The Waggle Dance
For trombone octet
This piece is a celebration of the fascinating and unique way in which bees are able to communicate to each other, methods that were first discovered and analysed by Karl Von Frisch. The ‘Waggle Dance’ is a series of movements performed by bees to communicate information about a new resource, such as a food source or new nesting site. This series of movements can be so specific that the bees are able to communicate exact locations of new resources by indicating particular directions and distances. If a bee is particularly excited about a target they have discovered, they will also make their dance more rapid in an effort to gain the attention of other bees. In fact, there may be many bees competing for their target to be chosen.
The piece begins with short chromatic phrases heard by single voices. Gradually, the voices begin to communicate more complex information and the lines become more densely saturated and fragmented, as new intelligence is given by these competing voices, and musical ideas intermingle and overlap. Above this dense mixture of voices, a single line rises above in the alto trombone, joined soon after by the bass trombone. Gradually, as the soprano trombone joins with tumultuous rhythmic stabs, the texture builds to a climax of sound before giving way to a new section in which the real ‘hive-mind’ takes over, and the voices begin to work together in a more harmonious and rhythmically congruent way. Here, ‘teams’ of trombones work together in synchronised patterns, responding to ideas with new rhythmic motifs. Soon, the voices begin to disperse once more, however, and the fragmented and chaotic sound of the individual voices takes over. This time, though, echoes of the more symphonic sound-world of the central section are integrated as the bees choose the direction they will take. Finally, the original chromatic motif is heard as a ripple through the swarm, as the bees finally disperse to their new location.