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Eurythmy Etude "Still Life"

Augusta Read Thomas
Early Advanced
3 min 30 sec

In 2006, I had the opportunity to visit Rudolf Steiner's artistic center in Dornach, Switzerland, the Goetheanum. At that time, I read about and witnessed Eurythmy.

The word eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm. The innate forms living in sound, within our souls, and in the world become the basis for the art form of Eurythmy

Rudolf Steiner said, "It is the task of the dancers to bring a greater depth, a wider vision, and a more living spirit into the other forms of art, such as music."

Steiner described eurythmy as an "art of the soul." Its aim is to unify feeling experience, bodily expression and spiritual approach, generally in connection with a specific piece (e.g. music or poetry). The gestures that build the basic movement repertoire of a eurythmist are connected to the sounds and rhythms of language, to the tonal experience of music, to fundamental soul experiences (such as joy and sorrow), and so on. Once this fundamental repertoire is mastered, it can be composed into free artistic expressions. The eurythmist also works to cultivate a feeling for the qualities of straight lines and curves, the directions of movement in space (forward, backward, up, down, left, right), contraction and expansion, and color. The element of color is also emphasized both through the costuming, usually given characteristic colors for a piece or part and formed of long, loose fabrics that accentuate the movements rather than the bodily form, and through the lighting, which saturates the space and changes with the moods of the piece.

The sound of this piece is a direct result of experiencing eurythmy.

"Still Life" is a work about patience. I might have titled this work "Still Life on D Natural", because, while all other 11 pitches are played in the piece, not one D natural ever sounds. The D natural is at rest. I imagined that one dancer might stand on stage, never moving, representing the "motionless life" of the silent D natural.

A Molto Rubato feeling is desired in "Still Life", which has many fermatas that should be played extremely expressively. They must not all be the same duration: some can be 3 seconds, others 2 seconds, others 5 seconds, others 1.66 seconds, and so forth. I wanted to make a piece that was flexible, so that the dancers could "participate" in the length of the holds. Thereby making a totally integrated piece of art.

However, five fermatas must be the longest in the piece. They are marked with a square fermata, and in all cases are holding resonant the interval of a minor second. In contrast to the "open" intervals of the piece (for instance, perfect fifths) the minor seconds sound tremendously dissonant, grating, and gritty, even given that they are all smooth and resonant in this context.

Each pianist (in consultation with the dancers) should hold different chords longer than others, and this can switch from performance to performance. No two performances should be identical. In this way, the will and spirit of the dancers will be able to greatly effect the composition.

The beautiful resonance of a piano itself, the different beating tones inside the harmonies, and the character of the concert hall are to be observed and celebrated by these moments of calm, "hanging-in-the-air" reverberation.

Eurythmy Etude "Still Life" lasts 3.5 to 4 minutes depending of fermata duration

Eurythmy Etude, for solo piano, was commissioned by the Alanus Hochschule für Kunst und Gesellschaft, Fachgebiet Eurythmie and were presented with eurythmy at the world premiere on March 7, 2008 at Alanus Hochschule, Fachgebiet Eurythmie in Alfter bei Bonn, Germany.

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