Marshall Jiang Rite of Spring and Three Pieces

Table of Contents: Introduction – pg 1 Beginnings – pg 1 Rite of Spring – pg 1 Three Pieces – pg 2

The Rite of Spring was one of Igor Stravinsky’s most famous and influential works. From its first, strained bassoon solo to its climatically end, the Rite kept its audience entranced. So how did this primordial work, which caused a mass riot at its opening performance influence modern music? Beginnings: One cannot begin the investigation into The Rite of Spring without looking at Stravinsky’s roots in music. Stravinsky’s first exposure to orchestral music came at a performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. There, he first developed his taste for orchestral music. Later in his life, he went on to study with Russia’s leading composer of that time Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and was greatly influenced by him. Later compositions of Stravinsky showed mimicked Rimsky-Korsakov’s imaginative scoring and instrumentation. Rite of Spring: The Rite of Spring’s unusual beginning highlights two important influence of this piece. The very first sounds from the bassoon illustrated Stravinsky’s creativity and ability to change. Before his piece, most orchestral compositions’ melodies begun and was mainly played by the strings section. Stravinsky however used the bassoon and the clarinets (woodwinds) as the main melody/harmony in the beginning. The very first bassoon solo also utilized the highest notes possible by that instrument, creating the strained, village sounds at the beginning. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the opening at Théâtre des ChampsÉlysées in Paris infuriated by Stravinsky’s “misuse” of the bassoon. The beginning bassoon solo exemplifies Igor Stravinsky’s use of folk music throughout the ballet. Of course, the whole ballet was based on pagan rituals and culture, but such parts as the opening solos came from folk songs (in the case of the solo, it was Lithuanian). To create the special sounds of the Rite of Spring, Stravinsky employed a plethora of instruments not normally used. Such examples are the Eb clarinet, alto flute, bass clarinet, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, and the Wagner tuba. Stravinsky also ordered a very large orchestra, with woodwinds in numbers of five. This abnormal orchestration (at that time), coupled with the extreme registers of the other instruments, created the unusual sounds. This allowed the harsh, brutal melodies to be even more pronounced than they already are. The Rite of Spring showed the subtle beauty of harsh, grating melodies. Debussy heavily influenced Stravinsky in this technique but Debussy, at its most dissonant, was never harsh. This piece almost single handily destroyed the notion of tonality and laid the ground works for new, terrifying melodies (Think Jaws). Some of the primordial sounds of the Rite of Spring were due to the fact that Stravinsky used the strings and winds section as, basically, percussion. This is very evident in second part of the first movement (The Augurs of Spring) where the first and second violins, violas, cellos, and basses play straight eighth notes, creating the pulse and drive of the movement with the brass emphasizing certain beats. The Augurs of Spring also showed Stravinsky’s pioneering work in ostinati, evident in the 8-horns accents. Probably the most significant contribution to modern music Stravinsky makes with his Rite of Spring is his play on meter. Instead of the steady one-two one-two of a march, or the one-

two-three of ballet, Stravinsky uses such unusual time as eleven four in the part two of the second movement. To create the unpredicted mood in the end, where the Chosen One dances herself to death, Stravinsky constantly changes the meter around to create tension. According to Philip Glass: “the idea of pushing the rhythms across the bar lines [...] led the way [...] the rhythmic structure of music became much more fluid and in a certain way spontaneous” This sometimes causes the performers themselves to be thrown off-balance like the dances, and the performers cling to each downbeat. His use of the art of rhythm influenced later greats like Aaron Copeland. His use of bar lines led the way to “additive motivic development,” which is where notes are added or taken away from the theme with no regard to the meter. Modern works today are sometimes direct variations of this great piece. No other piece, with the exception of Gustav Holst's The Planets, is more routinely borrowed from than The Rite of Spring. From the Disney film Fantasia, to the music of Aaron Copeland, to the Tatooine desert in Star Wars, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is everywhere. Three Pieces: Three Pieces is a lesser-known clarinet solo written by Stravinsky for an unaccompanied clarinet. However, lesser known, this piece still had an impact of music literature. Using his experiences in The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky had a play on rhythm and bar lines yet again. Never in the whole piece does the meter stay the same for more than three to four measures (with the exception of the second, which does not even have bar lines). In the second movement, Stravinsky “messed up” the basic rhythmic sub-units. As previously stated before, the second movement contained no bar lines and is totally defined by the tempo markings of: Eighth Note = Eighth Note Sixteenth Note = Sixteenth Note Three Sixteenths Notes = Eighth Thus Stravinsky redefined the engine behind the piece. To make it even more confusing, Stravinsky sometimes grouped the sixteenths notes into two, prompting performers to be more careful about their rhythms in the movement. In a testament to Stravinsky’s adaptability, he used a12-tone style to compose this piece alongside a deep jazz influence. In the first movement, he loosely based it on Schoenberg’s atonal pieces, showing that he could compose in any style he wanted (this was due to a “war” between Schoenberg atonal camp and Stravinsky’s traditional tonal language at that time). In addition, the third movement (and some parts of the second) had distinctive jazz roots. Most of the third movement seems like its part of a jazz improvisation, with funky rhythm and grace notes mixed together. The last surprise of Three Pieces is its preference on instruments. The first two movements are to be played on an A while the last two on a Bb. This creates a, though slight, distinct sound change between the third movement and the rest of the piece. Also, bringing on two clarinets for an unaccompanied piece creates the “the theater” much more effectively.

Works Cited Friedland, Sherman. “Stravinsky Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo.” Clarinet Corner. 4 Apr. 2004. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌archives/‌2004/‌04/‌stravinsky_thre.html>. Glass, Philip. “Igor Stravinsky.” Time 8 June 198. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌time/‌ time100/‌artists/‌profile/‌stravinsky.html>. Gutmann, Peter. “Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.” Classical Classics. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌classics/‌rite.html>. Music. Dept. home page. Queens College. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌~howe/‌ music784/‌Stravinsky%20Sacre-1.mp3>. “A Musical Chameleon.” Dayton Philharmonic. Dayton Philharmonic. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌content.jsp?articleId=1104>. Queenan, Joe. “Q is for quirkiness, R is for Rite of Spring.” Gaurdian Music. Gaurdian Music. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌classical/‌story/‌0,,1977699,00.html>. Stravinsky, Igor. The Rite of Spring . Dover, 2000. Google Books. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌ books?printsec=frontcover&dq=Rite+of+Spring&ei=9BMESPaJKI28zASovpGGCw&si g=7CHShO5eho8Xd_5cJaHMS60hKk8&id=Kgw48vZKakQC&output=html>. - - -. Three Pieces. Eagle Court, London: J & W. Chester, 1976. Taruskin, Richard. Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions. Oxford University Press, 1996 . Google Books. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌books?id=YCzqyPhS-S4C>. Thomas, Micheal Tilson. “Stravinsky Rite of Spring.” Keeping Score. San Fransico Symphony. 14 Apr. 2008 <‌flash/‌stravinsky/‌index.html>.

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