Shadow Dances

Suite of Dances for Orchestra

Samuel Adler

Rental
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

In 1973, I wrote an opera called "The Lodge of the Shadows" based on a Native-American legend of the Nez Perce tribe who inherit parts of Oregon and Washington. The plot was almost identical to the story of Orpheus in Greek mythology except that the name of the hero was Coyote, a kind of semi-God of this tribe. Both the Greek and American Indian legends try to explain how death became a fact of finality because of human failure to heed the words of the Gods and our lack of patience and discipline. In the Nez Perce legend, Coyote goes to the underworld called ?The Lodge of the Shadows? to rescue his young wife who died so early in life. While he is there, he dances for five days and nights with all of his relatives, friends, and tribal ancestors who had passed away and then actually likes this so much, he would rather stay there then return to earth. Of course, he must return and then like Orpheus, he touches his wife (by the way, he may under ?American? rules look at her and talk with her but must keep his hands to himself, which alas, he could not do.)

An interesting philosophy pervades this Native American legend and it is that all of us are engaged in a continuous dance that lasts all of our lives and continues even thereafter; a dance with shadows of ourselves, our ancestors, and all those people and ideas which touch us. This concept has fascinated me very much and it is with this ideal in mind that I wrote the five ?Shadow Dances.? The figure five is an especially sacred one for all American Indians representing a satisfying, well-rounded experience.

The first dance deals with the great excitement and energy in our lives and is full of robust gestures and wild scale passages, representing the hustle and bustle of daily existence.

The second is a sedate, rather nostalgic dance of a contemplative nature. It is filled with short related melodic fragments accompanied by sustained chords. The third dance is a happy whirling waltz representing the feelings of love and exuberance. Actually, the form of this dance is the clearest for it is ABA form with two distinct lengthy melodies contrasting each other. A ?Pas de Deux? is the fourth dance. It is a slow waltz of perhaps two lovers meeting clandestinely. Afraid of being discovered, they play ?hide and seek? with the world. The final dance is a driving "tarantella", very rhythmic and again exhibiting the exhilaration and optimistic feeling which pervades the entire piece.

"Shadow Dances" was commissioned by the Oklahoma Arts Institute in memory R. Boyd Gunning, Managing Trustee, Sarkeys Foundation. It was written in the Fall of 1990 for performance in the Summer of 1991.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned and first performed by the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute in memory of R. Boyd Gunning, June 1991.
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str.

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