Posted on Friday, June 14, 2013 by coffeecritic
"Never had an audience heard music so brutal, savage, aggressive, and apparently chaotic; it hit the public like a hurricane, like some uncontrolled primeval force." - Roman Vlad, musicologist, composer
"Some of the most controversial notes ever composed ..." - Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
"The most important piece of music of the 20th century" - Leonard Bernstein, composer, conductor
"If that is a bassoon, then I am a baboon!" - Camille Saint-Saens, composer
May 29, 1913 - the premiere of composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky's "The Rite of Spring", provoked fistfights and challenges to duels. Amid hisses and boos, Stravinsky fled his seat. Police were called to quell the riot and western culture was never the same. Despite the violence of the opening night, it is now thought by many to be the most important single moment in the history of 20th century art. Stravinsky's daring and audacious music continues to influence musicians, including Frank Zappa and Metallica who cite it as a major influence on their music. It remains shockingly new even 100 years after its creation.
Want to find out what all the fuss was about? To celebrate the centennial of this momentous event, there are many performances of the Rite of Spring happening all over the world. Here in the Bay area, the Mark Morris Dance Group performed a new choreography, called "Spring, Spring, Spring", set to a rescoring of the masterpiece by the jazz trio, The Bad Plus. Or one can go the traditional route and hear the San Francisco Symphony perform it this month.
However you choose to experience The Rite of Spring, be prepared to be shocked and overwhelmed. One way to do it for free is via the collection of books and media at SCCLD.
For many, their first experience of the Rite of Spring was in the animated Walt Disney movie "Fantasia", which features segments from The Rite of Spring conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The story was changed from one of tribal human sacrifice to the creation of the earth, with the violence provided by exploding volcanoes, earthquakes and warring dinosaurs.