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 Daniel K. L Chua
 First published: March 2007

The riot that greeted the Rite of Spring only found its analytical counterpart some
70 years after its première, with factions headed by Pieter van den Toorn, Richard
Taruskin and Allen Forte. But the analytical tussle was hardly a genuine riot in as
much the differing camps subscribed to a premise of authenticity in order to
stabilise the work under a universal concept: the result was a Riteunified by theory.
The scholars may have battled with each other, but the music was not allowed to
have its own riot. This article suggests a more contingent analysis of the Rite,
focussing on the rebellion of the particular against the universal. The point is not to
champion an anarchic or barbaric reading of the music, which is often attributed to
the work because of the ballet's violent content, but to open the possibility of a new
order that arises from the rioting particular.
The Rite of Spring started with a riot. Legend has it that it was the music that
incited the audience with its barbaric rhythms and dissonances. In fact it was the
choreography that provoked the scandal: ‘Un docteur, un dentiste, deux dentistes’
shouted its detractors as dancers mimicked movements that seemed to require
some kind of medical attention.1 In a sense, Nijinsky's Rite was precisely what the
doctor had ordered, judging by Diaghilev's comment after the performance: ‘exactly
what I wanted’, said the impresario.2 As for the music, not even the dancers could
hear it for all the noise; Nijinsky had to shout out numbers in the wings to keep
them together.3 According to one reviewer, ‘at the end of the Prelude the crowd
simply stopped listening to the music so that they might better amuse themselves
with the choreography’.4 Obviously Stravinsky could not share Diaghilev's
satisfaction; he was angry.5 Not only was the ballet mocked, but his music –
indeed, the very idea of the Rite which he had honed with the painter and
ethnographer Nicolas Roerich – had been eclipsed by the work of Diaghilev's lover,
and the consolation of some fresh oysters a few days later fortuitously provided the
illness that was to prevent the composer from ever having to see
Nijinsky's Rite again.6
Stravinsky wanted the Rite to be his; all that noise at the première had to be
eliminated, along with the clutter that seemed to clog up his music. First, Nijinsky's
choreography had to go; its eurythmics that tried to choreograph every note as an
enactment of pagan ritual was replaced in 1920 by the more abstract movements
of Léonide Massine. And although Roerich's designs were retained for this
production, the abstraction of the choreography had already neutralised their
meaning, for Stravinsky wanted to suppress ‘all anecdotal detail’ in order to re-
package the Rite as a purely ‘musical construction’; the work was now
‘architectonique’, he said, as opposed to ‘anecdotique’. There were to be no more
‘scenes from pagan Russia’ to espouse Roerich's mystical pastoral of Neolithic
bliss. Stravinsky even went as far as to eliminate his own extra-musical
contribution; his famous dream of a sacrificial virgin dancing herself to death was
no longer the vision that inspired the work but was sidelined as a secondary ‘idea
that came from the music’.7 The ‘music itself’ became the slogan by which he
removed the fingerprints from the collaborative project.8 Not only did this erase the
trauma of the première from his memory, but it destroyed any evidence that would
attach his name to the orientalism, exoticism and nationalism which was beginning
to look out-of-date in the brave new world which emerged after the First World War
(1914–18) and the Russian Revolution (1917). The social order in which the work
was created had collapsed and Stravinsky campaigned to turn the noisy ballet into
the silent structure of a score that could forget its history. At last, having eliminated
its origins, the music could be heard as absolute, pure and structural – and so
become the earth-shattering masterpiece of twentieth-century music.
The purely musical riot is a fiction of music history.9 It was not until the 1980s that
music analysts actually gave the ‘music itself’ the riot it deserved. Pieter van den
Toorn, Richard Taruskin and Allen Forte headed the various factions that would
wage what was literally a pitched battle over the identity of the Rite. Wielding their
octatonic, tonal and pitch-class set theories, they simulated the original riot inciting
each other to higher forms of critical violence – not least in the pages of this
journal.10 Their analyses were in fact far more subtle and eclectic than the
cardboard cut-outs that they accused each other of but, as with most ideological
riots, the finer points were irrelevant. In a riot what counts is noise. But why make
such a racket over a few notes? What could possibly be at stake to justify the
fracas? Nothing less than the meaning of ‘the music itself’ and the survival of music
theory as its dominant discourse; indeed, all that Stravinsky had fought for – the
‘purely musical construction’ of a work – was under threat. With hindsight, this riot
was the final bout of a fight in which the emerging forces of a new historicism, led
by Taruskin, seemed bent on knocking out the claims of music analysis, rendering
the ‘purely musical’ purely meaningless. In particular, Forte's pitch-class set
analysis, intended to unleash the modernist elements in the Rite as a radical atonal
structure, was ridiculed by Taruskin as an ahistorical abstraction, if not a figment of
Forte's music-theoretical imagination.11 The unbridled ‘progress of theory’ as the
future of music's revelation was something to be distrusted and, to the horror of
hard-core analysts, Taruskin regressed to that seemingly inadequate ‘ad hoc’ type
of tonal analysis that they had tried to eradicate from Stravinsky's music. 12 But that
was precisely the point: Taruskin wanted to regress, to return to origins, to tease
out the embryonic clues in the historical and folkloric sources and so tie this work
to tradition, specifically to Stravinsky's Russian tradition that would make
the Rite look old and its sounds conform to some kind of tonal ‘common practice’
that emerged from the nineteenth century.13 For Taruskin, the authenticity of
the Rite of Spring lay in its genesis and not its progress; his wrangling over pitch-
structures, which looted van den Toorn's octatonic theories for historical purposes,
was a way of authenticating the Rite at its roots, and so relocate its identity from
the free-floating constructions of music theory to the very memories Stravinsky
wanted to forget.14 A purely musical riot turned out to be the death of the purely
But it is questionable whether the music itself really got to riot. The analytical
factions, for all their differences, were united under one fundamental cause:
modernity's quest for cultural legitimacy. This desire to stabilise a revolutionary
work as some kind of ‘Urtext’ or ‘Ursatz’ is an attempt to transcend the passing
fashions of modernity, to capture an act of history as a timeless moment. 15 So
despite their radical rhetoric, the analytical rioters wanted to authenticate the Rite,
to preserve its eternal significance either by fixing it in history as an ‘original’
version or by removing it from history as a musical structure. Either way, the ballet
is made absolute as a transcendent event in the progress of modern music: for
Taruskin the Rite‘made the Russian universal’;16 for Forte, it is the new made
objective. But to impose these universal and objective values on the Rite is to
police it under the law of the whole. In verifying the work, the analytical rioters
disciplined a radical score to consolidate their conservative positions, granting it a
coherent system or a continuous tradition that ultimately suppressed the riot. An
‘authentic Rite’ cannot run amok.
Thus to authenticate the Rite is to contradict it. This has been a perennial problem
since the genesis of the work. Indeed its reception history has been the
authentication of the very foundations that the music seeks to explode. 17 This
friction is already evident at the inception of the ballet: Roerich's pastoral
primitivism, intended to authenticate the ballet as a Slavic ritual rooted in the cycle
of nature, is unmasked by the violence of the music as an Edenic delusion. Indeed,
it is apt that Stravinsky's only contribution to the scenario – the virgin sacrifice – is
the one inauthentic element of the ‘plot’ that nonetheless terrorises Roerich's
spiritual vision of pagan Russia. The same could be said of the folk sources in the
sketches: if they are ethnographically correct – chosen to validate Roerich's rituals,
as Taruskin claims – then the origin they promise is deracinated by the force of
abstraction that obliterates their identity in the score;18 many of these folk tunes
have been flattened by Stravinsky into quartal and whole-tone patterns; they no
longer resemble the source in any meaningful way.19 Of course, such abstraction,
in turn, would become Stravinsky's defence of the work as an architectonic
structure. This is what van den Toorn calls the ‘edifice’ behind the extra-musical
‘scaffolding’; for him, the task of music theory is to survey the foundation on which
this edifice stands in order to certify the work as an authentic construction.20 But
there is no foundation behind the rickety scaffolding. The music's autonomous
structure is merely a retrospective claim violently imposed by the composer on an
unruly and heterogeneous ballet. In this respect, Adorno's notorious polemic
against Stravinsky in the Philosophy of New Music is right: Stravinsky tried to
authenticate his music in an age where authenticity was no longer viable; with the
loss of any binding authority within modern society, Stravinsky simply posited
objectivity as a façade imposed from the outside with a totalitarian force, leaving
the inside empty.21 In the modern world, the authentic is the false. Believing
Stravinsky's rhetoric of objectivity in the 1920s, Adorno probably misjudged
the Rite, ridiculing it as an allegory of proto-fascist deception: the human subject
(the inside) is sacrificed for the pseudo-objectivity of the mob (the outside);
individual expression is absorbed into the collective without mercy. 22 Stravinsky
thought he had eradicated the ‘anecdotal detail’ from the Rite by imposing an
architectonic aesthetic but, as far as Adorno was concerned, his objective
construction merely internalised the plot: the interpretative subject is annihilated by
the unyielding objectivity of the score.23
For Adorno, the musical aesthetic espoused by the later Stravinsky sides with the
oppressors;24 the individual cannot truly riot. Consequently, an analysis that verifies
the Rite as an objective construction would only reinforce Adorno's point; its
unifying systems would be totalitarian, imposing on the music a structure from the
outside. But what if analysis were to allow the music to riot? What if it were to
facilitate the work in defacing the foundations of official culture? Perhaps such a
reading will bring to the surface the unruly and contingent elements in the music
and so undermine the ‘authentic Rite’. But how is music analysis to do this? For a
start, it must jettison the ‘authentic’– the false totality – and focus on
the particular – the individual. In turn, the particular would have to riot. And for the
particular to riot it would have to challenge the totality in two ways: first, its
relationship with the totality would have to be one of negation; the particulars will
define themselves in rebellion against the prevailing order, subverting it, mocking it
and ridiculing its claims to power. Secondly, the relationship would have to be one
of speculation; the unrest, if it is to be productive, must point to a new vision of
what is possible without enforcing any rules; the particulars cannot supplant the
totality and so forfeit their identity in becoming a mob, but they can gesture towards
an emergent whole to which they relate in a contingent and open manner. This
kind of riot would resemble an aesthetic rebellion in as much as the aesthetic is
defined by Kant as a form of reflective judgement that searches for unknown
universals from the particular of an artwork. In fact, Kant's reflective judgement is
Adorno's vision of what new music might promise a world that craves for
authenticity. It would therefore be ironic if the Rite were to satisfy Adorno's vision
by having a riot. He writes:
Aesthetic judgements appear as if in obedience to a rule, as if thought were
governed by a law. But the law, the rule contained in artistic judgement is, to
paraphrase Kant, not given, but unknown; judgements are passed as if in the dark,
and yet with a reasoned consciousness of objectivity. Our search for musical
criteria today should proceed along much the same paradoxical lines; in other
words, we should search for an experience of necessity that imposes itself step by
step, but can make no claim to any transparent universal law. Actually we miss the
point if . . . we posit something like rules where none exist, but only an infinitely
sensitive and fragile logic, one that points to tendencies rather than fixed norms
governing what should be done or not done.25
So let's have a riot.
This analytical riot is in two parts: in Part I the particular rebels against the false
totalities; in Part II the particular holds out the possibility of an emergent order. To
prevent the analysis from deviating prematurely towards the whole, the focus will
be on the particularity of one chord, albeit one that repeats itself two hundred and
twelve times in the ‘Augurs of Spring’ (Ex. 1).

Figure Ex. 1 .
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‘The Augurs of Spring’: the ‘Augurs’ chord

In fact, this is the sonority that accompanied the riot at the première of the ballet in
the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on 29 May 1913. Although it was Nijinsky's
choreography that caused the uproar, Stravinsky conceived the chord as an
integral part of the action on stage; in this sense, his choreographic imagination
was instrumental in inciting the riot in musical terms.26 Moreover, this chord was the
inception of the Rite of Spring, according to Stravinsky. The sketches suggest that
it might not be the very first idea on the opening page (Ex. 2), but Stravinsky
intuitively believed it to be the initial inspiration – the first in significance if not in
time.27‘It was rather a new chord’, he claimed, not only in its notes but in its
rhythmic accents which, according to the composer, were ‘the foundation of the
whole [work]’, as if it were the biological pulse of the ballet.28 Thus the opening
sonority of the ‘Augurs of Spring’ is the emblem of the Rite; in the words of Robert
Craft, it is the ‘motto chord’.29
Figure Ex. 2 .
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Ideas prior to the ‘Augurs’ chord (from The Rite of Spring Sketches 1911–1913, p. 3)
Surely, such an ‘authentic’ sonority demands a definition. Its significance as both
the inception and the foundation of the work promises to unlock the language of
the ballet; analyse this right, then the Ritecan be analysed. Unfortunately,
Stravinsky claimed that he had no theoretical justification for this chord; his ‘ear
simply accepted it with joy’.30 And the numerous analyses of it have only re-
enforced Stravinsky's statement that there is ‘no system whatever’ in the Rite by
virtue of their very contradictions.31 The chord cannot be ‘authenticated’, but
protests against the prevailing order, refusing to be subsumed under some
theoretical system; in fact, it merely spawns them. As such it functions as the
twentieth-century counterpart to the Tristan chord which, as Jean-Jacques Nattiez
demonstrates, has provoked numerous analytical explanations under different
ideological guises.32 The ‘Augurs’ chord and the Tristan chord flaunt their ambiguity
as a radical moment in music history, justifying their dissonances in the name of
female self-sacrifice. Both sonorities, to borrow Ernst Kurth's description of
the Tristan chord, are ‘independent chord structure[s]’; both function as a kind of
vertical ‘leitmotif’.33 But tonally, their kinship is one of negation rather than
resemblance: the Tristanchord pushes the boundaries of the tonal system to create
a yearning for death that is satisfied when Isolde's dissonances dissolve into the
consonant totality of the final cadence; death for Wagner is universal. Stravinsky's
chord, on the other hand, is tonally inert (Ex. 3). It may recur in the final ‘Sacrificial
Dance’ transposed down a semitone, but the death envisaged here is more a
matter of fact than of yearning; it is not a connection that attempts to draw the
threads of the work together as a moment of completion, but a contingent re-
assertion that violently breaks through the ballet.

Figure Ex. 3 .
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‘Sacrificial Dance’ (The Chosen One): the return of the ‘Augurs’ chord
There is no denying that the chord is a conglomeration of tonal remnants, but what
kind of tonality is this? According to Pierre Boulez, the Rite consists of ‘powerful
attractions set up round poles that are as Classical as could be: tonic, dominant,
and subdominant’.34 If this is the case, then the ‘Augurs’ chord should function
effortlessly within the tonal system with ‘the triad and its extensions as the basis of
harmony’.35 So is it a tonic, dominant or subdominant? For Eric Walter White the
sonority is an ‘inversion of the chord of the dominant thirteenth’.36 This chord is like
an extreme extension of Rameau's harmonic theories, a massive pile-up of thirds,
creating a single dissonant entity; the triads do not operate on recalcitrant planes,
but are bound together by a fundamental bass – . Of course, in order to ground
the chord in this way, White has to re-arrange the notes – as in Ex. 4a. This is
entirely feasible within the tonal system since chords do not lose their identity by
inversion or registral transfer. But to re-arrange Stravinsky's chord in this way is not
simply to re-pattern the notes, but to impute a harmonic background that will turn
the ‘Augurs’ chord back into those yearning dissonances of the Tristan chord (Ex.
4b), replete with a sense of harmonic progression and consonant resolution
towards an major tonic.
Figure Ex. 4 .
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Eric Walter White's analysis of the ‘Augurs’ chord

Figure Ex. 4 .
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Eric Walter White's analysis of the ‘Augurs’ chord

There is, however, no major triad to be found in the vicinity of the movement;
neither is there a sense of yearning towards one within the ‘Augurs’ chord
itself.37 The chord asserts itself as a particular that will not submit to the
conventions of a tonal hierarchy. It is irreducible. Any rearrangement of its notes
will turn it into something else. A dominant thirteenth may contain the same notes,
but these pitches do not define the chord; its identity, rather, is fixed by the registral
position and intervallic spacing of these pitches. The exact notes matter. This is
because Stravinsky is the composer of particular sonorities. Hence the chord's
effect is more a question of ‘sound’ than harmony.38 Or, to appropriate a term from
Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schönberger, the chord is ‘an object sonore avante-
la-lettre’.39 This was probably what Stravinsky meant when he said that his
‘ear accepted [the chord] with joy’. Even Stravinsky's critics attest to this; in
the Rite, complains Constant Lambert, ‘music . . . has become a matter of
“sonorities”, and any one who can produce a brightly coloured brick of unusual
shape is henceforth hailed as an architect’.40 Stravinsky's architectonic construction
turns out to be nothing more than a unique brick. It is as if out of a non-descript
pool of dissonances his fingers stumbled upon a particular spacing and register of
notes that created an effect so instantly recognisable that it can stand, without
structural context, as the ‘motto’ or ‘sound’ of the entire work.
If the ‘Augurs’ chord escapes tonal definition, perhaps atonal theory can capture its
evasive sounds by projecting the twelve chromatic pitch classes as an all-
embracing background; in this way the ‘Augurs’ chord can be defined as 7–32, as
Allen Forte does in his analysis of the Harmonic Organization of the Rite of
Spring.41 This should neutralise those latent urges of tonality within the chord and
focus purely on sonority. But if the identity of the chord is undermined by any re-
arrangement of its pitches, then 7–32 is not necessarily the ‘Augurs’ chord at all,
since in its prime form it is also something completely different (Ex. 5).
Figure Ex. 5 .
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7–32 prime form

This cluster is no closer to the ‘Augurs’ chord than White's ‘inversion of a dominant
thirteenth’. Atonal theory turns out to be no more enlightening than a tonal one, for
in Forte's pitch-class set universe, as with the tonal system, octave and intervallic
equivalence still exist; but the ‘Augurs’ chord is simply too particular for such
theoretical generalisations.

The definitions provided by Forte and White are at least correct in their
contradiction; the ‘Augurs’ chord is neither tonal nor atonal, and yet simultaneously
promises both. An analysis that champions either extreme would succeed only by
erasing what is particular about the sonority. What Pieter van den Toorn offers in
his codification of the octatonic system, however, is a theory that can
accommodate the contradiction without rearranging the notes of the ‘Augurs’
chord. His brand of octatonicism is neither tonal nor atonal yet retains qualities of
both. It can create triadic formations that perch on four symmetrically organised
nodes [0369], neutralising, at least in theory, a tonal hierarchy based on an
asymmetrical division of the octave (Ex. 6).42

Figure Ex. 6 .
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Octatonic Collection III

Thus van den Toorn's inventory of figures includes patterns that are seemingly
tonal but are in fact generated by the octatonic scale; these include modal
segments [0235], clashing triads, dominant seventh and diminished seventh
formations. Indeed, many of these elements make up the ‘Augurs of Spring’. For
Taruskin, this is hardly surprising since Stravinsky participated in a Russian
tradition handed down from his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov in which symmetrical
scales were used to portray the supernatural, from Glinka's Ruslan to the
composer's Pétrouchka.43 And since the supernatural pervades the Rite, why
shouldn't the octatonic system provide the aura for Stravinsky's harmonic rituals?
There is no doubt that he employed the octatonic scale in the ballet, as even a
cursory analysis of the ‘Ritual of Abduction’ would illustrate (Ex. 7); it is ‘a veritable
primer’, writes Arthur Berger, ‘of the ways the octatonic scale may be arranged into
four major triads or seventh chords’.44

Figure Ex. 7 .
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Octatonic patterns in the ‘Ritual of Abduction’

Moreover, in a letter to Florent Schmitt, Stravinsky claimed that he had been
playing nothing on the piano during the composition of the Rite except for the
music of Debussy and Scriabin; in other words he was inspired by an alignment of
non-functional (Debussy) and octatonic (Scriabin) harmony.45 Could the ‘Augurs’
chord, then, be an example of a non-functional type of octatonicism? According to
van den Toorn, yes: it resides within octatonic Collection III (Ex. 8).

Figure Ex. 8 .
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Van den Toorn's analysis of the ‘Augurs’ chord

At least it would reside within octatonic Collection III were it not for the and ;
these pitches have been conveniently removed from the analysis. For a work
which, according to van den Toorn, is ‘primarily octatonic’, it is rather embarrassing
that the motto chord should be conceived outside the bands of octatonicism. 46 Of
course, there are ways of legitimising aberrant notes. Van den Toorn argues for a
octatonic-diatonic penetration in the Rite, although he prefers to see the triad of
the ‘Augurs’ chord as an infiltration of Collection I that allows for the interaction of
materials outside the primary octatonic structure.47 Whether the ear can actually
identify this intercollectional sonority is doubtful; whereas a triad may allude to
tonality by virtue of convention, the triad in the ‘Augurs’ chord cannot stand in for
Collection I because Collection I is not a social norm.
But the octatonic properties of the ‘Augurs’ chord need not be intercollectional; it
could simply be ‘an integrated sonority with octatonic qualities’, as Robert Morgan
explains,48 in which case and can be regarded as foreign notes encrusted
within a more basic octatonic framework; after all, octatonicism is seldom pure,
even in such an octatonically conceived movement as the ‘Ritual of Abduction’. As
Taruskin puts it in his quasi-Schenkerian analysis of the second and third tableau
of Pétrouchka where foreign pitches function as ‘inflections’ around an octatonic
collection, ‘there are plenty of black keys in the “Jupiter” Symphony’.49 Thus
the and can be regarded as ‘inflections’, appoggiaturas to the purely
octatonic formation at No. 14 where the triad (now re-spelt as an E major triad)
slips almost imperceptibly into a C major triad (Ex. 9).

Figure Ex. 9 .
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‘Augurs of Spring’: ‘resolution’ into Collection III

However, this is analysis by analogy – a kind of ‘tonal’ octatonicism applied to what
is simply conjunct motion. Although van den Toorn would certainly not approve of
this kind of tonal ‘urge’, he does give priority to the C major triad in his analysis; it is
bracketed next to his version of the ‘Augurs’ chord, almost as a replacement for
the major triad (see again Ex. 8); this is because he sees the octatonic nodes
of and C as structural tones that govern the progress of the music from the
‘Augurs of Spring’ to the end of the ‘Ritual of Abduction’.50 The fleeting twist into a C
major triad at No. 14 becomes a permanent theoretical position for van den Toorn
in defining the ‘Augurs’ chord, turning its primary significance into a secondary
structure.51 So once again the chord loses its particularity, this time to the totality of
octatonicism. Octatonicism, like tonality and atonality, is a theoretical option and
not a foundation in the Rite.
These definitions – tonal, atonal and octatonic – fail to determine the identity of the
‘Augurs’ chord not only in their inability to capture the particular, but in their failure
to register its riot. They define the chord only in terms of what it is and not what
it does. But this chord is not a neutral category. It shocks. It provokes. The irony in
trying to determine what the chord is is that it ends up gesturing towards what it
isn't; it is not a dominant thirteenth, not 7–32 and not in Collection III. And in
pointing to what it isn't, it tells you what it does: it negates. The chord riots by
defining itself against the prevailing order. In fact, there is an inkling of its
subversive tendency in White's definition of the ‘Augurs’ chord; he does not claim
that it is a dominant thirteenth but an ‘inversion of the chord of the dominant
thirteenth’. In other words, the chord is ‘upside down’, requiring some kind of topsy-
turvy tonal theory. This is not as bizarre as it may sound. From the perspective of
harmonic dualism, for example, such ‘topsy-turvy’ thinking is quite possible; thus
David Lewin can analyse the ‘E minor triad’ in the opening bassoon melody of
the Rite as an inverted structure, where the B at the top of the semiquaver figure is
the ‘root’ of the chord (Ex. 10).52

Figure Ex. 10 .
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‘Introduction’, opening melody

Technically, an ‘undertone’ explanation will not work with the ‘Augurs’ chord since,
if it is to be an exact mirror of the major triad, Stravinsky's sonority would have to
unfold from to then .53 But standing tonal theory on its head in some way
would make more sense of Stravinsky's key-signature that prefaces the ‘Augurs
of Spring’; the ‘root’ is on the top and the chord hangs upside down from
the surface. In Robert Fink's term, tonality has been flattened, like the multiple
planes of a Cubist painting.54 There is literally no depth to the chord, since it is not
controlled by a functional bass note that taps into some underlying tonal
perspective, but a surface tonic that is punctual and local, a kind of ‘melodic tonic’
as opposed to a harmonic one, set up by the ostinato figure that precedes it. But
if functions as the surface tension, what are we to make of the harmonies that
dangle beneath it? Does this inverted dominant thirteenth, like its right-side up
counterpart, require some kind of resolution down under?
At No. 16, where Stravinsky interpolates a new block of material, Anthony Pople
hears a ‘tonicization of ‘ (Ex. 11).55 Is this section, then, some kind of tonal
resolution for the ‘Augurs’ chord?

Figure Ex. 11 .
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Pople's ‘tonicization of ’: a resolution?

Perhaps ‘tonicization’ is too strong a term for the new section, since this music is
not strictly tonal and is hardly consonant. This is not major. In fact, for van den
Toorn, this passage ‘resolves’ the ‘Augurs’ chord as a conglomeration of octatonic
fragments (Ex. 12) – the ostinato (cor anglais), a ‘C major’ triad
(violins), and a modal [0235] tetrachord (flute and piccolo) – although they are
bound together by another system, a cycle of fifths (cellos and basses), that
embraces the boundary notes of each octatonic figure. What Pople hears as a
tonicisation is actually the sudden arrival of in the bass, creating an illusion of
depth, as if this familiar texture were a missing fundamental. But the bottom is as
depthless and as unstable as the that perches on top of the ‘Augurs’ chord; one
does not resolve into the other as its tonal explanation would suggest except as the
illusion of an upside-down tonic being turned the ‘right way up’. What appears as
cause and effect is instead a juxtaposition of different sonorities ingeniously timed.
Figure Ex. 12 .
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Octatonic fragments and the cycle of fifths

In this way, the ‘Augurs’ chord remains particular in relation to the new section at
No. 16; indeed, its particularity is underlined by its indeterminacy, for as
Christopher Hasty points out, inherent in the particular's sense of the here and now
is an openness to the future.56 The chord must remain incomplete to experience the
material at No. 16 as a sudden juxtaposition. To attach some quasi-Schenkerian
slur from the bottom to the or to propose some kind of ‘octatonic resolution’
would suppress what is contingent and abrupt for something closed and
ineluctable. The unpredictability of timing which the music celebrates would yield to
the inevitability of the whole, and the particularity of the moment – the music's this-
ness – would lose its impact in becoming a progression.
To regard the ‘Augurs’ chord as an instant is to erase the tonal background; the
possibility of harmonic progression (implied by the dominant seventh, for example)
becomes one of harmonic stasis, turning a chord that should bristle with
teleological implications into a sonority that can only be juxtaposed against other
elements. Thus there is no tonal framework against which to fix its triadic bearings;
it can only assert its relative position by sheer repetition. This is why the sound is
reiterated, and not resolved; it is retentive rather than progressive. Tonality, if it can
be said to function at all in this chord, appears so local that it collapses into a
moment, as though a ‘Newtonian’ universe of tonal laws had shrivelled inside the
chord to create a ‘quantum’ tonality where the harmonic processes are too tiny to
be measured by normative theories of music. This ‘micrological tonality’ is fraught
with the contingencies and unpredictable possibilities that Hasty associates with
the particular. So how can these atomistic principles be analysed? One way of
doing this is to compress the dynamics of tonal motion into a polytonal instant,
breaking up the unity of a tonal definition for a stratified explanation. Such an
explanation would enable the triads of the chord to define themselves against each
other, as dissonances juxtaposed against consonant structures which have been
internalised into a vertical moment. This would be a tonality of the here and now. In
fact, polytonality was the kind of terminology Stravinsky used to describe his
musical language.57 And on a practical level it makes sense; the notation of the
chord in Stravinsky's piano version is split between the hands in a bitonal manner –
a dominant seventh chord on and an major triad.
However, many analysts reject the idea of polytonality, since it is questionable
whether a polytonal theory of music can exist at all. The term betrays its own
inadequacy by being a contradiction; polytonality or bitonality, as Allen Forte rightly
points out, is an oxymoron.58 This is why there is no systematic theory of
it.59 Polytonality is merely a descriptive label. If the term means two keys
functioning simultaneously, requiring, as it were, a double dose of tonal theory,
then this is precisely what doesn't happen in the Rite of Spring. The ‘Augurs’ chord
may divide into two triads, but they do not function as keys within their separate
tonal layers, because a single triad, as Schenker would observe, cannot define a
key. Indeed Stravinsky's deliberate reiteration of a single triad signals his refusal to
set up a harmonic hierarchy that might make tonality viable. Hence the dominant
seventh chord – the defining chord of tonal progression in Rameau's harmonic
theory – is not a dominant seventh on at all; it has no urge to resolve to the
tonic . And this is just as well since no proponent of bitonality wants to suggest
that the ‘Augurs’ chord is a juxtaposition of and major, but the more dissonant
and remote clash between the outer voices of and . It is this dissonant
separation of consonant patterns that conjures up the figment of two keys grating
against each other when what we have are merely stratified triads. If, as Edward T.
Cone suggests, Stravinsky in the Rite of Spring is able to create ‘tonality’ out of ‘a
completely static tone or chord of reference’ then these triads are a synecdoche of
tonality – a figure of speech without any grammar – and are therefore not strictly
tonal in any theoretical sense.60 To use Berger's terminology, the chord is ‘centric’,
‘organized in terms of a tone center’, but is ‘not tonally functional’. 61 Or, more
accurately, in Stravinskian language, it is ‘polar’, creating a dissonant tension
between opposite poles.62 But this focus on and is not a function of tonality
but an assumption based on the socially constructed meaning of a triad – a
meaning which my analysis will challenge later. As for the in the ‘dominant
seventh’ formation, this cannot be regarded as a dissonance that requires a
resolution to C; it is a motivic infiltration from the ostinato that dominates the
movement; in Schoenbergian terms, the harmonic configuration is a motivic
chord,63 a fact underlined by Stravinsky in some film footage where he spreads out
the sonority on the piano to delineate the pattern of the ostinato (Ex. 13).64

Figure Ex. 13 .
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Stravinsky's ‘analysis’ of the ‘Augurs’ chord on the piano

So what are we to make of polytonality, given the fact that analysts such as Forte
and van den Toorn regard the idea as hopelessly naïve? As a harmonic theory it
may be suspect; but what if it were understood as a semiotic theory? After all, if the
‘Augurs’ chord is a synecdoche of tonality, then Stravinsky has reduced tonality to
a play of signs, signs that are merely ‘allusions to tonality’, drawn from ‘a repository
of conventions and known objects’, as William Benjamin puts it.65 Stock figures,
such as the dominant seventh or a fundamental bass texture, are free-floating
signifiers detached from their context so that they no longer function as
‘introversive’ signs, which Kofi Agawu defines as signs that gesture purely within
the musical structure, but are ‘extroversive’ ones that gesture to an object that is
external to the music, no different from other topics such as ‘horn call’, ‘aria’ or
‘march’.66 Whereas introversive signs function within a system, extroversive signs
are local, allowing for contingent mixtures that have no syntactical function; they
can be juxtaposed or superimposed at random, producing a polysemy that
becomes for Stravinsky a ‘polytonality’. Just as the Classical style breaks the
unitary affects of the Baroque with a confusion of topics, Stravinsky uses
introversive signs as extroversive ones to create a ‘tonal collage’. Thus
polytonality, as a term, registers a radical decontextualisation which dissolves the
very system in which (poly)tonality can function as a theory; instead, polytonality is
the tonal system reduced to eclectic and stratified signs of a bygone age.
Polytonality is a semiotic texture that allows for an ‘instant tonality’. This is why the
dominant-seventh formation, for Andriessen and Schönberger, sounds as if
‘Stravinsky [had] discovered the chord again’ after three centuries of use.67 The
chord no longer has the same meaning, and tonal theory can no longer make any
propositional truth-claims for the chord or identify the rules for its correct use
because tonality is no longer literal. In the microscopic structure of the ‘Augurs’
chord, Stravinsky has renamed the triad as another object.
Thus to analyse the Rite in a tonal or polytonal manner is probably necessary in
that there are tonal elements within the work, but there is no point listening for
their literal meaning, as if the tonal elements are about how the music works,
because the ‘Augurs’ chord works by excluding the very system it alludes to. This
means that the tonal system is significant precisely because it is not there. What is
‘bitonal’ about the chord is the negation of an introversive tonality by an
extroversive one, so that the ‘criteria of traditional harmonic analysis’, writes André
Boucourechliev, ‘are only applicable, as it were, pro memoria’.68 This sense of
‘negative intertexuality’ enables these extroversive elements to gesture beyond
tonality as a system to tonality as a social symbol.69 Polytonality is a form of social
semiotics; its relativity explodes the tonal foundations of the nineteenth-century; its
oxymoronic nature cancels out the tonal system so that the ‘Augurs’ chord
becomes an imaginative act of violence against all that tonality stands for. The
tonal power of the ‘Augurs’ chord is not simply a matter of sound but sign. At once
brutal and banal, it is deployed to attack the foundations of the past,70 trashing its
signifiers with a Neolithic hedonism that is both a form of ridicule and iconoclasm in
the modernist urge to shock and negate. It riots in at least three ways. On an
institutional level, it is a rebellion against the official establishments that uphold the
academic rigours of tonal harmony; indeed, Stravinsky associated ‘the creation of
[the Rite] with his hatred of the Conservatory’, and in particular ‘the three syllables .
. . pronounced in the order Gla-zu-nov’.71 On a cultural level, it is an act of barbarity
against Western civilisation, as though François-Joseph Fétis, who used the term
‘tonalité moderne’ to segregate the musical culture of the West from that of the
Orient,72 were to have these civilising tones flattened in his face by the very culture
tonality was supposed to exclude. Finally, on a social level, it is an assault on the
human subject; tonality, which is a ‘reflection . . . of our own interiority as human
subjects’, writes Fink, becomes the sacrificial victim, forced to surrender its
subjective depth for an objective husk of tonal signs.73
This multivalent, antagonistic use of tonal signs comes to a head with the return of
the ‘Augurs’ chord in the ‘Sacrificial Dance’. So tantalising is Stravinsky's allusion
to tonality in the final sections of the ballet that some commentators, such as
Robert Moevs, are convinced that the Rite of Spring is in the basic tonality of ‘D
minor’.74 At No. 181, D is projected with octave doublings as the prominent pitch
that pierces through the texture; its tonal status is corroborated by the funereal
oscillations in the bass that pound out its dominant A at Nos. 186–201. What, then,
could be more appropriate in the final bar than the return of D to ground the
momentum of the Rite with a perfect cadence to match the closure of the victim's
life? Yet these tonal elements are embedded within some of the most dissonant
textures in the work; in fact, the mass of material that swirls around D is composed
of pitch patterns designed to exclude it as a foreign element. At No. 181, D is only
embraced within one layer (ironically, a non-tonal whole-tone fragment), whereas
all the other patterns are bent on ejecting D from their sonority (Ex. 14).75
Figure Ex. 14 .
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‘Sacrificial Dance’: pitch patterns around D

Hence the emphatic assertion of D is a question of tonal survival; indeed, like the
sacrificial victim, D is progressively exhausted by the forces around it, until it is
ground out of existence at No. 184. It returns as a tonal sign at the moment the
victim collapses in exhaustion, but this final cadence is no more grounded in D
than the lifeless virgin whose body is suddenly lifted up by the ‘Ancestors’ without
touching the Earth. Tonality is venerated in the Rite only in its death.
At the core of the Rite, then, is a social dissonance. What for Taruskin is a
necessary ‘common practice tonality’ in the reception of the Rite, is only a
precondition for the demolition of social codes.76 And this was exactly how the early
critics reacted to the work, not as new sounds or incomprehensible chaos, but as
‘wrong notes’. One critic wrote:
this is the most dissonant music ever written. I would say, after a first and very
imperfect hearing, that never has the system and cult of the wrong note been
practised with such zeal and persistence as in this score; that from the first bar to
the last whatever note one expects is never the one that comes, but the note to
one side, the note which ought not to come.77
If the ‘Augurs’ chord encapsulates this cacophony of ‘wrong notes’ then there is no
point analysing the ‘wrong notes’ since tonal logic would just correct them. Indeed,
some commentators suggest that the reflection of music theory should be by-
passed for the immediacy of a phenomenon where the dissonances – the ‘wrong
notes’– are ‘ultimately irreducible’; analysis can only discover its rules, admits
Arnold Whittall, ‘if the discords are “translated” into another medium’ that defuses
the explosive material of the score.78 André Boucourechliev says much the same:
‘To the analytical eye these aggregates [of the ‘Augurs’ chord] may be transparent
enough, but to the ear they have a strangely opaque consistency, like irreducible
entities that cannot be resolved into harmonic components. Thus
the sacre necessitates a new approach, no longer analytical . . . but
phenomenological’.79 The ‘wrong notes’ on the surface define the sonority. ‘The
“surface” is therefore the most significant “substance”’, writes Whittall, turning the
tonal hierarchy upside down as the ‘wrong notes’ are posited as the right ones.
Unprocessed by theory, both Whittall and Boucourechliev hear the ‘Augurs’ chord
as an unmediated object of perception; it is pure dissonance, pure impact, an
‘inescapable psychological, aesthetic, element’ which tonal theories can only iron
out as a surface decoration and atonal theories deny in order to map out their
neutral constructs.80
But to regard these dissonances as pure phenomena is to mistake the experience
of the ‘Augurs’ chord for its analysis; this sense of sonic immediacy is only possible
through a highly mediated process, where social contracts are being broken – the
notes ‘which ought not to come’, as the critic says. The ‘Augurs’ chord cannot
signify its pre-linguistic brutality without first transgressing the social codes as
‘wrong notes’; neither can it make a dissonant impact without its allusion to tonality.
Dissonance is not a pure phenomenon, but like the tonal objects of the ‘Augurs’
chord, it is an introversive sign that has become extroversive. This is evident in
Whittall's attempt to define the dissonant character of the Rite. Unwilling or perhaps
unable to analyse it, Whittall simply registers its impact as a challenge to analysis,
for what Whittall calls ‘focussed dissonance’ amounts to an anti-theoretical
dissonance. Perhaps dissonance is the wrong term here since, technically
speaking, dissonances are defined in relation to the very consonant structures that
Whittall wishes to jettison in favour of dissonances of a ‘non-functional type’. For
him, the clash of consonant triads or poles within the ‘Augurs’ chord is not the
source of conflict; these are irreducible dissonances which he locates structurally in
the ubiquity of ‘ic 1 (semitone), and its various projections, vertical and horizontal,
immediate and long term’.81 So on the one hand these are not tonal dissonances.
Whittall writes:
[T]he norm for the work as a whole is dissonant not consonant ... . [It] is not one in
which predominant dissonances imply unheard consonant resolutions . . . [;] such
imagined consonances are unnecessary. The norm is one in which the distinction
between consonance and dissonance is preserved. But the conventions of
structural significance which attach to these concepts in tonal music no longer
Clearly, these dissonances are no longer introversive, yet Whittall is acutely aware
that ‘ic 1’, as an atonal term, is already too abstract, neutralising the explosive
impact that he wants to emphasise; in itself, interval class 1 is not a dissonance.
The semitones must stand in for a tonal clash; they must retain ‘the quality of an
entity whose consonant resolution would indeed be the octave or unison’, and must
be understood from the ‘perspective of tradition’.83 So on the other hand, a
focussed dissonance is a tonal dissonance. Whittall's contradictions indicate that
the dissonance of the ‘Augurs’ chord has all the force of a introversive sign but, as
an extroversive topic, it carries none of its ramifications. It needs to allude to a
dissonance that should resolve ( to ), but the harmonic context it grates
against is no longer structurally relevant except as an object of negation. The
particular frees itself from the universal. Thus the dissonant sign is tonally inert but
psychologically explosive.
This is one reason why ‘ic 1’ seems an anaemic explanation of a ‘focussed
dissonance’; the expression of dissonance in the Rite is not the result of an
abstract intervallic property; it is an intent– again, a matter of what it does rather
that what it is. In this sense a better term for ‘focussed dissonance’ might be ‘tonal
noise’. It is noise both metaphorically and literally: metaphorically because noise in
communication theory is that which jams communication and disrupts codes; and
literally because noise is precisely what the music accompanies on stage. The
‘Augurs’ chord is the sonic equivalent of the thud of adolescent feet with which the
ballet opens, ‘tapping out the rhythms of spring’ with a jerky but synchronised form
of jumping devised by Nijinsky;84‘they repeat the same gesture a hundred times
over’ wrote the critic Adolphe Boschot in a review of the dress rehearsal, ‘they
stamp [piétinent] the ground, they stamp, they stamp, they stamp, they stamp and
they stamp’.85 Stravinsky even played the music this way at the rehearsals; ‘He
stamped his feet on the floor and banged his fist on the piano’ recalls Marie
Rambert, ‘jumping up and down’, adds the conductor Pierre Monteux. 86 The exact
notes matter in the ‘Augurs’ chord precisely because Stravinsky had to fine tune
the sonority between tone and noise; it is spaced and pitched to maximise the
interference among the distinct triadic shapes at a point where pitch clarity begins
to blur into a kind of mass texture. The action of double-stopped down-bows on the
strings is an anthropomorphic enactment of the double-footed stomping on stage,
producing transient noises at the point of attack which are sporadically intensified
by the dense timbre of the horns.87 Such well-attuned noise, in which dissonances
are pitched with absolute accuracy, is the kind of controlled racket one would
expect from a work whose portrayal of ancient paganism is accomplished within
the bourgeois etiquette of the ballet. ‘If M. Stravinsky had wished to be really
primitive’, wrote the critic of The Times, ‘he would have been wise to abandon his
full orchestra and to score his ballet for nothing but drums’.88 But of course
Stravinsky did not wish to be really primitive; he wanted to be really modern by
shocking the establishment with the primitive; the Rite is ‘primitive music’, writes
Debussy, ‘with all modern conveniences’.89 Tonal noise is a modernist critique of
official culture; instead of employing unpitched instruments to signify the pagan
world, Stravinsky has turned the agent of musical civility into a barbaric thud,
reducing tonality to its very opposite; and to underline the point, the strings, which
Stravinsky regarded as ‘representative of the human voice’, are transformed from
their expressive role within the nineteenth-century orchestra into a battery of
percussion instruments. And this is exactly how Stravinsky ‘composes out’ the
‘Augurs’ chord; what he extrapolates from the notes is not some kind of dissonant
implication but accent and pulse; the dissonances proceed by sheer repetition as if
the instruments are hammering out rhythms on the drum of the earth. Critics such
as Constant Lambert and Cecil Gray who accuse Stravinsky of creating harmonic
stasis are correct, as is Adorno, who locates the source of Stravinsky's language in
the terrifying pounding of drums that inflicts irrational blows on the body. 90 There is
simply no harmonicrhythm; ‘what is baffling’, writes Edward J. Dent, ‘is a form of
speech which entirely ignores those principles of syntax which we have been
brought up to regard as logical or inevitable ... . [Stravinsky] does not pretend to
argue; he just makes noises at us’.91 Noise annuls tonal motion; it is the liberation
of the particular as accent. The pitches of the ‘Augurs’ chord may have been a new
sound for Stravinsky, but what was more significant for him were their
consequence: ‘the accents are even more new’, he says. ‘And accents’, he adds,
‘were really the foundation of the whole thing’.92
As noise, the ‘Augurs’ chord jams tonally-bound ears to hear stasis, but to
Stravinsky's ears the sheer exhilaration of rhythm was a revelation that redefined
the meaning of music. At one point in the sketches for the Rite he scribbles ‘music
exists if there is rhythm, as life exists if there is a pulse’.93Stasis only applies to the
‘Augurs’ chord if one expects tonal movement from its dissonances, viewing its
motion as an unfolding of a phrase. But Stravinsky calls the ‘Augurs’ chord
the Tolchok or ‘impulse’ chord that runs on the adrenalin of the moment.94 An
irreducible sound demands split-second timing; the punctual is a corollary of the
particular, creating a new hearing where it is impossible to stand at a distance to
watch the harmonic hierarchy unfold. The particular does not control time by
making a harmonic contract with the past in order to close the future; rather, in
Hasty's terms, the particular liberates time as an open duration of multiple
possibilites.95 The chord's repetition may appear to contradict this since the
particular is that which is unrepeatable, but each reiteration of the chord is not a
static repetition of the same, but a continual articulation of the new that propels the
music from instant to instant.96 For Stravinsky, the sudden accents attest to this –
they ‘are even more new’; duration is now fraught with the dangers of
unpredictable timing. Hence the pulse of life which the composer hears in these
accents is, as Jacques Rivière puts it, ‘spring seen from the inside’;97 you have to
get inside the ‘Augurs’ chord in order to experience the immediacy of the accents
as an instant, as if one were travelling within the rhythmic im-pulses. There is no
time to reflect on the slow-motion of tonal progression as if one were outside the
moment, waiting for the dissonances to resolve. The pulsations seize the dissonant
present as indeterminate events; their rapid succession is experienced as speed;
and this speed is gauged by change where the juxtapositions and sudden accents
act like objects that hurtle past. Thus the cinematic array of octatonic fragments at
No. 16 is hardly static despite the stationary and circular patterns (see again Ex.
11); it is an explosive rush of sound. Stravinsky claimed in a letter to Roerich that
he had ‘penetrated the secret rhythms of spring’,98 but in divining the rites of pre-
history, he had discovered a rhythmic language that could finally catch up with the
pace of modernity.
If noise seizes the moment with an urgency that reduces the notes of the ‘Augurs’
chord to a percussive propulsion, then why analyse the ‘Augurs’ chord in terms of
pitch? It is pure accent. Indeed, for the young Boulez, what is radical about the
‘Augurs of Spring’ is that it is composed of a ‘genuine rhythmic theme’; the
harmonies may be tonally regressive for this proponent of extreme serial
composition, but the rhythms far surpass Stravinsky's harmonic naivety. 99 Of
course, Boulez's opposition between a regressive tonality and a progressive
rhythmic structure in the Rite is more a matter of ideology than analysis; the
rhythmic revolution he seeks is only possible because Stravinsky has disabled the
tonal attraction which Boulez derides in the Rite. In fact, Boulez's rhythmic
analysis, with its intricate definitions of tiny cells shuffled into different
permutations, is unable to divine the ‘rhythmic theme’ he claims to hear, precisely
because there is no tonal definition that would enable the accents and durations to
be grasped as an over-arching period; his analysis is more a collage of rhythmic
motifs than a closed thematic structure. Stravinsky, however, treats the first 32
reiterations of the ‘Augurs’ chord as a discrete theme, keeping the order of
rhythmic accents intact; he even repeats it verbatim at No. 18 (Ex. 15).

Figure Ex. 15 .
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A paradigmatic analysis of the rhythmic theme

This purely rhythmic theme is developed in two ways: first, the pattern is cut up into
blocks and systematically inserted, segment by segment, against other materials in
the ‘Augurs of Spring’ so that they add up to the totality of the theme (see the
diagonal lines in Ex. 15). Second, the pattern in bar 3 with its distinctive double off-
beat accent is isolated as a recurring head motif (see the vertical lines of motif (x)
in the same example).100
It is rhythm that unifies the tableau; the pitches of the ‘Augurs’ chord evaporate
after No. 21, but the rhythm remains, both as an underlying pulse and a thematic
pattern. In fact there is an entire recapitulation of the rhythmic theme at No. 30
superimposed over the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’,101followed immediately by an
altered repetition at No. 31. The notes are entirely different, no longer related to the
‘Augurs’ chord, but Stravinsky manipulates the original rhythms as if they were a
means of structural symmetry or a way of synthesising the contrasting materials of
the ‘Augurs of Spring’ and the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’. In the terminology of
Edward T. Cone –‘stratification, interlock and synthesis’– the rhythmic theme of the
‘Augurs of Spring’ and the melodic ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ create a vast
stratified structure which demands an interlocking of the materials at No.
30.102 Synthesis occurs as the rhythmic accents assimilate the other elements,
gathering force towards the close of the movement until they engulf the music. The
process begins with a dissonant ostinato at No. 31 based on the syncopated
pattern of the head motif (x); the rhythmic connection becomes increasingly clear
as Stravinsky reinforces the bass ostinato with the original jabs, which are
reiterated with greater intensity until the final bar where the accents suddenly arrest
the momentum (Ex. 16).
Figure Ex. 16 .
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Final accents of ‘Dances of the Young Girls’

For Adorno these are irrational blows imposed externally on the music by some
kind of totalitarian regime, but for Stravinsky this rhythmic violence constitutes a
logical development of a theme. They appear irrational because, freed from
harmonic control, this rhythmic theme contains no laws of closure that can arrest
time retrospectively as form; indeed, the abrupt ending of the tableau signals the
indeterminacy of the rhythmic process. If a purely rhythmic theme cannot grasp the
whole, then what it structures will remain particular. This includes the recurrences
of these accents in the remainder of the ballet, for it is the rhythm and not the
pitches of the ‘Augurs’ chord that has repercussions throughout the work. The
head motif (x), for example, recurs sporadically as the rhythmic idea of the ‘Dance
of the Earth’, the ‘Glorification of the Chosen One’ and, most significantly, the final
‘Sacrificial Dance’ (Ex. 17). These recurrences cannot close the Rite as a thematic
construct; they are open associations – elective affinities rather than motivic
identities. And in this sense, Stravinsky was right: ‘accents were really the
foundation of the whole thing’.
Figure Ex. 17 .
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The development of motif (x)

To summarise so far: a tonal investigation of the ‘Augurs’ chord has ended up as a
rhythmic analysis; tonality as percussion is just one of a series of avant-garde
inversions that Stravinsky performs against the cultivated traditions of the ‘civilised’
world. In the Rite, tonality is deliberately turned on its head: literally, with the tonic
on top; hierarchically, with its focus on the dissonant surface; semiotically, with the
decontextualisation of introversive signs as extroversive ones; symbolically, by
turning the civilising tones of tonality into a barbaric noise; and temporally by
turning tonal motion into an instant. The ‘Augurs’ chord is a riot precisely because it
overturns the status quo; the particular rebels. Music analysis, unless it is willing to
go avant-garde, is too reactionary to withstand such an assault; indeed, it would be
ironic for it to civilise the sounds of its own destruction, as if the Rite were an
extension instead of a negation of its values.
‘Emancipation’, writes Ernesto Laclau, ‘means at one and the same time radical
foundation and radical exclusion’.103 The analysis in Part I has explored the notion
of ‘radical exclusion’ in which the particular frees itself against the universal. In Part
II, the analysis focuses on ‘radical foundation’; can the particular ground its act of
freedom? A riot may overturn the status quo, but does it promise anything more
than isolated pockets of resistance? The ‘Augurs’ chord, for all its ‘this-ness’ and
‘now-ness’, would merely be an autistic rebellion if it refuses to engage with its
harmonic environment. It would be an act of compositional particularism. Indeed,
Adorno speculates that the emancipation of the particular in the Rite of Spring must
have ‘horrified’ Stravinsky. ‘Total musical freedom . . . must have appeared as a
threat’, he writes. ‘Suddenly [Stravinsky] must have perceived the hopeless
situation of all music: how was music which had emancipated itself from all
established reference systems to achieve a coherence based purely on its own
inner resources?’ According to the philosopher, Stravinsky's regression into neo-
classicism was brought on by ‘the very sources of his own inspiration’ in the Rite; in
pulling down the walls of tradition Stravinsky was confronted with an empty
freedom which forced him to seek refuge among the ruins.104 The riotous particular
is always prone to such dialectical reversals. This is because ‘particularity both
denies and requires totality’ for its definition. As Laclau explains: ‘[the totality] is
present in the particular as that which is absent ... . [And this] forces the particular
to be more than itself, to assume a universal role which can only be precarious and
unsutured’. Thus radical exclusion and radical foundation form a contradictory yet
necessary impulse in the particular. But this tendency need not result in an
Adornian false totality in which the particular imposes an arbitrary universal upon
itself. Rather the abyss that Adorno hears in the Rite can be left blank. In Laclau's
words, the universal can stand as ‘an empty signifier’; its content is not yet defined
but emerges from the particular so that the relation between the two is one of
‘incompletion and provisionality’.105 The process of emancipation, then, is akin to
Kant's reflective judgement, the very model which Adorno proposes for the future
of new music. So whereas in Part I of our analytical riot the universal determines
the particular and is therefore radically excluded by it, in Part II the particular
gestures towards the universal, turning its acts of negation into one of promise.
One way of pursuing this promise is to begin from within, focusing on just the
seven pitches of the ‘Augurs’ chord. The desire to construct an external system
can be relinquished and the founding act of analysis can start from the particular.
At its most extreme, this approach would posit the ‘Augurs’ chord as the system
itself so that it functions as the Rite's‘chord of nature’, generating the materials of
the movement. Pitch-class set theory can even be revived if the ‘Augurs’ chord, in
all its particularity, can function as a kind of nexus set, creating a source of abstract
harmonic relations in the work. As an unordered collection of pitches, 7–32 may
not define the chord, but it can be understood as a theoretical extraction that
connects the particular to an unspecified universal. Although Forte himself does
not refer to 7–32 as a nexus set, he does regard it as ‘a fundamental structure in
the composition’.106 Many of the discrete formations from which Stravinsky fashions
the work can be derived from subsets of the ‘Augurs’ chord; the distinctive
elements that van den Toorn isolates as the Rite's vocabulary – the ‘(0235)
tetrachord, major and minor triads, dominant seventh chords and 0–11 or major
seventh vertical interval span’– can be gleaned from it;107 one could also add to this
list Roy Travis's ‘dissonant tonic sonority’ which he analyses as a prolongation in
the ‘Introduction’, and Taruskin's 0–5–11/0–6–11 harmonic cell which he hears as
the skeletal sonority behind the ‘Augurs’ chord and much of the Rite (Ex. 18).108

Figure Ex. 18 .
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Travis and Taruskin, core sonorities

As a foundational act, the motto chord can become a source of inner coherence.
The sonority ‘constitutes a pole for the entire work’, writes Alexandre Tansman; it
‘gives birth to melodic patterns’, he claims and, according to Robert Morgan, it
provides ‘a basic pitch reference’ for the material that ensues.109 Thus an external
system is no longer required as a means of coherence because the work contains
the genetic codes for its own cells, turning the ballet into a ‘contextual’ work that
generates a purely musical logic relative to its own processes.110 By authenticating
itself, the Rite becomes as organic as the spring it venerates.
Stravinsky was not averse to such organic metaphors, judging by his description of
the ‘Introduction’: ‘Each instrument’, he writes, ‘is like a bud which grows on the
bark of an aged tree; it becomes part of an imposing whole ... . [A]ll this massing of
instruments should have the significance of the Birth of Spring’.111 It is certainly
possible to hear the continuation of this ‘Birth of Spring’ in the ‘Augurs of Spring’.
Its basic rhythmic energy and dissonant immediacy, after all, advertises the initial
chord as the primal sound from which the material of spring could erupt; and sure
enough, at No. 14, a flurry of horizontal figures shoots out from this vertical mass.
But such an organic vision risks turning the particular into the totality, and might
even spiral down that self-referential ‘abyss’ which Adorno hears in Stravinsky's bid
for ‘total musical freedom’.112 Structural autonomy would enslave the emancipation
of the particular, divesting the chord of its uniqueness by making its significance
purely ‘architectonic’. Its instantaneous impact as the ‘motto’ of the work would be
subsumed by the need to petrify its pitches as a permanent fixture. But there is
nothing permanent about the chord. In fact, that is part of its unique quality; the
chord is so local ‘that it cannot be properly called a motto’ at all, comments
Taruskin.113 It disappears after No. 22 and only returns at the conclusion of the
work. So far from being ‘structural’, the ‘Augurs’ chord is an ephemeral sonority,
framing either end of the ballet in the ‘Augurs of Spring’ and the ‘Sacrificial Dance’,
but leaving the centre too empty for it to constitute a background pool of intervallic
relations. The ‘whole’ simply isn't there to function as the telos of the work or to
guarantee its organic coherence. To regard it as a ‘germ cell’ is asking too much of
a sonority that is merely one out of seven complexes that Forte isolates as the
main harmonies of the Rite; indeed, it is a complex which, apart from the reiteration
of the chord itself, is insignificant in Forte's analysis of the ‘Augurs of
Spring’.114 Thus its return in the final movement is not some kind of long-range pitch
connection; its identity is more a timbral and textural recall that punctuates the
music with the particularity of the original than a purely harmonic association
(compare Exs. 1 and 3). Ultimately, the motto is not a fixed reference point from
which the harmonies of the Rite can be measured.
Of course, one could be less global and confine the motto chord to the material
between Nos. 13–22 which constitutes the first self-contained section of the
‘Augurs of Spring’; its status as ‘a basic pitch reference’ would be indisputable
since the sonority consumes 53 out of the 71 bars, many of which contain nothing
but the ‘Augurs’ chord itself. Repetition alone would make the sonority a self-
referential structure.115 However, this would reduce analysis to the obvious.
Besides, the music cannot be restricted within Nos. 13–22; Stravinsky conceived
the ‘Augurs of Spring’ and the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ as one movement
stretching from No. 13 to No. 36. From this perspective, the motto chord dissolves
before it gets a third of the way through the tableau, with only three of its original
pitches left in the final bar. To be sure, bits of it survive as melodic fragments
splintered from the chord, most notably the intervallic shape of the ostinato and its
uppermost pitch (see again Ex. 16), yet this merely indicates that the ‘Augurs’
chord is not something fixed, but a sonority in flux. The movement does not grow
organically from the inside, but rather, as André Schaeffner suggests, the whole
work ‘grows only by addition from outside, by total and continuous renewal,
perpetually abandoning the rhythmic-harmonic material on which it seized for a
moment so ferociously’.116
So perhaps the ‘Augurs’ chord should be regarded as an agent of change rather
than a permanent collection, an on-going relation between the particular and an
‘empty’ universal. This, after all, is the promise of the particular. Its fluidity is
already evident with the unfolding of the sonority at No. 14 where the vertical
texture is disentangled horizontally. For many analysts, the chord appears to give
birth to these melodic patterns, but there is an immediate deviation where a C
major triad re-orientates the sound octatonically (Ex. 19a). Or take the theme at
No. 19; its pitches are embedded within the underlying ‘Augurs’ chord except for
an which seems to interact with some kind of modal scale lying outside the
home sonority (Ex. 19b).
Figure Ex. 19 .
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‘Augurs of Spring’

Figure Ex. 19 .
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‘Augurs of Spring’
Commentators instinctively view the ‘Augurs’ chord as the source from which these
fragments emanate, for the chord precedes them in the score. In the sketches,
however, it is the other way round; these melodic fragments come first on the page
along with a host of other figures (see again Ex. 2). So, if anything, the fragments
‘give birth’ to the chord. They are not contained within the sonority, but criss-cross
it. The ‘Augurs’ chord is an intersection of their myriad directions. Hearing the
sonority in this way would mean hovering between possibilities where octatonicism,
tonality and all kinds of modes and scales are in perpetual play, creating the
‘undecidability’ that Whittall regards as a necessary stance in Stravinsky
analysis.117 Such a Derridian reading would subvert the notion of a single origin in
favour of an endless and indeterminate productivity.118 The ‘Augurs’ chord becomes
an entrance to many systems, as if Stravinsky were beginning in transition,
creating a plurality of possibilities. Thus the stereotypical view of Stravinsky's music
as static would give way to a dynamic approach to his harmony.
One way of registering this fluidity is to see the chord as a hybrid set which can
function as a pivot ‘from one sphere to another’. Elliot Antokoletz, for example,
describes the ‘Augurs’ chord as ‘an almost perfect fusion or maximal intersection of
octatonic and diatonic spheres’;119 he lays out the seven notes of the chord as a
scale and explains how the removal of , on the one hand, would leave the
remaining pitches as an octatonic segment, whereas the removal of G, on the
other hand, would leave a diatonic segment (Ex. 20).

Figure Ex. 20 .
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Antokoletz's hybrid set

However, hybrid sets, precisely because of their interpretative plurality, can lead to
all kinds of sophistry in the desire to satisfy certain theoretical needs. Antokoletz's
analysis may have fused octatonic and diatonic elements together, but his
octatonic segment is in Collection I, which is unrelated to the focus on Collection III
in the ‘Augurs of Spring’, and his diatonic segment removes the very note that
becomes a centre of diatonic invention in the movement – G (see Ex. 28c). It is the
wrong hybrid. In fact, there is no need to invoke a scalic mixture at all for, as Dmitri
Tymoczko observes, the sonority ‘involves all the pitches of the [or ] harmonic
minor scale’.120 Such ‘non-diatonic minor scales’, continues Tymoczko, ‘naturally
tend to evaporate under the scrutiny of the analyst predisposed to interpret music
in terms of diatonic and octatonic fragments’ precisely because they share ‘six
notes with a diatonic collection and six notes with an octatonic collection’. 121 The
theoretical fixation with octatonic and diatonic mixtures has certainly precluded the
possibilities of other scales, but Tymoczko's alternative explanation is as spurious
as Antokoletz's octatonic-diatonic fusion; ‘ harmonic minor’ implies the very
centre that Stravinsky is at pains to avoid in the movement, particularly given the
tendency of the ostinato to form its ‘dominant seventh’. is negligible as a
force of harmonic or melodic organisation; its scale might as well be
the unordered pitch collection 7–32.

Figure Ex. 28 .
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The emergence of as a point of melodic focus

Figure Ex. 28 .
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The emergence of as a point of melodic focus

Figure Ex. 28 .
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The emergence of as a point of melodic focus

The way a collection is ordered, partitioned, centred and assigned a hierarchical
structure cannot be assumed as Ethan Haimo rightly insists, but must be tested
within the context of the work, otherwise theoretical assumptions will be shown up
as mere presumption. One way of testing the order of a collection is to differentiate
the pool of pitches from the ripples on the surface where the melodic accents and
local patterns draw up boundary lines and locate pitch centres. Stravinsky's
stratification of the vertical and horizontal often employs the surface to define the
relationship between the collection and the mode. The ‘Wet-Nurses’ Dance’
in Pétrouchka, for example, is typical of Stravinsky's harmonic technique of this
period (Ex. 21); each bar is saturated with the pitch-collection C–D–E–F–G–A– ,
creating a harmonic hum that envelopes the pitches of the melodic line; in itself the
harmony is non-hierarchical; it is the melody that gives the harmonic pool a
directional force, picking out the order of the collection as a scale centred on F.
Figure Ex. 21 .
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Pétrouchka, ‘Wet-Nurses’ Dance’

If the ‘Augurs’ chord is an intersection of possible systems, then it is a more fluid
collection of pitches than that of the ‘Wet-Nurses’ Dance’; the ripples on its surface
leak into various pools. This leakage is most obvious in the ostinato figure
prominently embedded within the upper section of the chord. On the face of it, it
seems simple enough to analyse. It precedes the ‘Augurs’ chord as a motivic
‘upbeat’ at the close of the ‘Introduction’, offering a clear segmentation of the
sonority. But for many analysts, this ostinato is ambiguously incomplete: it only
comprises three pitches, . The analytical itch to add G to the concoction is
one that Stravinsky does not scratch in his segmentation of the sonority. This is not
a segment of a dominant seventh chord; it is a part of an Oriental scale. Or as
Taruskin would claim: it is a folk source. In fact, the pattern is commonly found in
Slavic folksongs, and is etched in popular consciousness as the initial phrase of
the ‘Song of the Volga Boatman’ (Ex. 22a). Lawrence Morton has located the origin
of the ostinato in the Juszkiewicz anthology (Ex. 22b), a folk collection which
Stravinsky himself acknowledged as the source of the Lithuanian melody that
opens the Rite;122however, as Taruskin points out, the figure ‘is too widespread . . .
to warrant positive identification’, since it also appears as the initial four notes of a
Dorian folk tune in another collection known to the composer (Ex. 22c).123 The
ostinato, as a folk segment, implies a modal rather than triadic analysis of the
‘Augurs’ chord; so, as with Taruskin's folk source, functions as a ‘Dorian’
leading note, pointing to rather than away from it as a dominant seventh
towards .

Figure Ex. 22a .

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Song of the Volga Boatman

Figure Ex. 22b .

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Juszkiewicz, Melodje ludowe litewskie, No. 34

Figure Ex. 22c .

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Istomin/Lyapunov, Pesni russkogo naroda (p. 232)

This certainly makes more sense of the chord; the ostinato orientates the collection
of pitches towards a scale on . Van den Toorn acknowledges this octatonically
by arranging Collection III in a descending 2–1 ordering in order to give priority
to as a descending Dorian fragment ([0235], where the upper pitch =
0).124 However, this [0235] Dorian fragment fills in the three-note ostinato with
a rather than the of the ‘Augurs’ chord. If is retained, however, then a
different modal possibility centred on emerges. Instead of the ‘Russian Dorian’,
the resulting mode would approximate to another scale used in the nineteenth
century to evoke the Orient. Technically, it is a variant of the so called ‘Gypsy’
scale of the style hongrois, known as the Kalindra scale (Ex. 23),125 although at the
time of the Rite the sonority was probably just another Eastern commodity
designed by Stravinsky for export to Paris.
Figure Ex. 23 .
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The Kalindra scale

The pitches of the ‘Augurs’ chord do not form a pure Kalindra scale; the has
been altered to as part of the ostinato, although in practice, the leading note of
the Kalindra scale can be flattened.126What is significant about the scale is its ability
to generate Neapolitan relationships typical of style hongrois, pitting the tonic triad
against the supertonic.127 All Stravinsky does is to superimpose the Neapolitan
elements to produce that ‘polytonal’ clash of the ‘Augurs’ chord – over . If this
is the case, then this ‘polytonal’ sound is also an Oriental one.
But is this clash the result of the Kalindra scale? Some kind of melodic evidence is
required to pick out the mode from the collection if the harmony is to assume a
Kalindra orientation. To find this evidence, it is necessary to return to the
‘Introduction’. The material at No. 4, as Pople demonstrates, has a close harmonic
and motivic affinity with the first thematic statement in the ‘Augurs of Spring’ at No.
15; in fact, they share the same pitches, despite the enharmonic disguise (Ex. 24).
At No. 4 the Oriental mode is unmistakable, with the augmented second interval,
so characteristic of the Kalindra scale, etched out by the clarinet. With the
reappearance of this material in the ‘Augurs of Spring’, the Kalindra fragment is
obscured as a chromatic line, but the pitches on the main beats deliberately punch
out the same contour – , , G, (marked with an asterisk in Ex. 24) – as if to
affirm the folk origins of the ‘Augurs’ chord.
Figure Ex. 24 .
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Kalindra fragments in the ‘Introduction’ and the ‘Augurs of Spring’

Thus the thematic material of the ‘Augurs’ chord can be interpreted entirely within
the Russian tradition as an intersection of two distinctive modal possibilities; an
incomplete Dorian ostinato and a Kalindra fragment, forming a hinge either side
of , resulting in an altered Kalindra scale on , with the outer pitches of the
fragments accentuating the semitonal clash ( / triads) of the Kalindra scale (Ex.

Figure Ex. 25 .
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Kalindra-Dorian hybrid
But there is a major theoretical assumption being made here: why is the modal
centre of the melodic lines? Is it because its triad within the chord beguiles the
theoretical eye with its tonal texture? The fact that these two fragments hinge
around , however, challenges the instinctive focus on . Listen again: the
Oriental modes of the ‘Augurs’ chord suggest an entirely different orientation. After
all, is absent in the Kalindra segment, and a Dorian reading of the ostinato
figure on major theoretical assumption is at variance with the pitches of the
‘Augurs’ chord which indicate a Phrygian or pentatonic segment centred on major
theoretical assumption (there is no major theoretical assumption in the upper
segment, only major theoretical assumption). In fact, if Morton's folk source – or for
that matter the ‘Song of the Volga Boatman’– is taken as a model instead of
Taruskin's Dorian alternative, then this Slavic pattern gravitates towards the lower
note; the ostinato is a -centred fragment (see again Ex. 22). Moreover, almost all
the thematic materials in the tableau reiterate as their point of reference (Ex.
26); not only is it the head of the Kalindra motif ( – ), it is also the tail with its
return at No. 26 ( – ); is the reiterated pitch of the theme at No. 19, the theme
of the ‘Young Girls’ at No. 27 and the pre-emptive ‘Spring Rounds’ theme at Nos.
29 + 3.128

Figure Ex. 26 .
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themes in the ‘Augurs of Spring’

True, all these themes are harmonised with either an major or minor triad, but
any alignment between the surface melody and the triadic core to create harmonic
depth is disrupted by Stravinsky; the melodic and triadic elements are stratified.
Indeed, their disjunction is employed to defamiliarise the clichés of tonality; the
modal figures on the surface render the triad strangely dysfunctional,
undermining as an assumed root. Even when the harmony mimics a ‘functional’
texture, is not heard as the tonal anchor. This is clearly evident between Nos. 27
and 30; the theme of the ‘Young Girls’ and the ‘Spring Rounds’ theme are
unequivocally embedded within a Dorian scale underpinned by , but the thematic
surface focuses the harmony modally on (Ex. 27). Any attempt to recompose
the melodies so that they cadence on would result in an inconclusive gesture.
David Lewin is correct; the triads work upside down; the surface is the ‘root’. As
for the ubiquitous – the only significant note that survives to the end of the
movement – this is not a melodic centre around which pitches gravitate but merely
a straight line drawn across the harmonic canvas.

Figure Ex. 27 .
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‘Dances of the Young Girls’: melodic fragments with triads

Thus one function of the ostinato is to defamiliarise the triad of the ‘Augurs’
chord so that it no longer sounds like an triad. In fact, Stravinsky does just this
when he segregates the vertical sonority into various horizontal groups at No. 14
(see again Ex. 19a). What is odd about his ‘analysis of the differential elements of
the chord’ is that Stravinsky does not segment the sonority as a bi-partite
structure,129 with two triads juxtaposed a semitone apart; he hears it as a tri-partite
structure, in which the ‘dominant seventh’ formation above the arpeggio is
deliberately split in two to prevent it from functioning as an triad. The ostinato is
severed from the pitch G to focus modally on . G, on the other hand, becomes
the centre of another upside down triad (G– –C) that severs itself from the
ostinato above by alternating with the arpeggio below. So close is its alignment
with the arpeggio that it transforms the major triad (E– –B) into a minor triad
(E– –B) in the bassoon line. Stravinsky's parsing indicates how the melodic
fragments, centring on , G and , conceived before the formation of the ‘Augurs’
chord in the sketches, are embodied within the chord as a stratified texture. And
oddly, the most significant pitch in this chord for Stravinsky is the seemingly
innocuous one of ; this is because it is both the moment of ambiguity and the
catalyst for transformation in the ‘Augurs’ chord. is literally the pivot for the
seven pitches of this sonority: . It is the ‘slash’ within the
‘Augurs’ chord, dividing the Occidental from the Oriental, the tonal from the modal,
the triadic from the melodic, and the clichéd from the defamiliarised. is the
hidden focus of Stravinsky's compositional strategy. It is both the problem and
solution of the chord. As such, it demands a particular listening. If further
confirmation of this analysis were required, we only need turn again to Ex. 13; it
notates the peculiar way Stravinsky spreads out the chord on the piano during the
filming of the CBS documentary. First he groups the triad, then he places the G
before segregating it from the three notes of the ostinato.
Listening in this way to this sonority would mean cancelling the tacitly assumed
texture of eighteenth-century tonality in which chords are figured from the bass to
support an upper line. From this new perspective, the – dissonance would
become something of a theoretical red-herring, for the identity of the ‘Augurs’ chord
is no longer the generalised clash between the outer voices, as is often presumed,
but an inner clash between and . This is perhaps the new order promised by
the riot. Indeed, the entire movement is the working out of this internal partitioning,
with gradually shifting the focus away from the bottom to pit itself against
the ostinato. First, defines itself as the ‘root’ of an upside-down triad that
subsumes within its boundaries (Ex. 28a). Second, as the final punctuation of
the theme at No. 19, forms an alternative Phrygian tonic to the reiterated s,
bringing the tension between the two modal centres to the fore (Ex. 28b).
Finally, usurps as the melodic focus, surfacing as the axis in the ‘Young
Girls’ theme at No. 25, with the upside-down triad now extended to embrace an
entire scale ‘on C’ (Ex. 28c). The shift of focus obscures the foreground details
around , as if the music were retreating back to a distant or hidden plane in the
‘Augurs’ chord.
To underline the harmonic strategy, the exploration of the inner spaces of the
‘Augurs’ chord is visualised in the actual spaces of Stravinsky's choreographic
imagination. The remoteness of in the final example is enacted on stage, for the
adolescent girls have yet to appear (Ex. 28c); only their theme is heard from far
away, perhaps from the hills painted behind the giant mound on Roerich's set. This
is evoked by sounding the melody on the French horn, played ‘mais en dehors’.
Harmonically, the focus on at this point blurs the foreground details around ,
reducing the ostinato to a murmur on the strings. It is only after
hearing this G-orientated theme that ‘the adolescent girls’, says Stravinsky, are
seen to ‘come from the river’;130 they emerge from a distant harmonic location. As
they appear on stage, the harmonic process is reversed. Stravinsky switches focus
from the distant pitches associated with to the foreground pitches of the ostinato
by transposing the ‘Young Girls’ theme to (Ex. 29a). By changing harmonic
allegiance in this way, the theme reduces the collection around to a vague hum
which eventually disappears at No. 28. With the elimination of the agent of
ambiguity and transformation, the harmonic and melodic elements synchronise for
the first time in the movement into one system (Ex. 29b). The texture is no less
stratified, but the accretion of layers is absorbed within an ‘unimpaired diatonic D-
scale on ’,131 producing what Taruskin calls ‘sheer inertial accumulation’.132 Finally,
out of the friction of Stravinsky's harmonic language there emerges a sense of
‘consonance’, as if the planetary forces within the ‘Augurs’ chord had come into
alignment on .

Figure Ex. 29 .
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‘Dances of the Young Girls’: from ‘dissonance’ to ‘consonance’

Figure Ex. 29 .
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‘Dances of the Young Girls’: from ‘dissonance’ to ‘consonance’

As Stravinsky writes, ‘If . . . an as yet unorientated combination [of sounds] has
been found, I shall have to determine the center towards which it should lead. The
discovery of this center suggests to me the solution of my problem’.133 Clearly, the
‘Augurs’ chord is not a static dissonance only capable of rhythmic propulsion but a
solution to a harmonic problem; it creates vast harmonic motions and dynamic
resolutions out of its brittle surfaces. But these procedures do not operate tonally or
through prolongational structures; rather, different systems are superimposed to
create a forcefield of latent planes that move in layers from at least three dissonant
strata ( , G, ) to two (G, ) before ‘resolving’ to one ( ) by means of common
tones, conjunct motion and block transposition. It is a movement from confusion to
fusion, or, to borrow Stravinsky's words, from an ‘unorientated combination’ to a
‘discovery of [a] center’. ‘Nijinsky’, writes Jacques Rivière, ‘created a ballet of a
thousand latent directions’ and in the ‘Augurs’ chord, Stravinsky created a
sonorous parallel; in the Rite, says Rivière, there is an ‘active ubiquity that permits
Stravinsky to proceed in several directions at the same time’.134The ‘Augurs of
Spring’ proceeds from an explosive, multidirectional sonority that narrows down to
a unidirectional one.
Given this harmonic strategy, it might be argued that Stravinsky was right after all –
the ballet is ‘architectonique’. However, the spatial analogy of the young girls
emerging from (background) to (foreground) suggests that the harmonic
process is both ‘architectonique’and‘anecdotique’; the structural and programmatic
elements are not necessarily at variance. After all, Stravinsky originally conceived
the ballet as a ‘musico-choreographic work, without plot’, comprising a series of
ritual games designed by Roerich, where the chases, tugs-of-war, circular dances
and competing forces suggested compositional strategies of juxtaposition, conflict,
contrast, resolution and synthesis.135 The Rite may jettison the ‘pantomime’
gestures of the Firebird and Pétrouchka,136 but the harmonic process still enacts a
formal game-plan inextricably tied to the events on stage. As Jann Pasler writes,
‘the focus in the [Rite] on abstract relationships [between the arts] rather than a
story brought with it the seeds of a new formalism’,137 or what was called at the time
‘Art Plastique’.138
So what is the game-plan behind the harmonic strategy? The opening tableau sets
out the male-female conflict that is the force behind the rituals of the entire ballet.
On the crudest level, the long-range motion from the stratified layers in the ‘Augurs
of Spring’ to the ‘consonant’ collection in the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ underlines
the sexual stereotypes represented by the two dances – one is predominantly
male, the other female. The ‘Augurs’ chord is masculine; its texture is muscular,
athletic, angular, laconic, dissonant, vertical and original; its violent rhythmic thrust
can only be appeased in the stylised rape of the ‘Ritual of Abduction’. The
‘resolution’ into a single unstratified pitch collection is female; the harmonies are
bound, decorative and domesticated within folk-like thematic enclosures. But the
scene is not merely one of sexual difference; in Stravinsky's description of events,
the moment of harmonic alignment on is also one of desexualisation. He writes:

In the first scene, some adolescent boys appear with a very old woman ... . The
adolescents at her side are the Augurs of Spring, who mark in their steps the
rhythm of spring, the pulse-beat of spring.
During this time the adolescent girls come from the river. They form a circle which
mingles with the boys’ circle. They are not entirely formed beings; their sex is
single and double like that of a tree. The groups mingle but in their rhythms one
feels the cataclysm of groups about to form.139
The mingling of these prepubescent figures is a momentary release from the
sexual conflict that is about to erupt: these are unidirectional harmonies for a
unisexual moment. In fact, the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ in the sketches stop
abruptly at the moment of ‘consonance’;140 the game, it seems, has come to a
premature end. The ‘Ritual of Abduction’, which comes immediately after this
dance in the final version, is not sketched until some twenty pages later, 141 and it is
only after this material that Stravinsky begins to work on transitional ideas that will
connect the two movements together.142 It is as if he had discovered a new game
strategy,143 a transition to a game of mass rape, or as Stravinsky describes it, ‘the
cataclysm of groups about to form’. The virility of spring, for Stravinsky, is not found
in the mingling of the sexes, but in the aggression of differentiation.144 After the
‘consonant’ stasis, the young girls’ theme slips down a semitone from to A (Nos.
30–37), and the harmonies begin to split into recalcitrant layers. The propulsive
accents of the ‘Augurs’ chord return, superimposed over the ‘Dances of the Young
Girls’, until the masculine pulsations take over the final bar (see again Ex. 16).
Although in Cone's terminology there is a synthesis of materials here, this male-
female stratification is more a collision of opposing forces latent in the ‘Augurs’
chord. With the assertion of male dominance, conflict erupts and the chase begins.
The emphatic return of these accents is a call to riot.
And this is perhaps what the ‘Augurs’ chord ultimately is – an incitement to riot. It is
a provocation that demands a new order without prescribing any laws for the
future. Enclosed in this particularity is a multivalent core from which a contingent
order may arise. The chord is a junction where various possibilities are held in
suspended animation; its scalic structure is a force-field of octatonic, diatonic,
triadic and folkloric bits that negate and renegotiate each others’ meaning in search
of a harmonic strategy that is less theoretically dogmatic than dramatically
impulsive. Crammed together, these elements create the ultimate ‘focussed
dissonance’. This is not a dissonance based on pitch; it is one of simultaneously
stratified signs and systems that turn the ‘Augurs’ chord into a dynamic source of
social and sonic conflict. In other words: a riot.
‘I am the vessel through which Le Sacre passed’.145 With these words, Stravinsky
concluded his recollections of the origins of the Rite some 45 years after its
première. By turning himself into an empty vessel that funnels the Rite into being,
Stravinsky validates the work as a piece of absolute music, stripping away the
trappings of time and space with all the contingencies and particularities of the
work's history; the concrete reality of the Rite evaporates into the metaphysical,
generalised as an abstract structure that is no longer the property of the balletic
body but of pure thought itself, as if the music were some kind of spirit that passed
through the mind of the young composer. As absolute music, the Rite can
transcend history as a modern icon, acquiring a canonic status to be verified by
music analysis as a universal principle.
It is ironic that Stravinsky needed to purify his music through a Teutonic filter, for
this suppresses the very elements which define the Rite as a radical assault on the
metaphysics of German music that dominated much of the nineteenth
century.146 The Rite is, after all, an adoration of the earth. Unlike Schoenberg,
Stravinsky does not seek the ‘spiritual in music’ by liberating the psyche from the
body to escape the materiality of sound; he liberates music by discovering matter.
This is in fact Adorno's insight into Stravinsky's music, but it is also Adorno's
blindness, for the philosopher's Teutonic prejudice can only see in this ‘animosity
against the anima’ the objectification of the body that turns the Rite into a ‘monad
of conditioned reflexes’.147 The visceral, tactile, somatic energy that harangues
Adorno's ears is the blaspheme of the material particular against the absolute. It
detunes the cosmos of intellectual forms and hurls music down to earth with a
ground-breaking thud that relocates the origins of music away from the universal
towards the particular: this music, Stravinsky seems to say, is not found in the
voice of the soul, but in the pulsations of the human body; it does not originate from
the harmony of the spheres but in the material clods of the earth; its identity is not
merely located in abstract pitch structures but in the noises and textures of socially
mediated signs; its sounds are not pure but encrusted with history. In the Rite,
matter matters, because it is matter that particularises – it embodies things.
The Rite is, to adapt Rivière's phrase, ‘un ballet biologique’.148 That Stravinsky
came to deny this is a betrayal of the work, for what he does in the ‘Augurs’ chord
is to heighten the particular, concentrating its identity as an instant that embodies
the gestures and noises of the ballet. His fixation with the minutest details of
timbre, spacing, attack and accent hones the material properties of sound, just as
his mixture and negation of signs pin-points its social meaning. The material
particularities and local histories from which the eclectic components of the chord
arise do not need to be eradicated in the name of absolute music; rather what
Stravinsky wanted to forget in his later years are the very ‘constraints’ that the
young composer embraced as a source of liberation.
Thus music analysis does not need to generalise the Rite, it needs to particularise
it. The tendency of analysis towards the general, however, has made the particular
appear unanalysable, as if the non-identical can only be grasped in its immediacy.
Frederick J. Smith's reaction is typical: the ‘Augurs’ chord is simply the
‘juxtaposition of two hands on the keyboard’, he states; it ‘was never conceived
intellectually,’ he continues; ‘there is no harmonic analysis called for ... . It was this
bodily placing of hands which gave birth to the sound and not some theoretical
idea that made it possible’.149 Such talk reinforces the opposition in Western
philosophy that separates mind from body. But who thinks without a body? 150 Why
should the material particular defy analysis? Should it not rather liberate it?
Analysis can even inhabit the ‘bodily placing of hands’ that Smith champions.
Stravinsky may have stumbled across the ‘Augurs’ chord at the piano, but there is
a kinaesthetic knowledge in the ‘way of the hands’,151 a knowledge that realises in
the flesh the ‘infinitely sensitive and fragile logic’ that Adorno calls for. 152 In the
‘Augurs’ chord, Stravinsky's fingers, which were programmed for triadic, folkloric
and octatonic doodlings, were probing for solutions to various ethnographic,
choreographic and compositional games, as his own partitioning of the chord at the
piano demonstrates (see again Ex. 13); this manual process is a somatic form of
Kantian reflective judgement. Indeed, Stravinsky himself described his
compositonal logic as an improvisatory search for unknown solutions guided by an
earthy, bodily instinct:
A composer improvises aimlessly the way an animal grubs about. Both of them go
grubbing about because they yield to a compulsion to seek things out ... . So we
grub about in expectation of our pleasure, guided by our scent, and suddenly we
stumble against an unknown obstacle. It gives us a jolt, a shock, and this shock
fecundates our creative power.153
Smith's ‘anti-theoretical’ stance should goad analysis into action, not simply by
protecting the particularity of the chord in negative terms, but positively by
attending to the microscopic details of sound, sign and temporality to hear how
Stravinsky teases out even the most obscure relations in order to improvise an
open future from the creative ‘shock’ of this chord. Riots are not governed by pre-
ordained rules. Stravinsky does not impose an external order on the music, as
Adorno would have us believe, but freely inclines his ear to the plurality of sounds
latent in the ‘Augurs’ chord, divining from the particular and the contingent possible
orders and structures. Such a sound demands a theoretical openness where
everything has to be re-examined and re-negotiated – bass notes, triads,
dissonances, modes, scales, textures and received signs. There is no longer an
automatic connection to tradition or theory but a highly mediated, localised relation
where subtleties in the way the sound is arranged can re-define the meaning of
what seems familiar or obvious about the ‘Augurs’ chord. Only by ‘grubbing about’
in this way can analysis follow Stravinsky's scent and discern in the ‘Augurs’ chord
the rightness of its ‘wrong notes’ and the strangeness of its clichés.

Marie Rambert, Quicksilver: An Autobiography (London: Macmillan, 1972), p. 64.

See Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (London: Faber,
1979), pp. 46–7.

Stravinsky and Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky, p. 46.

Louis Vuillemin, ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’, Comœdia Illustré, 31 May 1913; reprinted in François
Lesure (ed.),Anthologie de la Critique musicale: Igor Stravinsky: Le sacre du printemps:
Dossier de Presse (Genève: Editions Minkoff, 1980), p. 21. The translation is taken from
Truman C. Bullard, The First Performance of Igor Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps (PhD diss.,
University of Rochester, 1971), I: p. 144.

Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Expositions and Developments (London: Faber and Faber,
1959), p. 143.

There were only seven performances of the original Ballets Russes production, four in Paris
and three in London; these were followed by two Russian concert premières under Serge
Koussevitzky in February 1914, and then a triumphant concert performance under Pierre
Monteux at the Salle Pleyel in April where the composer was carried on the shoulders of some
audience members after the performance.

Michel Georges-Michel with Stravinsky, ‘Les deux “Sacre du Printemps”’, Comœdia, 14
December 1920; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 53.
Sections of this interview have been translated in Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky
in Pictures and Documents (London: Hutchinson, 1979), pp. 511–12, and Minna Lederman
(ed.), Stravinsky in the Theatre (London: Peter Owen, 1951), p. 24.

See Richard Taruskin, ‘A Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite of Spring, the Tradition of
the New, and “The Music Itself”’, Modernism/Modernity, 2/i (1995), pp. 1–26. On the Rite as a
collaborative project, see Jann Pasler, ‘Music and Spectacle in Petrushka and The Rite of
Spring’, in Jann Pasler (ed.), Confronting Stravinsky: Man, Musician, and Modernist (Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 53–81.

See Taruskin, ‘A Myth of the Twentieth Century’, pp. 7–14.

See ‘Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin’ and ‘Letter to the Editor in Reply to Richard
Taruskin from Allen Forte’, Music Analysis, 5/ii–iii (1986), pp. 313–37.

‘Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin’, p. 313.

See ‘Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin’, p. 315, and ‘Letter to the Editor in Reply to
Richard Taruskin from Allen Forte’, pp. 329 and 333.

See Richard Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works
through Mavra (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), I: pp. 849–966, and ‘A
Myth of the Twentieth Century’, p. 14; see also Forte's remarks on Taruskin's ‘ultra
conservative’ historical perspective in ‘Letter to the Editor in Reply to Richard Taruskin from
Allen Forte’, pp. 332–6.

Despite Taruskin's allergy to authenticity elsewhere, he is obviously not immune to it himself;
see ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’, in Richard Taruskin, Text and
Act: Essays on Music and Performance(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 90–154.

See Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick Lawrence
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987), p. 9.

Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 965.

Authenticity is modernity's search for the absolute in the absence of its possibility. This is
evident even in Stravinsky's preoccupation with the Rite during his lifetime: he was anxious to
bequeath a definitive Rite of Spring to posterity, but all he achieved by constantly rewriting its
history and revising the score was to undermine his own attempts to authenticate the work,
spawning so many versions of the Rite that the piece does not exist as a single entity. There is
not even an authoritative score of the work, let alone the authentic ‘interpretation’ that
Stravinsky wanted his revisions and recordings to enforce. See Robert Fink, ‘“Rigoroso (
= 126)”: The Rite of Spring and the Forging of a Modernist Performing Style’, Journal of the
American Musicological Society, 52/ii (1999), pp. 299–362.

Stravinsky admitted to the use of one folk source (the opening bassoon melody) which is more-
or-less intact as a theme; he revealed this information in André Schæffner's
biography Strawinsky (Paris: Éditions Rieder, 1931), p. 43, n. and plate xxi. Other sources
found by Lawrence Morton, although treated in a cellular fashion by Stravinsky, are still
recognisable. Taruskin, in trying to account for all the folk-like snippets in the sketches has to
resort to a higher level of abstraction in order to connect the source to the score. See
Lawrence Morton, ‘Footnotes to Stravinsky Studies: “Le Sacre du Printemps”’, Tempo, 128
(1979), pp. 9–16, and Richard Taruskin, ‘Russian Folk Melodies in the Rite of Spring’, Journal
of the American Musicological Society, 33/iii (1980), pp. 501–43; revised in Stravinsky and the
Russian Traditions, I: pp. 891–923.

See, for example, Taruskin's discussion of a source melody in Ex. 4 of his ‘Russian Folk
Melodies in The Rite of Spring’, p. 517; revised in Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p.

Pieter C. van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring: The Beginnings of a Musical
Language (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987), p. 2.

Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), trans. by Anne G. Mitchell and
Wesley V. Blomster (London: Sheed and Ward, 1987), pp. 135–60. Adorno regards tonality as
the musical equivalent of the Hegelian Absolute, that is, as the foundation that has collapsed in
twentieth-century music, making any objectively binding law in music highly problematic;
instead of negotiating the difficulties, Stravinsky simply imposes an objective style as if
authenticity were still possible without further reflection. On tonality as the Hegelian absolute
see Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Edmund Jephcott
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), p. 21.

Ironically, Adorno's reading of the Rite is shared by its champion, Richard Taruskin; see ‘A
Myth of the Twentieth Century’, pp. 14–21. This odd pairing has also been noticed by Tamara
Levitz, ‘The Chosen One's Choice’, in Andrew Dell’Antonio (ed.), Beyond Structural Listening?
Postmodern Modes of Hearing (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 73–80.

For Stravinsky, the performer is not an ‘interpreter’ but an ‘executant’ who follows the
instructions laid down by the composer in the score; see Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in
the Form of Six Lessons, trans. Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl (London: Oxford University
Press, 1947), pp. 121–35; as is well known, these Norton lectures, given by Stravinsky at
Harvard, were ghost-written by Pierre Souvtchinsky.

Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, p. 145, and Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Stravinsky: A
Dialectical Portrait’, in Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, trans. Rodney
Livingstone (London: Verso, 1992), p. 149.

Theodor W. Adorno, Sound Figures, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press, 1999), p. 148.

Robert Craft in Stravinsky (New York: St Martin, 1992), pp. 233–48, suggests from evidence in
Stravinsky's annotations of a four-hand piano score in his possession that ‘Stravinsky had
composed the choreography at the same time as the music’; these annotations are published
as an appendix in Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13 (London: Boosey and
Hawkes, 1969). Although this is a disputable conclusion, it is clear that Stravinsky was closely
involved with the choreography, despite his attempts to distance himself from Nijinsky's work
after the première. Indeed, in a letter to Max Steinberg dated 5 June 1913, Stravinsky states
that ‘Nijinsky's choreography was incomparable . . . everything is as I wanted’; the translation is
taken from Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 102.
For a concise discussion of these issues see Peter Hill, Stravinsky: The Rite of
Spring (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 105–17, and Levitz, ‘The Chosen
One's Choice’, pp. 80–4.

See Robert Craft, ‘“The Rite of Spring”: Genesis of a Masterpiece’ and ‘Commentary to the
Sketches’ in Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, pp. xvii and 4. The opening
page of the sketches displays Stravinsky's thoughts with calligraphic precision, as if the
composer wanted to commence with absolute clarity; the ideas are so crystallised that most
commentators believe that they were fashioned at the piano before the composer committed
them to paper. The page begins with fragmentary ideas which are to be bound together as the
material from the second half of the page demonstrates. Although Stravinsky conceded to
Craft's suggestion that the ‘Augurs’ chord may not have been the first idea, since it was the
composer's habit to compose from top down, the chord initiates the actual composition of the
work in the sketches; the snippets above are ‘random’ ideas.

Quoted from film footage of the composer at the piano in the CBS documentary Portrait of
Stravinsky, directed by David Oppenheim; first broadcast 3 May 1966.

Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 597.

Craft, ‘“The Rite of Spring”: Genesis of a Masterpiece’, p. xvii.

Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 147.

See Jean-Jacques Nattiez, ‘The Concepts of Plot and Seriation Process in Music Analysis’,
trans. Catherine Dale, Music Analysis, 4/i–ii (1985), pp. 107–18.

Ernst Kurth, Harmonik und ihre Krise in Wagners ‘Tristan’, quoted in Carl
Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 126.

Pierre Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, trans. Stephen Walsh (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1991), p. 56.

Taruskin, ‘Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin’, p. 318.

Eric Walter White, Stravinsky: The Composer and his Works (London: Faber, 1966), p. 211.

The only possible tonic for this dominant would lie outside the tableau, in the
‘Introduction’preceding the ‘Augurs of Spring’, where the initial bassoon melody returns at the
close transposed down a semitone from A minor to minor, steering the harmonies towards
the ‘Augurs’ chord.
It could be argued that the ‘Introduction’ functions as a tonal fulcrum for the ‘Augurs of Spring’,
turning the movement into a giant dominant domain attached to a slender melody borrowed
from a collection of Lithuanian folk music (see again n.18). Folk tunes are, of course, tonal;
Stravinsky must have been acutely aware of the possibility of a dominant function at this point
because the introduction of the ‘dominant seventh’ ostinato ( ) that coagulates at
the top of the ‘Augurs’ chord is directly adjacent to the folk melody. What is significant is the
composer's meticulous renunciation of this fundamental tonal relationship (tonic-dominant); he
harmonises the ostinato to ensure that its adjacency to minor is heard as a juxtaposition
and not a functional connection, with semitonal clusters and octatonic formations that prevent
the ostinato from aligning itself with an major triad. The thematic and harmonic fragments
may gravitate towards the ‘Augurs’ chord at this point, but it is not a tonal transition. Any sense
of tonality is merely a localised phenomenon, linked to a folk source.

See Edward J. Dent, ‘Le sacre du printemps’, The Nation and Athenaeum, 18 June 1921;
reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps, Dossier de Presse, p. 71.

Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schönberger, The Apollonian Clockwork: On Stravinsky, trans.
Jeff Hamburg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 231. The authors are referring to the
C/ Pétrouchka chord.

Constant Lambert, Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline (London: Hogarth Press, 1985), p.

See Allen Forte, The Harmonic Organization of ‘The Rite of Spring’, (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1978). Sections of the Rite are also discussed in Allen Forte, The Structure of
Atonal Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 33, 76, 86–8 and 144–60.

See Pieter C. van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1983), pp. 48–72.

See Richard Taruskin, ‘Chernomor to Kashchei: Harmonic Sorcery; or, Stravinsky's
“Angle”’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), p. 103.

Arthur Berger, ‘Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky’, in Benjamin Boretz and Edward
T. Cone (eds.),Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinsky (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1968), p. 139.

Letter dated 21 July 1911, quoted in Andriessen and Schönberger, The Apollonian Clockwork,
p. 239. Debussy's influence on the Rite should not be underestimated. Stravinsky writes: ‘Le
Sacre owes more to Debussy than to anyone except myself’; see Stravinsky and
Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 142, n. 1.

Pieter C. van den Toorn, ‘Some Characteristics of Stravinsky's Diatonic Music. Part
Two’, Perspectives of New Music, 15/ii (1977), p. 61, and Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, p.

Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, pp. 152 and 178.

Robert Morgan, Twentieth-Century Music (New York: Norton, 1991), p. 97.

Richard Taruskin, ‘Chez Pétrouchka: Harmony and Tonality chez Stravinsky’, 19th-Century
Music, 10/iii (1987), p. 286.

Van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky, pp. 106–16.

There is no doubt from the sketches that the link between the E major and C major triads was
formed at the inception of the piece (see the semiquaver figurations in the top two systems
of Ex. 2). However, this merely suggests that there is a linear connection from the ‘Augurs’
chord to the quasi-octatonic segments in the tableau, and not some underlying octatonic
system in which the ‘Augurs’ chord can be integrated.

David Lewin, ‘A Formal Theory of Generalized Tonal Functions’, Journal of Music Theory, 26/i
(1982), pp. 41–3.

For a summary of tonal dualism see Henry Klumpenhouwer, ‘Dualistic Tonal Space and
Transformation in Nineteenth-Century Musical Thought’, in Thomas Christensen (ed.), The
Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002),
pp. 456–70.

Robert Fink, ‘Going Flat: Post-Hierarchical Music Theory and the Musical Surface’, in Nicholas
Cook and Mark Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p.

Anthony Pople, Skryabin and Stravinsky: 1908–1914 (New York: Garland, 1989), p. 270.

Christopher Hasty, ‘Toward a Timely (or Worldly) Music Theory – Some Ideas from American
Pragmatism’, paper delivered at The University of Texas at Austin, 5 March 2003; see also
Christopher Hasty, Meter as Rhythm(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). Of related
interest to the analysis of the particular is Jerrold Levinson's Music in the Moment (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1997), although his emphasis on concatenation is less relevant to
Stravinsky's collage technique. The complex dialectical negations in Adorno's idea of the
moment, explored in depth by Berthold Hoeckner in Programming the Absolute: Nineteenth-
Century Music and the Hermeneutics of the Moment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 2002), is probably too melancholic and too much entangled with German Idealism to
illuminate the Stravinskian instant.

See Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 136, and Craft, ‘“The Rite of
Spring”: Genesis of a Masterpiece’, p. xvii. Darius Milhaud in Entretiens avec Claude Rostand,
2nd edn (Paris: Zurfluh, 1992), pp. 48–9, suggests that the harmonies of the Rite inspired the
compositional exploration and research on polytonality in the 1920s. Indeed, the term was
already applied to the Rite at its première; an article in Le Matin described the ballet as
‘résolument polyrythmique et polytonale’; see A. D., ‘Théâtre des Champs-Élysées:
1ère Représentation du Sacre du Printemps’, Le Matin, 30/10685, 30 May 1913, p. 3.

Allen Forte, Contemporary Tone Structures (New York: Columbia Teachers College Press,
1955), p. 137. For similar criticism of polytonality see: Pieter C. van den Toorn, ‘Some
Characteristics of Stravinsky's Diatonic Music’, Perspectives of New Music, 14 (1975), pp.
104–38, and The Music of Igor Stravinsky, pp. 63–5; Arthur Berger, ‘Problems of Pitch
Organization in Stravinsky’, pp. 123–54; and Benjamin Boretz, ‘Metavariations: Part IV,
Analytic Fallout’, Perspectives of New Music, 11 (1972), p. 149.

Or at least, in the words of Daniel Harrison, bitonality has been ‘under-theorised’; see his
‘Bitonality, Pentatonicism, and Diatonicism in a Work by Milhaud’, in James M. Baker, David W.
Beach and Jonathan W. Bernard (eds.), Music Theory in Concept and Practice (Rochester,
NY: University of Rochester Press, 1997), p. 394. On the early history of the idea, see Francois
de Médicis, ‘Darius Milhaud and the Debate on Polytonality in the French Press of the
1920s’, Music & Letters, 86/iv (2005), pp. 573–91.

Edward T. Cone, ‘Analysis Today’, in Paul Henry Lang (ed.), Problems of Modern Music (New
York: Norton, 1962), p. 43.

Berger, ‘Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky’, p. 123.

Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, pp. 35–7; see also William W. Austin, Music in the Twentieth
Century: From Debussy through Stravinsky (London: Dent, 1966), pp. 260–1.

Arnold Schoenberg, Structural Functions of Harmony (London: Faber, 1969), p. 194; see also
Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, pp. 125–7.

CBS documentary, Portrait of Stravinsky.

William E. Benjamin, ‘Tonality without Fifths: Remarks on the First Movement of Stravinsky's
Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments’, In Theory Only, 2/xi–xii (1977), pp. 58–9.

V. Kofi Agawu, Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classic Music (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 26–79.

Andriessen and Schönberger, The Apollonian Clockwork, p. 57.

André Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, trans. Martin Cooper (London: Victor Gollancz, 1987), p. 71.

Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (London:
Methuen, 1981), p. 137.

See Taruskin on the distinction in Russian thought between kul'tura (the artificial culture of the
intelligentsia) and stikhiya (the elemental spontaneity of the people) in Stravinsky and the
Russian Traditions, I: pp. 850–4.

See Craft, ‘“The Rite of Spring”: Genesis of a Masterpiece’, p. xxiv.

See Brian Hyer, ‘Tonality’, in Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music
Theory, pp. 748–50.

Fink, ‘Going Flat’, pp. 132–3.

Robert Moevs, review of Allen Forte, The Harmonic Organization of the ‘Rite of Spring’, Journal
of Music Theory, 24/i (1980), p. 103.

The ‘dominant’ A is also subject to the same dissonant treatment in the final bars of the work
where it is set against minor triads and the triadic formations in octatonic Collection III on
C, , and A.

See, for example, Taruskin, ‘Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin’, pp. 313–18, and ‘Chez
Pétrouchka’, pp. 265–7.

Pierre Lalo, ‘Considerations sur “Le Sacre du Printemps”’, Le Temps, 5 August 1913, reprinted
in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, pp. 33–4; the translation is taken
from Hill, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, p. 93. Similarly Adolphe Boschot, in L’Écho de Paris,
30 May 1913, suggested that to create the harmonic effect of the Rite, one merely needed to
‘play on two pianos . . . transposing [the music] by a tone in one part but not the other’;
reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 16.

Arnold Whittall, ‘Music Analysis as a Human Science? Le Sacre du Printemps in Theory and
Practice’, Music Analysis, 1/i (1982), pp. 51 and 50.

Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 71.

Whittall, ‘Music Analysis as a Human Science?’, pp. 46 and 50.

Whittall, ‘Music Analysis as a Human Science?’, p. 50.

Whittall, ‘Music Analysis as a Human Science?’, p. 45.

Whittall, ‘Music Analysis as a Human Science?’, pp. 50–1.

Given the images and movement that inspired the composition of the Rite (see, for example,
Stravinsky's letters to Roerich and Findeizen reprinted in The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–
13, appendix, pp. 27–33), it is probable that Stravinsky conceived the tapping out of the rhythm
of spring before Nijinsky choreographed it. See n. 26 on Stravinsky's involvement with the

Boschot, L’Écho de Paris; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse,
p. 16.

Quoted in Roger Shattuck, ‘The Devil's Dance: Stravinsky's Corporal Imagination’, in Pasler
(ed.), Confronting Stravinsky, pp. 90 and 87.

Since the Rite was composed at the piano, it is obvious that the hands also function as the
stomping feet!

H. Colles (unsigned), ‘The Fusion of Music and Dance: “Le sacre du printemps”’, The Times,
12 July 1913; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 64.

Letter to André Caplet, 29 May 1913, in François Lesure and Roger Nichols (eds.), Debussy
Letters, trans. Roger Nichols (London: Faber, 1987), p. 270.

See: Lambert, Music Ho!, pp. 49–50 and 91; Cecil Gray, A Survey of Contemporary
Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), pp. 137–42; and Adorno, Philosophy of Modern
Music, pp. 155–7.

Dent, The Nation and Athenaeum; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps, Dossier de
Presse, p. 71.

Quoted from footage of the composer at the piano in the CBS documentary, Portrait of

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, p. 36. See also Craft, ‘“The Rite of Spring”:
Genesis of a Masterpiece’, p. xxxiii.

Quoted in Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 80.

Hasty, ‘Toward a Timely (or Worldly) Music Theory’.

Although there is no harmonic hierarchy, there is a metrical one, since the accents syncopate
against the 2/4 metre set up by the ostinato figure. A purely metrical hierarchy, however, is just
as open to the future as the reiteration of the ‘Augurs’ chord, since it has no internal system of
closure; it, too, renews and propels the music from moment to moment, albeit on a higher
rhythmic level.

Jacques Rivière, ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’, La nouvelle revue française, November 1913;
reprinted in Lesure (ed.),Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 47.

Letter to Nicolai Roerich, Clarens, 6 March 1912; translated by Stravinsky in The Rite of
Spring: Sketches 1911–13, appendix, p. 31.

Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, pp. 56 and 68.

This rhythmic pattern, as Boulez points out, also shapes the accents of the melody at No. 19;
see Ex. 19b.

The ‘Augurs of Spring’ and the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ form one movement. Stravinsky
conceived the dances as a continuous choreographic action rather than separate pantomimes
and was particularly pleased with the ‘smooth jointure’ between the two. See Stravinsky's letter
to Roerich, 13 November 1911; reprinted in The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, appendix,
p. 30.

Edward T. Cone, ‘Stravinsky: The Progress of a Method’, Perspectives of New Music, 1 (1962),
pp. 18–20.

Ernesto Laclau, Emancipation(s) (London and New York: Verso, 1996), p. 6.

Adorno, ‘Stravinsky: A Dialectical Portrait’, p. 160.

Laclau, Emancipation(s), pp. 15–16.

Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music, p. 76.

Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, p. 141.

Roy Travis, ‘Towards a New Concept of Tonality’, Journal of Music Theory, 3/ii (1959), pp.
257–84; Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Tradition, I: pp. 937–48. Taruskin is, of course,
thinking the other way round here – the ‘Augurs’ chord as an extension of a more basic
element, rather than the generator of material; in the end, as far as harmonic unity is
concerned, it amounts to saying roughly the same thing. However, Taruskin in a later article
seems less convinced by his earlier arguments; see Taruskin, ‘A Myth of the Twentieth
Century’, p. 19. Taruskin borrows the 0–5–11/0–6–11 harmonic cell from van den Toorn's The
Music of Igor Stravinsky.

Alexandre Tansman, Igor Stravinsky (New York: Putnum, 1949), p. 143; Morgan, Twentieth-
Century Music, p. 97.

‘Contextual’ is a term used by Milton Babbitt to describe music ‘which defines its materials
within itself’, providing ‘alternatives to what were once regarded as musical absolutes’; see his
‘Who Cares if you Listen?’, reprinted in Barney Childs and Eliot Schwartz (eds.), Contemporary
Composers on Contemporary Music (New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1967), pp. 244–5.

Igor Stravinsky, ‘Ce que j’ai voulu exprimer dans Le Sacre du Printemps’, Montjoie!, 8, 29 May
1913; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 14. The
translation is by Edward B. Hill, Boston Evening Transcript, 12 February 1916; reprinted in
Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, pp. 524–6. This
résumé of the Rite, ghost-written by the editor of Montjoie!, was persistently disavowed by
Stravinsky; however, the evidence points to Stravinsky as the author. See Vera Stravinsky and
Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, pp. 522–6.

Adorno, ‘Stravinsky: A Dialectical Portrait’, p. 160.

Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 947.

Roman Vlad, Stravinsky, trans. Frederick and Ann Fuller (London: Oxford University Press,
1960), p. 31; Forte, The Harmonic Organization of ‘The Rite of Spring’, p. 132; the other
complexes are 7–16, 7–31, 8–28, 8–23, 8–18 and 8–16.

As Craig Ayrey writes, ‘the principle of repetition on all levels . . . [allows for] the formation of a
self-referential system of prolongational structures’. See his ‘Berg's “Scheideweg”: Analytical
Issues in Op. 2/ii’, Music Analysis, 1/ii (1982), p. 196.

Schæffner, Strawinsky, p. 95; quoted in Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 73.

Whittall, ‘Some Recent Writings on Stravinsky’, Music Analysis, 8/i–ii (1989), pp. 173–5.

Or what Roland Barthes calls ‘connotation’; see Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Miller
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 1–16.

Elliot Antokoletz, ‘Interval Cycles in Stravinsky's Early Ballets’, Journal of the American
Musicological Society, 39/iii (1986), p. 608.

Dmitri Tymoczko, ‘Stravinsky and the Octatonic: A Reconsideration’, Music Theory Spectrum,
24/i (2002), p. 78. There is an error in the text; instead of ‘harmonic minor’ the original reads
‘melodic minor’. However, it is clear from Tymoczko's Ex. 7 that ‘harmonic minor’ is intended.

Tymoczko, ‘Stravinsky and the Octatonic’, pp. 80–2.

Morton, ‘Footnotes to Stravinsky Studies’, p. 14. Morton's folk tune reproduced in Ex. 22b has
been transposed to correspond to the pitches of the ostinato; the original starts on A.

Taruskin, ‘Russian Folk Melodies in The Rite of Spring’, p. 532; revised in Stravinsky and the
Russian Traditions, I: p. 904. Taruskin's folk tune reproduced in Ex. 22c has been transposed
to correspond to the pitches of the ostinato; the original starts on C.

Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, pp. 144–5.

I am indebted to Shay Loya for introducing me to the complexities of these Verbunkos modes.

See, for example, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in A Minor. The Rhapsody opens with a
flourish on a pure Kalindra scale to establish its harmonic and melodic credentials, but in bars
11–12 (see below), the octave figurations in the left hand outline a Kalindra scale on D, with its
leading note flattened to in order to descend smoothly to


This is evident later in the same Rhapsody mentioned in n. 126 where A and triads are
juxtaposed against each other (bars 40–


The sketches show that Stravinsky had intended ‘Spring Rounds’ to follow the ‘Augurs of
Spring/Dance of the Young Girls’, hence the ‘early’ appearance of the ‘Spring Rounds’ theme:
see Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, pp. 6–8.

Vlad, Stravinsky, p. 30.

Stravinsky, Montjoie!; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p.
14; translation taken from Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and
Documents, pp. 524–6.

Van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky, p. 103. Note again the theoretical bias
towards in the description.

Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 954.

Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, p. 37.

Rivière, La Nouvelle revue française; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier
de Presse, pp. 43 and 39.

Igor Stravinsky in an interview with the Daily Mail, 13 February 1913; quoted in Vera Stravinsky
and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 95.

Letter from Stravinsky to Nicolai Findeizen, Clarens, 2 December 1912; reprinted in
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, appendix p. 33.

Pasler, ‘Music and Spectacle’, p. 81.

See Levitz, ‘The Chosen One's Choice’, p. 83. ‘Art plastique’ was architecturally conceived;
concerning this new form of dance, Daniel Chennevière, in ‘La musique
choregraphique’, Montjoie!, i–ii (1914), writes: ‘Choreographic music . . . must be
constructed architecturally and rhythmically . . . in order to mix with the geometric schemes of
the choreography and to penetrate it. This music was born with Le sacre du Printemps’ (my
emphasis; the translation is taken from Levitz, ‘The Chosen One's Choice’, p. 83).

Stravinsky, Montjoie!, pp. 524–6.

See Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, p. 6.

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, pp. 29–33.

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, p. 34.

The orchestration and details of this transition were only realised following the completion of
the work; see Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 1911–13, pp. 120–2.

In the ballet's final ‘Sacrificial Dance’, the virgin is surrounded by the male dancers (the
Ancestors) only.

Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 148.

See my Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999).

Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, pp. 173 and 200.

Rivière, La nouvelle revue française; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier
de Presse, p. 47.

Frederick J. Smith, The Experiencing of Musical Sound: A Prelude to a Phenomenology of
Music (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979), pp. 70 and 178.

In order to criticise Stravinsky, Adorno has to understand the Rite in terms of a passive,
reactive body; however, in Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (London: Routledge, 1973),
pp. 266–39, Adorno advocates the body that thinks: thinking cannot be separated from need.

See David Sudnow, Ways of the Hands: The Organisation of Improvised Conduct (Cambridge,
MA and London: MKT Press, 1993).

Adorno, Sound Figures, p. 148.

Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, pp. 55–6
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