Saturday Jan 19th

Today we went to watch a series of dances by the UW faculty including the “Rite of Spring” staged first in 1913.  What was it about the piece that was so confronting to the audience who rioted essentially during the Introduction?  Apparently it had to do with the violently unconventional instrumentation, and costumes and choreography – all of which were not spring-like and had totally shattered the audience’s expectations.

The Rite of Spring was a dance evoking pagan rituals of spring, including tributes to the earth and the harvest, the deaths of elders of warring factions, the licentiousness of young love (displayed in 3 hyper-sexualized homo and hetero sequences), the sacrifice of the chosen girl and her dance till death.  It is a very cinematic sound piece well fitted to the ballet that it was originally intended for.

The music included several elements of Russian folk music but they were apparently processed beyond recognition.

What do i feel about the dance?  i think the choreography fits the music very well – im not sure about the costumes because i felt that the previous performance had done a great job using colour as strong symbols, and when the rite came on, the difference in colour became very arbitrary.  that being said, the use of different aged performers was a strong statement and i began wondering after a while if everyone (6year old kids included) knew what they were dancing about. .  It was very enjoyable though and i was at times really fixated by the disklavier and wondered if there was anyone actually playing it under an invisible cloak.

And on the topic of setting music to novels (remember James Joyce’s Chamber Music), Stravinsky’s 2 previous works set to music poems by In 1907 and 1908 Stravinsky set to music two poems by Gorodetsky. A third poem in the same anthology concerned the choice of a maiden by an old wizard to be sacrificed to Yarila, god of Spring.  Musically, Firebird (bitonality) and Petrushka also displayed some of the musical ideas he was developing at that time.   All his previous works were setting him up for the rite of spring, which was a spectacular success as well as a disaster.


Essential listening:

Stravinsky, The rite of Spring
Stravinsky, Firebird
Stravinsky, the rite of Spring (1913)

Youtube also has a great 6 part documentary on the riot at the rite:


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