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Who says the Rite of Spring is the start of modernism? No way….

Now that the centenary riot celebration is over, it’s time to take in two contrary views.

The Telegraph critic Ivan Hewett asks whether any riot took place at all, or whether it was just another piece of Diaghilev hype and showmanship. I find his proposition a little far-fetched given the number of independent eyewitnesses, but make up your own minds here.

My own take on the Rite, in the new issue of Standpoint magazine is that, far from being a rejection of modernity, what affronted the Paris public was the fear of being dragged back to pre-classical primitivism. There were two concert riots in 1913, one triggered by Schoenberg, the other by Stravinsky. Both were triggered  by an affront to bourgeois expectations and, I argue, a reversion to primal modes of music. My proof?

Where was the next riot? Trumpeted by the media, the Rite of Spring should have incited copycat brawls in dozens of theatres, howls of urban outrage, hyperactive manifestos. And nothing happened. Aside from two disturbances in Vienna at the outbreak of Arnold Schoenberg’s atonalities and a certain amount of hissing in London when Henry Wood repeated them at the Proms, the public sat back in their seats and let radical novelties wash over their nodding heads. 

Why was there never another concert riot? Read on here….

Stravinsky

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Comments

  1. Here’s my own thoughts on the anniversary, comparing the impact of the Rite 100 years ago to the “outsider” pop music of the last 30 years specifically how it affects the listener in the same way as heavy metal and hip-hop. Riot Act: The Rite of Spring turns 100.

  2. Attempts to speculate one hundred years later on precisely what occurred (besides the performance itself) on the evening of the première of Le Sacre is inevitably going to be problematic, since none of us was present on that occasion and none of us knows anyone who was; it will also be determined to some extent not only on interpretation of information presented (rightly or wrongly) as factual but also on one’s view of what might constitute a “riot” in any given type of circumstance.

    The critic’s name is Ivan Hewett, incidentally.

    What is surely of more importance is the other question as to whether, as has been claimed on enough occasions to make it worth of consideration, Le Sacre represents the start of “modern music”, “modernism in music” or whatever else. It’s a claim, I think, that has little real substance, given that the work was written after most of Debussy and a fair amount of Ravel, Mahler’s ninth and tenth symphonies, some of Skryabin’s mature work, Strauss’s Salome and Elektra and Schönberg’s first two quartets, first chamber symphony, Erwartung and Five Orchestral Pieces (and even as I write this, I am acutely conscious of this being by no means a comprehensive list of possible candidates). Not all of these provoked “riots” or other perceptible dissent at their premières, but certainly Schönberg certainly encountered more than his fair share of public disapprobation and Salome suffered similarly; whatever the initial public reaction to these works and however it may have been expressed, they have all undoubtedly stood the test of time and their very existence demonstrates, among much else, that there never was a “start of modern music”, let alone as signified by any single work!

  3. Alex Benjamin says:

    There is enough evidence today to show that if the “riot” of 1913 was more than “another piece of Diaghilev hype and showmanship”, it actually had very little to do with Stravinsky’s music and much more with Nijinsky’s choreography. The music was played a few days later in concert, and was quite well received. And one should read the brilliant review of Jacques Rivière, written shortly after the premiere and in which there is absolutely no mention of the “rioting”, to see that whatever “rioting” was quickly considered anecdotal – rioting modernistic works on the night of their premiere was, in these days, a fact a life, part of the “theatre” of relations between artist and public : there was a scandal because there had to be a scandal.

    Today, because of concerts and recording’s, we talk about Stravinsky’s Rite (and Stravinsky worked hard for that), but that had little sense in May 1913. It was Nijinsky’s, Stravinsky’s, Roerich’s, and a bit of Diaghilev’s Rite. This doesn’t deny Stravinsky’s modernity and it’s impact on the future. But it needs to be kept in perspective when talking about The Rite.

    • If Nijinsky’s choreography had remained in active repertory, I think the dancers might have rioted From what I understand, performing those movements for any length of time really hurts.

      • The Joffrey Ballet revived the choreography, which I saw in San Francisco in 1989, and there was no evidence of such pain.
        You might do better to remember that almost all professional dance “really hurts” to perform, to such degree that dancers’ careers are rather brief, rather than try to perpetuate negative press about an important masterwork.

      • John Neumeier’s Nijinsky does not use Stravinksky’s music but does draw on Nijinsky’s choreography, and his Hamburg Ballet dancers dance it exceptionally well.

  4. Timon Wapenaar says:

    What exactly is “pre-tonality”? As far as I know, all cultures (including surviving stone age cultures, such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari) produce music with a tonal center of one kind or another. I do agree that bourgeois sensibilities were rattled, but to suggest that in abandoning a tonal centre, or at least tonal dominance, Stravinsky and Schoenberg were taking a step (or a leap) backwards simply doesn’t fit in with what we know about the music of the past. Schoenberg’s experiments were very much conceived as a “next step” in musical development, and the degree of premeditation, of theoretical justification for his atonality, and of the perceived necessity to advance the theory of music marks him out very much as a textbook “modernist”. In essence, how could Stravinsky and Schoenberg have taken a step back, if they very consciously took music to a point it had never been before?

    • If anyone genuinely seeks an answer to the question as to when modern music began, perhaps they might consider addressing it to John Purser who, in the light of the title of one of his books, would probably argue that it was forty thousand years ago…

  5. Halldor says:

    There were riots and demonstrations during the first Milan performance of “Der Rosenkavalier” in 1911; it was denounced as “Futuristic”. Which just goes to show that the revolutionary or scandalous nature of a work of art depends very much upon where and when it’s performed. “Le Sacre” was performed in London only a few weeks after the premiere; there weren’t any riots then, and the muisc seems to have been regarded as both colourful and appropriate to the story of the ballet.

    • Futurism was an Italian artistic/social /philosophical movement .Martinetti published The Futurist Manifesto in 1909. The Aesthetic promoted entailed ejection of everything old. The critique of the Strauss piece should be understood in that context.

  6. Dear Norman, Thanks for raising this issue, which is so fascinating to pick apart. I wrote extensively on the matter for Dance Chronicle in 2008 (Volume 31, Number 3): “Stravinsky’s score has endured, becoming firmly established as a major turning point in music history, if not cultural modernity in general. In a recent DVD documentary, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas calls Stravinsky’s remarkable score ‘unprecedented.’ Technically, this is an incorrect view. Many of its harmonies were already evident in the compositions of Schoenberg and Webern, and it would be more accurate to say that these harmonies gained widespread attention from the general public as Rite continued to be performed as a formal concert work by European and Americna orchestras, and then later through choreographic reiteration.” There is also much important material in Allen Forte’s excellent The Harmonic Organization of The Rite of Spring (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978).

    • What was unprecedented was the attempt to use African inspired rhythms

      • Timon Wapenaar says:

        Really? And here I was thinking they were Chukchi rhythms. I mean, that would make more sense, wouldn’t it? Also, if you listen to Chukchi music, some rhythmic concepts seem to have been ripped straight into the Rite. Where would Stravinsky have heard African music? And even if he did, why would he have used it in music which describes the shamanic practises of the ancient Steppe?

        • Thanks for posting that clip. Shows not just where Stravinsky probably got his folk inspiration from, but also, by contrast, what a brilliant composer can do with folk music that isn’t, on its own, remotely as interesting as what the composer did with it,

          I’ve had similar experiences with Bulgarian village women’s acapella modal folk music–field recordings are not very satisfying artistically, while compositions based on such source material gave us the thrilling Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares CD, whose Grammies were well-deserved.

          • Timon Wapenaar says:

            Stravinsky was pretty explicit in stressing that he did not go to folk music sources in composing “Rite”, but subsequent research has pulled up one or two Slavic tunes. Even if he did not consciously integrate folk music (a la Bartok) into his composition, folk music certainly found its way in there, and, given that he was reading a lot of Russian folklore at the time (and having recently completed Firebird and Petrushka) it seems disingenous of him to disavow a connection. Perhaps it also reveals something of an ambivalent relationship with his subject material with regards to the audience: he wanted the music to speak louder than the scene. What is interesting to note is that virgin sacrifice had been in the Russian news in the decade leading up to the composition of “Rite”, as this blood libel had been cast upon the so-called “Pryguny”, or “Holy Jumpers” as part of a mainstream, state-abetted Russian persecution of non-Orthodox Russian Christians. The reports had reached London by 1904, so it is entirely conceivable that Stravinsky had heard them.

            By the way, if you enjoy your Voix Bulgares, you might like this recording of Les Noces:
            http://pokrovsky-ensemble.ru/eng/ensemble/test7/projects/svadebka/

      • Timon is correct in that they weren’t African per se, but I think you’re still barking up the right tree in the sense that African music tends to use rhythm as a foreground element, while European music has tended to use it as a background element (usually based on simple dance rhythms).

        I once knew an Indian classical singer who regarded Western classical music as primitive and uninteresting for this reason.

        • “African music tends to use rhythm as a foreground element, while European music has tended to use it as a background element (usually based on simple dance rhythms).”

          I remember Kyle Gann opening a Village Voice review of some European musicians performing new American works with the line (I’m paraphrasing): “I think European ears tend to turn everything they hear into either a march or a waltz.” (Add a jig to that list and I think he might just be right.)

          • That comports with what I’ve seen. Few seem to have noticed how much the Beatles owed to the British music hall.

            And one of the things we Yanks find most amusing is watching French people dance to rock & roll. Not because they’re any worse at it than the average German or Finn, but because they think they’re so cool doing it.

            Then on the other hand it makes me appreciate how important to American arts bringing all those slaves over from Africa was. Including classical music. No slaves, no Gershwin.

            You see a bit of that influence in British sea shanties and Portuguese Fado, though.

        • “I once knew an Indian classical singer who regarded Western classical music as primitive and uninteresting for this reason.”

          And, as I understand it, South Indians – whose classical music is rhythmically astounding (for instance, a good mrdangam player can cheerfully play 15 beats with one hand against 17 beats in the other and fit it all into what’s basically an 8/4 meter) – tend to find North Indian classical music a bit lethargic and indulgent, since the latter is – relatively – languid rhythmically in comparison. Conversely (again, as I understand it), North Indians tend to find South Indian classical music a bit frenetic and emotionally monochrome.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The immense richness of Western classical music, which aims at psychological narrative, interiority and expression, has been possible on the basis of rhythm being the ordering factor of the flow of musical energies, the bedding of the river. Its rhythms are an integrated system of divisions, which works very well for what the music tries to ‘say’. It is as refined and subtle as anything in the Rite or Messiaen or Indian classical music, but its complexities are of another nature, they have a qwuite different function. You cannot compare apples with bananas. In a tonal sense, Indian classical music is ‘primitive’ (not in a pejorative sense), and the complexities of West-African rhythmical music with its multifarious ensembles is materialistic, down-to-earth, and its expression and psychology very primitive indeed. Which does not diminish it attractiveness, as Steve Reich has taught us.

          • Though I generally concur–which is why I generally prefer to listen to refinements of folk traditions over field recordings–we’re always comparing apples and bananas.

            Which is: does the music thrill me, regardless of what route it took to do that to me? Or is it interesting, or evocative of non-musical contexts from my life, or even aesthetically unsuccessful but a fascinating experiment?

            Rite packs an emotional wallop. Reich’s Drumming does not, even though I like it and will happily watch/listen to it. For me, Bach’s solo cello suits also pack a wallop, while Telemann in toto does not.

            So while Rite and the Cello suites are in profoundly different genres of classical music, in this regard they resemble each other more than they do less artistically successful examples of their respective genres.

            The most extreme example of this, again for me of course, is Jackie Evancho. I don’t hate classical crossover but I’m not a fan. I don’t hate child singers but I’ve never sought them out except to listen to favorite adult singers when they were younger, when that’s available. So if I chose music by genre or even “medium” I would have missed out on hearing her.

            Another example: recently my spouse and I listened to dozens of renditions of the first piece from Bach’s cello suites–different performers, different instruments. We both chose a relatively mainstream rendition on a modern cello, but it was fascinating to hear it done on other instruments, such as a violincello da spalla, or a double bass.

          • John Borstlap says:

            I would say that every art form has a receptive framework which detemines our expectations…. We expect something from art music that we don’t from children songs, bird song, pop music, Congo drumming or Mongolian throat singing. These frameworks make meaningful listening possible, so that we can fairly make value judgements, if we want to. We don’t reject a book because it does not fit under the leg of the table we want to stabilize.

          • re: “every art form has a receptive framework which detemines our expectations”

            I agree to a degree, but ultimately I’d say that my expectation is to be entertained and if possible moved, and I’ve found that by these lights what entertains and moves me is somewhat independent of framework. That is, I love classical music–that’s why I’m here in this forum, after all–but I also love scuba diving. Apples and bananas, to be sure. And since I’m mortal, to riff on Marvell’s “To his coy mistress,” being mortal, every choice I make de-chooses all alternatives. The money and time I spend on diving could go into dozens of classical concerts. I eat the apple instead of the banana.

            Now when my wife & I are looking at the lists of upcoming concerts at UC Berkeley and Stanford U., both within an hour’s drive of us, we certainly compare apples to apples, and make our choices based on both the performer and the works being performed–and the distance and the cost.

            And the cost definitely affects my expectations. If I get a bowl of pho at the local Vietnamese restaurant for $5, I’m pretty easily satisfied. The one time I went to Le Coloniale (also Vietnamese) in Frisco for a meal that cost ten times as much, the food was a lot better–but I’m not sure it was ten times better, and so even though it tasted better I felt less satisfied in some ways.

            Likewise when my wife & I go scuba diving in Indonesia it takes much longer to get there and costs more than going diving in the Caribbean or Baja, so we expect a lot more out of it. Fortunately, we get so much more that we feel it’s easily worth the greater time and expense required for such a trip.

            I mention them here since both are, for us at least, aesthetic experiences. Of course no aesthetic experience is cheap enough if we don’t enjoy it at all. You’d have to pay me (a lot) to get me to go to a Justin Bieber concert, and my interest would be purely sociological, not aesthetic.

            We saw a local production of Der Rosenkavalier where the male lead had laryngitis and mimed his part while another tenor sang it from the sidelines. The production didn’t cost much; it was hardly world class, even without the mime business; so I came out of it with mixed feelings, but basically enjoying it. On the other hand we saw a local symphony and the violin section was out of tune and timing–we never went back.

            But the same is true for aesthetic experiences not created by human hand. As a birdwatcher I find crows fascinating–one of the smartest birds–but their utterances are only of interest to the animal ethologist. On the other hand, the grackles that serenaded us every dawn in Death Valley when we camped there earlier this year were melodious. Messiaen would have loved them.

            As it happens I do enjoy Mongolian throat singing. I enjoy Bach more–vastly–but I also enjoy variety and new experiences. So recently we went to an Afghan concert with an Uzbek frame drum maestro sitting in. We didn’t see that instead of Bach but in addition to Bach, in part valuing the variety and hearing something we hadn’t heard before.

            But to slide back to a degree of agreement with you, it is absolutely true that when I listen to anything I bring whatever framework of understanding of the genre and the particular piece that I have. I can only read music at the most rudimentary level and have never taken a course in music theory, but I have listened to a huge amount & variety of music, and am good at paying close attention. So I don’t hear the Rite of Spring that even my wife hears–she can read music and even play the piano a bit, but doesn’t “get” what’s going on in Rite. OTOH with music she does like she’s quite perceptive and we have good conversations about it.

            My bottom line is that my broad experience of the arts, of life, of the universe, gives me both many specific frameworks of the sort you’re alluding to, but also a set of what you might call metaframeworks that encompass diving, bird songs, Bach, the Rite, the awe-ful sound of an approaching tornado, punctuated by crackling thunder, the glorious sound of a jet fighter on its takeoff roll going into afterburner at wheels up and going straight up, punching a hole in the sky, reminding me of the Dies Irae from the Berlioz Requiem.

            That is, my mind categorizes experiences both by genre and also, orthogonally, by intensity.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All that is just common sense. But my point was that we should not take an apple for a banana, hence the ‘receptive frameworks’. There is nothing against entertainment or pop music in itself, but we should not confuse it with art music, in spite of art music often including an entertainment factor.

  7. Alvarus says:

    What would Paris have thought of the Rite Workout:

  8. That there was a riot cannot be doubted; what is less certain is why and how it occurred. Around 1982 Slavist Simon Karlinksy of UC Berkeley hinted that Diaghilev might have created through “succes de scandale” the “victory” he could not create through a more recognizable success. According to this interpretation, Diaghilev masterminded the “failure” in order to circumvent the many and well-documented and admitted problems that the production faced as the curtain went up. He then gave the production a year to stir up loyalties among enough people to make it a more recognizable success at its “revival,” at which time Stravinsky was hoisted on people’s shoulders and carried about like a hero. But this would mean the patron was also a silent hero, the sort of company-saving maneuver we could wish current impressarios might try from time to time.

    • Interesting point, but do you think Saint Saens walked out because he was secretly in league with Diaghilev, or
      because he was offended by the writing and its aesthetic?

  9. Minimal says:

    Reich Four Organs is another famous premiere with a riot of sorts.

    • re: music premiere riots

      …not to mention John Cage’s 4m11s, which also stands out as the only music premiere in which the riot WAS in fact the composition.

      • Tricky piece, 4’33″. Never comes out the same way twice.

        • Sorry, I forgot about those crucial last 20 seconds!

          Actually I don’t see how it could be performed twice–at least for an audience in which anyone knows what’s going to happen. It can’t work without a virgin audience.

          Wouldn’t it be interesting to see it performed for virgin audiences of different cultures, and make that into a documentary? I’d like to think Cage would have liked such a project.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Cage’s ‘piece’ was called 4’33” and it was, in fact, NOT music – it was a joke, because someone without any musical talent (as already spotted by Schönberg who refused to have him as a student) has nothing else to do apart from concept art jokes and quasi-philosophy. The ‘achievement’ of Cage has been to make so many people believe he had something to contribute to music.

        • Actually it was not a joke, ultimately; seeing it as just a prank is like dismissing Haydn’s Symphony #94 because a joke is embedded in it. Evidently you have no idea of what he was getting at with that piece. If you read his book Silence you might get it. Then again, might not.

          I wouldn’t call myself a Cage devotee, and what he has to contribute isn’t deep, but it is important to understand.

          Last weekend my wife & camped on a bluff over the Pacific Ocean. The susurrus of the ocean was beautiful, despite having been organized by the laws of physics and the exigencies of this planet’s development, rather than by human hand.

          I would rather listen to Bach than surf, for the most part, but I’d rather listen to surf than a significant chunk of the classical music out there–including much of Schoenberg’s and his disciples. Schoenberg’s refusal to take him on is hardly dispositive, though he was probably right to not do so. Where Cage was going Schoenberg couldn’t help with and vice-versa..

          • I agree that Nature’s sounds are, most of the time, beautiful. But they are not art. A bird song can be remarkable and nice, but it is not art. A composer like Debussy let himself be inspired almost completely by nature, down to constructive procedures, but he made art of it, he stylized and aestheticized it and made art. Something like 4’33” is not art, whatever else it may be, there is not the slightest effort involved. It is the equivalent of ‘concept art’ which merely consists of ‘having ideas’ and discarding any effort to carry them out, thus opening the doors to the incompetenti among which Cage was one of the worst.

            Art is a man-made artifact which stylizes and aestheticizes a vision, an idea, carried-out with skill and craft, within a tradition that provides the means and the receptive context. Art symbolizes emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspirations, shows the better side of man, and art music creates a world of interior experience. If things like Cage’s ‘works’ are considered art, then the notion of art has disappeared altogether. Widening the concept of what art is, means watering-down and eventually dissolving the concept itself.

          • Timon Wapenaar says:

            @ John. Completely agree re the watering down of our art through widening the definition. I recently stumbled into an exhibition of “installation” art in Madrid (which left me with the impression I’d just been given a tour of someone’s collection of IKEA purchases gone horribly wrong) , and upon emerging realised that, in trying to increasingly objectify the viewer (ie. “I’ll put this black box in the middle of the room and the viewer can do the rest”), this breed of artist must produce anti-art, in order to reflect the viewer’s gaze inwards. Whereas Picasso or Dali could construct a dialogue between the work and the viewer.

          • Not only is John Cage’s 4’33″ a joke but it and his entire career propounded a malicious fraud so vast that failure to identify him for what he was can only be called an “intelligence failure,” not perhaps on the order of, say, 9/11, but perhaps on the order of one of the various fraudulent “agents of influence” who were unfortunately accepted, and who are still having to be identified one by one.

            Before the eyes of the world he acted as his lifelong role the absurd character of Bridlegoose, from Rabalais, Book Three, Chapter 39. John Cage presented that character as though it were his marching orders. He lived it to the full. The absurd “philosophy;” the continuous spouting of ridiculous epithets as though they are profundities; the call of a false judge, who logjams the court of common sense.

            People who jaw about Cage are of course dupes to begin with; but they also fail at the whole game of “calling the tune.” Rabelais is not the whole of French literature, but his book is well enough known that it is just amazing that so few noticed John Cage was living out that absurd Pied Piper character, or were willing to say so. As far as I am concerned, he should be considered “booked,” and yes for a crime. Huge sectors of the project of Modernist music, and of developing an audience through reliable artistic integrity, were dashed on the shoals of his obstructions to smooth sailing.

            In the university of the world, it sometimes makes sense that there should be certain teachers who sort out the competent. As one fair because (I can only hope) indisputable example, if you think Doctor Kavorkian had a real point, you should never be admitted to medical school; you fail Bonehead Medicine. John Cage was such a one, except that it is not clear to me that there was a net gain from his exposing certain persons as dupes. In the case of a Kavorkian, there is still the chance of the authorities preventing someone who believes in killing patients from getting into a position of putting their psychosis into practice. So if nobody acts on such wildly unacceptable teachings, a service may have been performed by an actor who reveals those who should not be considered for public trust. But in the case of John Cage, where the test would be mere common sense, it seems to me that the people who don’t understand his diversion are simply his victims, and that for wasting so much time of people’s lives and giving such good cause to the opponents of Modernism, he plainly did a lot of harm. The test John Cage gave the world was not a necessary or positive one, it was one that made real achievement in music and thought only more difficult in a way that acted to scuttle modernity, and encouraged the audience to think contemporary composers are nut cases who speak absurdities and choose their ideas by throwing dice. Understood paramilitarily, he was avant-garde all right: on the wrong side.

          • Naturally, given human nature, those who don’t understand something tend to claim that there’s nothing there to understand, and cry fraud. You can read any number of contemporary reviews of now-respected works of art by prominent critics of the day, dismissing them as frauds and rubbish.

            At the same time there certainly is fraud in the art world. But it does not directly correlate with laziness. Some of the biggest frauds are forged paintings representing long hours of painstaking labor.

            As a consumer of art it’s a minor consideration to me how much work was involved in the work of art. If someone labors mightily and achieved might effect on me, I might find that impressive. Yet another work of art might be a complete artistic failure despite representing the same number of man-hours. Art isn’t fair, and artistic talent isn’t distributed among us “fairly.”

            My wife & I toured the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art last weekend, My wife, a social conservative, like about 5% of the works of art there. I liked maybe 40%.

            However, since I’m not a telepath, unlike Dr. Fulkerson, apparently, I don’t label what I don’t like as fraud, since that requires intentions, and short of dispositive evidence (and court conviction), I’m loathe to claim I can divine those intentions.

            What I can say is that art–including concept art and whatnot–is almost entirely a consensual activity. I participated in some concept art activities back in the 1960s, mildly enjoyed the experience, and, like smoking pot, have done neither since.

            Claiming this is Art and that is Not Art is a singularly bootless activity. It’s the fallacy of trying to win arguments by definition, before the debate even starts, instead of by the application of reason and logic. It’s a way of trying to objectify personal preferences.

            The “slippery slope” argument that “Art”‘s high meaning is corrupted and diluted by letting all these parvenus into the tent is similarly fallacious. There is no innate “pull” towards loosening or tightening of standards.

            More fruitful is to let anything be called “Art” by anyone who wishes, and reserve one’s efforts for trying to persuade others to appreciate the art one finds most worthy. And, if you wish, to dissuade others from appreciating art one finds unworthy.

            If you want to name someone who, if not a fraud, is certainly derivative, name Yoko Ono, not John Cage. At least Cage did what he for the first time. Ono went around re-doing stuff I’d seen done a decade or more earlier.

            Assailing Cage as some kind of art-world Anti-Christ, responsible for some fancied harm to modern classical music, sounds like conspiracy theory hyperventilation. The Philistines rage against modern art not via people like Cage, who simply bewilders them, but by via those who transgress their conservative values–a crucifix dipped in a jar of urine. Things like that. And in music they’re way too busy attacking rap lyrics to think about what people heard when Merce Cunningham danced.

            You also have, of course, the artistically conservative musical establishment–the ones who want every symphony concert to only trot out the same old warhorses–the Mozart, the Beethoven, the Brahms, and then get all radical with a bit o’ Prokofiev and Copeland.

            Nobody thinks Cage has anything to do with Elliott Carter, who those mainstream symphony patrons simply dismiss as airless academic noodlings.

            Cage is a footnote. Nothing more or less. An interesting–to me–footnote conveying a whiff of Zen Buddhism into the world of modern music. But a footnote nonethless. To make anything more of his contribution, for good or for bad, is a waste of everyone’s time.

  10. Who cares whether there was a riot at its premiere? That has absolutely nothing to do with Rite’s place in music history. For what it’s worth, I suspect patrons were most upset at an anticipated evening of high-class T&A turning into watching beautiful young women clad in shapeless concealing clothing just this side of a nun’s habit, galumphing around the stage to Nijinsky’s graceless choreography (I’ve seen a revival. Ghastly.).

    And it also doesn’t matter that Debussy may well have been a more brilliant composer with more impressive oeuvre. Or that Schoenberg was more atonal.

    What matters is that while modern music started rolling down the runway well before Rite of Spring, it was Rite of Spring that got it off the ground–spectacularly.

    The best essay I’ve seen on the Rite’s (and Stravinsky’s) place in music is in André Hodeir’s book “Since Debussy: a view of contemporary music” (Grove Press, 1961).

    The essence of Hodeir’s analysis (based on the one by Pierre Boulez) is that Rite “offers the first example in Western music since Machaut and Dufay of an essentially rhythmic language…Stravinsky gave new meaning to both rhythm and melody by establishing structural relationships of reciprocity between them…one can detect the existence in Rite of Spring of rhythmic themes which, at times, shuttle back and forth between the melodic line and its accompaniment.”

    I won’t quote the whole essay here but I certainly found it compelling. We all have to face the fact that Western classical music had not been rhythmically very interesting before Rite blew the doors off their hinges. My favorite composer of all time is J.S. Bach, but not because of his rhythmic innovations!

    And even though I’ve heard Rite many times, and a huge variety of music as well, I never tire of listening to a good performance of it. My only problem is that a ballet based on it has to compete with the protean Big Bang imagery of my mind’s eye, and most stagings fall far short of that. In its own perverse way Fantasia comes closest I suppose, but I hope someday someone will make a video to accompany this work that actually does justice to its aural and conceptual magnificence.

    Note that this salute to Rite is coming from a devoted fan of the classical crossover music of Jackie Evancho.

    Go figure.

    • You might see the Pina Bausch version.

      • I saw the 3D documentary about her work, which I think did have a short excerpt from Rite in it. Did it? I recall the segment of her choreography including a toe dancer with pieces of raw meat stuck in the ballerina’s point shoes. Other stuff was more impressive.

        Anything but Nijinsky’s choeography, which reminds me of the “native dances” in American 30′s B movie musicals. The music has certainly outlived the choreography.

  11. The gist of Norman Lebrecht’s article is, although contrary to received wisdom, TRUE: Stravinsky did not violate the fundamentals of the art form, which are rooted in tonality, being the natural ‘gravity force’ that keeps sounds and notes together and provides the means of meaningful narrative and expression. If anything, he added new ways of intensifying tonality (as Wagner did with his Tristan). Schönberg however, went over the brink and came-back with something utterly artificial not based upon the natural overtone series (which define tonality): twelve-tone ‘music’, which sounds like all the wrong notes Brahms had left out. Stravinsky’s so-called ‘neo-classicism’ was not ‘pandering to audiences’ and ‘reactionary’, but a normal artistic reaction upon a period of wild experimentation, and his music of this period is, in fact, expressive as any good music is (violin concerto, piano concerto, Apollon, Symphony of Psalms, etc.). Schönberg however, got stuck in his quasi-classical attempts to ‘revive’ the musical tradition.

    • I agree with you to a degree. Schoenberg’s 12 tone school wound up remarkably inexpressive of any emotion other than anomie. Making his school an artistic dead end that will mostly be remembered as an effort to not be tonal rather than to actually BE something else.

      However, though I love a lot of Stravinsky’s post-Rite of Spring music–especially L’histoire du Soldat, Symphony of Psalms, Les Noces…André Hodeir makes the point that while Stravinsky’s post-rite oeuvre would have made the reputation of any lesser composer, it still marked a retreat from what he achieved with Rite. Hodeir claims that this is generally true of classical composers–they work up to a breakthrough work whose brilliance they never recapture in their later compositions, by and large.

      I’d make an exception for Bach, but he’s kind of the exception to everything.

      The tragedy is that neither Stravinsky nor anyone else, to my knowledge, tried to build on his breakthrough with Rite. I hear a bit of his “rhythmic language” in some of John Adams’ stuff–like Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Harmonielehre–but they’re only a faint echo of what Rite achieves.

      I’d love to see contemporary classical music take rhythm more seriously. You could say some pop music does, but pop music of all sorts is still so connected to dance rhythms, which are necessarily regular, that what I’m looking for isn’t there either.

      • Ehkzu, are you from Europe, by chance?

        It’s not just John Adams – lots and lots of contemporary American classical music takes rhythm seriously. You could argue, for just one famous example, that rhythm is basically what Steve Reich’s entire oeuvre is about.

        • Lifelong Californian.

          I’m familiar with–and really like, in fact–Steve Reich. “The Desert Music” is one of my favorite CDs, for example. And his “Drumming” is of course just that.

          But while the Minimalists could be said to be about rhythm–or, perhaps, to quote myself, phase-shifting ostinatos–there’s something missing that’s present in Rite. The one minimalist piece that starts to get at what I’m talking about is Philip Glass’s Aquas Amazonas as performed by the Brazilian group Uakti:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phsLu8oxDZ4

          I first heard this as accompaniment to a performance by the wonderful Brazilian dance ensemble Grupo Corpo.

          Grupo Corpo has hips. Uakti’s Aguas Amazonas has hips. Reich’s Drumming doesn’t. That hardly invalidates it, but in the sense I’m talking about, Uakti’s Aguas Amazonas, despite being just this side of ambient music, has more in common with the violence of Rite of Spring than most other minimalist works do.

          For an even better example, compare Reich’s “Drumming” (which I do like) with the use of drumming in elite Taiko ensembles like Kodo:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zSa6Zz2Zrs

          Classical music doesn’t have to be cerebral. And it doesn’t have to NOT be cerebral. But we should know the difference and embrace both Apollo and Dionysus in the arts.

          One more example is a Balinese Welcome Dance I recorded the last time we were in Bali:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4tV9abt6Y0

          It has the added plus of one of the dancers being the most beautiful woman I’ve seen in Bali–and I’ve been there six times (though most of the time I’m scuba diving, which isn’t much of a way to see women who are cendik (Indonesian for gorgeous).

        • Lifelong Californian.

          Lots of modern American classical music’s got rhythm, all right, but not the kind of “melody made of rhythm” that I hear in Rite and that the Hodeir essay I referenced discusses.

          So I’m saying there’s a real, basic differences between, say, Steve Reich’s “Drumming”–which I like BTW–and “Rite of Spring.” Starting with their respective effects on listeners–”Drumming” is intriguing, diverting, even fascinating. But it isn’t thrilling, and “Rite” is. And I’d say the same if you compare “Rite” with, say, John Adams’ “Chairman Dances” or “Short ride in a Fast Machine.”

          Even though these use what I’d call phase-shifting ostinatos, they’re all behind “Rite” in its use of rhythm to do the emotive work that Western classical music normally accords to melody and harmony. Even to orchestration. Rhythm remains behind, like a competent but submissive ’50s housewife (in the memory of conservatives at least).

          You can find what I’m talking about in the best Taiko, such as that of Kodo, and to a lesser extent (but still very appealing) in Uakti’s rendition of Philip Glass’s “Aguas Amazonas.”

      • Steve Soderberg says:

        John Adams? Steve Reich? Does the name Elliott Carter ring a bell with any of you?? For starters, since this discussion is about Stravinsky, Stravinsky considered the Double Concerto an American masterpiece. Maybe Stravinsky had an ear.

        • The Stravinsky who wrote Rite wasn’t the Stravinsky who loved Carter. Personally I vastly prefer Reich, Reilly, Adams, Arvo Part, Gorecki, Ligeti, Xennakis, Antheil, Danile Pnkham, and others over Carter.

          So what do you get out of Carter in general and the Double Concerto in particular? I’m not asking ironically or sarcastically. I’ve just never encountered a Carter fan and I’m curious.

        • Reply 2:

          Listened to about 10m of Carter’s Double Concerto, then went and cleansed my aural palette by playing Harpsichordist Elaine Comparone’s rendition of Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor, K. 517 on her 2-manual harpsichord designed for her to play standing up.

          This is not a renunciation of modern music by any means. Perhaps it does give an example of many who love modernist music also love Baroque music. I know I do.

        • I agree with you Steve Soderberg, if someone were genuinely interested in rhythm they would be interested in Carter, and if they value Stravinsky’s achievements they ought to consider the ones he himself valued (aside from his own). In the light of Stravinsky’s esteem of Carter it is difficult to imagine that composers who cannot distinguish between an ostinato and an idea would find a very high place in Stravinsky’s esteem. It used to be apparent that an ostinato was only a portion of a thought, for a long time the minimalists have presented ostinatoes as though they can suffice for the sum total of an idea.

          There is an example from Stravinsky’s time that could have been chosen by him to be singled out for praise if he valued minimalism, but which he did not – Arvo Part was already around. He has by now been absorbed into the minimalist fold. Stravinsky would have correctly identified him as a Soviet Socialist Realist, with a different spin (for the record, from the “Non-Conflict” school of Soviet Socialist Realism), and would have poured scorn over him. The inference seems to me to be that the minimalists engage a feeble form of Socialist Realism.

          Boris Schwartz discusses the “Non-Conflict” Socialist Realists in his book.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Just for the record: Pärt wrote atonal modernist music while Stravinsky was still alive and his ‘process music’ style (‘tintinnabuli’) he began only in 1977 with ‘Fratres’ and ‘Cantus’ after a long interruption of reflection 1971-1976. Stravinsky would not have know his later music. And then, Pärt’s later process music is very different from American minimalism; it is much better and is related to medieval music.

          • The correct interpretation of Part’s direction is that he caved in.

            There is no “relation” between a music irrelevant to its time that apes music that developed naturally in an earlier time.

          • John Borstlap says:

            “There is no ‘relation’ between a music irrelevant to its time that apes music that developed naturally in an earlier time.” This surely is meant to be: “There is no ‘relation’ between a music irrelevant to its time that apes music from the past and music that developed naturally in an earlier time.”?

            But formulations aside, this remark seems to presuppose that it is ‘the time’ which determines what artists make, while it has been always the other way around: artists picked-up an existing tradition (which existed naturally in their time) and created their own version of it if they had the talent for it. This is the way traditions developed. But in the last century traditions were demolished, under the new totalitarian conformism of modernist ideologies, and in order to escape that deadlock, composers had to discover and / or choose their own tradition, and of course they had to discard contemporary ideologies. Pärt found a natural tradition in the past and made his own, very personal version of it, and thus made it contemporary. He RECREATED a tradition, and this is very much of our own time, in which composers have to rediscover the fertile soil on which their art can really florish, instead of providing irrelevant dross for the academic bullwarks who still try to ‘protect’ modern music from the vagaries of the real world.

            ‘Caving-in’ is the typical term of modernist ideology which projects a historical, prescriptive line from the Past into an utopian Future, led by a clear-sighted ‘avantgarde’: all nonsense, and see where it has brought us…. One of the worst results is a politically correct conformism which restricts creativity to a very narrow-minded set of ideas, an orthodoxy comparable with Soviet Union music policy. The difference is that in the West no government has ever wanted to direct the course of art, but that was not necessary: composers were perfectly capable of doing it themselves, helped by academia – who discovered a wide field of inexhaustable analysis, explanation and defense.

          • Your suppositions about presuppositions and tired cliches of demolitions of the processes of styles that are wrongly identified as “traditions” are evidence of precisely the potboiling and jejune mock-Hegelian, hysterical Marxist operations to which I am, apparently successfully, drawing attention.

            There is no “tradition” in Western music as you wish there were; if “tradition” pertains at all to the progress of style, it is that it is the tradition of Western music to change, not to remain ever the same. Under no circumstances, in any area of human activity, is there a wholesome “tradition” that always remains the same. If it remains the same, it is not wholesome. Unless “tradition” communicates, it is less than ritual, it is a prison of repeated activities, a treadmill.

            There can be no “demolition” of artistic styles that exist in a dynamic state of change. You have to ossify the style before you can “demolish” it. An ossified style is not a viable style. If a style is viable it is like a bird in flight, and birds in flight do not need a “tradition” of being in this or that position. To move is not to destroy.

            Heraclitus was correct and you are wrong about the nature of reality. There is no recreation of tradition, any more than there was ever a tradition in the sense you mean.

            The fact you have to attack alleged academics is another evidence of the obsolete rhetoric you employ. I am always amused by the likes of you and other would-be critics who define Modernism as academic, and use as the evidence that it is academic the fact that it is Modernist. You pontificate to an “academic” who has scarcely ever been in academia since the 1980s and who has been reduced to driving a cab for 22 years. Some academicism. Apparently I am “academic” no matter where I am positioned in society, and for as long as I persist with the Modernism that you as an apologist for a Soviet composer find me persisting. Apparently no position of servitude outside academia is low enough for me to be safe from your attacks on my “academicism.” It is a proper Soviet irony that I as a drudging worker am being attacked by a rabid faux-Marxist theologian such as yourself for not subscribing to the Soviet program you want to defend.

            There is not one shred of Utopianism in what I say, or ever say anywhere. To want a better world here and now is not futurism or Utopianism. Accusing me of Utopianism is just your palaver of historicism. You are engaging in “mirror-imaging:” you think that I must think as you think because you think that way. And about your remark to “see where it has brought us:” Yes, but that only proves what I am saying, we are in a world where there is scarcely even a vestige of an arriere-garde to defend the real action of civilization and prevent deserters such as yourself, let alone a proper avant-garde, a world where backward-looking styles and degenerate populism reign, and where less than 1% of America’s programming is of the present American art (of ANY style), and even to defend Modernism in words in a place like this where the public will never be exposed to my thoughts, I expose myself to a boring blowhard such as yourself.

            And to the last, when I point out Part’s resemblance AND actual lineage to Soviet othodoxy, you accuse me of Sovietism. You just aren’t applying reasoning to your palavering. You are not using thought to form your words, you are just using a stale and pre-formed catechism as a text to try to shout me down.

          • What did Elliott Carter write that uses rhythm in any way like Stravinsky did? I sure haven’t heard it.

            The dismissal of American minimalist music as a one trick pony (the “trick” being ostinato) reminds of how the “classical music ended in 1900″ crowd looks at all modern music. The American minimalists are using phase-shifting ostinatos as foreground element much as Stravinsky, in Rite, uses rhythm as melody. I would expect musically sophisticated people to have noticed this.

            Of course this is not a blanket justification. American minimalism is mostly forgettable–as is German Baroque music, as is any genre, pretty much.

            But the best of it helped save modern classical music from the Curse of Atonalism, which most people find as unlistenable as they’d find a Cage piece where people turn a bunch of radios on and off at random.

            What modern composers are discovering is that there’s a biological foundation for music, and you can’t flout this fact without losing most of your audience.

            I love Ligeti and Xennakis personally, but I wouldn’t call them atonal either…maybe megatonal? I just made that up.

            And for that matter, I’d rather listen to Harry Partch than Elliott Carter any day. At least Partch had a sense of humor ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veB0UkFuRls ).

      • Well, it seems that Hodeir was wrong about classical composers: Mozart got better to the end, as Haydn, as Beethoven (the last quartets…), Chopin stayed on course all his life, as did Brahms. Mahler wrote Das Lied and the 9th at the end, Wagner his sublime Parsifal, Ravel his two brilliant piano concertos…. I believe that with Stravinsky it is a different case altogether. He came from a very strong, characteristic tradition with a firmly set framework (read Taruskin), who was unexpectedly thrown into a totally different world (W-Europe) and a time of profound disappointment & confusion (post war twenties). In short, he lost his roots and decided to become cosmopolitan and Western. Still he approached Western traditions from a thoroughly Russian point of departure (read Taruskin). In his post-Rite music, say from L’Histoire onwards, something was broken in his inner life, some unconscious feeling of being connected to something. And then, you begin to hear a conscious constructivism to compensate for this. But still, under the ‘neo-classical’ surface, you feel a strong sentiment, which only began to wither at the end of this period (Orpheus, which is beautiful but very tame, the Rake’s Progress which is nice but rather bloodless), and which found full presentation with his last, quasi-serial period, of which the Requiem Canticles still form something of a highlight, be it a very cool and thin one, like the faint reflection of a memory.

        As for rhythm…. if one of the parameters of music is exaggerated, the others are diminished, hence the stiff and ritualistic melodies in the Rite and the harmonies, which are very colourful but do not develop as they did in Petrushka: they achieve their effects through cumulation and contrast. That is why the last episode of the Rite, where the music is flattened into pure blocks of rhythm (the Danse Sacrale), begins to be much less musical and the end is so disappointing: a blurb upwards plus Bang! but no climax. (The first half merely stops at reaching a climax.)

        But who is to complain about such a master work which never stops to be intriguing and, yes, profoundly moving (if played well, not by Rattle or Haitink or another polite conductor).

        The rhyth in Debussy’s music, or Scriabine’s, or Ravel’s, is still organically related to what is going-on in the other parameters. That gives much freedom, as is not the case with an exaggerated rhythm. And then, the Rite is so extreme in many ways, that can happen only once, you cannot develop the idea, it is like a big pear at the end of a branch which falls-off because it’s ripe.

        And please don’t refer to pop music, which is mere entertainment and not art music. There is nothing wrong with entertainment but in the context of the Rite, pop is beneath contempt.

        • Re: artists peaking, then retreating.

          You debunk Hodeir (actually my summarization of Hodeir, which may or may not do justice to him), but then go on to describe in detail how it was true for Stravinsky. Whatever the circumstances of his life, and I understand how uprooted he was, and however good many of his later compositions were, The Fairy’s Kiss ain’t no Firebird, much less Rite.

          Generalizations about artists can’t be taken as universal claims for the most part. I’m sure we could sit down and find plenty of artists who did have a breakthrough and then retreat from it, and plenty–as you point out–who kept on keeping on to the end or close to it. Like Boito’s Mefistofile or Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. Both shot their wads, pretty much, with those works, even though both are great fun to behold. What operatic bass doesn’t want to play the eponymous character in Boito’s work? It’s on all of their bucket lists.

          BTW Das Lied von der Erde was just about the first piece of classical music I ever heard as a kid (apart from a few radio & TV show theme songs), having been raised in a family that thought Lawrence Welk’s stylings were good music. From the first bar I became a lover of classical music, A real bolt from the blue for me. This was when “pop music” meant “How much is that doggie in the window, arf arf,” and “Throw mama from the train, a kiss” and suchlike. Perhaps that’s one reason why I’m not as dismissive of pop music as you are. I’ve heard sooo much worse than what’s out there now.

          re: “if one of the parameters of music is exaggerated”

          I’m sure if we could hash this out in person we’d be closer than might seem here, communicating in this medium. That said, the term “exaggerated” is incorrect. Rather, it’s whatever aspect of a work of music that’s the foreground element, and which are background elements. Most Western classical music has melody and harmony in the foreground and a 4/4 or 3/4 rhythm thumping away in the background.,

          Like the glorious soprano-alto duet in Bach’s Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4…but the two voices soaring over that foundation..yowza (I did say I’m a Calfornian).

          I don’t think you can put everything in the foreground. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be a melody, as Ligeti’s magnificent Atmospheres demonstrates. Effective, powerful music can put any element of music in the foreground.Or in and out of the foreground, as Hodeir (and Boulez) says Stravinsky does in Rite.

          Is Rite not build-on-a-ble? A musical non sequitur? Arguing on your side is the fact that apparently it hasn’t been done. Yet. But I don’t see how it’s impossible. You might argue that there’s a faint whiff of it in Carmina Burana, for one. But to really build on the concept of rhythm-as-foreground (melody-equivalent)–actually charging in and out of background/foreground–that’s going to take one heckuva musical genius. Maybe he or she just hasn’t been born yet.

          As for your categorical dismissal of pop music…I think that’s taking the easy way out. Consider all the so-called Art Music that was commissioned to be played while the King was eating, as a pleasant background to his mastications. Some of it is pretty good, but a lot is musical piffle. Or programmatic music like Grofé’s Grand Canyon suite. I can’t take that seriously. And I’ve even been to the Grand Canyon… Or many bel canto operas that are little more than musical gymnastics exercises, with infinitesimal emotive heft.

          Composers have generally had to make a living. That used to be kinds and prelates and the like. Now we’re a little short on patrons. A guy can get a job in a college teaching, but that isn’t the same as a musical commission. It has led to some composers doing film scores. I realize most are not serious music, but some seems to be getting there. Ditto musical theater, which overlaps light opera.

          Is HMS Pinafore classical music or pop? Sweeney Todd? Candide? Rhapsody in Blue? Mahagonny?

          I would submit that the Venn Diagram of music, strung along the axis of overall quality and sophistication, has an overlap between the Pop and Classical worlds. Most pop is drivel, of course. But the best is not, and bears repeated listening, even to those with cultured ears. Just as a fair amount of Art Music is at best harmless background music or, from another quarter, sterile academic exercises, reflective of many composers winding up in academic settings.

          Due to pop having to appeal to the masses to varying degrees, though, as I said already, Rite’s inheritors are unlikely to come from that world. I can’t even play Rite successfully for most of the very intelligent software engineers I know who are the mainstay of Silicon Valley, where I live.

          But also consider the fact that many, many Americans who aren’t classical music fans per se heard a garbled version of Rite of Spring when they saw Fantasia. Meaning it was used as movie music. So I wouldn’t write off movie scores entirely.

          As I said, in person I’m sure we’d find at the very least that we have a lot of common ground. Debate vis email tends to emphasize the differences between people. The mere fact that everyone here loves Rite of Spring puts us in pretty select company, even today.

          • Just a remark upon this passage:

            ‘As for your categorical dismissal of pop music…I think that’s taking the easy way out. Consider all the so-called Art Music that was commissioned to be played while the King was eating, as a pleasant background to his mastications.’

            At the end of the 18th century it got gradually understood that art music was on an equal footing as poetry and painting (‘les beaux arts’) and that writing dinner muzak for patrons was, in fact, wasting the time and energies of its composers if they had something better to say. Until then, art music was seen as a craft, its functions ranging from spiritual revelation in church music to entertainment. But with the Enlightment, art music became to be seen a serious artistic expression which deserved independance. This was real progress, quite different from purely musical progress which does not exist. To this development we thank the presence of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven etc. etc. and yes, Stravinsky, on our contemporary concert programmes. So, the humiliating position of composers during the prerevolutionary ancien régime cannot be used as an argument to bolster-up contemporary pop music.

          • Well, my point was that fish gotta swim, composers gotta eat. Meaning they must find patrons, academic appointments, commissions from orchestras or foundations, movie/tv music gigs, or sales to large enough numbers of fans to make them a living. Unless they have a day job and just do their music for fun.

            So even if modern classical composers aren’t writing to help kingly digestion they’re still singing for their supper. And still being humiliated. The Soviet era demands for Socialist Realism (i.e. saccharine conventionalism). Move director demands for music serving the film’s needs regardless (as in Rite’s being, um, altered to fit Fantasia). Record labels looking for sales, not for financing personal expression. And even for those with academic positions and perhaps tenure, there’s still pressure to write what the department head likes or is politically correct.

            Imagine how a faculty prof would be received if he wrote an opera sincerely lionizing George W. Bush?

  12. Steve Soderberg says:

    Comments about the earlier 1908 “riot” in Vienna can be found on the Schoenberg blog under the post title, “The Other Riot” (http://eschbeg.blogspot.com/2013/05/recently-norman-lebrecht-wrote-article.html)

    But I must comment here on Mr. Lebrecht’s use of the famous Boston PD mug shot of Stravinsky.

    Several years ago I was giving a presentation at the Library of Congress to a group of around 25 undergrad students from various universities in California who were spending the year at UC-District of Columbia to gain experience in the nation’s capital. My job was to show them some interesting things in the music division collection that I hoped they might relate to, even though I knew that none of them was a music student & probably not many played an instrument. I got what I believed was the brilliant idea of photocopying the mug shot to relate it to the ms of the Stravinsky arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner (now in the LOC collections) that got him in trouble in Boston.

    First I held up the photo & asked if anyone knew who this was. No one did – no surprise to me. But then things went south. I announced this was a photo of Igor Stravinsky. No response. “Has anyone heard of the Rite of Spring?” I asked. One hand meekly rose in back. It got worse. To even remotely explain the connection between the mug shot and the Star Spangled Banner I had to explain to a group of California’s best & brightest who Igor Stravinsky was. I bumbled through as quickly as I could to get on to the next item – the ms score of Porgy and Bess. Two or 3 had heard of Porgy and Bess. One of the worst experiences I ever had.

    • Speaking as a native Californian, I understand. When I was in boot camp I was reading Joyce’s Ulysses in what little spare time I had, and the most intellectual other guy in the platoon saw the title and assumed I was reading Homer. He’d never heard of Joyce.

      California is a gorgeous place to live, but for intellectual stimulation I have to rely on a group of Russian emigrants I’m friends with…and they’re generally more literarily inclined than musically.

  13. Here is an interesting compilation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gx3IiE4TfI . Enjoy!

    • That’s only interesting if you’re a hardcore Rite of Spring fan.

      Which I am. So I loved it. Thanks for the link.

      Would you call that metahocketing?

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