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Something much more important than ‘to like’

Red Black Window offers up the author’s memory of first being turned on to Stravinsky’s Petrouchka as a college student, and how it changed his life. I certainly remember where I was when I first heard Le Sacre, and it sent me on a path totally different from the one I would have taken.

Part of the article is a nice sound clip of an interview with Stravinsky in the ’60s, discussing his Variations, Aldous Huxley In Memoriam. I suppose this is an advanced piece in the Stravinsky catalog, but by contemporary standards — several years after Penderecki’s Threnody, for example — rather buttoned up and organized. Still, it is challenging in its own right, with its dense yet transparent textures and twelve-tone vocabulary. Still it retains Stravinsky’s lively sense of rhythmic vitality throughout.

Page Example from Stravinsky Variations

This page from the B&H score (these late Stravinsky scores are works of typesetting art in themselves) is a passage from about three minutes of the way through this brief piece [ 2:49 in this mp3 ]. The instrumentation here is one clarinet, english horn, one bassoon, one horn and strings. Notice how he maps phrasing from one instrument to the other using braces across staffs: in the first measure, the horn plays two eighth notes, then passes it off to the clarinet. In the second and third measures, the english horn and violins are linked. The “cut-outs” of staffs add to the readability, as does the elimination or dotting of vertical bar lines.

In the audio clip, Stravinsky good-naturedly concedes that this piece may be for “connoisseurs,” slyly hinting that it’s not going to hurt you to give it a try. The first taste may be astringent and unfamiliar, but “Music is not always ‘to like’: music is also for something much more important than ‘to like’.”

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