Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coming Together

This month’s blog post is the third in a series of thoughts on my collaborative work with the Atlanta Ballet.

It has been three months and one very interesting ride since choreographer Tara Lee and I began work on a newly commissioned piece for the Atlanta Ballet. While a lot of music written in March is still being used in the piece, much has changed since our initial conversations back in February (see the first installment of this series). The overall concept of the piece has undergone a fairly significant transformation and with that change, the music and overall structure of the score has needed to adapt. Whole sections of music have found their way to the cutting room floor. Although sometimes a bit painful, I more or less expected this type of fluidity in the creative process. It’s different than the collaboration I had in composing the film score. That project presented a completed work that needed music added. Visuals, movements, dramatic narrative and the music for this ballet project, in contrast, are all being created simultaneously. Working with dancers and entering into their world has been a wonderful growing experience for me personally as a composer.

In past blog entries, I’ve commented on the importance of a good relationship between composer and choreographer. My initial thoughts on this have only been strengthened during this creative period. What I have found truly fascinating and quite wonderful to observe, however, is the collaborative nature between the choreographer and the dancers themselves. I’ve had the great fortune of attending a couple of rehearsals with Tara and her company and witnessed this working relationship first-hand.

I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t paying much attention to the interaction between choreographer and dancers. Initially, I was simply overwhelmed by the movements set to my music. Somehow this was a completely different experience than hearing musicians bring a piece to life for the first time. Watching so much care and artistry applied to music I had created was truly humbling.

Once I got past this rush of excitement at seeing the ballet begin to take shape, I slowly became aware of how the dancers were working together and, in particular, how Tara was guiding the process. She had clearly arrived with definite ideas about choreography but did not rigidly impose these ideas upon the dancers. Instead, the rehearsals were full of give and take. In one beautiful sequence, two dancers featured in the slow, lyrical duet, came up with a set of movements almost by accident. These movements were an outgrowth of Tara’s overall form but perfectly fit a certain section of the music. Tara was quick to embrace the dancers’ contribution. What was truly amazing to me was watching the other dancers pick up on the movements with only one look. An entire sequence was magically created before my very eyes! Watching this creative process was an even more exhilarating experience for me than watching the first choreographed movements to my music when I first arrived.

As a result of the work done in these rehearsals, additional edits and changes to the score had to be made but, as of this writing, I believe the music for the piece is fairly set now. Tara will have another few days of rehearsals with her company to fine tune our adjustments and then it will be time begin putting all of this together. With a more or less final version of the score, my task at the moment is to properly engrave the music send parts off to the performers. Musical rehearsals are set to be begin in a few weeks!

We are still some distance from the destination, but the journey is quickening its pace. I’m sure I speak for all of my co-creators when I say that we are all growing more excited about our arrival!

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