Facets Model Assignment: "Sabre Dance"

Music 3824: Music for Elementary Teachers
Allegra Helper
Juanita Wasatch

April 16, 2002

The Work

"Sabre Dance" from the Gayane Ballet.

Who created it?

Aram Khachaturian created the music as well as the ballet.

When and where was it created?

After a stay in Yerevan in 1939, Khachaturian composed the ballet Schast 'ye ("Happiness"). Using material from this ballet, Khachaturian radically rewrote it, thereby creating the Gayane Ballet in 1942 in Molotov. After completing the Gayane Ballet score, Khachaturian wrote the "Dance of the Kurds" at the request of the Kirov Theater who was producing the ballet. "Dance of the Kurds" later became known as the "Sabre Dance."

Why and for whom was it created?

After the USSR entered World War II, Khachaturian wrote the ballet Gayane. Some aspects of the ballet hint to political and patriotic issues regarding the war. During this time, Soviet literature and art contributed greatly to the Soviet people's Great Patriotic War. In 1943, Khachaturian joined the Communist Party whose ideals he had long been expounding as a musician. In his own words, "Soviet songs are a fighting weapon and it is our duty to forge this weapon with all the passion, responsibility, knowledge, and talent at our disposal. We shall give the front songs throbbing with wrath and fury, songs of revenge, songs of victory, and songs of glory worthy of our Soviet soldiers."

What is the subject?

Gayane Ballet, from which "Sabre Dance" comes from, is based on the story of a heroine named Gayane. The setting for the play is on a cotton co-operative farm in Armenia. Gayane is married to a drunk layabout named Giko, who maltreats her. Gayane denounces her husband and the Red Army eventually arrests Giko. Giko is then found and proven guilty of being an incendiary and is later imprisoned. Because of this, Gayane could then end her marriage with Giko. She later marries Kasakov, the chairman of the co-operation. Their wedding provides the happy ending, the climax of which is the "Sabre Dance."

What is being expressed?

Knowing that this piece comes from the Gayane Ballet and that the "Sabre Dance" is the theme for the celebration of Gayane's and Kasakov's wedding, the music is expressing a Russian celebration of music and happiness. Khaturian uses Gayane to express pariotism to his country during the time of war. According to Georgi Habov, a critic of the time, "In the epilogue, which expresses true friendship and the strength of love, Khachaturian proclaimed the indivisibility of happiness and the national good."

What techniques did its creator use to help us understand what is being expressed?

Khachaturian's strongest technique in "Sabre Dance" is its pulsating rhythm. He also uses a fast tempo, repetitive theme, and a simple melody to express happiness and patriotism. Khachaturian uses rich orchestrations including brass and woodwind instruments along with percussion, which helps to express Armenian folk music.

What kind of structure or form does the song have?

"Sabre Dance" has an A and B sections, followed by a bridge, a return of the A section, and then a coda. The song begins with section A where the theme is heard four times. The last two times are a third higher. Section B is the woodwind section. Here only the woodwind instruments and timpani are playing. The bridge follows the B section. In the bridge, the xylophone is playing a repeated pattern while the trombone plays a series of glissandos ( a glissando is sliding up and down a musical scale rapidly). Section A is then repeated where the theme is heard three times. The second repetition of the theme is interrupted by a cymbal crash. The third repetition of the theme is played higher. The coda has a descending line followed by a rise that moves toward the final note.

What does it sound or look like?

When listening to this piece, various pictures come to mind. Such ideas include circus clowns running around, babies creating havoc while their parents chase after them, someone frantically cleaning a house, a teenager's party when his/her parents are not home, and a dog chasing a cat. Perhaps the media influences our "picture" of this music since this piece has been used previously on TV commercials and movies.

Kinesthetic Map

This map will be more fully understood when we present it with the class and have the students participate in the mapping process. In words, the students will use the stretchy nylon circular rope to move to the rhythm of "Sabre Dance." Through this movement, they will also show the pitch, tempo, and form of the song.

Visual Map

Students will follow the attached tapping page, which uses icons to help show the form of the "Sabre Dance." As the music is played, students will listen to the music and point to the pictures shown on the tapping page.