Chapter Fifty-Three of The Haunted Heaven: The Savagely Impeccable Taste and Prophetic Revelations of Igor Stravinsky
By Michael Moriarty
My thoughts on Pablo Picasso's death just had to lead me to Stravinsky's life! Why?
I hope to answer that question by the end of this essay.
Before that, however, to the right is Picasso's almost cartoon rendering of Igor Stravinsky.
I am now listening to what I consider the best first stop in an opening investigation of Stravinsky's entire body of work: his Symphony In C.
With Mozart as his inspirational yet almost satirical starting point, Stravinsky declares or rather nails his aesthetic revolution into our ears with the unmistakably savage yet impeccable taste found within Symphony In C.
This from music's "revolutionary", with the pure, primitive audacity erupting from his Rite of Spring?!
Following Symphony In C, I would suggest hearing his Symphony In Three Movements.
Wikipedia has this to say:
However, was Stravinsky a fascist? At one point in his life, yes. Certainly as much a Fascist as Picasso was a Communist.
Even though Wikipedia labors to politely paint the composer as a "monarchist", its autobiography of Stravinsky features this quote:
According to Robert Craft, Stravinsky remained a confirmed "monarchist" throughout his life and loathed the Bolsheviks from the very beginning.
His previous admiration for Mussolini? Somewhat mirrors Winston Churchill's earliest impressions of Il Duce. Most of the "Elitist" world was defenselessly impressed by The Fascist.
In all cases – Fascism, Communism and Monarchies – someone or something just must be in charge, eh? And democracy?
The eternally hopeful and perpetually resurrected virginity of democracy just waiting for some dictator of supremacist presumptions and his unavoidable elitism to rape it.
What is there in Stravinsky's savagery that has a touch of the rapist? Truth be known, Igor ripped through notes the way his pal Picasso's brush ripped through female flesh!
As Leonard Bernstein once remarked about Aaron Copeland, something like: "If he hadn't chosen to be a composer, he might have ended up a serial killer."
On the other hand, the Allies didn't defeat the Axis by being lovers.
Stravinsky's brief portrait of World War II in Symphony In Three Movements has a comfortingly melodramatic structure to it, in which victory for the allies is inevitable and heralded by ending on a startlingly simplistic, major chord.
That the chord is not a simple C Major one … but C#?!
Igor's subtle nod to the omnipresence of his preference for complexity. Though, the key of C# Major on the piano is mechanically easier to play than C Major – C#'s demands fitting the structure of the human hand best – the visual appearance of C # has, for me at least, always been more challenging.
However, the easily manageable, and blatantly mortal fundamentals that Stravinsky does offer us are quite welcome when confronting the audacious genius of this 20th Century giant.
My lawyer, Arnold Weissberger, the one who opens my brief, OLM nod to Picasso, was Igor Stravinsky's consigliore during the last few years of the composer's life.
Who knows? Perhaps Igor had not held his former colleague in Parisian mischief, Picasso, with the same esteem that, say, the Communist Party enshrined the painter in.
The Rite of Spring?! Here is its indelibly memorable, opening theme, high in the solo bassoon's register.
A feast of woodwinds!!
From piccolo down to bass clarinet!!!
They eventually wake up a lonely trumpet, only to briefly drift back to the opening theme again … until, at last, the thrilling pulse of Stravinsky's savagely accented rhythmic figures.
The pagan inspiration to one of music's most sophisticated nightmares!
Since it was composed for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, the initial conception must have first involved the vision of its choreographer, Nijinsky … but no!
The concept, according to Wikipedia, was offered by the scenic designer, Nicholas Roerich.
Though to Stravinsky's ear Rite of Spring might have sounded particularly Russian … but to the rest of the world?!
Utterly without a trace of Western Civilization or Judeo-Christianity.
Bernstein likens it to jazz but, for me, that is a great mistake. Such a notion entirely emasculates the Rite of Spring ballet, its scenario and the initial mission handed to Stravinsky as composer.
I'm certain Rite of Spring must have scared the hell out of Paris. Yes, the most sophisticated city in the world! home of Grand Guignol and the Marquis de Sade … and yet, Rite of Spring had completely thrown them off their perches in that city's most sophisticated boites.
What libidinous center … or prehistoric corner of Mankind is unstoppably exploding in this masterpiece?!
The muted trumpet, particularly when heard in the Rite of Spring or as re-invented by the great Miles Davis, can carry a mystical insolence that lies quite outside civilized Man and beyond even Leonard Bernstein's love of jazz.
The flutes appear to be our only calmingly familiar refuge.
Harmonies in the rest of the instrumentation are forever shocking.
How can that be possible? To capture the barbarism contained in the ballet's scenario, the brutal sacrifice of a maiden?! What fiendish rituals aren't possible after that?!
Then the breathtaking horns of triumph!
Isn't Rite of Spring, aside from History's horrifying record, the most nakedly and immediately revealing exposure of Man's emotional and spiritual capacity for premeditated and sophisticatedly organized lunacy?!
At no point, however, is The Madness out of the complete control of a great orchestra and a great conductor!
As Stravinsky's portrait of Man's ritualized self-loathing, Rite of Spring should scare the hell out of you.
What does the sacrificed maiden represent but ourselves? What do The Slayers of The Maiden embody … but that other, raging fury within ourselves.
No, it is not God or The Gods that demand human sacrifice. It is and always has been Man Himself! Stravinsky, as devoutly Russian Orthodox, knew this.
Somehow, from the level of piercing sophistication he'd arrived at, such bloodbaths, for the composer, were food for a musical level no one had heard or seen before.
As I said at the beginning of this foray into Stravinsky, musing over Picasso inevitably leads you to Stravinsky. Why?
All major artists of the period, even at the turn of the Century, composers particularly, felt the chaos of two World Wars coming on.
While France was bowing to Impressionism, the entire meaning of music and diatonic harmony was being thrown out by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Two composing giants, who somehow kept their feet remotely near the classic fundamentals, while dipping into Schoenberg's revolution, were Stravinsky and Bartok.
Despite Bartok's remains being dragged back to Communist Hungary to be buried, neither Bartok nor Stravinsky could endure Communism.
With the return of a neo-Soviet bully, Vladimir Putin, to Russia and a self-confessed Marxist, Barack Obama, running the United States, the coldest winds possible now blow toward and around the human race's self-delusions.
As I recall my battles with Attorney General Janet Reno, I realize how music, dance and drama containing violence were mirror images of that Clinton disciple's own tyrannical ambitions and insane provocations in Texas and Ruby Ridge. She didn't want violence, or even the talk of it, allowed on television before 8 pm.
This would be the Clinton Administration's "foot" in television's door. The same foot she tried to shove down the throats of over 80 dead men, women and children in Waco.
Little did Janet Reno anticipate her own Rite of Spring erupting in Colorado and at the Koresh Compound.
The President, William Clinton, had to have ordered Janet Reno to do this! As a possible "favor" for a Waco campaign contributor?
"Clean the Koresh Compound out of Waco!"
It's either that or the theories or rumors or fact?
The belief that it was Hillary Clinton who most wanted the attack on the Koresh Compound made. After The Tragedy At Waco, Janet Reno had the gall to give lectures to NBC about what inspires violence?!
What inspires violence on a massive level is bottomless ambition.
Small or large, it is The Heartlessly Ambitious Bully who will always, always drive his fellow human being, no matter how pacifist, to violence.
A ritualized violence, such as captured in Rite of Spring, was judicially inspired by the American Supreme Court's Roe v Wade Decision legalizing abortion.
It is merely the beginning of yet another Final Solution.
Meanwhile, Leonard Bernstein, of all people, seems to almost dismiss Rite of Spring as "the ideal kid's piece!" Merely a technical exercise for Third Millennium music students who enjoy all that "drama".
Nothing, however, as mature or piercing as Mahler's 9th!
As juvenile as Sophisticated Bullies can be, that "kid's piece", Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, might inevitably be reinvented by opposing armies in a World War III.
Ritual sacrifice for a Progressively Marxist New World Order!
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.