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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What music would you pick for your Olympic skating routine?

February 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM

Ice's like dance, with gliding added.

But as we musicians understand, the music makes it soar. What would figure skating be without music? Just figures, I suppose, like silent movie.

Watching the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics way way too late for the last few nights, I found myself analyzing what worked, and what seemed a little ridiculous in the men's figure skating competitions. (I'm talking about music, not costumes...;) I also found my head spinning, not because the skaters were spinning, but because of the slicing and dicing required to make the music fit the routine. Some of the mash-ups worked fairly seamlessly (still alarming to one who knows the music!) and others were simply jarring.

What did I enjoy most? Well the gold-medal performance, naturally, but I truly thought Evan Lysacek showed good taste in music, skating to Stravinsky's "Firebird" for his short program and to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" for the long program. Though he didn't win any medal, the Swiss skater Stephane Lanbiel won me over with his awesome spinning -- he skated to Verdi's "La Traviata."

Let's say you could go out on the ice and, instead of falling on your behind or breaking your wrist, you could express yourself in some kind of artistic, expansive way. What music would you pick for your big performance? You can pick from below -- mostly the music I noticed over the last few days -- or please feel free to share another idea below, or tell us about another piece of music that worked particularly well for ice skating.


From Thomas Quagliano
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 8:36 PM

 Bernstein of course! haha 

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 8:39 PM

I did think the Sheherazade was well done!  Can't remember who did the Phantom routine...I thought the choreography fit the music very well but the arrangement itself was so amazingly mishmash.....maybe it was just me  :)  I still enjoyed it though.   And overall I thought the long programs had much more class in their music and choreography than what I saw of the short. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 8:57 PM

 Well, I can't skate and would fall on my behind no matter what music I was using, but I used to make up dance routines to the Moonlight Sonata.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 9:11 PM

I am not a skater, nor do I play one on TV, nor am I watching the Olympics, but this can only be described as unreal:

From Susan Smyth
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 9:25 PM

massenet's meditation would be nice i think, but it's very slow... maybe schubert (standchen) or the schindler's list theme by someone wgose name i can't remember..

From Bethany Morris
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 10:39 PM

The Schindler's List theme is by John Williams.


I enjoyed the couples that danced to "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saens, until the music got to the part where it was "remixed" with electronic instruments.  It sounded like video game music.  Leave "The Swan" alone! *sob*

From Patricia Baser
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 10:56 PM

When I saw the pairs couple with clown costumes, I was hoping for Pagliacci  instead of Send in the Clowns .

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 11:04 PM

Our regional daily ran an interview with Kristy Yamaguchi regarding her skating career.  She said that in order to get her gold medal, she had to be a "dirty girl".  The writer of the article said people had to resist the urge to hose off their TV screens.  So if I were serious about skating to win, I'd choose something that I like personally just for the music, but that you could put passion into the choreography of.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 11:37 PM

Anything from Oistrakh! (and something with a nice melody of course) The 3rd mvt of Mendelshon would be pretty cute no (or 5th of Lalo)? or the Vitali chaconne for a slower program...


From Marsha Weaver
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 12:11 AM

Unfortunately, I'd look more like the Zamboni than a competitive skater, but given a choice of music I think I'd choose selected excerpts from Vivaldi -- The Four Seasons.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 1:17 AM

Death & the Maiden!!

Posted on February 20, 2010 at 3:13 AM

The I've Fallen and Can't Get Up Blues

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 4:51 AM

Wow, Anne, that is really interesting, the silent skating at the beginning of that video. The silence makes its own statement, but it does feel like it's missing a dimension without the music, even though they seem to do a well-synchronized routine, to my inexpert eyes!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 4:50 AM

At first I thought of Night on Bald Mountain because of its bold character and beat.  Then I remembered that it was spooky, so I looked it up on Youtube and found a beautiful choreography in cartoon format.  It tells the story so well and is so faithful to the music.


Then I found a really beautiful animation of the Toccata and Fugue.  It portrays the character of the music in visual form so faithfully.  There is nothing that lifts the spirit quite like the sight of flying violin bows.

From Alison S
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 12:24 PM

If I was Olympic standard then it would have to be Sheherezade.

However for my basic standard of skating (which involves being able to skate forwards, backwards and do simple turns) I would enjoy choreographing and dancing to the Waltz from Britten's Piano concerto. It starts slowly so that would give me time to get my balance, and even though it doesn't get much faster, it sounds livelier towards the middle.

There are few skating rinks in my region so when a portable one showed up near the local castle one christmas I took the opportunity of going along to the classical music themed skating evening thinking it would be quieter. Of course I underestimated our local teenagers who will throw themselves at any skating music. Good for them!

From Anna Meyer
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 12:57 PM

I´d probably use an Andrew Lloyd Webber song from Phantom of the Opera, I love those songs. Or I´d use John Williams: Remembrances. I do not even know how to skate os this is pure dreaming.

From David Sanderson
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Interesting.  My take on this is somewhat different; I have always been thoroughly annoyed by how poorly the skating matches the music, like there were two separate things going on at once.  If you're going to use music, fit the physical to the musical, which is what most people expect based on the experience of dancing.  In what little of the current events I saw there seemed to be some improvement in working with the accompaniment; but I'm not sure that the emphasis on the athletic requirements of the event permit real attention to the accompaniment in any case.  If I were picking music, my instinct would be to pick pieces that I could move with, and fit the routine to the accompaniment.  That might involve actually sitting down and listening to enough music to be able to pick pieces that felt right, then constructing the performance based on it.

I now find myself visualizing the curling competition, and wondering what could be made of that with musical accompaniment.  Consider the range of pace and subtlety, with those still moments as the stone comes to rest.  An interesting Youtube piece there somewhere.

From Royce Faina
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Massenet's meditation.  It's my project for school this semester and I think that it would create beautiful coriographies on ice.

From David Johnson
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Kontra-Punkte, for 10 instruments by Karlheinz Stockhausen

From Lawrence Franko
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 12:09 AM

 What could be better than the Rosenkavalier waltzes? Is there anything in the musical literature that matches Rosenksvalier for love and romance? I don't think so.

From Barry Nelson
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 3:10 AM

Guns and Roses: welcome to the jungle

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 2:37 AM

It all depends on the skater!  There are sooo many pieces that could work (or not) depending on the execution.


If you're looking for good examples of how choreography can work with music you MUST watch this exhibition to Eva Cassidy:


Here's one that most people don't think of right off the bat as skating music, but:

Corigliano, the red violin:

Which won her the gold.  Most people wouldn't imagine skating to this, but it worked.  Thought all you violinists would appreciate this. :)

Shen/Zhao had Turandot:

And their nutcracker was to die for.

So.... I guess my point is, it's the SKATER that makes it work, more so than the actual music.  The choreography matters, but the skater must bring it to life.

FTR... my favorite performance of the men was USA's Johnny Weir, and also Takahashi of Japan.  They skate much more like artists than the ones at the top (not to mention, Weir was the only one who was also clean throughout).  Lambiel had that potential, but didn't skate like it this time.  Gotta respect Oda's pure muscle  memory to just spin right back into his program after the lace snafu.  That said, I'm happy for Lysacek because his program was more well-rounded than Plushy and he deserved a higher point total.  A bit O/T... but I'm always curious what other musicians think... cause I'm used to watching skaters with people that skate... but methinks musicians actually have a good eye for skating. :)

Oh, also, to whomever posted Torville and Dean: yes, everything they did was great!  Those smooth edges are sublime.

 Edited to add: FLorent Amodio was also so musical for the men's competition.

Edited to add: the nutcracker LP:

Nutcracker usu makes me flinch, but boy did they interpret it well.

K, sorry, I'll stop, I'm a big skating fan.

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 3:54 AM

 In response to David Anderson:

Interesting comments that really do apply to modern-day skating.  Not sure if you follow the scene but with the code of points (the new scoring system), you are forced to throw all these things in.  One example: straight line footwork garners a higher "level of difficulty" than circular footwork.  Thus, even if circular footwork matches the music better, skaters cannot do it.  Sad.  I miss the old programs which had less "busy" choreography going on, and were able to focus more on the music.  I also find the skaters' exhibitions often to be more expressive than their competitive programs for this very reason.  K, this time I'm done commenting, I promise. :D

From Anna Meyer
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Johny Weir is a beautiful skater, he did an amazing to Josh Groban-Ave Maria :)

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 6:22 PM

I'd go for a carefully truncated version of Paganini's 1st violin concerto, 1st movement.  Somehow the combination of the lyrical sections with the acrobatics seems just perfect for a skating routine, Even as someone who would never ever venture on a skating rink, I'm finding it really easy to visualise doing a quadruple twist or whatever to some of the Paganini figuration.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on February 21, 2010 at 9:24 PM

Elana, your comment is so true. They showed the first lady who won a gold medal for Canada in 1948 in skating on TV. It was of no comparison with what they do today... (I would never have been able to do what she did so don't think I complain. I just "observed" Actually I did skating lessons when I was young but my physique was too slim and tall for solid skating, I wasn't sure footed so I quited...)  In short, when she jumped, it was not high with not much spins in the air. When she landed, it was not with the solidity the skaters show today...   But this doesn't make her a less good skater for her time.  Funny than, in violin, the standards have always been overall the same (I mean at the end, when the soloists are grown ups)!  Sure society always push kids to perform harder stuff younger (ridiculous sometimes) but, in the end, they are not better than those before contrarely to what I saw in skating. 

Violin is probably one art that "evolves" the less, the optimal way of teaching is still like it was before (master and pupil with lots of explanations and time), the optimal way of playing as well, the violin making is quite traditional too etc (maybe the synthetic strings and rests are the things that evovlved the most yet you are not forced to use them if you don't like them)  Not many things are like violin when we think about it!


From Royce Faina
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 12:10 AM

@ Barry Nelson- Why not Judas Priest's Ram It Dowm?????

From Richard Watson
Posted on February 22, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Bartok: Miraculous  Mandarin. The lamentation at the end of the ballet is one of the best passages for the viola section in the standard repertory.

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 1:45 AM

hehe I like this discussion!  I thought about this a while...for me I'd choose Paganini's La Campanella, no question about it! 

But love the other ideas you've posted, friends, specially Sam M's!!!!! 

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 8:23 AM

 @ Richard Watson, it's so neat you suggested that. :)  There actually was a program done to it:

Not her best performance.... but many felt she ditched it too early on, that it could have been a great program.  The judges unfortunately also didn't seem to "get" it.  I'd love to see another program to The Miraculous Mandarin again someday!

From Bram Heemskerk
Posted on February 23, 2010 at 11:29 PM

Adagietto 5th Mahler. The music of the 2 golden dancers.

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