Kyle Gann: Private Dances (2000/4)

for piano

I dance only privately, and in my head: thus, Private Dances. I have never been one to write suites of small pieces, but I was motivated to try to do so by the example of Bill Duckworth¹s wonderful pieces in this genre, like The Time Curve Preludes and Imaginary Dances. The ideas for Private Dances are all rhythmic, and "Sexy" is the simplest, an ever-further-modulating tango. "Sad" is an arrangement for live pianist of one of my Disklavier studies, Folk Dance for Henry Cowell. I had to excise some of the original 11-against-13 rhythms, but the piece is still tricky. The idea was to have a clear harmonic rhythm while thoroughly obscuring the meter. "Sentimental" plays with a messy kind of counterpoint in which the two hands rarely come together, implying different tempos. "Sultry" cycles through a series of 11 chords in a repeating rhythm of 29/4 meter - but not every chord appears in every cycle. "Saintly" starts out with a melody in virtual 4/4 over a 5/4 ostinato, but after an impassioned climax, the two hands switch meters, and thereby achieve calm. "Swingin'" is freer, releasing a boogie-woogie melody from its implied 4/4 meter and letting it cadence when- and wherever it wants. The obvious seventh dance would have had to be "Savage," and since I didn¹t want to fall into the clichés of the early 20th-century "danse sauvage," I couldn¹t bring myself to write it (though John Luther Adams has since suggested "Surly"). I wrote the first two and a half dances in 2000, and finished out the set in a burst of inspiration in 2004. The pieces were commissioned, inspired, premiered, and finally recorded by Sarah Cahill, on a New Albion CD.

Selected performances so far:
Pianist Lois Svard ("Sexy" and "Sad"), May 17, 2002, at Faust Harrison Pianos, NYC
November 3, 2004, by Sarah Cahill at The Slavonic Cultural Center in San Francisco (complete world premiere)
November 6, 2004 by Sarah Cahill at The Berkeley Arts Festival Gallery in Berkeley
March 20, 2005 by Sarah Cahill at Deep Listening Space in Kingston, NY
December 3, 2005 by Sarah Cahill (excerpts) at Other Minds, at San Francisco¹s Swedenborgian Church
February 18, 2006, by Sarah Cahill at REDCAT (excerpts)
August 12, 2006, by Kentaro Noda at Tokyo Music University
August 16, 2006, by Blair McMillan (excerpts) at Caramoor
September 8, 2006, by Blair McMillan (excerpts) at Tenri Cultural Institute in New York
February 25, 2007, by Blair McMillan at Bard College (excerpts)
January 27, 2008, by Mabel Kwan at the Heaven Gallery in Chicago (excerpts)

PDF score

- Kyle Gann

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