Sunday, November 21, 2004

Stravinsky and Le Sacre du Printemps

from Stravinsky; His Life and Works

History of Stravinsky and Le Sacre du Printemps

Le Sacre du Printemps was one of the most controversial ballet and orchestral pieces of the 20th century. Stravinsky's idea for this piece came in a dream: a scene showing a pagan ritual in which a chosen sacrificial virgin danced herself to death. He met with Nicolas Roerich to plan the story line of Le Sacre du Printemps. On his way to Princess Tenichev's estate, he missed his train and convinced a freight train to take him there. Once there he saw Russian ethnic art. The inspiration for the scenarios came from the Russian ethnic art owned by Princess Tenichev. The titles of the movement were thought of in only a few days. The original name for this ballet was Vesna Sviaschennania--Sacred Spring/Holy Spring.

After returning home Stravinsky wrote the entire piece utilizing a muted-upright piano in a room that was 8x8 feet. Stravinsky began writing the piece in the summer of 1911 and completed writing it in early 1912. By late spring, the instrumentation had been put in score form. Le Sacre du Printemps was choreographed by Nijinsky and was staged at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris on May 1913. Najinsky's choreography was able to match the music of Stravinsky with something equally original and startling.

Neither the music nor choreography was proved acceptable to the general public on the first performance. At the first public performance there was chaos, as members of the audience took sides for or against the piece. There were boo’s and hissing as the piece began and continued through out the entire piece. Through the deafening and violent objects from many of the audience members, the dancers and musicians continued playing to the end, although the music was impossible to hear. Stravinsky recalls the events of the evening;

“Mild protests against the music could be heard from the very beginning of the performance. Then, when the curtain opened on the group of knock-kneed and long braided Lolitas jumping up and down, the storm broke. Cries of ‘Ta guele’ came from behind me………I left the hall in a rage; I was sitting on the right near the orchestra, and I remember slamming the door. I have never been that angry. The music was so familiar to me; I loved it………people who had not yet heard it wanted to protest in advance. I arrived in a fury backstage…………the rest of the performance I stood in the wings……”

In 1914, one year after the incident, the score was played by itself and was accepted with good grace. At the end of this performance the entire audience jumped to their feet and cheered. Instead of jeers, they were celebrating the great piece Stravinsky had written. Audience members rushed back stage and placed Stravinsky on their shoulders. After Le Sacre du Printemps, composers were free to write more dissonant and complicated music.

Here are some images of Le Sacre du Printemps with current and original costume ideas.









Part I: Adoration of the Earth

Introduction
Auguries of Spring (Dances of the Young Girls)
Mock Abduction
Spring Khorovod (Round Dance)
Games of the Rival Clans
Procession of the Wise Elder
Adoration of the Earth (the Wise Elder)
Dance of the Earth

Part II: The Sacrifice

Introduction
Mystical Circles of Young Girls
Glorification of the Chosen Victim
The Summoning of the Ancients
Ritual of the Ancients
Sacrificial Dance (the Chosen Victim)

Listen to Le Sacre du Printemps

Hear Performance Today's host Lisa Simeone and commentator Thomas Kelly discuss the scandalous premiere of Stravinsky's great score and how it changed music forever.

References:

Expositions and developments
Conversations with Igor Stravinsky
The Music of Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky by Michael Oliver
Naxos Music Library

Life and Death United; An Intimate Portrait of a Man named Miles Davis

"The very first thing I remember in my early childhood is a flame, a blue flame jumping off a gas stove somebody lit.... I remember being shocked by the whoosh of the blue flame jumping off the burner, the suddenness of it....That stove flame is as clear as music is in my mind. I saw that flame and felt fear, real fear, for the first time in my life. But I remember it also like some kind of adventure, some kind of weird joy, too....The fear I had was almost like an invitation, a challenge to go forward into something I knew nothing about. That's where I think my personal philosophy of life and my commitment to everything I believe in started, with that moment....In my mind I have always believed and thought since then that my motion had to be forward, away from the heat of that flame." -Miles Davis.


Life.
Miles Dewey Davis III was born on May 26th, 1926 in Alton, Illinois. A year later his family moved to East St. Louis, a city full of racism, deep seeded and still smoldering from the race riots of 1917. Miles had an older sister named Dorothy born in 1924 and a younger brother named Vernon born in 1929. Miles father, Miles Dewey Davis II was a successful dentist and earned three college degrees. His mother, Cleota Henry Davis, was beautiful and dignified.
Miles grew up with relative ease. His family had plenty of money and they lived in a white neighborhood. One of the most painful memories of Miles childhood was when a white man had chased him and called him a nigger. His father went looking for the man with a loaded shotgun, but he never found him.
Miles received his first trumpet for his 13th birthday. He immediately took to the trumpet. His father spoke highly of Miles' talent by sighting his family's history. "By genetics and breeding Miles is always going to be ahead of his time. Historically way back into slavery days, the Davis's have been musicians and performed classic works in the homes of the plantation owners." Just as his ancestors, Miles continuously fought racial prejudices. His father speaks of this unfair treatment. "In school competitions he was always the best, but the blue-eyed boys always won first and second prizes. Miles had always to settle for third. The officials, Miles and everybody else knew he should have had first prize. You can't treat a kid like that and tell him to come out and say the water wasn't dirty."
The events in Miles childhood against his race left a deep impact on him and most likely fuelled his anger for years to come.


Death.
Miles Dewey Davis died on September 28, 1991 in Santa Monica, California. He entered St. John's Hospital and Health Care Center there in early September. He was suffering from bronchial pneumonia. Doctors noticed laborious breathing and wanted to insert a tube to deliver oxygen. Miles refused. However the doctors were insistent. Suddenly, Miles flew into a rage and turned purple with anger. Anger. Anger the emotion deep routed in his childhood. Anger led to Miles death. He suffered a massive stroke and entered into a coma from which he never would awake.
"The tragic irony consisted in the fact that Miles Davis was perhaps for the first time in his life, in the right psychological and physical condition to enjoy a relaxed, healthy, and carefree retirement, secure in the knowledge that he had given his utmost to music, and created what had been called 'one of the greatest musical legacies of the twentieth century.'" says Ian Carr in Miles Davis; a Definitive Biography.


Life and Death.
"The very first thing I remember in my early childhood is a flame, a blue flame jumping off a gas stove somebody lit....I remember being shocked by the whoosh of the blue fame jumping off the burner, the suddenness of it...."


Suddenly, Miles flew into a rage and turned purple with anger.

"That stove flame is as clear as music is in my mind."


Miles had always to settle for third. The officials, Miles and everybody else knew he should have had first prize.

"I saw that flame and felt that hotness of it close to my face. I felt fear, real fear, for the first time in my life."

One of the most painful memories of Miles childhood was when a white man had chased him and called him a nigger.

"But I remember it also like some kind of adventure, some kind of weird joy, too....The fear I had was almost like an invitation..."

Miles received his first trumpet for his 13th birthday. He immediately took to the trumpet.

"...a challenge to go forward into something I knew nothing about."

Miles Dewey Davis died on September 28, 1991 in Santa Monica, California.

"That's where I think my personal philosophy of life and my commitment to everything I believe in started, with that moment....In my mind I have always believed and thought since then that my motion had to be forward, away from the heat of that flame."

Bibliography


Miles the Autobiography
Milestones; The Music and Times of Miles Davis
Miles Davis; The Definitive Biography

Arnold Schoenberg

“Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas -- one must be convinced of the infallibility of one's own fantasy and one must believe in one's own inspiration.”
-Arnold Schoenberg

It is not usually the lyrical melodies that we remember in Arnold Schoenberg’s music, but rather his contribution to the development of 20th century music through his work. It would almost seem as if his life were mirrored in his music; they were quite unconventional and often rubbed societal in slightly the wrong direction, often producing trial after trial for the musician that just wanted to live as he desired.

His Childhood
Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg was born to Samuel Schoenberg and Pauline Nachod on September 13th, 1874 in Vienna, Austria. His mother was an orthodox Jew while his father, an anarchist at heart, did not have a strong religious preference. His lower- to middle-class family had difficulties at times providing a quality education for their children. Although both of his parents that were avid musicians, it was really his mother Pauline who encouraged music within their household and ensured they were taught music as well as their small budget would allow. At the age of eight, Schoenberg began taking violin lessons regularly. From this base and his extraordinary music application abilities, he taught himself how to play cello and yearned to play with the youth chamber ensembles. His brother, although his name is not as household today, was a fairly well-known bass singer with the German Opera in Prague.

His First Challenge
Schoenberg’s first real challenge came when he was just fifteen years old. His father suddenly died and he was forced pick up a job as an apprentice at a local bank to support his family. It was at this time that all activities even slightly resembling a formal education came to an end. The more meager their income became, the worse his chances looked for getting an opportunity to focus on his music.

Then, in 1895, Schoenberg, to his delight, looses his banking job after the bank was forced to declare bankruptcy. This opened the door for the first time to truly give him the opportunity to pursue his musical career seriously. By the next year, he composed six pieces for piano. Alexander von Zemlinsky, who acted as his only formal composition teacher, encouraged Schoenberg to become more educated about the field of music. Although Zemlinsky was only three years older than Schoenberg, he was far more advanced musically than Schoenberg. Six years after Zemlinsky and Schoenberg become very close friends, Schoenberg married Zemlinsky’s sister, Mathilde von Zemlinsky. The next year, they brought their first child, Trudi, in to the world. Little did he know how hard a world it would be for her to grow up at this time in Europe…

Anti-Semitism in Europe and His Music
When it rains, it pours…Within a span of two years, two major events happened that would change Schoenberg’s life forever. One was his father’s death in 1891 that changed his family economic situation and forced him to put his music aside for half a decade. The other was the birth of Adolf Hitler in Austria. Although he did not know at the age of thirteen what Hitler would do in the following years, Hitler’s birth would greatly affect everything and everybody around him from his country to his family to his music.

Despite the fact that he had converted to Lutheranism in 1898, he was still labeled as a Jew throughout Hitler’s reign. In disgust, he reconverted back to Judaism in seeing the atrocities committed for “Christian ideals.”

It was not until 1920 that Hitler directly affected Schoenberg’ life. In 1921, Schoenberg was forced to leave his home in Mattsee where Jews were no longer welcome. This was also the same year that Hitler revealed his plan to send all Jewish people to concentration camps. In 1923, his wife died and he remarried a year later to Gertrud Kolisch. In this same year that was marked by so many changes for Schoenberg, Hitler was writing Mein Kampf while incarcerated.

His Life in America
The same year that the United States entered the war and the first gassings and mass executions of Jews occurred in Europe, Schoenberg received his United States citizenship. In 1936, he had joined the faculty at the University of Southern California (USC). Most of his teaching in America was at UCLA starting that same year. There he turned out many exceptional musicians, not the least of which was John Cage. It was in Los Angeles, California – his home away from home – that he died on the thirteenth of July in 1951 from a heart attack.

Bibliography

Political and Religious Ideas in the Works of Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg by H.H. Stuckenschmidt

Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey

A Schoenberg Reader

Arnold Schoenberg The Composer as Jew

On Classical

Biography of Arnold Schoenberg

The Arnold Schoenberg Center

Arnold Schoenberg