Pagan rites. It demanded music that would be melodic but simple, spontaneous and immodest. More tribal rite that bourgeois concert. Stravinsky was completing his Firebird ballet in 1910 when he allegedly experienced a vision; a girl chosen to dance herself to death in a pagan ritual. Igor Stravinsky’s revival of ancient blood-rite caught audiences off guard. His Sacre de Printemps- The Rite of Spring- jolted audiences with its release of passion and violence; but the thick and crunching chords, sudden shifts in rhythm, irregular salvos of percussive artillery and unusual combinations of key signatures certainly seemed to fit the mood of that time.The sacrifice of the maiden to dance herself to death to bring the sun had eerie political overtones, and the progressive leveling of the difference between masculine and feminine in he cult of Dionysus invoked gender politics. The Russian revolution was advancing and Europe was caught up in nationalism that would culminate in WWI. The values of Western society were being seriously questioned. Technology was changing the “form” of society…
Michel Foucault:There are several ways in which this is apparent. On the one hand, music has been much more sensitive to technological changes, much more closely bound to them than most of the other arts (with the exception perhaps of cinema). On the other hand, the evolution of these musics after Debussy or Stravinsky presents remarkable correlations with the evolution of painting. What is more, the theoretical problems which music has posed for itself, the way in which it has reflected on its language, its structures, and its material, depend on a question which has, I believe, spanned the entire twentieth century: the question of “form” which was that of Cézanne or the cubists, which was that of Schoenberg, which was also that of the Russian formalists or the School of Prague.http://excerpter.wordpress.com/2005/12/24/michel-foucault-pierre-boulez-contemporary-music-and-the-public/
In Stravinsky, Theodor Adorno, revealed the idea of the “destruction of the subject” in the composer’s shattering of the musical idiom. This disintegration of subjectivity is in part a characteristic of postmodernism,a modern music that rebels against what it imitates which attempts to consolidate its loss of subjectivity through a new musical language based on primitive music and modern convenience. What Debussey called “a haunting beautful nightmare.” This view was very much in accord with the grotesque hysteria, fury, absurdity and intoxication that became the folly of WWI. which occurred in Stravinsky’s music.
Welten: The subject is no longer a solid unity through which expression can thrive. The subjective truth behind music is shattered, musical traditions merely haunt a disintegrated universe. In music this loss of subjectivity is manifested in the juxtapositions from different musical traditions and in the collapse of univocal expression: the listener no longer feels he is listening to a unity.
Ramos: Stravinsky blazed through a piano reduction for Diaghilev and conductor Pierre Monteaux, who thought him crazy. But Monteaux also recognized it as the first in a new wave of music and agreed to conduct its première. Diaghilev chose Vaslav Nijinsky to choreograph, forming a work relationship that would hit many potholes. Nijinsky could barely deal with the intricate rhythmic scheme, which maddened Stravinsky to no end, and the cast appropriately limped through rehearsals. Nicolas Roerich meanwhile designed costumes similar to an Indian tribe’s bearskins. As if the rough score was not enough, questionable footwork and clothing doomed the première to disaster.
Le Sacre’s première took place at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on May 29, 1913. It is arguably the most famous debacle in western artistic history. Audience members found the quiet, yet active, introduction ridiculous. When the curtain rose and Nijinsky’s dances began, the auditorium went into a rage, their sophistication insulted. Ravel and Debussy were both present and captivated by the music, but it was soon drowned out in the fracas. Debris was thrown, as well as punches. The work was performed in full, but only with the help of Nijinsky calling steps from atop an offstage chair. Stravinsky had a breakdown after the première and spent weeks at a sanatorium in Neuilly to recover from typhoid fever. Read More:http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/stravinsky/lesacre90.php
Here was the birth of tragedy from the spirit of paganism as the modern mind envisioned it: herd instinct and tribal rite, nature worship and human sacrifice. It was an evocation of the modern impulse, but without conventional romantic interest and ostensibly close to the dawn of civilization but also perhaps close to its climax and epilogue of a sun as nuclear holocaust. By reaching back to basic musical impulses he followed the pattern of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon which would usher in contemporary music that would create narratives of the hysterical and disoriented mindset of the modern individual exasperated by technology, mass media and consumer fet
“People certainly rioted and made a ruckus… but why? Stravinsky always promulgated the idea that it was the music- but more than likely it was the bizarre jumping-up-and-down choreography by Nijinsky and the deliberate mixing of classes through Diagilev’s seating arrangements of the audience that got the ball rolling.
Whatever the reason… the music STILL shocks and delights the ears. We are lucky that the Joffery Ballet has recreated the original production and that it has been filmed. If you have the time please watch at least some of it. I have also posted a video of the Rite arranged for four-hand piano. This particularly allows the listener to hear the dazzling shift of tempos and rhythms. Incidentally- the dancers HATED the work- not only because the choreography was so unorthodox, but because constant change of key signatures in the music made it almost impossible to stay in step with the music- and with one another”. Read More:http://recoveredaura.blogspot.com/2010/03/rite-of-spring-by-igor-stravinsky.html
Walter Benjamin, one of Adorno’s most important influences, notes that stylistic concepts like “Baroque” (and by extension to Adorno’s ideas of “musical modernism”) were ideas made manifest by their motion through history (in his dissertation on Baroque drama, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels), terms that were not simply definable in a dictionary. Ultimately, Adorno’s idea of judging the style by its most extreme and unusual manifestations was the best means of revealing the potential of these styles as they worked through history. In the modern era, these extremes were made manifest in the music of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. In Schoenberg’s music, it was a case of extreme rigour at the expense, if need be, of melody and even beauty; the phrase “emancipation of the dissonance” was coined by Schoenberg. In the case of Stravinsky, it was extreme dynamics, extreme chords, and effects at the expense of beauty and clarity of line, which Adorno referred to as “no less than assassination techniques.”… Read More:http://www.discourses.ca/v4n2a2.html
…Consider another politically charged nugget: “In the Russian Stravinsky…the relation to fascism is beyond question.”12 He is comparing objectivism to fascism, and he makes his argument quite convincingly. Of course, these comments are open to criticism and so the temptation to argue with him is irresistible. Some modern scholars find endless fascination in tearing apart the personal preferences of Adorno, but we must remember he was writing about an earlier time, when acceptance of other musics was the exception rather than the rule, and despite his hatred of commodified music, Adorno’s feelings on popular music, world music and National Socialism do not have the benefit of Olympian objectivity, as some of us do: he, and many of his closest friends suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Nevertheless, Adorno claims he does not feel the need to dwell on the Nazi terror but on the “after-effect of the Fascist era and its significance for America rather than the actions and crimes of the regime itself.” He claimed that
the loss of interest in the products of art which may ultimately lead to a completely barbarian severance between serious artistic production and universal tastes is not a matter of degeneration or bad will but is the almost unavoidable consequence of the relegation of art into the realm of pure embellishment brought about by the technological development itself. Read More:http://www.discourses.ca/v4n2a2.html