Controversy in music? How could I resist the temptation to begin my music blog with an intriguing, head-turning topic? Many would be surprised at how often controversial circumstances surrounded the music and composers we enjoy most. This month, join me as I discuss four fascinating examples found in prominent works throughout history.
You may be familiar with Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the work’s premiere on May 29th of this past year. A Russian nationalist composer at the start of his career, Stravinsky had his first great success with The Firebird in 1910. The work was written as a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario for the Ballets Russes based in Paris. Shortly after this, Stravinsky began work on The Rite of Spring, a ballet based on prehistoric Russia and primitivism. The plot revolves around a young girl who is chosen as a sacrifice and forced to dance until she dies.
Stravinsky used The Rite of Spring as a means to develop his unique voice in the classical music world. Known for its irregular meter, frequent alternations of notes and rests, and use of dissonant scales, Stravinsky’s composition is a powerful display of his avant-garde capabilities.
To those accustomed to 18th and 19th-century repertoire, this ballet may have crude subject matter and include unusual compositional techniques. But why do we consider it to be one of the controversial pieces in music history? Find out on Friday when I blog about what Stravinsky had to say following the premiere of his work.