Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring,” 100 Years Today

Ahhhh Classical music, enjoyed by the aristocracy, your grandmother’s tea sipping friends the 1% in todays terms….

Well that was the scene 100 years ago today as Stravinsky’s, “Rite of Spring,” was premiered. Well that was allegedly the scene. Would you believe these said music aficionados and high society folks kind of started a riot? Booed so loud the music could not be heard? Began throwing anything they could find?

However it went down that fateful night the music has absolutely stood the test of time. 100 years later the piece’s centennial is being celebrated all over the globe with performances and tributes.

Yes, for most people’s tastes, even today it sounds odd and perhaps ‘ugly.’ For those who have found their way into the works masterful composition it is a thing of beauty. When I first began studying music I was a Mozart and Bach fan. The ‘modern’ art music was not for me… But, through time and guidance of some of the most amazing musicians, my San Diego State music professors, I have learned to appreciate and yes even enjoy, ‘modern’ music.

To really explore the piece, I bought the score back in college so I could immerse myself, visually and aurally, inside the compositional and instrumentation processes Stravinsky employed. Try following the notes on the video below, the piece’s first section.

You have to laugh a little at what in art is called ‘modern,’ because most of it is extremely old. The 20th Century may well go down as the “Modern Era,” for hundreds of years to come. Like the 14th Century is known as ‘Ars Nova,’ or new art.

‘Modern,’ music may never be fully encompassed by humans. Perhaps it lies just out of our centered humanness and can only be appreciated and enjoyed by those who seek to study and look for it’s beauty.

I find myself extremely lucky to be able to love music, such as, the “Rite of Spring,” with all its complexities both in sonority and compositional structure and then listen to a 3 chord AC/DC hard rock song and be moved by both.

The part of the “Rite of Spring,” that has always moved me most both sonically and compositionally starts at approximately 7:45 on the video below. Specifically at 7:56 through the 10:30 mark, although the WHOLE piece is a true masterpiece!

Open your ears and Enjoy!!

Charles Ives, “4th of July” Listening Challenge

How do we listen to music?

Seems like a silly question! We crank up our home stereos, car stereos, Ipods,  etc.

Most of us think of music as; I like it or I don’t; as cool or not; as good or bad. All very reasonable answers but represent a subjective view. They are opinions vs. analyses. For most people that is more than fine! We grow up with the music that is around us…if it makes us feel good we like it.

When I went to college to study music I was the same way. Somewhere along the line I realized there is more to music than does it have a beat and can I dance to it(or headbang from my heavy metal past). Music even though an art is also a science. Even though a recreation a discipline.

If you have been ready to try something different to feed your ears here is a great piece. It isn’t ear candy to the novice. It wont make you dance, hum, party, workout, clean the house…..etc. However, if you take the time to really listen it will offer you a chance to hear a different perspective on music.

Charles Ives was an experimental composer before there were experimental composers! If this piece reminds you a bit of a horror soundtrack, it was written before there were horror soundtracks! Ives was into creating sounds! Intertwined he liked to add familiar melodies that meant something to him personally. Usually these were lofty motives like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, hymns and most of all pieces that represent America and Americana at the turn of the last century.

Take the challenge…put away your preconceived notions of what music should be and just listen to sounds. Also listen for the aforementioned American themes that Ives wove into his music the way others use major scales. Remember when you are listening that the composer was very pro-American even though the sounds may seem like not so much.

Go for it! I will keep more listening challenges coming…

Charles Ives 4th of July