Project 4


The task for Project 4 is to design a compositional plan for the assignment at the end of Part 1, which is to be a short dance scene for untuned percussion.  I considered the possibility of choosing a real dance sequence to write this for, but eventually decided against it.  Seeing as the start of the composition has already been written for us, I think it would be impossible to find a choreography that fits well enough into the existing material, for my satisfaction anyway – I’m too much of a perfectionist!

Overall structure

Having made the decision not to use a real dance sequence, my first step was to develop a high level idea of how the dance might play out.  The piece begins with the stage directions: ‘Enter a group of demons’ and after a brief introduction we’re straight into a wild, demonic style of dance with a very fast tempo and rapidly changing time signature – let’s call this [A].  I decided to continue this with the following simple structure for an imagined dance scene:

  • [A] – Demons dancing
    • Pattern of rhythmic meter established
  • [B] – Development of the dance
    • Individual dancer/demon motifs introduced on each instrument
  • [C] – Chief demon enters, worshipped by the other demons
    • Contrasting slower section, building up the tension
  • [A/B] – Demons dancing again to complete the ritual (possibly a sacrifice?)
    • Some combination of the original dance and development sections
    • Instruments all playing together to final climax

Section [C] should provide a break from the very fast tempo and relentless changes in meter, and hopefully help to make the final climax more effective.

Detailed breakdown

An analysis of the already supplied start to the piece reveals a 9 bar sequence which changes time signature every bar:

Bar no:                   1       2      3      4      5     6      7      8      9
Time signature:  5/8  3/8  6/8  5/8  3/8  4/8  3/8  4/8  6/8

I’ve highlighted bars 6, 7 and 8 because they add a disturbance to what would otherwise have been a sequence of only three bars, and I think create a slightly chaotic sounding effect which is in keeping with the ‘wild dance’ theme.  I might play around with this in my extension of the piece, but for the purposes of planning the overall structure I’ll assume that it will be based around the full 9 bar sequence.  I decided to slightly reduce the tempo to 140 crotchets per minute – this retains the sense of urgency in the dance but I think allows the listener to more easily latch on to the changes in rhythm.  At this tempo, the 39 quaver beats in the sequence take approximately 9 seconds.

Principal section [A + B]
A – Repeat the 9 bar sequence twice with minor variations: 18s

B – Development based on 4 repeats of the sequence: 36s

Bridge section
My idea here is to repeat the 4/8 3/8 4/8 pattern as a hook towards a mini climax leading into section C.  Approx 10s.

Contrasting section [C]
I want this to be a complete change of mood, with a much slower tempo. Longer bars should fit better for this part of the scene but I also want to maintain some sense of the irregular dance feel so I’m thinking of alternating bars of 6/8 and 5/8 at a tempo of around 100 quavers per minute.  18 bars: approx 1 minute

Finale [A + B]
Main theme and/or development, repeated/modified 4 times: 36s

Total time: approx 2 mins 40s


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