Monday, April 20, 2020

Article: Why Do We Even Listen to New Music?

Looking back at history for lessons on why we find it so difficult to listen to new music.

gregory & headphones
"gregory & headphones" by J. McPherskesen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"Stravinsky, having already thrilled Paris with his ferociously complex Firebird ballet three years earlier, was the bright young thing of symphonic music in Paris, and The Rite was to be something essentially unheard of. Drawing from the Slavic and Lithuanian folk music of his homeland and his viscerally atavistic brain, Stravinsky blackened his score with rhythmic and harmonic tension, stretching phrases to their outer limits and never bothering to resolve them. The harmonies were difficult to name and his rhythms impossible to follow. Leonard Bernstein later described The Rite as ‘the best dissonances anyone ever thought up, and the best asymmetries and polytonalities and polyrhythms and whatever else you care to name.’


Many members of the audience could not fathom this new music; their brains—figuratively, but to a certain extent, literally—broke. A brawl ensued, vegetables were thrown, and 40 people were ejected from the theater. It was a fiasco consonant with Stravinsky’s full-bore attack on the received history of classical music, and thus, every delicate sense in the room. ‘One literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music,’ Gertrude Stein recalled in her memoir. The famous Italian opera composer Giacamo Puccini described the performance to the press as ‘sheer cacophony.’ The critic for the daily newspaper Le Figaro noted that it was a piece of ‘laborious and puerile barbarity.’"

(Via Why Do We Even Listen to New Music?.)

EDIT: I’ve been pointed to a more nuanced take of this event.

"Of all the scandals of the history of art, none is so scandalous as the one that took place on the evening of 29 May 1913 in Paris at the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring.

The Rite descended into a riot, the story goes. Magnified in the retelling, it has acquired the unquestionable certainty that only legend can have. Everyone simply 'knows' that there was a riot.

But is it possible to separate fact from fiction?"

(Via Did The Rite of Spring really spark a riot? - BBC News.)

No comments:

Post a Comment