36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 287: Contemporary ballet and OSU


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 287 — Contemporary ballet and OSU
15-May-1972 (Montag–Mon.)


Nothing much new.

Went to the ballet. Was very interesting. Modern dance can be extremely communicative, perhaps even more so than classical ballet. Very interesting and exciting.


Contemporary ballet. I don’t go to the ballet as often as I like, but I totally respect and enjoy watching the tempered movements of both classical and modern ballet. The skill, training, perseverance, practice, techniques, and the art of ballet and modern dance is as equally demanding as that of any professional instrumentalist or singer. As with the opera, the underlying music is often what I personally focus on to understand the action. As with the opera, I am not an aficionado of ballet or dance, but I appreciate it, enjoy it, and love to experience its artistry. I am often fascinated by modern dance and ballet.

Ohio State University — Ruth. I may as well tell this story as it has some relevancy here. When I was a doctoral student and TA at The Ohio State University years later, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a graduate dance major at the university and write a contemporary work for her to perform in a dance concert. What I remember most is that her dance concept was based on “minimalism” and consisted of a series of many “static” scenes, with minimal movement and static poses. Thus, I knew that the music would be minimalistic as well. I don’t remember who suggested the subject theme (whether it was myself or her) but I based the music on the Book of Ruth from the Old Testament.

Composing Ruth. The text came from The Book of Ruth. I composed and recorded the music in OSU’s Electronic Music Studio, that was under the direction of my doctoral advisor, composer Thomas Wells. I recorded a singer singing the biblical text and then proceeded to manipulate the voice using musique concrète and electronic music techniques to produce the composition. It was a tribute back at my Vienna days and composition under Prof. Kaufmann.

Dr. Wells was the director of the electronic lab as part of the composition department at Ohio State. When speaking of teachers, I also owe Dr. Wells a lot of gratitude for his direction and assistance during my tenure at OSU. I also feel, as with Ms. Boulanger, that I let him down by not seeing my degree to its completion.

Minimalistic Ruth. The final work was pure minimalism, with its sparse composition designed to match the minimalistic dance poses and movements on stage by the solo performer. There are many spaces, pauses, and “scenes” in the work and in the music. As a result, the music does not work quite as well on its own, because without the visual dance, the music feels very sparse. “Ruth” was performed to a full-house in the OSU auditorium and was received well—the music/dance combination produced an eerie drama to the work.


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