The Partnership of Movement and Sound
"In the world of modern dance generally," pointed out the composer Richard Cameron-Wolfe, "there is a more democratic relationship between musicians and dancers than there is in ballet. There is more drawing on the other arts for performance, and there is a more open discussion between musicians and dancers."1
Speaking about the different methods that he had used in working with a number of choreographers, this musician explained: "Sometimes you compose something out of inner necessity. It turns out to be appropriate for choreography, and you are willing to offer it to a choreographer. This can be satisfying if the dancer is sensitive to the inner music."
However, if a dance artist ignored the original nature of the music, this might offend some audience members. For instance, Mr. Cameron-Wolfe was upset by Antony Tudor Pillar of Fire because it seemed to ignore the explicit program of the original score by Arnold Schoenberg.
A second method of collaborating is the way Tchaikovsky worked with Petipa, using a bar-to-bar scheme. Obviously, this worked splendidly for Tchaikovsky and Petipa. But when other teams try it, things don't always go so well. As Mr. Cameron-Wolfe noted, "sometimes the choreographer's expectations are very literal: for a big movement, you have a big sound; if the movement goes up, the music goes up."
For example, he related, once he was working with a group of dancers on an allegorical piece. When the choreographer objected to the composer's descending pitches accompanying her rising dancers, the composer finally asked: "What are you supposed to be when you are rising up?""Like blades of grass