As anyone who has spent any time reading my blog or interacting with my website should know by now, I’m very passionate about music, dance and the relationship between the two. I’m also very analytical about those subjects. And, yes, I believe passion and analysis can co-exist, don’t you?
The fatal flaw with my perspective for people who are learning to dance but don’t have a musical background is that I came at music first and dance much later. So as much as I try, the way I think about the relationship between dance and music comes from a music first perspective.
That’s why I was thrilled to happen upon the book Hear the Music, Feel the Beat by James Joseph. This book is a well crafted dance first perspective to understanding how dance and music relates. He does a terrific job of walking through the basics of music theory with pretty close to the minimum amount of information that a dancer needs to get by. And he is very careful to call out the places where he goes deeper than absolutely necessary so those that aren’t interested in those details can skim past.
On the subject of going deeper, one thing that I took away from this book that I hadn’t heard before was the term mini-phrase. This is a nice term for what I think of (and Mr. Joseph also refers to) as an eight count (or six count in Waltz). For many dances this is the basic unit and I’ve heard dancers refer to this unit simply as a phrase, but that causes substantial cognitive dissonance with my musicians brain which insists on thinking of a phrase as the substantially longer chunk of generally 48 to 64 beats (although that varies depending type of music or even the particular song). So mini-phrase fits perfectly, and that even lets me use the term “phrase” out loud with dancers while tagging on the “mini” part in my head.
This mini-phrase is also something that I would like to incorporate in my tempo counter tool. When I wrote this years ago I set things up to consider tempo in beats and in measures (of different meters). But I’m in the middle of a rewrite, so I think having a 8 count and 6 count mini-phrases would be a valuable addition.
Overall this is a great read. And the bonus videos with practical exercises will be an immense help to anyone learning to dance that is struggling with “musicality.”
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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Hear the Beat, Feel the Music”
music4dance, thanks for the nice review of my book, “Hear the Beat, Feel the Music: Count, Clap and Tap Your Way to Remarkable Rhythm.” Glad to see you like the term “mini-phrase.” I agree, it’s frustrating when you talk to musicians because they liberally use the word “phrase.” In my experience, when I ask them how many beats are in a phrase, they’ll say something like, “4 or 8 or 16 or 32 or 64, it just depends.”
I think a related term worth mentioning to your readers is “major phrase.” A major phrase is a group of mini-phrases that come together to create a complete musical thought. Metaphorically, mini-phrases are like sentences and the major phrase is like a paragraph. The most common major phrase in dance music is the 32-beat phrase, which is four 8-counts (ie, four mini-phrases), although major phrases vary in length. If you were choreographing an amalgamation of moves in dance, you’ll probably do it to the major phrase.
Let me know if I can be of any further help. For your readers who don’t want to buy my book, here’s the video playlist for the book, which is more than 20 short, free, instructional youtube videos: HearTheBeatFeelTheMusic.com