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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dancing Winds: The Dance Rhythms of Esther Williamson Ballou's Suite for Winds
by Kimball, Tyler J., M.M., California State University, Long Beach, 2019, 54; 13861168
Abstract (Summary)

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the modern dance movement in the United States was in its relative infancy. One critical focal point of its development was the School of Dance at Bennington College, a small women’s liberal arts school in southern Vermont. The school employed figures who would later become famous in the world of modern dance, including Martha Graham, Martha Hill, Doris Humphrey, and Louis Horst. One of the musicians at Bennington during this period was Esther Williamson Ballou (1915–1973), who worked as a piano accompanist for the School of Dance from 1933 to 1938. During this time she tried her hand at composition, producing a number of works for studio use. Her work and studies at this important dance institution would leave a lasting impression on Ballou as a composer, music theorist, and professor.

Ballou composed Suite for Winds as a professor at the American University in Washington, D.C., twenty years after her tenure at Bennington. But key determinative elements of the work can be traced directly to Ballou’s early musical pedigree. Features typical of a number of pre-classic dance forms drive the piece, appearing in a fractured state out of their original context in order to create an original modern texture. These features are most evident in the rhythmic character and style, as well as the overall organizational scope of the suite. An awareness and understanding of these elements and their juxtaposition can enable effective performance of the work. Written for an under-utilized instrumentation, Suite for Winds presents as a vivid and dynamic work uniquely informed by modern dance.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lindau, Elizabeth
Commitee: Carnahan, John A, Arnold, Jermie
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Bob Cole Conservatory of Music
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 81/4(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music history
Keywords: Ballou, Bennington, Dance, Horst, Suite, Winds
Publication Number: 13861168
ISBN: 9781687989802
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