Stravinsky Retrospectives

By Ethan Haimo; Paul Johnson | Go to book overview

Stravinshy's VERTICALS AND SCHOENBERG'S DIAGONALS: A TWIST OF FATE

MILTON BABBITT | Princeton University

When a prime mover and shaper of this conference induced the specific title and general content of this paper by reminding me of an almost forgotten remark, years ago dropped in class, as to the remarkable relation between Schoenberg's diagonals (as I viewed them) and Stravinsky's verticals (as he viewed them) by a rotation which transforms -- symmetrically -- one into the other, he did so but a few days before I was asked to speak on what soon became "Order, Symmetry and Centricity in Late Stravinsky" delivered at the International Stravinsky Symposium held ( September 12-14, 1982) at the University of California, San Diego. Although I realized I could not avoid an intersection of content, I foresaw little conflict of interests. For, since the Symposium hoped to invoke the commemorative, celebrativc, and -- where pertinent -- the personal, at the Conference I resolved to maintain a properly ascetic academic posture by pursuing immediately, impersonally, and unswervingly the technicalities entailed by the title. But for all of their dual geneses, the papers necessarily shared their source, their musical motivation: that single work which remains the most fascinatingly perplexing and refractory of Stravinsky's compositions, and the one which he clearly and dramatically regarded as decisively different from all that had preceded and as decisively influential on all that followed. In his own words: "The slow climb through the 1950's eventually brought me to the Movements, which I now see as the cornerstone of my later work."1 "I have discovered new (to me) serial combinations in the Movements for piano and orchestra. . . . the most advanced music from the point of view of construction of anything I have composed. . . . Every aspect of the composition was guided by serial forms, the sixes, quadrilaterals, triangles, etc. The fifth movement, for instance, uses a construction of twelve verticals."2 And I could continue to heap hyperbole upon Stravinsky's sometimes elliptic descrip-

Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Themes and Episodes ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), p. 23

Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Memories and Commentaries ( New York: Doubleday and Company, 1960), p. 100.

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