Music for the Dance: Reflections on a Collaborative Art

By Katherine Teck | Go to book overview
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Call in the Composers!


Most choreographers do not have the time, training, or inclination to compose music for their own dances. When Martha Graham, for instance, was first exploring a new path in modern dance, she had at the piano her musical mentor, Louis Horst, who coaxed, taught, composed, and performed for her. His influence was such that some have even considered him the father of modern choreography. The historian Ernestine Stodelle has written that "more accurately, from a historical standpoint, he could be called modern dance's first pioneer," and she went on to observe:

Like every great leader, Louis Horst cut through the wilderness of ignorance with a machete of convictions. With his pioneer-partners Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, he ripped away the undergrowth of an effete, European-dominated ballet. The four artists made up the modern dance avant-garde of the twenties and thirties. With youthful fervor they dedicated themselves to the ideals underlying contemporary art: to express the inner conflicts, the dynamic rhythms and the stark realities of twentieth century life. 1

Born in Kansas City in 1884, Horst died in New York in 1964. He first became involved with dance as a collaborator with Ruth St. Denis. Subsequently, in addition to his impact as music director for Graham, he influenced many other choreographers and dancers through his courses and books on pre- classic and modern forms in music for the dance. 2

Ernestine Stodelle has summarized his contributions to the field:


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Music for the Dance: Reflections on a Collaborative Art


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