Twentieth Century Music: How it Developed, How to Listen to It

By Marion Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
STRAVINSKY BEFORE AND AFTER THE WORLD WAR

THE violently controversial opinions concerning the work of Igor Stravinsky ( 1882) are of signal importance because they show that his place in the musical universe has not become definitely fixed, and that we are unable to consider him with the necessary detachment for a final opinion. He has been a human barometer, recording the changes that have taken place in musical esthetics in the last twenty-five years. It is useless either to hold him responsible for the change of front which is apparent in his style of composing, or to regret that he did not remain the realist-primitivist that he was twenty years ago. The amazing fact stands that he, more than any other composer either of the present or the past, has been a channel through which have surged powerful forces, thrown out of their usual course by the chaotic upheavals the world has experienced. We cannot escape the truism that art reflects cosmic thought; Stravinsky, by a series of conditions outside his conscious control, was the proper medium for its musical expression.

He is by nature an innovator, an iconoclast, a realist, a nonsentimentalist. He was trained to be a lawyer, so he must have learned to think logically. Music came to him in childhood through hearing his father, an opera singer, and his friends, but he was not musically trained until he was an adult, consequently he was free from many prejudices and pedantries that are formed unconsciously during early study years. He lived in Russia at a time when the renaissance of national thought was at its height, so that he must have heard Moussorgsky's music and that of Rimsky-Korsakoff, who for a short time taught him; his imagination was stirred by the Russian literature and the stage, and he succumbed to the lure of primitive folklore.

After he had tried his hand at a few compositions including a

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