Keith Allegretti 



Mating Dances

for Bb Clarinet, Violin, and Piano (2010)

I. Honeybees: The Deadly Swarm

II. Snails: Love Darts

III. Flatworms: The Primordial Battle


Program Note

Mating Dances was inspired by three bizarre mating rituals in the animal kingdom: those of honeybees, garden snails, and flatworms. The piece recreates the vivid imagery of the mating behaviors through the different interactions between the instruments.

The first movement is entitled Honeybees: The Deadly Swarm. For honeybees, mating occurs in mid air when the male bee, the drone, forces his sexual organs out of his abdomen and into the queen bee. During this process, the drone often dies, and the queen bee stores the sperm in an organ called the spermatheca. All this takes place in the spring, also known as swarm season, when the bees are actively leaving their colonies and flying in groups. To depict such a swarm, I use fast staccato passages, frantic melodies, and trills in all the instruments to create frenetic character.

The second movement is about the mating behavior of garden snails, a process involving a long, calcium filled capsule called a "love dart." These hermaphroditic animals (possessing both male and female sexual organs) can inseminate one another by means of a contact shot with the dart anywhere on the other snail's body. Sometimes, the dart lodges itself in the head or internal organs of the snail. This piercing action is represented by loud, accented chords on the piano, while the snail's movements are portrayed by the sustained, viscous melodies of the clarinet and violin.

The final movement, entitled Flatworms: The Primordial Battle, portrays a duel between aquatic animals that are also hermaphrodites. Unlike snails, flatworms do not exchange sperm mutually; rather, they engage in a humorous ritual called "penis fencing"--an underwater battle with their sharp, dagger-like sex organs. These battles are violent, often scratching the skin of the flatworm, and they end with one inseminating the other. The intensity of such a fight is portrayed with wavelike crescendos in all the instruments, while the muddy, aqueous environment is ubiquitous in the form of a constantly pedaled ground bass in the piano.

Duration: ca. 9 minutes

Performance History

March 13, 2011
Houston, Texas
Natalie Parker, clarinet; Lijia Phang, violin; Andrew Schneider, piano