ARNOLD ROSNER
COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 122

Unraveling Dances (2007)

for Orchestra

2+Picc.2+Eh.2+Bcl.3(=Cbn)/4.3.3.1/timp.4perc/hp/strings

Duration: 16 min.

Dedication: to Carson P. Cooman

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The inspiration for Unraveling Dances came from both the slow-tempo Spanish/Latin dance of the bolero and Rosner’s own experience with heart arrhythmia. He initially conceived of the idea of an arrhythmic or “mad” bolero in which the basic pulse is not kept completely steady but rather is subjected to a variety of transformations throughout. In the resulting work, the underlying pulse never changes, but the rhythmic groupings continue to get longer and longer, beginning in bars of 3/8 and ending in bars of 7/4. The modes change frequently with each variation; finally, by the 11th variation, the melody itself breaks down into overlapping pyramid harmony. Much like Ravel’s famous Bolero, the overall progression of the work moves from the quiet stasis of the beginning to the fierce orchestral grandeur of the end.

The title has several layers of meaning: 1) the music unravels with the extra 8th notes added from one variation to the next; 2) any group of dancers would go crazy if trying to actually dance to it (the composer imagined them “unraveling their clothes”); 3) the embedded reference to Ravel, composer of the most famous of orchestral boleros. (Notes by Carson Cooman)