Unsquare Dance

Unsquare Dance

Unsquare Dance is an iconic musical piece written by the American jazz composer Dave Brubeck in 1961.

Written in 7/4 the piece is a great example of Brubeck's exploration of time signatures. According to Brubeck, the piece was written during a single journey from his home to the recording studio, and recorded the very same day. Based on a Blues form, the piece is driven by a strong bass figure with percussion provided primarily by the rim of the snare drum and hand claps. It combines duple and triple meter, according to Music: An Appreciation by Roger Kamien.

The piano enters with descending phrases crossing the 7/4 rhythm. The main theme then develops initially without left accompaniment and then with a characteristic figure based around the use of tenths. A drum solo using rim shots follows, then a restatement of the theme and a distinctive conclusion.

The band's laughter at the end of the piece illustrates the spontaneity of the recording and the camaraderie of the band. According to one music teacher, "Brubeck calls it 'Unsquare Dance' and it ends with Turkey in the Straw which is as 'square' as you can get!" At the very end, right after referencing Turkey in the Straw, the song cleverly quotes the well known musical couplet known in some circles as shave and a haircut... two bits, with the last note being the seventh in the measure.

"Unsquare Dance" was initially included on the album Time Further Out, and even became a hit single, peaking at #74 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Brubeck has since arranged the piece for orchestra. Although rarely covered, Brubeck has recently endorsed an arrangement and recording by British pianist and composer Paddy Milner.


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