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Cut the Rug by DAVID BRUCE


"explosively joyful" New York Times

Like the concept of the Silk Road, Tony Gatlif's film Latcho Drom covers a wide geographical area. Without any commentary, this wonderful documentary traces the progress of gypsy music from its origins in the deserts of Northern India, via Egypt, Turkey and Romania, and ending up with the flamenco dancers of Andalucia. The idea of all these diverse but equally vibrant musics being part of one large family has always appealed to me, as has the ease and naturalness with which new styles have been integrated into a developing musical language as the Roma have moved from one area to another. In my piece I think there is a similarly wide spread of cultural influences, which I hope integrate to create something new - there are a few drops of Kyrgystzan; definite hints of Turkey; a pinch of flamenco; and perhaps even a dash of American Cajun music, and many influences besides.

As always, it was the instruments I was writing for that determined the direction the piece took - a typically Silk Road jamboree of instruments from a wide variety of heritages, including a Syrian clarinettist, an American accordionist, an Iranian kamancheh player, and an Israeli mandolinist.

A new aspect in this piece as far as my writing is concerned is the influence of music from Central Asia, in particular, music from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. Although I didn't use any melodies or accompanying patterns directly, there is, for me at least, a strong flavour of the region in many parts of the piece, and much of the mandolin writing in the piece is influenced by the sound of the Komuz, the Central Asian fretless stringed instrument. To this end, the title is partly a play on the rugs the region so famously produces (and the subtitle of the first movement, 'Drag the goat' is a reference to the favoured sport of the region - Buzkashi or Kok-boru ("Goat Dragging") in which horseback riders try to score goals using a headless goat carcass - my hope is the movement captures a little of that wild joyful spirit), but 'Cut the Rug' is also an old-fashioned expression said of someone who dances well.

The piece is in four movements:

1. Drag the goat
2. Bury the hatchet
3. Move the earth
4. Wake the dead

The Silk Road Ensemble at the premiere of Cut the Rug in Harvard

Bagpiper Cristina Pato and Bass Jeffrey Beecher

The Ensemble at Carnegie Hall

The composer with Kinan Azmeh and Yo-yo Ma

Press / Latest Reviews

LA Times / Aug 2016
Richard S. Ginell

As was the case with other Silk Road Bowl concerts I’ve attended, the 17,000-plus-seat amphitheater looked packed, so the ensemble’s appeal to a mass audience remains undiminished.

David Bruce's “Cut the Rug,” which seems constructed like a four-movement symphony on CD, became a run-on series of grooves and meditations encompassing Balkan-like rhythms and Andalusian flamenco.

Bach / Sep 2014
Sanne Thierens

The climactic work on the programme, Cut the Rug by David Bruce, was some of the happiest music that there is and no doubt warmed the hearts of the audience. Bruce's work in four parts demonstrated flamenco influences and elements of klezmer that easily succeeded in dragging the audience along with the music. With attention for extraordinary instruments such as the gaita and the Chinese pipa, the composition with its different styles presented an immensely rich palette of warm colours. Bruce’s music was like taking in a dose of happiness, making one feel like it is Christmas already.

The Voice Magazine / Feb 2014
Wanda Waterman

The four parts in "Cut the Rug," written by David Bruce, are high points, too. The exuberant "Drag the Goat" is a reference to the Central Asian horseback game called Buzkashi, wherein horseback riders punt around a headless goat carcass.

Classique News / Dec 2013
Lucas Irom

Les styles amis, fraternellement exposés se retrouvent et dialoguent dans les deux morceaux finaux, percussifs et énergiques, aux accents ultimes sombres et subtilement dansants : quatre sections de Cut the Rug, écrit par David Bruce, puis Briel de Johan Zorn. Les 14 musiciens se retrouvent dans les meilleurs morceaux du concert d’une transe presque irrésistibles, aux épices timbrés idéalement associés (tabla, ney, pipa, gaita, shakuhachi…). Combinaison hautement réussie voire stimulante. Doublement documentée convaincante par l’image et le son. Le mariage est complet, et le plaisir de l’auditeur spectateur immédiat.

Times Union / Nov 2013
Joseph Dalton

David Bruce's "Cut the Rug" is also full of interesting musical ideas, not just interesting musical instruments. ★★★★★ / Oct 2013
Kay Kempin

David Bruce's Cut the Rug was a real celebration of "musics being part of one large family" but also of the Silk Road Ensemble itself. Written in four movements, the whole piece felt – and sounded – like one big party. Beginning and ending with a light-hearted, gypsy theme, Cut the Rug was tied together by its klezmer and jazz roots, with fleeting moments of flamenco and dramatic, Gaita solos by the fierce Cristina Pato

New York Times / Oct 2013

the physical and spiritual worlds...collided, to vibrant effect, in David Bruce's "Cut the Rug," where the combined keening of clarinet and Galician bagpipes produced a heart-wrenching lament that gave way to the explosively joyful final dance.

Superconductor blog / Oct 2013
Paul J. Pelkonen

The concert ended with the four-part Cut the Rug by composer David Bruce. Inspired by Romany rhythms and the insanely violent Afghani equestrian sport of Buzkashi, this four-movement piece was like a symphony in its form. The spike fiddle and bagpipes played important roles in each movement, as it moved from raucous battles between mounted riders ("Drag the Goat") to a slow central funeral procession ("Move the Earth") underpinned by Chinese gongs. The last movement ("Wake the Dead") ended in gleeful celebration with the players of the Silk Road Ensemble cutting joyfully into Mr. Bruce's celebratory dance rhythms. ★★★★ / Oct 2013
James Manheim

highlights [of the CD] including...the Central Asian gypsy jazz of David Bruce's Cut the Rug.

Toronto Star / Oct 2013
John Terauds

The four movements in David Bruce's Cut the Rug mix a variety of melodic and rhythmic patterns in alluring ways

Harvard Crimson / Jan 2012
Adabelle Ekechukwu

Bruce’s four-part “Cut the Rug” in itself was an expedition through joy and sorrow. “There’s a kind of journey throughout the piece,” Bruce said. “You can kind of think of it as three dances and a funeral.” Jaunty, swift notes from the clarinet and mandolin combined with the sporadic but rhythmic percussion to create the lighter aspect of the folk piece. As the excited trill of the clarinet was replaced by the melancholic melody of the bagpipe-like Spanish gaita, the piece entered its sepulchral march, only to be reawakened by an energized, up-tempo rhythm created by the lighter sounds of the clarinet and string instruments. “The last movement is sort of defiant of death,” said Bruce.

Harvard Gazette / Jan 2012
Harvard Gazette

David Bruce composed the four-part work "Cut the Rug," which included a frenetic final movement that he said "sort of raises the roof." He said he was forced to rethink how to craft a work for musicians with such different approaches to the art form.

"I am used to writing everything down... And knowing that there were some musicians who don't come from traditions where that happens, it was quite hard for me to get my head around."

Silk Road Project / Apr 2011
Silk Road Project

British-American composer David Bruce will write a piece for the Silk Road Ensemble. Read the interview.

Download or Stream


for Mixed Ensemble

2022 Version :
Flute dbl Pic
1 Percussion
2 Violins

Original Version

Clarinet in Bb
Accordion (or sheng)
Mandolin (or pipa)
3 Percussion
Kamancheh (or violin)
2 Violins

Duration c.23mins
Composed Oct-Nov 2011
First performance Wheaton College, NY, 15 Oct 2013, followed by Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, 16th Oct 2013 by The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Commissioned by Silk Road Ensemble


Future Performances

Past Performances

Related Posts

 • Cut the Rug in Germany and Poland (2/3/2023)
 • Yo-Yo Ma & Silk Road Ensemble tour Cut the Rug (7/7/2016)
 • Watch the Official Trailer: The Music of Strangers (3/29/2016)
 • Numero uno (11/5/2013)
 • A Playlist without Borders (7/27/2013)
 • Silk Road Reflections (1/26/2012)
 • Around the world juggler. (11/11/2011)


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