Have you heard? 05. Ritual Fire Dance

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Ritual Fire Dance - Manuel de Falla (1915)

Have you ever considered going to a ritual fire dance? I haven’t. But if I did I could absolutely imagine Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” urging me on. Written for a ballet, the music takes a rather uncommon concept and attempts to bring imagery and life to it. The composer himself has since transcribed it into many different arrangements.

So how does tribal themed ballet music constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

Right from the get-go, de Falla’s, “Ritual Fire Dance” does exactly what it says on the tin. The first half minute of ominous trills really sets the mood. The primitive woodwind that follows sets the tone for the rest of the piece: playful, inquisitive, mystical. The music then constantly jumps between moods. At one moment it is staring deeply into the fire, the next it is jumping around in ritualistic form. It draws you into its world and makes it so easy to imagine a bunch of cavemen with sticks dancing around a fire. It’s an interesting and different use of strings - Mozart would be confused. Frantic arpeggios are not dominant, instead being replaced by an unavoidably eerie plucking. Even the brass make heavy use of their mutes at the end of the piece. It’s creative and different in the way its been put together and how it conveys its story. That’s what makes it notable. Even the orchestra hits at the end are seemingly confused and random. But it works!

Although I am yet to delve into the realm of ritualistic dance music, this piece nevertheless serves as an inspiration to me that an orchestra can be used creatively and outside the usual expected bounds of the current trends. It’s different and unique. I like that.

Happy listening and enjoy!