Contraflow

It may seem that the folk song and dance traffic is only one way, with ‘classical’ composers using (mostly) popular dance rhythms and (sometimes) folk tunes as elements in their works. But there are cases where composers have decided – either out of sheer, altruistic fondness or, more grubbily, for pecuniary advantage (or, of course, an element […]

The Skočná and other dances

Near the beginning of Act 3 of Smetana’s Bartered Bride the circus comes to town. And, after a lengthy and tongue-twisting preamble by the ringmaster featuring Esmeralda, an exotic Spanish dancer; a (fake) Red Indian and a very inebriate (and consequently also fake) dancing bear; the performers show off their acrobatic skills in the fast […]

¡Habanera!

Habanera? Of course you know what it is! A very famous example — The dance originates from Havana, hence Habanera; its provenance being more obvious, perhaps, from its other title, the Havanaise. As a popular rhythm it certainly caught on with French composers during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century; here’s another version, […]

Contemporary conduct

The twentieth century, as it progressed, presented serious challenges for the listener. But not only audiences were tested by this complex ‘new  music’; the job of conducting these scores demanded a whole new raft of techniques. There were complicated cross-rhythms: strange new time signatures: There were aleatoric scores with their chance elements, graphic scores that sometimes […]