T'was a hundred years ago today, when Stravinsky taught the band to play
May 30, 2013 5:21 PM   Subscribe


/smashes shit up.
posted by Artw at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tradition requires that we celebrate this occasion with rage and senseless violence. People who have never heard Rite of Spring or only got partway through should loudly proclaim their opinions about it. Music FESTIVAL!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:35 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

NPR did a wonderful interview with Michael Tilson Thomas about this yesterday. It makes me happy that people have been VERY UPSET by
music for - as far as I know - all of history.
posted by rtha at 5:38 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The piece that has changed so many lives, including mine! Everyone should hear this piece live at LEAST once, if not many many times. Never gets old, never fails to amaze! A true work of genius, and one of the ultimate works of art in the 20th century. There is no argument!
posted by ReeMonster at 5:38 PM on May 30, 2013

There are some fantastic anecdotes about Rite of Spring's punishing bassoon solo in this thread.
posted by The Confessor at 5:41 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was recently on hold with a doctor's office that used one endless loop from this piece as their hold music. After 30 minutes I could understand the urge to riot.
posted by Biblio at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you love the mechanistic drive of Rite of Spring, believe me when I say you will love Les Noces. If Rite of Spring is the perfect color film, then Les Noces is the apotheosis of black and white.
posted by invitapriore at 6:02 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

the mechanistic drive of Rite of Spring

Interesting how perceptions of music are so subjective. I'd be much more likely to describe the "drive" of Rite of Spring as "organic". For me it invokes more blood than motor oil, more muscles and ligaments than gears and pistons.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

As revolutionary as Stravinsky's score is, much of the negative reaction was due to Nijinsky's choreography (a ballet dancer friend of mine observed that it was, in some ways, the birth of modern dance).

If you want to see what all the fuss was about one hundred years ago, the Joffery Ballet did a fantastic reconstruction of the original production. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
posted by the_bone at 6:15 PM on May 30, 2013 [24 favorites]

This is what I get for slacking. That's a great article, and in my usual way of providing waaay too much information, I was writing up a musical biography of Stravinsky. Why? Because this was only his 3rd major work, and he would turn 31 years old in less than a month after the premiere of this ballet.

So I'll end with this: about seven years after the debut of Spring, Stravinsky lead into neo-classicism, "old musical forms were resurrected and the emphasis shifted to a kind of musical cleanliness." Stravinsky came to dislike the term. "The word is overused. It means nothing at all," he said in an interview in 1930.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:23 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, I can see how this might cause rage and senseless violence.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:57 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

/stages production of The King in Yellow.
posted by Artw at 7:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

The french tv channel ARTE did a simulcast yesterday of the Rite, conducted by Valery Gergiev in the Théâtre des Champs Élysées. It was superb. Watch it before they take it down!
posted by Omon Ra at 7:36 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Though I am a great fan of (and have spent a lot of time studying) the Rite of Spring, I am partial to The Firebird because it is the work from which Fairlight isolated the most iconic and popular "orchestra hit" sample in music history: ORCH5!

I've long had a deal with myself that my first front-page post on MeFi would be about famous orchestra hit samples and their origins (I swear it will happen some day). If the Amen breakbeat sample deserves attention, so does the orchestra hit!
posted by jake at 7:37 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

See it live with a good orchestra, if you get the chance.. you get a sense of why there was rioting. Live, in the case of the rite particularly, is quite a different experience from listening to a recording.
posted by snaparapans at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2013

From the PBS series Keeping Score: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, a 55 minute documentary on the influences behind Rites.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do not get music. I can't tell one chord from a paperweight. When I knock on the door I miss the beat. I did not dance in my own wedding, I have only danced when I am tripping on several hundred dollars of high purity chemicals.

But when I saw the rite of spring performed live I was awed and really moved. I got bored listening to recordings, but then a friend took me to see The Bad Plus doing their rendition of this piece and it happened Again.

Mefites who get music, what else should I listen to?
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 8:57 PM on May 30, 2013

Ravel has a solid claim to being on the forefront of neoclassicism ahead of Stravinsky. His piano trio, an exemplar of the form in my opinion, was published in 1914. Then again, Ravel's musical ethos could be described as WWMD (What Would Mozart Do), so maybe it depends on who's doing the neoclassicism?
posted by invitapriore at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2013

The word is visceral. Rite of Spring is utterly visceral. Such an exhilaration.

For those interested in similar experiences I personally recommend taking any chance you can to see Te full ballet version of Copland's Appalachian Spring. Changed my life. Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is also quite the emotional ride.

But back to Rite if Spring. Nothing really compares. The notes are coursed with boiling blood. The urgency of it all. Even Disney understood this; stupidly, they dumbed down the dissonance (in true Disney sani-fashion) but they still had the presence of mind to pair it with VIOLENT DINOSAUR APOCALYPSE, a fitting tribute I think.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:40 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was a child and young teenager, I was frantically ballet obsessed. In particular, I was obsessed with George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, largely due to seeing Suzanne Farrell on Sesame Street. That led to me reading about Mr. B, and learning that he and Stravinsky were not only collaborators, but good friends. That led me eventually to The Rite of Spring and Nijinsky. And Nijinsky, the 1980 film, in which The Rite played a part. It was airing on Showtime in '82-ish, and I had to beg and plead to be allowed to watch it. You know, what with the OMG-GAY-PEOPLE and all. (Not to mention, the poor fella had gone completely mad, and apparently that upset my own mentally ill parents more than the gay people did.)

I was...floored. It was...powerful and primal, and a little terrifying, and I wanted to see more.

It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I got to see a full production of The Rite. My brother got me tickets for my birthday, and it was just spellbinding. By the time it was done, I was a quivering wreck, and had to stay in my seat for a bit after the performance concluded, because I was so weak in the...well, weak in the everything. I didn't trust myself to stand up, let alone walk or even speak.

Thanks, Igor and Vaslav, for an incredible piece of art that is still kind of controversial. I love it, and love you both for it.
posted by MissySedai at 10:09 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love Rite to death, but I mainly picture VIOLENT DINOSAUR APOCALYPSE when listening to the music. I watched all of Nijinsky's choreography (as linked here) just now, and it left me startlingly unmoved. It seems kind of silly, especially compared to the sheer amazing power of the music.

Maybe the choreography hasn't aged as well as the music. Or maybe it's better live. I don't know. What do you guys think?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:12 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

My dad's a sculptor. He made a sculpture once that we like to call, "Nijinsky: mad; Nijinsky: sane." It's two small figures who stand next to each other. One is Nijinsky in his faun costume, doing something like this. The other one is Nijinsky in a suit, stiff, with his shoulders up around his ears.
posted by colfax at 3:30 AM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Excellent ! Many thanks !
posted by nicolin at 3:56 AM on May 31, 2013

Mefites who get music, what else should I listen to?

Try Debussy or Mahler.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Doroteo Arango II: off the top of my head..

Bartok: concerto for two pianos and percussion, string quartets
Pendereki: threnody to the victims of hiroshima.
Berg: violin concerto, wozzek, lulu, lyric suite.
Webern: Variations for piano.
Brahms: op 118 (piano)

lots and lots great music out there..

best to see it live.. records are dead relatively speaking.
posted by snaparapans at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2013

The Riot of Spring is always a little overplayed, and history has probably exaggerated what actually went down quite a bit. One thing to keep in mind is that the audience culture was so different. Yelling out, laughing, throwing things was not so unheard of a hundred years ago. These were not the times when people would get very irked at coughing in between movements.

Accounts differ, obviously. Stravinsky himself left the audience to watch from the wings because someone laughing hurt his poor little Stravinsky feelings. The music definitely upset some people, but it wasn't, as some have asserted (looking at you, Radiolab), like the Fb against the Eb chord in the infamous second section short-circuited everyone's brain and so they went nuts.

The orchestra was kind of bad. The choreography was 1) awful and 2) sent some people into a sort of moral panic, what with the sacrificial virgin and everything and 3) was not at all ballet like, people stomping around and stuff and 4) really bad (seriously, watch the original choreography - it didn't survive for a reason). People were also just rowdy. It was a heated time in Paris, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was new, Diaghilev had positioned himself as a controversial sort of figure. I mean, yeah the music and the performance got the crowd into a frenzy, but the crowd also showed up wanting to get into a frenzy, dig?

Don't get me wrong, The Rite was a big deal, still is. But music had been getting pretty weird for a while. The whole "The Augurs of Spring made everyone go totally nuts!" thing is kind of just a legend.

And we often forget, with all the lore around the premiere, that a lot of people actually totally loved it, and it quickly became extremely popular and made Stravinsky into The Stravinsky. Kind of a bummer for him, really, because his music sort of just got worse after that, with a few notable exceptions. He turned away from the primitivism thing, got religion, things got weird.

Mefites who get music, what else should I listen to?

When it comes to the Rite, it's really the exemplar of that bit from Wittgenstein where he says of a Schubert quartet, "if I like this, I cannot say give me another. They are not the same." Listening to other Stravinsky from the period is the closest - Firebird, Petrushka. Even Les Noces, though by that time Stravinsky had really turned. Copland was working in a sort of similar vein with the American twist (which actually makes a lot of the music sound like an inverse, all of Stravinsky's layers and texture swapped with a lot of space). Maybe Bartok, at least in so far as they both sort of did the folk melodies turned into epic rocking stuff, though Bartok is funnier. But part of what makes Stravinsky so great is that his voice, especially during the period of the Rite, was really pretty unique and still is. I mean, Ravel really doesn't hold a candle. Listen to Ravel if you want a bunch of schlock (yes I said it. I'm sorry. I kind of like the piano concerto).

My favorite performance of the Rite I've been to was at the NY Phil in like 2004 or thereabouts. I went with my then girlfriend, and while we were waiting in line for student tickets, this older man approached us and asked us if we wanted one of his tickets, as his date couldn't make it. So we ended up sitting next to this guy and got to talking and in turned out we were all from Iowa and he was just this really nice guy. The first half was Don Quixote (which I think is a real sleeper). At intermission, this gentlemen gets up and says he's leaving. I'm in shock, like why would you leave before the best part. He says he just can't stand that modern music (this is 90 years after the premiere of the Rite). He gives me $20, says to take my girl out after. We sent him Christmas cards for years after.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

The confluence of this post and Weather Report post above obliges me to point out this famous quote from "The Rite of Spring" (it's the third melodic phrase of the bass solo).
posted by thelonius at 1:13 PM on May 31, 2013

Listen to Ravel if you want a bunch of schlock (yes I said it. I'm sorry. I kind of like the piano concerto).

There's no accounting for taste, but I'm not really sure what the basis for your confidence here is unless you also think basically all of the leading lights of post-bop were full of shit.
posted by invitapriore at 1:16 PM on May 31, 2013

The orchestra was kind of bad. The choreography was 1) awful and 2) sent some people into a sort of moral panic, what with the sacrificial virgin and everything and 3) was not at all ballet like, people stomping around and stuff and 4) really bad (seriously, watch the original choreography - it didn't survive for a reason).
Odd then, that "rioting" did not happen on a regular basis

It is the only report of such a disturbance that I am aware of during the history (1909-1928) of Ballet Russe..

Maybe astrology could account for it?
posted by snaparapans at 1:18 PM on May 31, 2013

Thanks for the recommendations. I was up until 4 in the morning listening to very interesting music.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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