Burlington Muses

Burlington Muses (Two Imaginary Dances), for string orchestra, was a 2017 commission from the Williams High School Orchestra (Veronica Allen, Director), Burlington, North Carolina, with support from Alamance Arts, Alamance-Burlington School System, and Williams Zone Orchestra Boosters. Completed in November 2017, the two movements of Burlington Muses are: 1. Heritage and 2. Transformations. Although the two movements may be played individually, when played together as a pair they are approximately six minutes in length.

The pavane (a stately, dignified dance in duple meter) and the galliard (a lively, athletic dance in triple meter) are two paired dances that date from the sixteenth century (the Renaissance). While the “Two Imaginary Dances” of Burlington Muses are not pavanes and galliards, there is a similarity of spirit between these new “imaginary dances” and the old dances: Heritage has a stately quality about it, while Transformations is exuberant throughout. Further, both “Imaginary Dances” in Burlington Muses make use of a type of dynamic contrast developed in the late sixteenth century, sudden loud/soft dynamic shifts known as “terraced dynamics”. Still, there are more differences than similarities between the old dances and the new dances of Burlington Muses. Rhythmically, for instance, each of the “Imaginary Dances” alternate duple and triple meters, as well as asymmetrical meters (a quality that would make them very difficult to dance to!). Although the harmonic language of each movement is rooted in the five-note tonal pentatonic scale, the sound of that scale is especially altered in the first movement by the appearance of the pitches “B” and “B-flat, thus creating a tonal world more akin to G major and minor.

Extra-musically, the first movement, Heritage, is rooted in the richness of an historic and rich past. The second movement, Transformations celebrates a bright and building present and future, but one enlightened by the past. Symbolizing this, near the end of Transformations, the musical material of Heritage re-appears, even if in a faster tempo.

I wish to extend my thanks to Veronica Allen – a dedicated teacher of music to young people – for offering me this commission. With her splendid past-rooted Williams High School Orchestra, she is clearly leading her present student musicians into a bright and exciting future.

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

1. Heritage = ca. 3’
2. Transformations = ca. 3’

Total duration = ca. 6’