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Shadow's Dance

Shadow's Dance was written in London in November,1985 for performance by myself and friends. The piece draws its title from the Balinese shadow puppet dance but also calls to mind the shadowy world of back-street North London sleaze, especially in its use of microtones in the clarinet part. Whilst the work is based on the structure of a fairy tale (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) the piece is in no sense programmatic. As Levi-Strauss has shown, seminal stories and myths may have consistent structures (sequences of events) that could be called ritual forms. Interestingly, some of these story-telling shapes are like conventional musical forms; of those, this piece is most like a ritornello or rondo form but with many small, mosaic-like bits that keeping coming back but in new adventures (like Goldilocks).

The alternation of lyricism with sudden rhythmic excitement, slow quiet violin glissanos, the sense of tempo which is fast and slow at the same time and the muffled, distant quality of the violin part are typical features of the piece. The use of echoes and sudden outbursts suggest the following analogy: the music is played and danced on one hilltop whilst it is seen and heard from another. The effects of wind and cloud make the music sometimes clear and sharp, sometimes tranquil and distant.

Shadow's Dance has survived a number of reworkings as Stick Dance (for clarinet, marimba, piano) in 1987 and Stick Dance 2 (clarinet, viola, piano) in 1989. This sort of process of transformation has its own fascination; it is almost as though one were taking a photo of a growing plant over a space of time from different angles. The essence of the thing stays the same but the parts of the whole change position and take on new importance.

 

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