It's so easy to say that music can stand on its own and be quite a moving experience by itself. And many people can give examples of these such as Shostakovich's 5th Symphony which was accused of being a huge response to criticism that he previously received, or the grandeur that is Verdi's Requiem. However, as a composer, I've recently discovered that while writing stand-alone musical pieces are great, collaborating with other mediums of art is such a exhilarating experience. Comparable maybe to cliff diving (which I've never done) or driving a super expensive sports car (also haven't done).
A few months ago, I was contacted by a sister of mine in my fraternity who knew of a senior dance major who was looking for a composer to create music for a piece she wanted to choreograph. I had no idea what I was walking into. I had no idea how dancers thought about their movements, just like they had no idea how I, as a composer and performer, thought about music. And most importantly, I had NO idea how much I would learn.
In the beginning I expected a choreographer who was going to present me with a set of limitations, guidelines, and very specific instructions of what she wanted. I feared that I was sacrificing my creativity by working with another creator. However, what I met was nothing like I expected. Meeting for the first time with Stephanie Davis, I met a female choreographer who was as passionate about her project and her plan, as I imagine myself being passionate about my projects. I met someone with whom I was able to expand my creativity, as she expanded hers. I found similarities in their language as they spoke about dance. I found myself with an abundance of inspiration from a medium that I had once judged as so different from my own. My experience with dance prior to this was being in awe of their physical strength (holy cow those calves!!!) and being under the impression that they "needed" music more than music "needed" them.
But have you ever seen dancers move in silence. There is something powerful about it, especially if you'd seen them in previous rehearsals counting out loud and hearing the heavy footfalls after a great leap. Seeing them dance with no sound, not even the sound of their breath or the connection of their bodies to the floor demonstrates extreme control and power.
Now, have you ever heard music WITH dance? When they partner together, there seems to be another layer of the music that is heard and understood. There is this secret layer of both art forms that is uncovered and it becomes so powerful to the audience.
Before this project, I had a very prideful view of my art form and I felt that music could purely stand alone. What I learned is that it does not matter what can stand alone. What matters is the audiences that can be reached by joining forces.