Practicality vs Artistic Integrity

I am sitting down at my computer to work on a big performance later this season. It will include 3 smaller ensembles within a larger group and several pieces of music, some live musicians (well, I hope they’re still alive when I’m done rehearsing them!) and  other craziness that I won’t elaborate on.  The event producer gave me the one critical piece of information I needed to start – my time slot is 10 minutes.

It all starts from there. I portion out the time to this element and that and begin my search for the perfect music. In this case, it’s several perfect pieces of music – or as close to perfect as I can get. I want tempo changes, interesting musical features and accents we can hook into for movement and changes of mood. The one element that isn’t so critical is the time length of the music, because I am armed with editing software and I’m not afraid to use it!

Well, at least I wasn’t afraid to use it back in March-  then I went to the IBCC. I sat in on one of the many fascinating panel discussions. I don’t recall what the official topic of this one was, but the bulk of the conversation was about fusion and how far can it stray before it’s not recognizable as “bellydance”… but let’s not go there today.

It was a stray comment from an audience member that gives me pause when I’m looking at my potential music.  She felt that as dancers, we did not have the right to clip, fade, copy and paste a musician’s work to fit our particular needs. She felt very strongly that as a creation born out of the musician’s artistic psyche, we should respect it as a whole work of musical art and keep it intact, or not use it.

I can see the wisdom in that. I respect art and the creative effort with all my being. When I think of a song I love – “Inta Omri” for example – I consider it a beautiful work of art with its falls into delicate taqsim and subsequent rising melodies. Yet, I have taken it to pieces just so I could use it in a show that kept me in a 3:30 box. Is that right? Is it disrespectful? Or is it better to bring even part of it to the ears of the masses than leave it unheard?

I don’t think anyone even responded to her comment, but it landed in my ears and has wended its way up into my brain and made me question my editing practices. It won’t go away.  It hasn’t riddled me with so much guilt that I haven’t edited a single thing since, but I have thought more carefully before hitting the “cut” button. Would I want someone to edit a video of my choreography, removing my favorite parts and rearranging others? My work would be out of context and misrepresented – and I’d be furious.

I am not a musician and therefore won’t pretend to understand how one would perceive it. Is it a compliment or an insult?  Maybe I need to consult a few on this dilemma… maybe it would cut me loose to once again wield editing software with abandon to fit that  multi-piece madness I’m expected to produce into the 10 minute box.


One Response to “Practicality vs Artistic Integrity”

  1. Jennifer Shaw Says:

    I agree with your assessment and your discussion. I would just like to add that how would the composer of the song feel if he/she were required to compose a song that lasts exactly 10 minutes. What does that do to creativity?

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