Three Lopsided Dances is in three movements, each of which is rhythmically playful and dance-like. However, each one also contains some characteristic which upsets the metric regularity we normally expect with dance music. The first movement, Lilt, is (mostly) in a 5/8 meter, which creates two uneven beats. (In this case, the first beat is longer than the second.) The movement centers on a single graceful melody, which goes through a series of variations and alterations. The second movement’s title, Drag, refers to resistance, like the drag water exerts on us as we try to move through it. It is an underwater dance, slow with frequent pauses, like a swimmer floating between kicks. Jump, the final movement, is a rondo, and its repeating refrain is built around a fast, energetic, syncopated line. There is a strategic pause in this tune which varies in length throughout the movement, and the exploitation of this “pregnant pause” also becomes a theme. Both earlier movements are recalled in the second half of Jump. First, while the strings play an extended pizzicato passage, the winds enter with the melody from the first movement. Later, right before the end of the piece, we suddenly plunge back into the water for a recapitulation of the second movement, before ending with the fast, loud, Jump refrain.
Three Lopsided Dances was commissioned by the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival, Alan Austin, General Director, June 2008, through the generosity of the Visionary Initiatives Fund, Vicky & Don Eastveld, Dan & Miranda Wainberg, founding members. It is dedicated to my parents.
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