Stravinsky Retrospectives

By Ethan Haimo; Paul Johnson | Go to book overview

CROSS-COLLECTIONAL TECHNIQUES OF STRUCTURE IN Stravinsky's CENTRIC MUSIC

PAUL JOHNSON | University of Notre Dame

The stylistic diversity of Stravinsky's work may well be greater than that of any composer preceding him. Certainly it has attracted much attention. We are accustomed to the categorization of his works into disjunct periods (Russian, neoclassic, serial) and to an affirmation of the distinctive and differentiable character of each. That stylistic diversity has engendered a range of responses from celebration of Stravinsky's compositional virtuosity to disparagement of his music's alleged lack of a centered, easily classifiable focus.1

See Paul Henry Lang, introduction in Stravinsky: A New Appraisal of His Work, ed. Paul Henry Lang ( New York: Norton, 1963), pp. 9-19.

Yet many listeners believe that there is an underlying unity, so that beyond the spectacularly divergent forms, pitch materials, and harmonies there is an unmistakable, if elusive, "Stravinsky style." Given the genuine diversity of the surface of his music, such consistency could only be found in common underlying procedures and techniques. I contend that significant similarities exist in the techniques Stravinsky used to articulate the properties of two favored collections: the octatonic and 0123578t collections. I further assert that these similarities may well lie at the root of that ephemeral consistency which seems to cut across Stravinsky's first two compositional periods. To provide a proper framework in support of these claims, I will first discuss some properties of the two collections, then examine their similarities (and differences), and finally show how Stravinsky exploits and manipulates them in ways that indicate shared stylistic procedures.

The appendix to this paper lists places in Stravinsky's compositions where the collection can be found. A further exposition of properties of the collection can be found in my dissertation "The First Movement of Stravinsky Symphony in C: Its Syntactical Bases and Their Implications" (especially pp. 25-34.), Ph. D dissertation, Princeton University 1981 (University Microfilms, Ann Arbor).

0123578t, hereafter known as the eight-note diatonic collection, appears in many of Stravinsky's works from 1918 to 1951.2 This collection can be derived in several ways. (Rather than examine all the possibilities I will discuss only those that possess properties exploited by Stravinsky.) Unordered, it can be considered the union of any two diatonic collections that share six pitch classes. Stravinsky seems to favor a limited range of the possible derivations. (1) By generating the collection

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