Olympic Dressage: Musical Freestyle

The musical freestyle dressage is the culmination of months of work by dozens of people. Watch Matthias Rath rehearse for his ride with his composer.
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The musical freestyle dressage is the culmination of months of work by dozens of people. Watch Matthias Rath rehearse for his ride with his composer.

7 August 2012

http://vimeo.com/29654780

This unusual and intimate video shows German dressage rider Matthias Rath rehearsing his musical freestyle ride in his mind. The music was new to him; he was about to ride it in competition for the second time. Composer/producer?Cees Slings watches a video of the freestyle on his laptop to compare the rider?s imaginary ride. By the physical contact he has with the rider (his hand is on Matthias's back), he can feel the rider?s timing for all the musical cues. Matthias even whistles at certain moments.

It's a half hour before your ride time. The whole world is waiting to see your new freestyle and to hear your new music. Is it clear in your head? Meet top German rider Matthias Rath. He's not been able to ride at London on his mount, the reigning world champion of dressage, Totilas. But he can still teach us something about the freestyle dressage competition, which will be held on Thursday in Greenwich Park. For Matthias's freestyle on a former horse, Dutch composer/producer Cees Slings developed his freestyle score. Cees Slings doesn't just edit canned music to fit the horse's routine; he watches the horse and crafts a soundscape that suits the horse. Eventually, he trains the rider, who must memorize not only the sequential movements of the horse but the rhythm and transitions of the music. There is little room for improvising in a dressage freestyle. A Grand Prix or Grand Prix Special test is what it is; a methodical test of the horse's gaits and abilities and attitude going in both directions of the arena. But a freestyle is what you--and your horse--make of it. You can make the judges tap their feet, or make them want to cover their ears. But the rider can't easily make up for a lost stride or a horse's anticipation of a lead change, since the music is carefully edited to count the strides and time the transitions. Which brings us to Matthias Rath in a rehearsal bunker, going over his freestyle in his mind. When George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue, do you think he ever imagined that a horse would be dancing to its swelling strain? Did its rhythm ever remind him of hoofbeats? There are no horses in this video. Look for the horse in your imagination; ride along the brainwaves of Matthias Rath's mind and be assured that scenes like this will be going on in London from now until the riders enter the arena. Freestyles don't just happen. And a freestyle that looks effortless is far from it. They take months of work by dozens of people. Probably the horse world has never seen so many people work so hard for so few horses as have prepared the stunning freestyles for London. The stands could be filled with their musicians, sound engineers, composers, scorers and editors. Though only a lone horse and rider will execute it, many more will literally know the score, because they wrote it, recorded it, edited it, enhanced it and lived it. Get ready: you can live it too. The freestyle begins Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET. Thanks to Cees Slings for this video.

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Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival know their "Nutcracker Suite" freestyle by heart now. Will they have new music when Adelinde goes for the gold on Thursday? (Jessica Mulley image)

Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival know their "Nutcracker Suite" freestyle by heart now. Will they have new music when Adelinde goes for the gold on Thursday? (Jessica Mulley image)

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