Ghost Dances


Imaginary Ballet for 5 players
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
fl(=picc+afl+manjeera).cl(=Ebcl+bcl+manjeera+kazoo) -pno(=manjeera+kalimba) - vln(=manjeera+strum stick).vlc(=manjeera+flexatone)

Commissioned by the Nash Ensemble with funds from the Art Council ofGreat Britain and IBM

First Performance
(USA) 16.5.88, Merlin Hall, New York: Da Capo Ensemble. (UK) 12.6.88, Almeida Festival: Nash Ensemble/Lionel Friend

Score 0-571-51405-7 on sale, parts and strumstick for hire. Errata list required for fs

Programme Notes
Nicholas Maw Ghost Dances My only previous venture into the field of the archetypal 20th century mixed chamber ensemble was my song cycle La Vita Nuova of 1979. When I was asked again to write something for chamber ensemble, forces both internal and external led me to the seminal work in this form, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Ghost Dances is written for the Pierrot ensemble minus the singer: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano. There is also an added element; I have used various folk instruments for largely colouristic and atmospheric purposes. (I have not needed to add an extra player for these instruments as the parts for them are quite simple and are played by the existing players). The instruments are the African thumb piano, played by the pianist and heard at the very end of the work; the American strumstick, a species of one-stringed banjo sounding Akin to a mandolin. Flexatone, played by the cellist in the first dance, a kazoo and Pakistani manjeeras (or alternatively small finger cymbals called Zils) played by all five players. Ghost Dances also shares with Pierrot Lunaire something of its macabre atmosphere. In Pierre this is derived in part from the aesthetics, preoccupations, and traditions of the German Lied; in my work this relationship is to the dance. The ‘ghosts’ of the title are largely those of memory-related and dream-distorted images of many different forms of the dance, images that range from its most sophisticated to its commonest manifestations, and from the naïve through the nostalgic to the macabre - even to the horrific. All of these images are quite specific and I list them below appended to their respective dances. There are nine dances in all, arranged into three groups of three, and these groups are separated by a recurring varied ritornello derived from the opening Intrada. Intrada (Allegro frenetico) I Dialogue At Night (Large e sinistro) II The Demon (Molto agitato) III Lullaby (Larghetto, quasi andante) The Demon (Reprise) Ritornello I (Tempo sostenuto e giusto) IV The Ballerina Overwhelmed (Vivo) V Pas de Deux (Moderato con moto e flesibile) VI La Kermesse (Allegro moderato e molto pesante) Ritornello II (Agitato) VII Rückblick (Romanza) (Moderato mosso, ma tranquillo) VIII The Frozen Moment (Grave) IX Bacchanale (Allegro molto e inquieto) Epilogue (Tempo molto moderato) Ghost Dances is dedicated to the members of the Nash Ensemble of London and the Da Capo Ensemble of New York, for whom the work was jointly written. ©Nicholas Maw

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News & Reviews

'Ghost Dances' reviews

'… shows an ability to rework the romantic tradition in ways that are fresh and inventive … attractive, highly diverse music, which sometimes touches on the nightmarish intensity of Pierrot Lunaire, but more often takes a sly, sideways glance at many other 20th - century styles, the very tangle of influences through which Maw has steered his own, dogged course.' The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 25 July 1997 Read more

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