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  1. #1
    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Oct 2003
    Madison, WI, USA
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    choosing music for your dance, your taste, your audience, your venue...

    There are a lot of threads on bhuz about choosing a piece of music. (I've started some.) Here is my question: when you start to put constraints on your music, what takes priority?

    Constraints I can think of:

    Length -- seems like 95% of the time, the length of the music is a major factor.

    Audience -- is the audience "educated"? Will they know Umm Kalthoum when they hear her (dancers, Arab roots)? Do they need something fun to keep them awake? Are they expecting a certain style (Turkish restaurant = Turkish music)?

    Your dance style -- if you can't dance comfortably to 9/8, you probably shouldn't choose it. If you only own tribal trappings and can't afford a new costume, maybe an orientale should be ruled out.

    What you like -- I think dancing is generally improved if you dance to music you actually like.

    To suit a prop -- they want you to do a sword piece, you need music to go with a sword piece.

    To suit the occasion -- it's possible that lengthy Beats Antique fusion is not a good choice for a wedding. For a local comedy hafla, maybe "Inshallah" is not a good selection.

    So bhuzzers... where do you generally START? Do you start with length, or do you have enough music editing savvy that you consider that later? Do you start with your audience and start with Disney movie songs for a show for little kids?

    Is there anything missing from this list -- or something you would take off? This is something that doesn't get discussed much in my dance classes and I would love to get your opinions.

  2. #2
    Advanced BHUZzer badriya_al_ahmar's Avatar
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    Jan 2007

    Re: choosing music for your dance, your taste, your audience, your venue...

    Good topic! I go about things a little differently depending on whether I have a time slot for one song, or if I am putting together an entire set. The one song performance is likelier to be for a crowd of dancers, and I can be a little more self-indulgent there, dancing to whatever moves me when I'm picking music. That's the most important factor. Length is secondary, because I can edit (though some songs truly cannot be shortened). And even though dancing for other dancers gives one more license in choice, I still probably won't choose that 8 minute rebaba drone, no matter how much I do love it ,r:; The piece of music has to be something that I think will keep an audience engaged, even in a long series of performances. If a specific prop has been requested of me, I will look for music appropriate for that prop--but it also has to be music that works for me. I would have a hard time, for example, doing an oriental sword piece, because the sort of music people generally use for oriental sword doesn't do much for me. It would have to be either folkloric or fusion for me, and that in turn would depend on the tolerance of the audience for either.

    For a longer set, which I generally expect to be for a mix of GP and ethnic audiences, I have more leeway to pick a variety of songs that I love, but I also have to think about how they sound together in terms of maqam, sound quality, general style, etc. I also think about not wanting to bore my audience, and look for songs that combined have a nice flow of energy level and dynamic range, and also showcase my skills. I want to keep their ears awake, to prompt their eyes to look at me to see what I'm doing as the music changes.

    For specialty shows, for example a sci fi convention, a goth club night or a shower for a huge Star Wars fan, my criteria become much more about what the audience wants, but I still keep it fun for myself. I would have a very, very difficult time dancing to music that I didn't enjoy. I don't even know if I could; people have dragged me out to dance to Top 40 songs on the dance floor and I've had to give up, I couldn't take it

    I don't remotely begin to claim that I can identify maqams by name when I hear them, but I can hear whether songs are the same maqam or not, or whether a change from one maqam to another is complementary or jarring

  3. #3
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Apr 2008

    Re: choosing music for your dance, your taste, your audience, your venue...

    My hierarchy is this:

    1. Songs I like--If it's my choice, I'm not picking something I don't enjoy dancing to. To me, this is the most important factor when I choose music for myself.

    2. Fits the occasion or theme--What style of music and dance do I want to (or have I been asked to) present? Light or heavy? Traditional or modern? Prop or not?

    3. Length--I don't want to run too long, and I don't want to skimp on something too short. If I have to err, I lean toward the short side. I'd rather leave an audience wanting more, not groaning for less.

    Usually this isn't a problem. By the end of the process, I may have two or three songs in consideration up until shortly before the performance. I like to keep a back up or two in rotation, in case I get tired of a song and stop feeling it. Sometimes you love a song more as you practice it, and other times you lose interest and get sick of it, and I really don't want to put something in that latter category on stage if I don't think I can rise to the occasion in spite of those feelings for the performance.

  4. #4
    Advanced BHUZzer yameyameyame's Avatar
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    Jun 2007

    Re: choosing music for your dance, your taste, your audience, your venue...

    I START with pieces of music that have been leaving me feeling inspired lately.

    Then I try to work everything else around that, meaning I pick the costume, prop, etc based on the music, not the other way around. If it goes over the time allotted, I try to find a decent spot to cut or fade the song, or move on to my next inspiring choice.

    Of course, sometimes certain constraints are placed beforehand, for example a themed hafla. Thankfully, at any given moment there are songs in a variety of different styles that inspire me. So usually I can still pick the same way.

    If the theme is way out there and I really can't identify with it, well... I just don't perform there! LOL

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