Three Dance Movements (1933) by William Russell

Players: 4


Duration: 5 minutes

Program Note:

Three Dance Movements was inspired by composer William Russell’s interest in jazz and dance music, for which he is subsequently much better known. There is a Waltz, a March, and a fox-Trot, however the Waltz is in 7/4, the March in ¾, and the Fox-Trot in 5/4 – all odd meters juxtaposed against the movement titles.

Russell, who began his career as a percussion composer, wrote in the shadow of composers such as John Cage, Henry Cowell, and Lou Harrison, who were all members of “The Pacific Coast Group.” Three Dance Movements was often performed on Cage’s percussion concerts, and was considered both genius and controversial by many critics. One review stated: “For the first time in the history of the Arts Club of Chicago, a beer bottle was broken in its auditorium last night and called music.” This was in reference to one of the many sound effects specifically called for by Russell. Others include hammering triangles, plucking the strings of the piano with forks, running a saw blade across a cymbal, and using a 2×4 to play all 88 keys of the piano at once.



Annotated Christine Augspurger