duration, especially in a group dance. Duration is a very important
compositional element, especially in Cage-Cunningham collaborations in which it is the
only shared element, all other creative work being developed independently.
Phrases, both in music and dance, take on shape and identity through the themes,
motifs, and rhythmic patterns contained within them. In dance, the overall movement of
the body, and its tendency to rise, fall, or break, plays a unique and significant role in
giving shape to dance phrases; choreographic vocabulary often distinguishes phrases this
way, that is, as phrases that rise, fall, rise and fall, or break suddenly. In modern dance,
phrase sequences often have more independence than they do in traditional ballet.
Most traditional ballet is structured to accommodate musical phrases, the lengths
of which are usually divided into four, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two bars. Even when
meters such as 5/8 or 7/8 are used in traditional ballet, dancers typically prefer to divide
the meter's ongoing, background pulse (i.e. the eighth note in 5/8) into beats of constant
length that cross bar lines in their search for regularity. In modern dance, however, the
length of musical phrases, or the division of them, is rarely regular. In dance, the
introduction of different types of flow rhythm, such as the "breath rhythm" developed by
Doris Humphrey, or the "wave rhythm" developed by Isadora Duncan, has expanded the
nature and meaning of phrase in dance.
According to the New Harvard Dictionary of Music, the term phrase is "a unit of
musical syntax, usually forming part of a larger, more complete unit sometimes termed a
period."41 The identification of musical phrases begins provisionally with the
identification of cadences or equivalent pauses. Phrases are often distinguished through
the shape of a melodic line, or the repetition of a rhythmic pattern. Phrases in dance are
similarly distinguished by lines, not those following the path laid by musical tones, but
those traced by hands, feet, body, or even group movement. Paul Love speaks about line
in dance, and its connection to musical line. For Love, the equivalent in dance of melodic
line is to be found in movement that flows smoothly without staccato interruptions; an
evenly progressing, unbroken line. As well he adds, "The movement in [a] melodic line
[in dance] will be curved movement."42
Both composers and choreographers use the terms phrase and period.
A phrase in music is a series of notes that begins and completes an intended expression.
A phrase can be extended and connected into other phrases which, when grouped
together and ended with a cadential phrase, can be called a period. Phrases and periods
shape time differently. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
a phrase is:
One of the smallest among the divisions, which distinguishes the term of a
musical work. Where there are distinct portions marked off by closes like full
stops, and half closes like stops of less emphasis, the complete divisions are
generally called periods, and the lesser division phrases. The word can hardly be
used with much exactness and uniformity, for sometimes a phrase may be all, as it
were, contained in one breath, and sometimes subordinate divisions may be very
Paul Love describes the use of period and movement-phrase in modern dance vocabulary:
In as much as the term "period" is sometimes used in modern dance to express the
same thing as the term "movement-phrase," the terms may lead to some
ambiguity in the dance as they do in music. If both are to be used, it may be stated
in general that a phrase is shorter than a period.44
Periods are often divided into two balancing, complementary halves, with the halves not
necessarily being equal.
In ballet, a series of combined steps and movements is called a movement-phrase.
The movement-phrase separates foot and arm movements; in contrast, phrase structures
in modern dance often move beyond the steps, engaging the entire body in integrated
movements. According to John Martin in his book, Introduction to the Dance,
A succession of movements form a common impulse, not necessarily sufficient to
constitute a complete statement of action but containing either the introduction of
a theme or a response to such a theme already introduced. The series of
movements would necessarily have a characteristic pulse, though they need not
inevitably be evenly spaced or timed, and would possess a unity that set them
apart from what had been done previously or what was to follow.45
Motor phrase is a type of movement-phrase in which the dynamic breath rhythm
of the body determines durations and the timing of movement.46 Unlike the arbitrary and
irregular design of some musical phrases, the motor phrase is organic and regular; its
origin in human breathing makes it similar to the speech phrase developed by Doris
Humphrey, previously discussed in the rhythm section of this chapter.
In general, the structure of the phrase in modern dance is different from the
structure of phrases found in historic ballet scores in which two-measure or four-measure
phrases predominate. In modern dance, phrases are often shaped by the natural rhythms
of the human body using what dancers call breath rhythm, wave rhythm, or speech
rhythm. The way these types of dance phrases emerge out of the natural and regular
movements of the human body has some parallel in the experience of composers who
find regular rhythms and phrase groups emerging in music they have otherwise designed
to be irregular and free; no matter how much composers work to take a freer approach to
rhythmic design, occasional regularity is inevitable.
Dancers and musicians both count in order to properly perform a score or
choreography and to stay synchronized with others; however, the way dancers and
musicians count is different, a fact that in collaborative work gives rise to the bar-phrase
system. The bar-phrase system deals with the seeming conflict in collaboration between
musicians who, following music notation, count beats in a bar, and dancers who,
following movement-phrases, count beats or events in a phrase. While counting in music
is fairly straightforward, counting in dance is more unusual, although based on practical
concerns. Dancers typically prefer to start counting from the beginning of the phrase.
Phrases typically begin with the first strong beat or point of emphasis; however, counting
actually begins with the first gesture, no matter how small or preparatory it might be. The
bar-phrase system in music is more straightforward; in bar-phrase, the metrical structure
of the notated music determines the placement of downbeats. Since dance does not have a
standard system of metrical downbeats as in music, downbeats are generally taken to
occur at the beginning of musical phrases. The movement-phrase in dance is a sequence
of combined arm and foot movements with a beginning, middle, and end; unlike music,
the movement-phrase has no bar-system and is, therefore, counted more freely. For
example, a three measure musical phrase with a time signature of 3/4 would be counted
one, two, three, two, two, three, three, two, three in order to keep track of the passage of
both beats and bars. Downbeats are naturally found at the beginning of bars. Dance
phrases that cover three measures, however, will most likely not be divided in the same
fashion; instead, a full nine beats will be counted without any reference to the underlying
3/4 organization of the music. Counting is used for practical reasons in both music and
dance. In fact, the problem of grouping the phrases between music and dance comes from
the way in which the rhythms flow within the phrase in dance.
The organization of a dance into phrases is, in part, revealed by pauses in its
motion or by silences in the accompanying music. New phrases appear with the
continuation of motion following a cadence. A short pause in motion is similar to a
breath mark in a music score; longer pauses are equivalent to rests in the music, and are
often aligned with them in collaborations. Silence plays a significant role in modern
music as well as modern dance. The rest in music can be compared to a hold moment
(stillness) in dance; brief pauses without sound and motion retain energy that can connect
adjacent phrases. According to Paul Love, the author of Modern Dance Terminology, a
pause in dance is:
any moment in the dance where no directional movement occurs; synonymous
with "rest" in music. Also [it is] used in dance notation to indicate any point
where the movement of one member of the body is held while some other
member performs a movement or gesture. The pause is far more significant in
modern dance than in classical ballet where, because of the stress in the latter
upon the concluding attitude rather than upon the movement that leads to it, the
pause becomes an abrupt cessation of movement.47
Theodore Meyer Greene remarks about silence in dance in the Arts and the Art of
Criticism, "Just as a musical rest is not mere silence, but silence impregnated in the
dance, what is sheer absence of movement at the level of the raw material can become, in
conjunction with bodily movement, profoundly expressive."48 While silence and pauses
in motion can indicate the ends of phrases or cadences, silence and stillness can also play
an important role within phrases, as is often found in modern dance and music.
Phrases are developed through varied repetitions. The use of similar and varied
patterns of motion is one way to develop phrasing in a collaborative work. However, for
contrapuntal ideas to develop between music and dance, composers need to understand
the dominant use of the motion phrase, the breath rhythm included within it, the role of
the body in phrasing, and the importance of physical rest. Knowledge of dance
dynamics-i.e. the effect of tension and relaxation brought about through variations in
speed-and the role of rubato in dance is important as well.
When composing a piece, it is important to be aware of phrasing, especially in
collaboration. Many pieces develop a phrase at a time. For constructing phrases, Doris
Humphrey frequently used expressive words such as "eagerness advancing" and