• cl, vn, pf
  • 8 min

Programme Note

Composer’s Note:

This 8-minute trio was inspired by the generosity, spirit, energy, and dedication of the Verdehr Trio, comprised of sublime virtuoso performers to whom I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

Somewhat of a cross between “Jazz” (Monk, Coltrain, Tatum, Miles, etc.) and “Classical” (Bartok, Stravinsky, Varèse, Berio, Boulez, etc.) Dancing Helix Rituals can be heard as a lively dance made up of a series of outgrowths and variations, which are organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections. Each player serves as a protagonist as well as fulcrum point on and around which all others’ musical force-fields rotate, bloom and proliferate. There is refined logic to every nuance, which stems from the sound, in context, on its own terms and the form is that of an 8-minute crescendo.

Although Dancing Helix Rituals stands fully on its own as art music, it can be performed along with dancers. The early Stravinsky ballets are works I hold in great reverence, have studied, love, and embrace as models in my inner ear. As I compose at my drafting tables, I sing, dance, move, and conduct. As a result, I tend to hear and feel all of my music as music suitable for dance. My process is visceral with ears and mind both analytical as well as intuitive, i.e. "feeling" and "hearing" every note, rhythm and color.

The score is marked with words including: passionate, bright, driving, with flair and ritualistic energy, clock-like and mechanical, scurrying and playful, majestic and stately, funky, syncopated, jazzy, colorful, fanfare-like, romp-like, light and bouncy. Varied, colorful, crosscut, unexpected sounds are performed in a manner so as to feel inevitable in the way that a jazz improviser thinks spontaneous.

Commissioned by the Verdehr Trio and Michigan State University and dedicated with admiration to the Verdehr Trio, Dancing Helix Rituals was composed in 2006 and premiered by the Trio on October 21 at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

— Augusta Read Thomas