Dancing Galaxy opens in the lowest register of the wind ensemble in a timeless, floating, and gradually rising tune, which for a brief moment unfolds an impression of the massive, enduring universe. A timeless galaxy is upon us but steadily this music reaches upward and gains momentum, pushing through majestic, fanfare-like music, until it arrives at a driving, relentless dance. This is Galaxy Dance #1. Punchy repeated rhythms propel the dance while a counter tune hammers with hard accents against the forceful rhythm; all the while, brass fanfares challenge the flow, always asymmetrically, and with great passion. This "drama" is briefly interrupted by a florid and fiery passage led by a clarinet, before it returns and surges to its final climax. Galaxy Dance #1 is over.
Immediately a second dance begins. This is also rhythmic in nature and starts in a unison rhythm between the piano and the horns, with accents thrown in by the lower instruments, in intense, pointed strikes. The earlier clarinet line (from Galaxy Dance #1) now reappears in transformed guise played by the saxophones and oboes above the energized, lower, rhythmic pulse. The motor rhythms are never the same twice, imparting a restless energy. Galaxy Dance #3 is characterized by a long trumpet solo, against which the band passionately spins a web of counterpoints. It is worth stating here that the core of this entire composition's soul is found not primarily in rhythm or harmony, but in counterpoint not simply in its conventional musical sense as the art of combining melodies, but in a rhetorical sense as the evocation of opposition. Counterpoint, I believe, is much more than a matter of texture or technique; it is this music's central metaphor. We hear a brief rise from the lowest registers of the ensemble before Galaxy Dance #4 begins. This final dance features the lower instruments and the timpani in a funky, insistent, asymmetrical groove. A coda in the lowest register of the band returns to where the composition began, in an ageless, suspended galaxy. This work is a version of my Galaxy Dances for orchestra.
Dancing Galaxy is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Frank Battisti.
The publication of the wind band version of Dancing Galaxy was supported in part by a grant from the College Band Directors National Association
Augusta Read Thomas