Monster Dances Consortium Commission

22-188 by Ryo Nishikawa



Monster Dances

A Multimedia Ghost Story for Viola Alone

Max Wolpert, composer

Brett Deubner, primary commissioner

Ryo Nishikawa, artist

Join primary commissioner Brett Deubner in helping commission a new suite of eldritch dance music from composer Max Wolpert with digital painting & video from artist Ryo Nishikawa

Work Details:

  • Scope: A suite of five dances for unaccompanied viola, each 3–5 minutes in length; designed to be programmable in any number, order, and combination. Total duration ca. 20 minutes.
  • Difficulty Level: Undergraduate and above
  • Materials Delivery Date: June 1, 2023

What the piece IS:

  • Upbeat, snarling, fun, scary, and exciting!

What the piece IS NOT:

  • Mournful, elegiac, sad, lamenting, or somber – violists have plenty of music like that already!

About the Music

Monster Dances draws on composer Max Wolpert's extensive background as a fiddle player and enthusiast of the macabre. Influenced by traditional dance forms (strathspeys, polskas, and more), the suite saturates in Wolpert's trademark twisty thorniness, in an undercurrent of manifold menace. It's not a square dance, nor a Baroque partita, but a stomp-down for haunts, ghouls, and vengeful ghosts. Each dance centers on a character, to be painted in portrait by artist Ryo Nishikawa; this portrait will be in turn manipulated into a video (the ghost of a painting, perhaps) to be projected alongside the violist in live performance of the work.

Why Become a Commissioner?

Members of the Monster Dances consortium all receive the following benefits:

  • 1 year period of performance exclusivity, through June 1, 2024. No one other than consortium members may perform the work or acquire the score until then.
  • Right to list yourself as a consortium member giving a premiere of the work in programs and promotional materials.
  • Acknowledgement of commission. Your name (and your organization, if desired) will be listed as a commissioner in all physical & digital versions of the score, and on corresponding web pages.
  • As a consortium member, you will receive periodic updates during the composition process, and have opportunities to offer feedback.

Consortium members receive additional benefits according to the tier at which they pledge, as follows.

Community ($50):

  • PDF of the score, delivered by June 1, 2023.
  • JPGs of each character portrait (no video).

Professional Monster ($150):

  • Copy of the score in PDF and personalized hard-copy.
  • High-quality video files of the accompanying multimedia.
  • Bonus: Four duo arrangements from The Fish Who Played Hooky

Dance Caller ($300):

  • Copy of the score in PDF and personalized hard-copy.
  • High-quality video files of the accompanying multimedia.
  • A 12"x12" print of one of Ryo Nishikawa's character portraits.

Our Cast of Characters

  • Firbeck:
    • It is a sleepy village, small, prosperous,
      out-of-the-way. Of course, no one will
      speak of what happened to the vicar’s wife,
      and it doesn’t do to look at the church
      steeple once the sun goes down.

  • Myling:
    • When she was a living child, her parents
      lay stupid with drink instead of giving her
      food to eat. Now that she is dead, she
      does not let them sleep.

  • Shadmock:
    • His high collar and lace cravat speak of
      noble birth. But at night, an uncanny
      whistling can be heard from under the
      eaves of the manor house.

  • Galleytrot:
    • A great black dog, regal in bearing, they
      say her paws leave no mark on the moors.
      She protects her people, but her eyes burn
      with cold phosphorescence.

  • Our full cast of characters will reunite in
    the suite's final dance, MASH.


With so many commissioners, who gets to perform the world premiere of the piece?

One of the great things about the consortium model is that it gives every member an equal chance to give a premiere. Each member of the consortium is considered to be giving an equivalent "premiere" of the work, regardless of when those performances actually take place. This gives every performer the flexibility to program the piece wherever and whenever works best for them and their community.

Can I include this piece on my next recording project?

Commercial recordings rights are NOT included in the consortium, and are reserved by the composer. However, you are welcome to livestream your performance of the piece, or upload a live recording to YouTube/your web site.

If I apply to a conference, can I include this piece in my program?

Yes! Please feel free to include this project in conference or grant proposals.

I'm not a violist, but want to program this piece with a member of the ensemble/organization that I’m a part of - can I join?

Yes! If you run a performing arts organization or are part of an institution/ensemble, you may join this consortium and receive all the benefits even if you program the piece with someone else playing.

I'm a studio teacher: can I join this consortium on behalf of my students?

Yes! If you are a studio teacher, you may extend the benefits of the consortium to your students. This allows a teacher to (for example) assign one movement each to a number of students in their studio, without the cost becoming prohibitive.

Do I have to perform this piece with the video projection? What if the venue I'd like to perform in can't accommodate that?

The piece may be performed with or without the accompanying video. In fact, the Community ($50) tier includes ONLY the score of the piece itself and still images of each character portrait: not the video files necessary for the multimedia version of the work. If you would like to premiere the piece as a solo viola suite alone, this tier is the one for you!

Can I sign on simply to support the project, even if I'm not a performer, teacher, or presenter?

Absolutely! Non-performing supporters are welcome to sign on to the commission. If you'd like to contribute at an amount different from the three tiers above, please contact Max directly.

Will you be making a violin version of this piece?

NO! This will be a piece written FOR the specific strengths and virtues of the viola. The repertoire already contains too much violin music lowered a key and declared to be "for the viola" – Monster Dances will truly embrace its instrumentation! (Five-stringers.....let's talk.)

Current Commissioners

Brett Deubner  [Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College], primary commissioner

Jordan Bak  [University of North Carolina School of the Arts]

Hannah E. Barton  [DePaul University]  Chicago, IL

Sam Bergman  Minneapolis, MN

Aria Cheregosha  [Tallā Rouge Viola Duo]

Steph Dye & Andy Martone  St. Louis, MO

Erika Eckert  [University of Colorado Boulder College of Music]  Boulder, CO

Korine Fujiwara

Vidushi Goyal

Jordan M Holloway  [Dad Village Symphony Orchestra]

Erin Napier

Bailey Newman  Plymouth, MN

Morgan Smith Owen  [University of South Carolina]  Columbia, SC

Conrad R Sclar  Midland, TX

Lauren Spaulding  [Thalea String Quartet, Tallā Rouge Viola Duo]  Mt. Rainier, MD

Mason Spencer

Nicholas Tisherman  [Colorado Symphony]  Denver, CO

Alexander Vittal  Denver, CO