Part of the Rest Is Noise Audio Guide
Riot in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 1923.
Note: The first page number is for the hardback edition, the second number is for the paperback.
When a full-scale riot broke out at the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913, the primary cause, as far as can be determined, was the stamping dissonance that is heard some two hundred times in the section titled "Augurs of Spring — Dances of the Adolescent Girls" (see p. 75/ p. 81 of The Rest Is Noise):
The chords are made up of an E-flat dominant seventh on top (an E-flat-major triad with an added D-flat) and an F-flat (E-major) triad on the bottom:
Stravinsky promptly "unpacks" the chords so you can hear the tonal components. Eight seconds in, the English horn plays a string of two-note falling figures derived from the E-flat portion of the chord. Forty seconds in, the bassoons play chattering figures also in E-flat. An almost lush melody emerges in the full orchestra at 2:08, after various interruptions and digressions.
Stravinsky talks about playing this passage for Diaghilev:
For much more on the Rite, visit the San Francisco Symphony's Keeping Score website, where Michael Tilson Thomas delves into details of the score while musicians of the orchestra explain facets of Stravinsky's instrumentation. The high-tech site allows you to follow the music bar by bar and stop to watch related video segments.
What did the riot look like? Some idea can be gained from Marcel L'Herbier's 1924 silent film thriller L'Inhumaine, one scene of which was filmed in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées while George Antheil gave a recital of his modernistic piano pieces. An advance piece in Figaro announced that the concert would be filmed and that a riot was not only expected but desired. Quite a few people who had been present for the Rite scandal — among them Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Cocteau, and Satie — also attended this staged riot. Also in the hall were Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Picasso, Darius Milhaud, Man Ray, Miró, Duchamp, Ford Madox Ford, Aaron Copland, the Prince of Monaco, and the Princesse de Polignac. You can view the scene on this page from American Public Media's American Mavericks radio series (scroll down).
Here is a BBC film re-creating the riot, with Anglicized dialogue in the audience (music starts at 5:40):
JANÁČEK, BARTÓK, RAVEL
Bartók recording folk songs (click to enlarge).
Percy Grainger's Shallow Brown (p. 78/ p. 85):
John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and English Country Gardiner Orchestra; Philips/ArkivMusic
A British Janáček site has a wealth of information about the Moravian composer, including photographs of his native town, Hukvaldy. Here, from Nikolaus Lehnhoff's production, is video of the dizzyingly beautiful final scene of Jenufa (p. 81):
An excerpt from the first of Bartók's Fourteen Bagatelles (p. 83/ p. 87):
György Sándor, piano, Sony SK 68278.
The Institute for Musicology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has placed online a fairly amazing trove of materials relating to Béla Bartók’s pioneering work as a folk-music collector. The composer’s vast archive of Hungarian folk music has been digitized, and a fair number of his phonographic recordings have been uploaded in MP3 format. The search engine is a little tricky to use, but if you click the “+” sign under “Name of collector,” check the “Bartók Béla” box, and then enter the dates 1904 to 1905, you will see the beginning of Bartók’s work in the field. (Entries containing audio have a listing in the “Ref. no. of media” column.) The year 1907 is particularly significant; that summer, Bartók went into the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, in Transylvania, to gather songs from Hungarian-speaking Székely villagers. On that trip, he achieved a deeper understanding of folk style, which led to a transformation of his own musical language. Here is “Menyecske, menyecske” (“Bride, bride”):
And here is “Nekem is volt egy szeretőm” (“I had a love”):
Below you can compare Bartók’s Three Hungarian Folksongs from the Csík District (1907) with recordings on which the piece is based. “Sír a kis galambom” (“When my little dove weeps”) is followed by a snippet of Piotr Anderszewski’s performance of the piano version (from his 2008 Carnegie Hall recital):
The Bartók Archive is richly stocked with material, including pages of the composer's manuscripts and folk-collecting notebooks. The archive of BBC 3 radio has a lively analysis of Bartók's Second Quartet. Bartók's folk-based style lashes at full force in the finale of the Fourth Quartet:
More can be found at the site of the Bartók Museum.
From Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, the opening of "Le Gibet," mesmerically woven around a single repeating note (p. 85/ p. 92)
Pascal Rogé, piano, Decca 440836.
The climactic passage of the "Feria" from Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole, with trombone glissandos sneering joyously at the end (pp. 86-86/ pp. 92-93):
In the very last bars the trombones play a glissando, or slide from one note to another. This effect was first popularized by Arthur Pryor, the virtuoso slide trombonist in John Philip Sousa’s band. Perhaps the earliest recorded use of it was in "Coon Band Contest," from 1900 (p. 86 / p. 93):
Sousa's band toured Europe in 1900 and 1901. Coincidentally or not, trombone glissandos began showing up in European orchestral music around 1902. Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande provides one of the first examples of a true trombone glissando; another, from the same time, is in Die Seejungfrau, by Alexander Zemlinsky, Schoenberg's brother-in-law and erstwhile teacher:
Riccardo Chailly conducting the RSO Berlin, London 417 450-2.
From the Library of Congress.
Boosey & Hawkes, publisher of the most instantly recognizable of twentieth-century composers, has a fairly extensive page of sound samples for his music, together with a list of forthcoming performances. Stravinsky's breakthrough work was The Firebird, which the Ballets Russes introduced to Paris in 190. In the "Infernal Dance," Stravinsky's trademark syncopated rhythm makes an electrifying early appearance (p. 89/ p. 96):
Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, Philips 446715.
Back to the Rite. If "Augurs of Spring" is a drama of syncopation — accents landing in unexpected places — the "Procession of the Sage" generates almost excruciating intensity through the overlapping of multiple regular patterns:
Whereas the final "Sacrificial Dance" uses rhythmic cells of varying length in quick succession:
"Spring Rounds" features a notable eruption of trombone glissando:
The consummation of Stravinsky's folk explorations comes in Les Noces (p. 96/ p. 104), although the stripped-down, mechanized aesthetic of the score in its final version forecasts the anti-Romantic aesthetic of the post-World War I era:
The Pokrovsky Ensemble, Nonesuch 79335.
THE ROARING TWENTIES
Coco Chanel and Jean Cocteau in the costumes for Le Train bleu, 1924.
From 1917 onward, styles in Paris and other European capitals changed at a dizzying pace. What follows is a very rapid audio tour of complex terrain. First, the deconstructed pop sounds (and typewriter noises) of Satie's Parade (pp. 98-99/ pp. 106-7):
Louis de Froment conducting the Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg, Vox 5107.
Le jazz in Milhaud's Creation of the World (p. 103/ pp. 111-12):
The rough-edged, café-band attack of Stravinsky's Histoire du soldat (p. 104/ pp. 112-13):
Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Chamber Ensemble, available as part of the 22-CD Works of Stravinsky box (not currently available in US).
The neo-Baroque ebullience of Stravinsky's Pulcinella (p. 105/ p. 113):
Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Symphony, Works of Stravinsky.
The neoclassical effervescence of Poulenc's Les Biches (p. 106/ p. 115):
Charles Dutoit conducting the Orchestre National de France, Decca 289 452 937.
The neoclassical objectivity of Stravinsky's Octet (pp. 107-8/ p. 116-17):
Robert Craft conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's, Music Masters 67103-2.
The apocalyptic lilt of Ravel's La Valse (p. 111/ pp. 120-1):
The heartbreaking final minute of Janáček's Cunning Little Vixen, with the voice of the young frog indicating the unstoppable movement of the wheels of time (p. 114-15/ pp. 123-24):
Charles Mackerras conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Decca 417129.
The monumental opening of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (p. 117/ p. 126):
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony and Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, Sony 48057.
And two passages from the final movement of the great Symphony of Psalms, with contrastingly muscular and ethereal settings of the words "Laudate Dominum" (p. 118/ p. 127-28):
Leonard Bernstein conducting the English Festival Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra, Sony (out of print).