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Making Music for Modern Dance

Collaboration in the Formative Years of a New American Art

Edited by Katherine Teck

Publication Date - October 2011

ISBN: 9780199743216

400 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

A unique look at the evolution of music for modern dance.


Making Music for Modern Dance traces the collaborative approaches, working procedures, and aesthetic views of the artists who forged a new and distinctly American art form during the first half of the 20th century. The book offers riveting first-hand accounts from innovative artists in the throes of their creative careers and provides a cross-section of the challenges faced by modern choreographers and composers in America. These articles are complemented by excerpts from astute observers of the music and dance scene as well as by retrospective evaluations of past collaborative practices.

Beginning with the careers of pioneers Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn, and continuing through the avant-garde work of John Cage for Merce Cunningham, the book offers insights into the development of modern dance in relation to its music. Editor Katherine Teck's introductions and afterword offer historical context and tie the artists' essays in with collaborative practices in our own time. The substantive notes suggest further materials of interest to students, practicing dance artists and musicians, dance and music history scholars, and to all who appreciate dance.


  • First book to bring together first-hand accounts by both leading choreographers and their composers
  • Offers a unique look at the evolution of music for modern dance in a chronological way with original insights and commentary from major artists who were in the forefront of modern dance and music for modern dance
  • Includes a great number of articles from sources long out-of-print and hard to find
  • Editor's introductions & substantive notes provide historical context plus biographical information
  • Provides a diversity of viewpoints & a representative cross-section of approaches to collaboration

About the Author(s)

A former studio musician for dance, Katherine Teck is the author of three previous books about musical collaboration for modern dance and ballet. She has also taught college dance department courses in music.


"Wow! A book with such glorious content and organization that I would enthusiastically use it in my own courses, and recommend it to students and all readers in modern dance history, music for dance, collaborative and interdisciplinary arts, and American music history. How wonderful to have all these primary sources (many rare or previously unavailable) under one cover, each one placed in a clear context. A fantastic contribution illuminating an often neglected subject."--Greg Presley, Music Instructor, Gonzaga University, and former pianist for Martha Graham

"This meticulously researched and annotated collection of articles gives invaluable context to the development of dance as an American art form and the intertwining and influences of leading composers and dance figures to its history."--Janet Mansfield Soares, author, Martha Hill and the Making of American Dance and Professor of Dance Emerita, Barnard College, Columbia University

"[Teck] makes the topic and relevant time periods very much alive for the reader, and she connects the issues to the current day...The scope of the book is comprehensive in examining not only trends and the shape of a movement, but also the ins and outs of creative collaboration told from the participants' perspectives."--Attitude Dancers Magazine

"This is a terrific new book on music and dance, a must for choreographers, dancers, teachers, musicians...This is a huge contribution."--American Dance Guild

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Threads of America's Heritage in Music and Dance
    Part One: Musical Collaboration for a New Era in Dance
    Overview: The Question of Using Old Music for New Dance
    1. Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. How to Revive Dancing Music and the Dancer
    2. Isadora Duncan. Dancing to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony
    3. Baird Hastings. Music for Isadora Duncan's Dance
    4. Helen Caldwell. The Dance Poems of Michio Ito: The White Peacock, to Music by Griffes
    5. Denishawn program. America and the Dance Music Visualization
    6. Norman Cazden. On Dancing to Bach: Humphrey-Weidman Programs
    7. Ted Shawn. American Music and Composers: What Dancers Need
    Part Two: Creative Procedures and Ingredients
    Overview: Some Challenges of Collaboration, and Composers Debate What Works
    8. Louis Horst. Music and Dance: The New Generation's Change in Methods
    9. Henry Gilfond. Louis Horst
    10. Gertrude Lippincott. A Quiet Genius Himself: A Dance Teacher's Tribute to Louis Horst
    11. Wallingford Riegger. Synthesizing Music and the Dance
    12. Ernestine Stodelle. Sensing the Dancer's Impulse: A Dancer Talks about the Art of Composer-Accompanists
    13. Vivian Fine. My Scores for Modern Dance: Tragedy and Comedy
    14. Doris Humphrey. The Race of Life: My Side of the Story The Relationship of Music and Dance
    15. Lehman Engel. Under Way: Composing for Martha Graham Details of Contemporary Collaboration
    16. Henry Cowell. Relating Music and Concert Dance: An Idea for Elastic Form
    17. Norman Lloyd. Sound-Companion for Dance: Henry Cowell's Talent
    18. Norman Lloyd. Composing for the Dance: A Retrospective Overview of Procedures; Personal Experiences; and Advice to Collaborators
    Part Three: Towards New "American" Styles
    Overview: Defining "American" Music; Common Musical Concerns of Ballet and Modern Dance
    19. Verna Arvey. The Cosmopolitan Scene of the 1920s and '30s: Avant-Garde Experiments; Symphonic Ballet Scores; Jazz
    20. Virgil Thomson. The Theatrical Thirties
    21. Katherine Teck: Virgil Thomson's Later Reflections
    22. Dance Observer. Editorial: Dance and American Composers Drawing Upon Folk Music and War-Time Patriotism
    23. Woody Guthrie. People Dancing
    24. Nora Guthrie. Sophie Maslow and Woody
    25. Agnes de Mille. Music for Martha
    26. Aaron Copland. The Commission for Appalachian Spring
    27. Gail Levin. Aaron Copland's America
    28. Richard Philp. Appalachian Spring: An Appreciation 54 Years Later Building on the Horton Experience
    29. Larry Warren and Others. Lester Horton: Of Money, Music, and Motivation
    30. Katherine Teck. Kenneth Klauss: Musician for California Dancers
    31. Katherine Teck. Carmen de Lavallade: Dancing to Many Musical Styles
    32. Alvin Ailey. Instructions: How to Play the Drums
    33. Jennifer Dunning. Alvin Ailey's Revelations
    34. Alvin Ailey with A. Peter Bailey. How Revelations Came to Be
    Part Four: Instruments, Technology, and the Avant-Garde
    Overview: Expanding Timbre Possibilities with Percussion, Vocalization, Electronic Instruments, and the Sounds Around Us
    35. Franziska Boas. Percussion Music and Its Relation to the Modern Dance
    36. Henry Cowell. East Indian Tala Music
    37. Lehman Engel. Choric Sound for the Dance
    38. John Cage. Goal: New Music, New Dance
    39. Otto Luening. Electronic Music for Doris Humphrey's Theatre Piece No. 2
    40. Alwin Nikolais. My Total Theater Concept
    41. John Cage. Experimental Music
    42. John Cage. Communication
    43. Carolyn Brown. Dancing with the Avant-Garde
    Part Five: Well-Springs of Creative Collaboration
    Overview: Diverse Methods and Aesthetic Ideas
    44. Leonard Bernstein. "Fun" in Music and the Dance
    45. Paul Taylor. Why I Make Dances
    46. Carlos Surinach. My Intention to Serve Spanish Ballet Serves American Modern Dancers Instead
    47. Lou Harrison. Meditations on Melodies, Modes, Emotion, and Creation
    48. Lucia Dlugoszewski. New Music for the Dance: Choices Open to Collaborators at Mid-Century
    Part Six: Master Artists Speak to Future Generations
    Overview: Postwar Trends, and Music in the Training of Dancers
    49. Erick Hawkins. My Love Affair With Music
    50. Bessie Schönberg. Finding Your Own Voice
    51. Paul Draper. Music and Dancing
    52. José Limón. Dancers Are Musicians Are Dancers
    Afterword: Creativity in One's Own Time
    Appendix: Checklist of Composers
    Notes, Commentary, and Recommended Resources
    Bibliographic Essay