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Emerging Dances: suspending the pace

Two dice on top of the score

Sometimes you can suspend order for a moment of randomness, taking a chance. So how does this happen in Emerging Dances?

IF YOU IMAGINE yourself telling a story, you know that one of the best ways to hold an audience’s attention (or to lose it) is to get the pace of the story right. Comedians call this ‘timing’. They know just when to tell the punch-line: how much build is needed and how fast, or in what way, to deliver the line.

This is true of composers too. A climax is not a climax without a build-up. In Emerging Dances David Horne suspends progress for a moment just before the end:

On the whole, Emerging Dances is a very carefully assembled and fairly complicated piece. In this section, however, what David Horne does is to write each instrument a short fragment, but it is pretty much up to them when and how often they play it, under the overall direction of the conductor.

Here are just the first violin and trombone fragments from this section.

So there's an element of randomness and freedom, replacing the structure and order for a moment.

This freedom is like an improvisation, but it is not a very free improvisation as David has determined the notes that each instrument will play. However, despite the speed of the notes, the music for this passage seems suspended and does not have the forward drive of either the bars that preceded it or the bars that follow it. This is just a like a comedian holding the audience in the palm of his hand before he delivers the punch-line. And like all good practitioners of pace, David Horne exits quickly as soon as he has delivered the final lines.

Here's the 'random' section with the music that comes just before and after it.

David Horne explains clearly the effect of this section in Emerging Dances.

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