PART TWO

CHAPTER XII

The formation of Ravel's style--his three periods--stylistic elements: melody, harmony, instrumental and vocal writing--the motivating forces: Spain and the Dance, Comedy and Magic.

THE FIRST THING TO STRIKE US IF WE TAKE A COMPREHENSIVE view of Ravel]'s work is the unity of design in its development. He was a born musician, destined for music from his earliest childhood, and so naturally adapted for the task set him by his father and masters, that the problem of a vocation was quickly solved for him.

Work which matures under such conditions will not, at least at the outset, bear marks of a romantic conflict between temperament and destiny. Ravel made music as easily as an apple-tree grows apples. But the difficulties spared him by life and denied him by nature he felt bound to create for himself artificially. For his academic experience soon showed him that a sure foundation can only be built on some resisting material; the appeal of a technique implies and demands the severity of rules.

Such a craftsman does not distinguish between the effects of his own industry and the products of nature. He believes, like a child, that the first are as simple as the second. It is well known how Ravel, then a pupil at the Conservatoire, commented one day to his friend M.-D. Calvocoressi on the opinion of the people who taxed him with affectation: "Does it never dawn on these people that I may be artificial by nature?"1

Man, in so far as he is creative, creates out of his subconscious. He has to grapple with recalcitrant material, and to exhaust his facile gifts against some technical obstacle. The only function of hindrances, restraining forces and the refined forms of difficulty are to allow the artist to acquire and develop the only quality which springs from his diligence--his style.

____________________
1
Quoted by M.-D. Calvocoressi in Music and Ballet, London. Faber and Faber, 1933, p. 51.

-109-

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