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Natalie Crockett

Music 1010
Musical analysis

Stravinsky vs. Copland
In this paper I will be comparing the works of Igor Stravinskys The Rite of Spring and Aaron
Coplands Appalachian Spring. These musical masterpieces will first be broken down separately
explaining their timbre, melodies, harmonies, rhythms, texture, and dynamics. Also an explanation of
the story involving each work and the men that created them.
Stravinsky was born into a musical family in Oranienbaum, Russia in 1882. Early on his music
was noticed by Serge Diaghilev the legendary impresario of the Paris-based Ballets Russes, who
commissioned Stravinsky to write a score for The Firebird. It was his third ballet, The Rite of Spring that
had such an effect on people it created protesting and very near rioting on opening night. It wasnt until
a year later that people started to see this piece for the masterpiece that it was.
In The Rite of Spring Stravinsky tells a story of Russian folklore and tribal rituals. Part I of the
ballet, celebrations for the arrival of spring include a lustful abduction of women, a rivalry between two
tribes, and a round dance. This is the part of the ballet that I will be breaking down and explaining the
musicality involved.
Part I consists of three parts, which will be separately explained and broken down. There is the
Introduction whose timbre is created by a high-range bassoon and clarinets along with strings to create
a very disjunct melody. This is done in a homophonic harmony with a duple meter pulse. The dynamics
of the introduction start out pianissimo and build into the next part of the piece.
The next part, Dance of the Youths and Maidens, brings in the huge orchestra with brass and
woodwinds to create a harsh sound. This part is very dissonant and complex with a much higher energy
involved in its expression. The flute and French horn calm down the energy for a minute and then the
strings follow through to create the chaotic dissonant harmony again which leads to the climax of part II.
We then move into Part III, Game of Abduction. It starts out very dissonant with a very fast
rhythm. The timbre is put together with the whole orchestra playing frantically while shifting through
them very quickly. In the end it comes together in a homophonic melody and pulls the listener into a
sense of dread with the dissonance of the horns.
My next composer, Aaron Copland, was born in Brooklyn, New York. He went to Paris in his 20s
to study music but returned to America and began his journey into the style of jazz. He wrote many
orchestral pieces, including Appalachian Spring, but moved on to work in the film industry to writing
scores and even winning an academy award. Copland was an American Nationalist and it shows in the
many works he has done.
In Appalachian Spring I will be breaking down section 7: Theme (Simple Gifts) and 5 variations.
This piece isnt so much based on a story, but more of a pull on the listeners emotions. In the Theme
section it starts out with a clarinet soloing in a slow rhythm and then adds in a harp and flute playing a
countermelody. He adds new instruments as it progresses into the variations including an oboe,
bassoon and woodwinds in the 1
st
, strings in the 2
nd
, brass in the 3
rd
, woodwinds in the 4
th
, and onto the
full orchestra in the 5
th
, evoking a very strong consonant Nationalistic feeling through to its completion.
The first piece, The Rite of Spring, was very dissonant leaving the listener with a sense of dread
and chaos. Appalachian Spring was almost a complete opposite when it came to the melody, using
consonance that left the listener feeling proud and happy. Their harmonies were both disjunct but The
Rite of Spring was using more irregular accents while Appalachian Spring was using a more flowing
concept. Their rhythm was very different also. The Rite of Spring was very unpredictable and irregular
with its accents and Appalachian Spring used a more flowing duple meter.
They both had the timbre changing throughout the piece. I think this may be the only
commonality the two pieces share. They used very different dynamics when bringing the instruments in
and out of the music.
I think that both pieces were amazing and brought about the emotional response the composers
were looking for. While listening to The Rite of Spring I felt the harshness that Stravinsky was going for.
I could almost see the story taking place before my eyes making me feel stressed out and brought about
a sense of doom. Appalachian Spring was a very positive piece creating a feeling of accomplishment. It
wasnt based on a specific story, but while listening to this piece I felt proud and triumphant, kind of like
I just made it to the top of Mount Everest. They were both composed in their own fantastic ways and
the fact that Stravinsky and Copland can find a way to musically evoke the emotions that they did was
amazing and shows just how talented they were.
Before I took this class I would have known they were different pieces because they have such
opposing factors involved, but I wouldnt have been able to pinpoint exactly what it was they made
them so different. Being able to pick out the styles of melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, form,
expression and timbre have opened my eyes to how incredibly complex music is. These two pieces
were a perfect example of how all of these aspects can create amazing music. I appreciated music
before, but now I can appreciate the layers created to make masterpieces.