The synthetic cut, the rhythm materiality and the hierarchic inversion: these are three lessons that I have learned with The Rite of Spring, this magnificent work of Igor Stravinsky. It would be possible to include some other lessons here. However, these are some of the most influential in the development of 20th and 21st century music and in my own work.
- The rhythmic materiality is a concentration on beats, losing part of (or completely) the abstraction required to listen to measures. This rhythmic materiality is usually connected to another outstanding kind of materiality: chords/timbres. In this case, chords become timbres, losing their diatonic functional aspect. The rhythmic materiality and the concentration on timbres are essential to many trends in 20th and 21st century music, and decades later they will be receiving other names, as morphology, spectrum and the like.
- The synthetic cut is more than a juxtaposition of fragments. In the first half of 20th century juxtaposition is a reality. However, there are different kinds of juxtaposition. The synthetic cut is a juxtaposition that abbreviates a musical action (usually eliminating transitions). It is possible to go from one point to another suddenly. The musical narrative becomes faster, emphatic and economic. The connections required for the narrative construction depends more on the listener, stressing a kind of musical discourse that is highly influential in the 20th and 21st century music.
- In the hierarchical inversion a secondary musical aspect becomes the center of the musical construction, displacing or eliminating the expected more important aspect. It happens many times in the work of Stravinsky (it happens in texture, form, melody, and the like). One example is found in “Les augures printaniers”, the widely known segment of “The Rite of Spring” in which a chord is repeated many times. In the beginning of the 20th century a listener could consider these chords as an accompaniment. However, the expected main melody never appears. This is not an accompaniment, it is not secondary, it becomes the center of the work. The result is highly efficient, both by its strength and by the conceptual displacement it promotes.
Last year I wrote a short paper commenting a bit more on these three lessons. The paper is 100 Años de la música que cambió la música (100 years of the work that has changed music). This paper has been published by the Resonancias Review.
Have a free online access to this paper here (in Spanish).
There are many outstanding recordings of this magnificent work, The Rite of Spring. I enjoy very much the historical one in which The Rite of Spring is conducted by Stravinsky himself. Here is it.