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Stick Dance II (1989 rev. 2005)

Stick Dance 2 has a tangled and cannibalistic history. It was originally 1989 reworking of Stick Dance (for clarinet, marimba, piano of 1987) which in turn was based on Shadow's Dance (clarinet, violin, piano, 1985) and it has subsequently been revised in 2005 for Dean-Emmerson-Dean in the light of Stick Dance 3 (clarinet, violin, piano, 1993). 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.

The earliest version of the piece (Shadow's Dance) was based on the structure of a fairy tale (believe it or not, Goldilocks and the Three Bears!) although the piece is in no sense programmatic. As Lévi-Strauss has shown, stories and myths may have consistent structures (sequences of events) that you could call 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 piece alternates lyricism with sudden rhythmic excitement; the use of quarter-tones in the bluesy clarinet part; the sense of tempo which is fast and slow at the same time; and the shadowy, slithering quality of the viola/violin/marimba part. The allusion in the title, Shadow's Dance, calls to mind images of shadow puppets and in Stick Dance either a ritual dance with sticks or a stick figure painting of a dance. Another analogy would be that 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 misty and distant.

 

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