Je danse, J’apprends

A “Spagnoletta” is a dance in a fast 3/4 meter of perhaps Italian origin, popular during the reign of Elizabeth I. If you search on the Web for examples of La Spagnoletta, you’ll find a few examples which inspired my ideas, though I vary the meter a lot, and the tonalities are very much in keeping with my personal compositional style rather than anything vaguely of the Renaissance.

The movement opens with a marimba solo, which alludes to all of the coming thematic material. The main theme follows in the strings….

Both the 2nd and 4th measures at left get exploited a lot throughout the composition.

The overall structure of the movement is ABACA. The repeated A sections embrace the main theme, but also show huge changes in instrumentation and organization, which removes the possibility of calling this a formal rondo. Although the opening thematic statement in the strings follows a familiar key sequence (B minor to E𝄬 minor to G minor — rising a major 3rd each time), I have not otherwise been particularly “mathematical” in my selection of key centers and changes — the first A section climaxes in A major, which serves to start the B section. As always, I eschew traditional chordal cadences in favor of quick key center shifts.

The C section begins with a very tonally-complex but rhythmically-simple figure directly quoted from the middle of the marimba introduction. What follows includes the B section theme in the marimba. Since that theme was in duple over the dance’s triple meter, C is entirely in 4/4, representing a full break from the triple dance meter of the rest of the composition.

This first dance ends abruptly with the piano fading and the stare drum of the second dance beginning. See this project’s “Full Composition” page for how these dances blend together.

Go to Dance #2: Jig
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