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Dancing Helix Rituals (2007)

For violin, clarinet and piano

Premiered by The Verdehr Trio, Washington, DC, 21 October 2007
[Another version was made by the composer for violin, soprano saxophone and piano. The saxophone part is very similar to the clarinet part, save for a few octave transpositions raising low notes into the range of the saxophone.]
Duration: 7 1/2 minutes

CD Available
Prairie Sketches

This work is available on
AMERICAN IMAGES 4 - THE MAKING OF A MEDIUM, VOL. 19.

 

Listen to DANCING HELIX RITUALS on YouTube. The composition starts at 2'45".

Program Note

This 8-minute trio was inspired by the generosity, spirit, energy, and dedication of the Verdehr Trio to whom Augusta offers her heartfelt gratitude.

Somewhat of a cross between "Jazz" (Monk, Coltrane, Tatum, Miles Davis, etc.) and "Classical" (Bartok, Stravinsky, Varèse, Berio, Boulez) 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.

Dancing Helix Rituals should be performed in conjunction with dancers when feasible. The early Stravinsky ballets are works Augusta studies, holds in great reverence, loves, and embraces.  Augusta sings, dances, moves, and conducts as she composes.  As a result, she tends to hear and feel most of her music as music suitable for dance.

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, romp-like, syncopated, jazzy, colorful, fanfare-like, light and bouncy. Varied, colorful, unexpected musical crosscuts are virtuostically performed in a manner so as to feel spontaneous and yet inevitable.

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. Music reviewer Stephen Brookes of The Washington Post wrote:  "The standout piece was Augusta Read Thomas's Dancing Helix Rituals from 2006. It's a dance, certainly — but a wild, driving, exhilarating dance that hurtled out of the gate and built into a riot of jazzy rhythms and colorful gestures. Like all good rituals, it was intoxicating — and the trio brought it off with a fine, eloquent frenzy."

— Augusta Read Thomas

Selected Reviews

Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post (October 24, 2007) Review: Augusta Read Thomas - Chamber & Piano Works (Nimbus NI 6261)
"The standout piece was Augusta Read Thomas's Dancing Helix Rituals from 2006. It's a dance, certainly — but a wild, driving, exhilarating dance that hurtled out of the gate and built into a riot of jazzy rhythms and colorful gestures. Like all good rituals, it was intoxicating — and the trio brought it off with a fine, eloquent frenzy."

To obtain examination or performance material for any of
Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..