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Music Analysis

, 26/iii (2007) 59

2007 The Author.
Journal compilation 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2249.2007.00250.x

Blackwell Publishing Ltd Oxford, UK MUSA Music Analysis 0262-5245 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. XXX Original Articles



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Rite of Spring

started with a riot. Legend has it that it was the music that
incited the audience with its barbaric rhythms and dissonances. In fact it was
the choreography that provoked the scandal: Un docteur, un dentiste, deux
dentistes shouted its detractors as dancers mimicked movements that seemed
to require some kind of medical attention.


In a sense, Nijinskys


precisely what the doctor had ordered, judging by Diaghilevs comment after
the performance: exactly what I wanted, said the impresario.


As for the
music, not even the dancers could hear it for all the noise; Nijinsky had to
shout out numbers in the wings to keep them together.


According to one
reviewer, at the end of the Prelude the crowd simply stopped listening to the
music so that they might better amuse themselves with the choreography.


Obviously Stravinsky could not share Diaghilevs satisfaction; he was angry.


Not only was the ballet mocked, but his music indeed, the very idea of the


which he had honed with the painter and ethnographer Nicolas Roerich
had been eclipsed by the work of Diaghilevs lover, and the consolation of some
fresh oysters a few days later fortuitously provided the illness that was to
prevent the composer from ever having to see Nijinskys




Stravinsky wanted the


to be his; all that noise at the premire had to be
eliminated, along with the clutter that seemed to clog up his music. First,
Nijinskys choreography had to go; its eurythmics that tried to choreograph
every note as an enactment of pagan ritual was replaced in 1920 by the more
abstract movements of Lonide Massine. And although Roerichs designs were
retained for this production, the abstraction of the choreography had already
neutralised their meaning, for Stravinsky wanted to suppress all anecdotal
detail in order to re-package the


as a purely musical construction; the
work was now architectonique, he said, as opposed to anecdotique. There
were to be no more scenes from pagan Russia to espouse Roerichs mystical
pastoral of Neolithic bliss. Stravinsky even went as far as to eliminate his own
extra-musical contribution; his famous dream of a sacricial virgin dancing
herself to death was no longer the vision that inspired the work but was sidelined
as a secondary idea that came from the music.


The music itself became the
slogan by which he removed the ngerprints from the collaborative project.


Not only did this erase the trauma of the premire from his memory, but it
destroyed any evidence that would attach his name to the orientalism, exoticism
and nationalism which was beginning to look out-of-date in the brave new

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Music Analysis

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Journal compilation 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

world which emerged after the First World War (191418) and the Russian
Revolution (1917). The social order in which the work was created had collapsed
and Stravinsky campaigned to turn the noisy ballet into the silent structure of
a score that could forget its history. At last, having eliminated its origins, the
music could be heard as absolute, pure and structural and so become the
earth-shattering masterpiece of twentieth-century music.
The purely musical riot is a ction of music history.


It was not until the
1980s that music analysts actually gave the music itself the riot it deserved.
Pieter van den Toorn, Richard Taruskin and Allen Forte headed the various
factions that would wage what was literally a


ed battle over the identity of


. Wielding their octatonic, tonal and pitch-class set theories, they simulated
the original riot inciting each other to higher forms of critical violence not
least in the pages of this journal.


Their analyses were in fact far more subtle
and eclectic than the cardboard cut-outs that they accused each other of but,
as with most ideological riots, the ner points were irrelevant. In a riot what
counts is noise. But why make such a racket over a few notes? What could
possibly be at stake to justify the fracas? Nothing less than the meaning of the
music itself and the survival of music theory as its dominant discourse;
indeed, all that Stravinsky had fought for the purely musical construction
of a work was under threat. With hindsight, this riot was the nal bout of a
ght in which the emerging forces of a new historicism, led by Taruskin,
seemed bent on knocking out the claims of music analysis, rendering the
purely musical purely meaningless. In particular, Fortes pitch-class set analysis,
intended to unleash the modernist elements in the


as a radical atonal
structure, was ridiculed by Taruskin as an ahistorical abstraction, if not a
gment of Fortes music-theoretical imagination.


The unbridled progress of
theory as the future of musics revelation was something to be distrusted and,
to the horror of hard-core analysts, Taruskin regressed to that seemingly inadequate
ad hoc type of tonal analysis that they had tried to eradicate from Stravinskys


But that was precisely the point: Taruskin


to regress, to return
to origins, to tease out the embryonic clues in the historical and folkloric
sources and so tie this work to tradition, specically to Stravinskys Russian
tradition that would make the


look old and its sounds conform to some
kind of tonal common practice that emerged from the nineteenth century.


For Taruskin, the authenticity of the

Rite of Spring

lay in its genesis and not its
progress; his wrangling over pitch-structures, which looted van den Toorns
octatonic theories for historical purposes, was a way of authenticating the


at its roots, and so relocate its identity from the free-oating constructions of
music theory to the very memories Stravinsky wanted to forget.


A purely
musical riot turned out to be the death of the purely musical.
But it is questionable whether the music itself really got to riot. The analytical
factions, for all their differences, were united under one fundamental cause:
modernitys quest for cultural legitimacy. This desire to stabilise a revolutionary
work as some kind of Urtext or


is an attempt to transcend the passing

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2007 The Author.
Journal compilation 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

fashions of modernity, to capture an act of history as a timeless moment.


despite their radical rhetoric, the analytical rioters wanted to




, to preserve its eternal signicance either by xing it in history as an
original version or by removing it from history as a musical structure. Either
way, the ballet is made absolute as a transcendent event in the progress of
modern music: for Taruskin the


made the Russian universal;


for Forte,
it is the new made objective. But to impose these universal and objective values
on the


is to police it under the law of the whole. In verifying the work, the
analytical rioters disciplined a radical score to consolidate their conservative
positions, granting it a coherent system or a continuous tradition that ultimately
suppressed the riot. An authentic


cannot run amok.
Thus to authenticate the


is to contradict it. This has been a perennial
problem since the genesis of the work. Indeed its reception history has been
the authentication of the very foundations that the music seeks to explode.


This friction is already evident at the inception of the ballet: Roerichs pastoral
primitivism, intended to authenticate the ballet as a Slavic ritual rooted in the
cycle of nature, is unmasked by the violence of the music as an Edenic delu-
sion. Indeed, it is apt that Stravinskys only contribution to the scenario the
virgin sacrice is the one


authentic element of the plot that nonetheless
terrorises Roerichs spiritual vision of pagan Russia. The same could be said of
the folk sources in the sketches: if they are ethnographically correct chosen
to validate Roerichs rituals, as Taruskin claims then the origin they promise
is deracinated by the force of abstraction that obliterates their identity in the


many of these folk tunes have been attened by Stravinsky into quartal
and whole-tone patterns; they no longer resemble the source in any meaningful


Of course, such abstraction, in turn, would become Stravinskys defence
of the work as an architectonic structure. This is what van den Toorn calls the
edice behind the extra-musical scaffolding; for him, the task of music theory
is to survey the foundation on which this edice stands in order to certify the work
as an authentic construction.


But there is no foundation behind the rickety
scaffolding. The musics autonomous structure is merely a retrospective claim
violently imposed by the composer on an unruly and heterogeneous ballet. In
this respect, Adornos notorious polemic against Stravinsky in the

Philosophy of
New Music

is right: Stravinsky tried to authenticate his music in an age where
authenticity was no longer viable; with the loss of any binding authority within
modern society, Stravinsky simply posited objectivity as a faade imposed from
the outside with a totalitarian force, leaving the inside empty.


In the modern
world, the authentic is the false. Believing Stravinskys rhetoric of objectivity in
the 1920s, Adorno probably misjudged the


, ridiculing it as an allegory of
proto-fascist deception: the human subject (the inside) is sacriced for the
pseudo-objectivity of the mob (the outside); individual expression is absorbed
into the collective without mercy.


Stravinsky thought he had eradicated the
anecdotal detail from the


by imposing an architectonic aesthetic but, as
far as Adorno was concerned, his objective construction merely internalised

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Music Analysis

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the plot: the interpretative subject is annihilated by the unyielding objectivity
of the score.


For Adorno, the musical aesthetic espoused by the later Stravinsky sides
with the oppressors;


the individual cannot truly riot. Consequently, an analysis
that veries the


as an objective construction would only reinforce Adornos
point; its unifying systems would be totalitarian, imposing on the music a
structure from the outside. But what if analysis were to allow the music to riot?
What if it were to facilitate the work in defacing the foundations of ofcial
culture? Perhaps such a reading will bring to the surface the unruly and contingent
elements in the music and so undermine the authentic


. But how is music
analysis to do this? For a start, it must jettison the authentic the false totality
and focus on the


the individual. In turn, the particular would
have to riot. And for the particular to riot it would have to challenge the totality
in two ways: rst, its relationship with the totality would have to be one of
negation; the particulars will dene themselves in rebellion against the prevailing
order, subverting it, mocking it and ridiculing its claims to power. Secondly,
the relationship would have to be one of speculation; the unrest, if it is to be
productive, must point to a new vision of what is possible

without enforcing any

; the particulars cannot supplant the totality and so forfeit their identity in
becoming a mob, but they can gesture towards an emergent whole to which
they relate in a




manner. This kind of riot would resemble


rebellion in as much as the aesthetic is dened by Kant as a form
of reective judgement that searches for unknown universals from the particular
of an artwork. In fact, Kants reective judgement is Adornos vision of
what new music might promise a world that craves for authenticity. It would
therefore be ironic if the


were to satisfy Adornos vision by having a riot.
He writes:

Aesthetic judgements appear as if in obedience to a rule, as if thought were
governed by a law. But the law, the rule contained in artistic judgement is, to
paraphrase Kant, not given, but unknown; judgements are passed as if in the
dark, and yet with a reasoned consciousness of objectivity. Our search for
musical criteria today should proceed along much the same paradoxical lines; in
other words, we should search for an experience of necessity that imposes itself
step by step, but can make no claim to any transparent universal law. Actually
we miss the point if . . . we posit something like rules where none exist, but only
an innitely sensitive and fragile logic, one that points to tendencies rather than
xed norms governing what should be done or not done.


So lets have a riot.


This analytical riot is in two parts: in Part I the particular rebels against the
false totalities; in Part II the particular holds out the possibility of an emergent

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order. To prevent the analysis from deviating prematurely towards the whole,
the focus will be on the particularity of one chord, albeit one that repeats itself
two hundred and twelve times in the Augurs of Spring (Ex. 1).
In fact, this is the sonority that accompanied the riot at the premire of the
ballet in the Thtre des Champs-Elyses on 29 May 1913. Although it was
Nijinskys choreography that caused the uproar, Stravinsky conceived the chord
as an integral part of the action on stage; in this sense, his choreographic
imagination was instrumental in inciting the riot in musical terms.
this chord was the inception of the Rite of Spring, according to Stravinsky. The
sketches suggest that it might not be the very rst idea on the opening page
(Ex. 2), but Stravinsky intuitively believed it to be the initial inspiration the
rst in signicance if not in time.
It was rather a new chord, he claimed,
not only in its notes but in its rhythmic accents which, according to the composer,
were the foundation of the whole [work], as if it were the biological pulse of
the ballet.
Thus the opening sonority of the Augurs of Spring is the emblem
of the Rite; in the words of Robert Craft, it is the motto chord.
Surely, such an authentic sonority demands a denition. Its signicance as
both the inception and the foundation of the work promises to unlock the
language of the ballet; analyse this right, then the Rite can be analysed.
Unfortunately, Stravinsky claimed that he had no theoretical justication for
this chord; his ear simply accepted it with joy.
And the numerous analyses
of it have only re-enforced Stravinskys statement that there is no system
whatever in the Rite by virtue of their very contradictions.
The chord cannot
be authenticated, but protests against the prevailing order, refusing to be
subsumed under some theoretical system; in fact, it merely spawns them. As
such it functions as the twentieth-century counterpart to the Tristan chord
which, as Jean-Jacques Nattiez demonstrates, has provoked numerous analytical
explanations under different ideological guises.
The Augurs chord and the
Ex. 1 The Augurs of Spring: the Augurs chord
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Tristan chord aunt their ambiguity as a radical moment in music history,
justifying their dissonances in the name of female self-sacrice. Both sonorities,
to borrow Ernst Kurths description of the Tristan chord, are independent
chord structure[s]; both function as a kind of vertical leitmotif .
But tonally,
their kinship is one of negation rather than resemblance: the Tristan chord
pushes the boundaries of the tonal system to create a yearning for death that
is satised when Isoldes dissonances dissolve into the consonant totality of the
nal cadence; death for Wagner is universal. Stravinskys chord, on the other
hand, is tonally inert (Ex. 3). It may recur in the nal Sacricial Dance
transposed down a semitone, but the death envisaged here is more a matter of
fact than of yearning; it is not a connection that attempts to draw the threads
of the work together as a moment of completion, but a contingent re-assertion
that violently breaks through the ballet.
There is no denying that the chord is a conglomeration of tonal remnants,
but what kind of tonality is this? According to Pierre Boulez, the Rite consists
of powerful attractions set up round poles that are as Classical as could be:
tonic, dominant, and subdominant.
If this is the case, then the Augurs
Ex. 2 Ideas prior to the Augurs chord (from The Rite of Spring Sketches 1911
1913, p. 3)
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chord should function effortlessly within the tonal system with the triad and
its extensions as the basis of harmony.
So is it a tonic, dominant or subdominant?
For Eric Walter White the sonority is an inversion of the chord of the dominant
This chord is like an extreme extension of Rameaus harmonic
theories, a massive pile-up of thirds, creating a single dissonant entity; the
triads do not operate on recalcitrant planes, but are bound together by a
fundamental bass Ew. Of course, in order to ground the chord in this way,
White has to re-arrange the notes as in Ex. 4a. This is entirely feasible within
the tonal system since chords do not lose their identity by inversion or registral
transfer. But to re-arrange Stravinskys chord in this way is not simply to
re-pattern the notes, but to impute a harmonic background that will turn the
Augurs chord back into those yearning dissonances of the Tristan chord
(Ex. 4b), replete with a sense of harmonic progression and consonant resolution
towards an Aw major tonic.
There is, however, no Aw major triad to be found in the vicinity of the
movement; neither is there a sense of yearning towards one within the Augurs
chord itself.
The chord asserts itself as a particular that will not submit to the
conventions of a tonal hierarchy. It is irreducible. Any rearrangement of its
notes will turn it into something else. A dominant thirteenth may contain the
same notes, but these pitches do not dene the chord; its identity, rather, is
xed by the registral position and intervallic spacing of these pitches. The exact
notes matter. This is because Stravinsky is the composer of particular sonorities.
Hence the chords effect is more a question of sound than harmony.
Or, to
appropriate a term from Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schnberger, the chord
is an object sonore avante-la-lettre.
This was probably what Stravinsky
meant when he said that his ear accepted [the chord] with joy. Even Stravinskys
critics attest to this; in the Rite, complains Constant Lambert, music . . . has
Ex. 3 Sacricial Dance (The Chosen One): the return of the Augurs chord
Ex. 4 Eric Walter Whites analysis of the Augurs chord
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become a matter of sonorities, and any one who can produce a brightly
coloured brick of unusual shape is henceforth hailed as an architect.
architectonic construction turns out to be nothing more than a unique brick.
It is as if out of a non-descript pool of dissonances his ngers stumbled upon
a particular spacing and register of notes that created an effect so instantly
recognisable that it can stand, without structural context, as the motto or
sound of the entire work.
If the Augurs chord escapes tonal denition, perhaps atonal theory can
capture its evasive sounds by projecting the twelve chromatic pitch classes as
an all-embracing background; in this way the Augurs chord can be dened as
732, as Allen Forte does in his analysis of the Harmonic Organization of the
Rite of Spring.
This should neutralise those latent urges of tonality within the
chord and focus purely on sonority. But if the identity of the chord is under-
mined by any re-arrangement of its pitches, then 732 is not necessarily the
Augurs chord at all, since in its prime form it is also something completely
different (Ex. 5).
This cluster is no closer to the Augurs chord than Whites inversion of a
dominant thirteenth. Atonal theory turns out to be no more enlightening than
a tonal one, for in Fortes pitch-class set universe, as with the tonal system,
octave and intervallic equivalence still exist; but the Augurs chord is simply
too particular for such theoretical generalisations.
The denitions provided by Forte and White are at least correct in their
contradiction; the Augurs chord is neither tonal nor atonal, and yet simulta-
neously promises both. An analysis that champions either extreme would
succeed only by erasing what is particular about the sonority. What Pieter van
den Toorn offers in his codication of the octatonic system, however, is a theory
that can accommodate the contradiction without rearranging the notes of the
Augurs chord. His brand of octatonicism is neither tonal nor atonal yet
retains qualities of both. It can create triadic formations that perch on four
symmetrically organised nodes [0369], neutralising, at least in theory, a tonal
hierarchy based on an asymmetrical division of the octave (Ex. 6).
Thus van den Toorns inventory of gures includes patterns that are seemingly
tonal but are in fact generated by the octatonic scale; these include modal
segments [0235], clashing triads, dominant seventh and diminished seventh
formations. Indeed, many of these elements make up the Augurs of Spring.
For Taruskin, this is hardly surprising since Stravinsky participated in a Russian
tradition handed down from his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov in which symmetrical
scales were used to portray the supernatural, from Glinkas Ruslan to the
Ex. 5 732 prime form
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composers Ptrouchka.
And since the supernatural pervades the Rite, why
shouldnt the octatonic system provide the aura for Stravinskys harmonic
rituals? There is no doubt that he employed the octatonic scale in the ballet,
as even a cursory analysis of the Ritual of Abduction would illustrate (Ex. 7);
it is a veritable primer, writes Arthur Berger, of the ways the octatonic scale
may be arranged into four major triads or seventh chords.
Moreover, in a letter to Florent Schmitt, Stravinsky claimed that he had
been playing nothing on the piano during the composition of the Rite except
for the music of Debussy and Scriabin; in other words he was inspired by an
alignment of non-functional (Debussy) and octatonic (Scriabin) harmony.
Could the Augurs chord, then, be an example of a non-functional type of
octatonicism? According to van den Toorn, yes: it resides within octatonic
Collection III (Ex. 8).
At least it would reside within octatonic Collection III were it not for the Aw
and Cw; these pitches have been conveniently removed from the analysis. For a
work which, according to van den Toorn, is primarily octatonic, it is rather
embarrassing that the motto chord should be conceived outside the bands of
Of course, there are ways of legitimising aberrant notes. Van
den Toorn argues for a octatonic-diatonic penetration in the Rite, although he
Ex. 6 Octatonic Collection III
Ex. 7 Octatonic patterns in the Ritual of Abduction
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prefers to see the Fw triad of the Augurs chord as an inltration of Collection I
that allows for the interaction of materials outside the primary octatonic structure.
Whether the ear can actually identify this intercollectional sonority is doubtful;
whereas a triad may allude to tonality by virtue of convention, the Fw triad in
the Augurs chord cannot stand in for Collection I because Collection I is not a
social norm.
But the octatonic properties of the Augurs chord need not be intercollectional;
it could simply be an integrated sonority with octatonic qualities, as Robert
Morgan explains,
in which case Aw and Cw can be regarded as foreign notes
encrusted within a more basic octatonic framework; after all, octatonicism is
seldom pure, even in such an octatonically conceived movement as the Ritual
of Abduction. As Taruskin puts it in his quasi-Schenkerian analysis of the
second and third tableau of Ptrouchka where foreign pitches function as
inections around an octatonic collection, there are plenty of black keys in
the Jupiter Symphony.
Thus the Aw and Cw can be regarded as inections,
appoggiaturas to the purely octatonic formation at No. 14 where the Fw triad
(now re-spelt as an E major triad) slips almost imperceptibly into a C major
triad (Ex. 9).
However, this is analysis by analogy a kind of tonal octatonicism applied
to what is simply conjunct motion. Although van den Toorn would certainly
not approve of this kind of tonal urge, he does give priority to the C major
Ex. 8 Van den Toorns analysis of the Augurs chord
Ex. 9 Augurs of Spring: resolution into Collection III
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triad in his analysis; it is bracketed next to his version of the Augurs chord,
almost as a replacement for the Fw major triad (see again Ex. 8); this is because
he sees the octatonic nodes of Ew and C as structural tones that govern the
progress of the music from the Augurs of Spring to the end of the Ritual of
The eeting twist into a C major triad at No. 14 becomes a
permanent theoretical position for van den Toorn in dening the Augurs
chord, turning its primary signicance into a secondary structure.
So once
again the chord loses its particularity, this time to the totality of octatonicism.
Octatonicism, like tonality and atonality, is a theoretical option and not a foun-
dation in the Rite.
These denitions tonal, atonal and octatonic fail to determine the identity
of the Augurs chord not only in their inability to capture the particular, but
in their failure to register its riot. They dene the chord only in terms of what
it is and not what it does. But this chord is not a neutral category. It shocks. It
provokes. The irony in trying to determine what the chord is is that it ends up
gesturing towards what it isnt; it is not a dominant thirteenth, not 732 and
not in Collection III. And in pointing to what it isnt, it tells you what it does:
it negates. The chord riots by dening itself against the prevailing order. In fact,
there is an inkling of its subversive tendency in Whites denition of the
Augurs chord; he does not claim that it is a dominant thirteenth but an
inversion of the chord of the dominant thirteenth. In other words, the chord
is upside down, requiring some kind of topsy-turvy tonal theory. This is not
as bizarre as it may sound. From the perspective of harmonic dualism, for
example, such topsy-turvy thinking is quite possible; thus David Lewin can
analyse the E minor triad in the opening bassoon melody of the Rite as an
inverted structure, where the B at the top of the semiquaver gure is the root
of the chord (Ex. 10).
Technically, an undertone explanation will not work with the Augurs
chord since, if it is to be an exact mirror of the major triad, Stravinskys
sonority would have to unfold from Ew to Cw then Aw.
But standing tonal
theory on its head in some way would make more sense of Stravinskys Ew
key-signature that prefaces the Augurs of Spring; the root is on the top and
the chord hangs upside down from the Ew surface. In Robert Finks term,
tonality has been attened, like the multiple planes of a Cubist painting.
There is literally no depth to the chord, since it is not controlled by a functional
bass note that taps into some underlying tonal perspective, but a surface tonic
that is punctual and local, a kind of melodic tonic as opposed to a harmonic
one, set up by the ostinato gure that precedes it. But if Ew functions as the
Ex. 10 Introduction, opening melody
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surface tension, what are we to make of the harmonies that dangle beneath it?
Does this inverted dominant thirteenth, like its right-side up counterpart,
require some kind of resolution down under?
At No. 16, where Stravinsky interpolates a new block of material, Anthony
Pople hears a tonicization of Ew (Ex. 11).
Is this section, then, some kind of
tonal resolution for the Augurs chord?
Perhaps tonicization is too strong a term for the new section, since this
music is not strictly tonal and is hardly consonant. This is not Ew major. In fact,
for van den Toorn, this passage resolves the Augurs chord as a conglomeration
of octatonic fragments (Ex. 12) the DwBwEwBw ostinato (cor anglais), a
C major triad (violins), and a modal [0235] tetrachord (ute and piccolo)
although they are bound together by another system, a cycle of fths (cellos
and basses), that embraces the boundary notes of each octatonic gure. What
Pople hears as a tonicisation is actually the sudden arrival of Ew in the bass, creating
Ex. 11 Poples tonicization of Ew: a resolution?
Ex. 12 Octatonic fragments and the cycle of fths
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an illusion of depth, as if this familiar texture were a missing fundamental. But
the bottom Ew is as depthless and as unstable as the Ew that perches on top of
the Augurs chord; one does not resolve into the other as its tonal explanation
would suggest except as the illusion of an upside-down tonic being turned the
right way up. What appears as cause and effect is instead a juxtaposition of
different sonorities ingeniously timed.
In this way, the Augurs chord remains particular in relation to the new
section at No. 16; indeed, its particularity is underlined by its indeterminacy,
for as Christopher Hasty points out, inherent in the particulars sense of the
here and now is an openness to the future.
The chord must remain incomplete
to experience the material at No. 16 as a sudden juxtaposition. To attach some
quasi-Schenkerian slur from the bottom Fw to the Ew or to propose some kind
of octatonic resolution would suppress what is contingent and abrupt for
something closed and ineluctable. The unpredictability of timing which the
music celebrates would yield to the inevitability of the whole, and the particularity
of the moment the musics this-ness would lose its impact in becoming a
To regard the Augurs chord as an instant is to erase the tonal background;
the possibility of harmonic progression (implied by the dominant seventh, for
example) becomes one of harmonic stasis, turning a chord that should bristle
with teleological implications into a sonority that can only be juxtaposed
against other elements. Thus there is no tonal framework against which to x
its triadic bearings; it can only assert its relative position by sheer repetition.
This is why the sound is reiterated, and not resolved; it is retentive rather than
progressive. Tonality, if it can be said to function at all in this chord, appears
so local that it collapses into a moment, as though a Newtonian universe of
tonal laws had shrivelled inside the chord to create a quantum tonality where
the harmonic processes are too tiny to be measured by normative theories of
music. This micrological tonality is fraught with the contingencies and unpre-
dictable possibilities that Hasty associates with the particular. So how can these
atomistic principles be analysed? One way of doing this is to compress the
dynamics of tonal motion into a polytonal instant, breaking up the unity of a
tonal denition for a stratied explanation. Such an explanation would enable
the triads of the chord to dene themselves against each other, as dissonances
juxtaposed against consonant structures which have been internalised into a
vertical moment. This would be a tonality of the here and now. In fact, polytonality
was the kind of terminology Stravinsky used to describe his musical language.
And on a practical level it makes sense; the notation of the chord in Stravinskys
piano version is split between the hands in a bitonal manner a dominant
seventh chord on Ew and an Fw major triad.
However, many analysts reject the idea of polytonality, since it is questionable
whether a polytonal theory of music can exist at all. The term betrays its own
inadequacy by being a contradiction; polytonality or bitonality, as Allen Forte
rightly points out, is an oxymoron.
This is why there is no systematic theory
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of it.
Polytonality is merely a descriptive label. If the term means two keys
functioning simultaneously, requiring, as it were, a double dose of tonal theory,
then this is precisely what doesnt happen in the Rite of Spring. The Augurs
chord may divide into two triads, but they do not function as keys within their
separate tonal layers, because a single triad, as Schenker would observe, cannot
dene a key. Indeed Stravinskys deliberate reiteration of a single triad signals
his refusal to set up a harmonic hierarchy that might make tonality viable.
Hence the dominant seventh chord the dening chord of tonal progression
in Rameaus harmonic theory is not a dominant seventh on Ew at all; it has
no urge to resolve to the tonic Aw. And this is just as well since no proponent
of bitonality wants to suggest that the Augurs chord is a juxtaposition of Aw
and Fw major, but the more dissonant and remote clash between the outer
voices of Ew and Fw. It is this dissonant separation of consonant patterns that
conjures up the gment of two keys grating against each other when what we
have are merely stratied triads. If, as Edward T. Cone suggests, Stravinsky in
the Rite of Spring is able to create tonality out of a completely static tone or
chord of reference then these triads are a synecdoche of tonality a gure of
speech without any grammar and are therefore not strictly tonal in any
theoretical sense.
To use Bergers terminology, the chord is centric, organized
in terms of a tone center, but is not tonally functional.
Or, more accurately,
in Stravinskian language, it is polar, creating a dissonant tension between
opposite poles.
But this focus on Ew and Fw is not a function of tonality but
an assumption based on the socially constructed meaning of a triad a mean-
ing which my analysis will challenge later. As for the Dw in the dominant
seventh formation, this cannot be regarded as a dissonance that requires a
resolution to C; it is a motivic inltration from the ostinato that dominates the
movement; in Schoenbergian terms, the harmonic conguration is a motivic
a fact underlined by Stravinsky in some lm footage where he spreads out
the sonority on the piano to delineate the Dw Bw Ew pattern of the ostinato (Ex. 13).
So what are we to make of polytonality, given the fact that analysts such as
Forte and van den Toorn regard the idea as hopelessly nave? As a harmonic
theory it may be suspect; but what if it were understood as a semiotic theory?
After all, if the Augurs chord is a synecdoche of tonality, then Stravinsky has
reduced tonality to a play of signs, signs that are merely allusions to tonality,
drawn from a repository of conventions and known objects, as William
Benjamin puts it.
Stock gures, such as the dominant seventh or a fundamental
bass texture, are free-oating signiers detached from their context so that they
Ex. 13 Stravinskys analysis of the Augurs chord on the piano
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no longer function as introversive signs, which Ko Agawu denes as signs
that gesture purely within the musical structure, but are extroversive ones that
gesture to an object that is external to the music, no different from other topics
such as horn call, aria or march.
Whereas introversive signs function within a
system, extroversive signs are local, allowing for contingent mixtures that have
no syntactical function; they can be juxtaposed or superimposed at random,
producing a polysemy that becomes for Stravinsky a polytonality. Just as the
Classical style breaks the unitary affects of the Baroque with a confusion of
topics, Stravinsky uses introversive signs as extroversive ones to create a tonal
collage. Thus polytonality, as a term, registers a radical decontextualisation
which dissolves the very system in which (poly)tonality can function as a theory;
instead, polytonality is the tonal system reduced to eclectic and stratied signs
of a bygone age. Polytonality is a semiotic texture that allows for an instant
tonality. This is why the dominant-seventh formation, for Andriessen and
Schnberger, sounds as if Stravinsky [had] discovered the chord again after
three centuries of use.
The chord no longer has the same meaning, and tonal
theory can no longer make any propositional truth-claims for the chord or
identify the rules for its correct use because tonality is no longer literal. In the
microscopic structure of the Augurs chord, Stravinsky has renamed the triad
as another object.
Thus to analyse the Rite in a tonal or polytonal manner is probably necessary
in that there are tonal elements within the work, but there is no point listening
for their literal meaning, as if the tonal elements are about how the music
works, because the Augurs chord works by excluding the very system it
alludes to. This means that the tonal system is signicant precisely because it
is not there. What is bitonal about the chord is the negation of an introversive
tonality by an extroversive one, so that the criteria of traditional harmonic
analysis, writes Andr Boucourechliev, are only applicable, as it were, pro
This sense of negative intertexuality enables these extroversive
elements to gesture beyond tonality as a system to tonality as a social symbol.
Polytonality is a form of social semiotics; its relativity explodes the tonal foundations
of the nineteenth-century; its oxymoronic nature cancels out the tonal system
so that the Augurs chord becomes an imaginative act of violence against all
that tonality stands for. The tonal power of the Augurs chord is not simply a
matter of sound but sign. At once brutal and banal, it is deployed to attack the
foundations of the past,
trashing its signiers with a Neolithic hedonism that
is both a form of ridicule and iconoclasm in the modernist urge to shock and
negate. It riots in at least three ways. On an institutional level, it is a rebellion
against the ofcial establishments that uphold the academic rigours of tonal
harmony; indeed, Stravinsky associated the creation of [the Rite] with his
hatred of the Conservatory, and in particular the three syllables . . . pronounced
in the order Gla-zu-nov.
On a cultural level, it is an act of barbarity against
Western civilisation, as though Franois-Joseph Ftis, who used the term
tonalit moderne to segregate the musical culture of the West from that of
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the Orient,
were to have these civilising tones attened in his face by the
very culture tonality was supposed to exclude. Finally, on a social level, it is an
assault on the human subject; tonality, which is a reection . . . of our own
interiority as human subjects, writes Fink, becomes the sacricial victim,
forced to surrender its subjective depth for an objective husk of tonal signs.
This multivalent, antagonistic use of tonal signs comes to a head with the
return of the Augurs chord in the Sacricial Dance. So tantalising is Stravinskys
allusion to tonality in the nal sections of the ballet that some commentators,
such as Robert Moevs, are convinced that the Rite of Spring is in the basic
tonality of D minor.
At No. 181, D is projected with octave doublings as
the prominent pitch that pierces through the texture; its tonal status is corroborated
by the funereal oscillations in the bass that pound out its dominant A at Nos.
186201. What, then, could be more appropriate in the nal bar than the
return of D to ground the momentum of the Rite with a perfect cadence to
match the closure of the victims life? Yet these tonal elements are embedded
within some of the most dissonant textures in the work; in fact, the mass of
material that swirls around D is composed of pitch patterns designed to exclude
it as a foreign element. At No. 181, D is only embraced within one layer
(ironically, a non-tonal whole-tone fragment), whereas all the other patterns
are bent on ejecting D from their sonority (Ex. 14).
Hence the emphatic assertion of D is a question of tonal survival; indeed,
like the sacricial victim, D is progressively exhausted by the forces around it, until
Ex. 14 Sacricial Dance: pitch patterns around D
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it is ground out of existence at No. 184. It returns as a tonal sign at the moment
the victim collapses in exhaustion, but this nal cadence is no more grounded
in D than the lifeless virgin whose body is suddenly lifted up by the Ancestors
without touching the Earth. Tonality is venerated in the Rite only in its death.
At the core of the Rite, then, is a social dissonance. What for Taruskin is a
necessary common practice tonality in the reception of the Rite, is only a
precondition for the demolition of social codes.
And this was exactly how the
early critics reacted to the work, not as new sounds or incomprehensible chaos,
but as wrong notes. One critic wrote:
this is the most dissonant music ever written. I would say, after a rst and very
imperfect hearing, that never has the system and cult of the wrong note been
practised with such zeal and persistence as in this score; that from the rst bar
to the last whatever note one expects is never the one that comes, but the note
to one side, the note which ought not to come.
If the Augurs chord encapsulates this cacophony of wrong notes then there
is no point analysing the wrong notes since tonal logic would just correct
them. Indeed, some commentators suggest that the reection of music theory
should be by-passed for the immediacy of a phenomenon where the disso-
nances the wrong notes are ultimately irreducible; analysis can only
discover its rules, admits Arnold Whittall, if the discords are translated into
another medium that defuses the explosive material of the score.
Boucourechliev says much the same: To the analytical eye these aggregates
[of the Augurs chord] may be transparent enough, but to the ear they have a
strangely opaque consistency, like irreducible entities that cannot be resolved
into harmonic components. Thus the sacre necessitates a new approach, no
longer analytical . . . but phenomenological.
The wrong notes on the sur-
face dene the sonority. The surface is therefore the most signicant sub-
stance, writes Whittall, turning the tonal hierarchy upside down as the wrong
notes are posited as the right ones. Unprocessed by theory, both Whittall and
Boucourechliev hear the Augurs chord as an unmediated object of perception;
it is pure dissonance, pure impact, an inescapable psychological, aesthetic,
element which tonal theories can only iron out as a surface decoration and
atonal theories deny in order to map out their neutral constructs.
But to regard these dissonances as pure phenomena is to mistake the experience
of the Augurs chord for its analysis; this sense of sonic immediacy is only
possible through a highly mediated process, where social contracts are being
broken the notes which ought not to come, as the critic says. The Augurs
chord cannot signify its pre-linguistic brutality without rst transgressing the
social codes as wrong notes; neither can it make a dissonant impact without
its allusion to tonality. Dissonance is not a pure phenomenon, but like the tonal
objects of the Augurs chord, it is an introversive sign that has become extroversive.
This is evident in Whittalls attempt to dene the dissonant character of the
Rite. Unwilling or perhaps unable to analyse it, Whittall simply registers its
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impact as a challenge to analysis, for what Whittall calls focussed dissonance
amounts to an anti-theoretical dissonance. Perhaps dissonance is the wrong
term here since, technically speaking, dissonances are dened in relation to the
very consonant structures that Whittall wishes to jettison in favour of dissonances
of a non-functional type. For him, the clash of consonant triads or poles
within the Augurs chord is not the source of conict; these are irreducible
dissonances which he locates structurally in the ubiquity of ic 1 (semitone),
and its various projections, vertical and horizontal, immediate and long
So on the one hand these are not tonal dissonances. Whittall writes:
[T]he norm for the work as a whole is dissonant not consonant ... . [It] is not
one in which predominant dissonances imply unheard consonant resolutions . . . [;]
such imagined consonances are unnecessary. The norm is one in which the
distinction between consonance and dissonance is preserved. But the
conventions of structural signicance which attach to these concepts in tonal
music no longer apply.
Clearly, these dissonances are no longer introversive, yet Whittall is acutely
aware that ic 1, as an atonal term, is already too abstract, neutralising the
explosive impact that he wants to emphasise; in itself, interval class 1 is not a
dissonance. The semitones must stand in for a tonal clash; they must retain the
quality of an entity whose consonant resolution would indeed be the octave or
unison, and must be understood from the perspective of tradition.
So on
the other hand, a focussed dissonance is a tonal dissonance. Whittalls contra-
dictions indicate that the dissonance of the Augurs chord has all the force of
a introversive sign but, as an extroversive topic, it carries none of its ramica-
tions. It needs to allude to a dissonance that should resolve (Fw to Ew), but the
harmonic context it grates against is no longer structurally relevant except as
an object of negation. The particular frees itself from the universal. Thus the
dissonant sign is tonally inert but psychologically explosive.
This is one reason why ic 1 seems an anaemic explanation of a focussed
dissonance; the expression of dissonance in the Rite is not the result of an
abstract intervallic property; it is an intent again, a matter of what it does
rather that what it is. In this sense a better term for focussed dissonance might
be tonal noise. It is noise both metaphorically and literally: metaphorically
because noise in communication theory is that which jams communication and
disrupts codes; and literally because noise is precisely what the music accompanies
on stage. The Augurs chord is the sonic equivalent of the thud of adolescent
feet with which the ballet opens, tapping out the rhythms of spring with a jerky
but synchronised form of jumping devised by Nijinsky;
they repeat the same
gesture a hundred times over wrote the critic Adolphe Boschot in a review of
the dress rehearsal, they stamp [pitinent] the ground, they stamp, they stamp,
they stamp, they stamp and they stamp.
Stravinsky even played the music
this way at the rehearsals; He stamped his feet on the oor and banged his st
on the piano recalls Marie Rambert, jumping up and down, adds the conductor
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Pierre Monteux.
The exact notes matter in the Augurs chord precisely
because Stravinsky had to ne tune the sonority between tone and noise; it is
spaced and pitched to maximise the interference among the distinct triadic
shapes at a point where pitch clarity begins to blur into a kind of mass texture.
The action of double-stopped down-bows on the strings is an anthropomorphic
enactment of the double-footed stomping on stage, producing transient noises
at the point of attack which are sporadically intensied by the dense timbre of
the horns.
Such well-attuned noise, in which dissonances are pitched with
absolute accuracy, is the kind of controlled racket one would expect from a
work whose portrayal of ancient paganism is accomplished within the bourgeois
etiquette of the ballet. If M. Stravinsky had wished to be really primitive,
wrote the critic of The Times, he would have been wise to abandon his full
orchestra and to score his ballet for nothing but drums.
But of course
Stravinsky did not wish to be really primitive; he wanted to be really modern
by shocking the establishment with the primitive; the Rite is primitive music,
writes Debussy, with all modern conveniences.
Tonal noise is a modernist
critique of ofcial culture; instead of employing unpitched instruments to
signify the pagan world, Stravinsky has turned the agent of musical civility into
a barbaric thud, reducing tonality to its very opposite; and to underline the
point, the strings, which Stravinsky regarded as representative of the human
voice, are transformed from their expressive role within the nineteenth-century
orchestra into a battery of percussion instruments. And this is exactly how
Stravinsky composes out the Augurs chord; what he extrapolates from the
notes is not some kind of dissonant implication but accent and pulse; the
dissonances proceed by sheer repetition as if the instruments are hammering
out rhythms on the drum of the earth. Critics such as Constant Lambert and
Cecil Gray who accuse Stravinsky of creating harmonic stasis are correct, as is
Adorno, who locates the source of Stravinskys language in the terrifying
pounding of drums that inicts irrational blows on the body.
There is simply
no harmonic rhythm; what is bafing, writes Edward J. Dent, is a form of
speech which entirely ignores those principles of syntax which we have been
brought up to regard as logical or inevitable ... . [Stravinsky] does not pretend
to argue; he just makes noises at us.
Noise annuls tonal motion; it is the
liberation of the particular as accent. The pitches of the Augurs chord may
have been a new sound for Stravinsky, but what was more signicant for him
were their consequence: the accents are even more new, he says. And
accents, he adds, were really the foundation of the whole thing.
As noise, the Augurs chord jams tonally-bound ears to hear stasis, but to
Stravinskys ears the sheer exhilaration of rhythm was a revelation that rede-
ned the meaning of music. At one point in the sketches for the Rite he
scribbles music exists if there is rhythm, as life exists if there is a pulse.
Stasis only applies to the Augurs chord if one expects tonal movement from
its dissonances, viewing its motion as an unfolding of a phrase. But Stravinsky
calls the Augurs chord the Tolchok or impulse chord that runs on the adrenalin
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of the moment.
An irreducible sound demands split-second timing; the
punctual is a corollary of the particular, creating a new hearing where it is
impossible to stand at a distance to watch the harmonic hierarchy unfold. The
particular does not control time by making a harmonic contract with the past
in order to close the future; rather, in Hastys terms, the particular liberates
time as an open duration of multiple possibilites.
The chords repetition may
appear to contradict this since the particular is that which is unrepeatable, but
each reiteration of the chord is not a static repetition of the same, but a con-
tinual articulation of the new that propels the music from instant to instant.
For Stravinsky, the sudden accents attest to this they are even more new;
duration is now fraught with the dangers of unpredictable timing. Hence the
pulse of life which the composer hears in these accents is, as Jacques Rivire
puts it, spring seen from the inside;
you have to get inside the Augurs chord
in order to experience the immediacy of the accents as an instant, as if one
were travelling within the rhythmic im-pulses. There is no time to reect on the
slow-motion of tonal progression as if one were outside the moment, waiting
for the dissonances to resolve. The pulsations seize the dissonant present as
indeterminate events; their rapid succession is experienced as speed; and this
speed is gauged by change where the juxtapositions and sudden accents act like
objects that hurtle past. Thus the cinematic array of octatonic fragments at No.
16 is hardly static despite the stationary and circular patterns (see again Ex.
11); it is an explosive rush of sound. Stravinsky claimed in a letter to Roerich
that he had penetrated the secret rhythms of spring,
but in divining the rites
of pre-history, he had discovered a rhythmic language that could nally catch
up with the pace of modernity.
If noise seizes the moment with an urgency that reduces the notes of the
Augurs chord to a percussive propulsion, then why analyse the Augurs chord
in terms of pitch? It is pure accent. Indeed, for the young Boulez, what is
radical about the Augurs of Spring is that it is composed of a genuine rhyth-
mic theme; the harmonies may be tonally regressive for this proponent of
extreme serial composition, but the rhythms far surpass Stravinskys harmonic
Of course, Boulezs opposition between a regressive tonality and a
progressive rhythmic structure in the Rite is more a matter of ideology than
analysis; the rhythmic revolution he seeks is only possible because Stravinsky
has disabled the tonal attraction which Boulez derides in the Rite. In fact,
Boulezs rhythmic analysis, with its intricate denitions of tiny cells shufed
into different permutations, is unable to divine the rhythmic theme he claims
to hear, precisely because there is no tonal denition that would enable the accents
and durations to be grasped as an over-arching period; his analysis is more a
collage of rhythmic motifs than a closed thematic structure. Stravinsky, however,
treats the rst 32 reiterations of the Augurs chord as a discrete theme, keeping
the order of rhythmic accents intact; he even repeats it verbatim at No. 18 (Ex. 15).
This purely rhythmic theme is developed in two ways: rst, the pattern is
cut up into blocks and systematically inserted, segment by segment, against
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other materials in the Augurs of Spring so that they add up to the totality of
the theme (see the diagonal lines in Ex. 15). Second, the pattern in bar 3 with
its distinctive double off-beat accent is isolated as a recurring head motif (see
the vertical lines of motif (x) in the same example).
It is rhythm that unies the tableau; the pitches of the Augurs chord
evaporate after No. 21, but the rhythm remains, both as an underlying pulse
and a thematic pattern. In fact there is an entire recapitulation of the rhythmic
theme at No. 30 superimposed over the Dances of the Young Girls,
immediately by an altered repetition at No. 31. The notes are entirely different,
no longer related to the Augurs chord, but Stravinsky manipulates the original
rhythms as if they were a means of structural symmetry or a way of synthesising
the contrasting materials of the Augurs of Spring and the Dances of the
Young Girls. In the terminology of Edward T. Cone stratication, interlock
and synthesis the rhythmic theme of the Augurs of Spring and the melodic
Ex. 15 A paradigmatic analysis of the rhythmic theme
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Dances of the Young Girls create a vast stratied structure which demands an
interlocking of the materials at No. 30.
Synthesis occurs as the rhythmic
accents assimilate the other elements, gathering force towards the close of the
movement until they engulf the music. The process begins with a dissonant
ostinato at No. 31 based on the syncopated pattern of the head motif (x); the
rhythmic connection becomes increasingly clear as Stravinsky reinforces the
bass ostinato with the original jabs, which are reiterated with greater intensity
until the nal bar where the accents suddenly arrest the momentum (Ex. 16).
For Adorno these are irrational blows imposed externally on the music by
some kind of totalitarian regime, but for Stravinsky this rhythmic violence
constitutes a logical development of a theme. They appear irrational because,
freed from harmonic control, this rhythmic theme contains no laws of closure
that can arrest time retrospectively as form; indeed, the abrupt ending of the
tableau signals the indeterminacy of the rhythmic process. If a purely rhythmic
theme cannot grasp the whole, then what it structures will remain particular.
This includes the recurrences of these accents in the remainder of the ballet,
for it is the rhythm and not the pitches of the Augurs chord that has repercussions
throughout the work. The head motif (x), for example, recurs sporadically as
the rhythmic idea of the Dance of the Earth, the Glorication of the Chosen
One and, most signicantly, the nal Sacricial Dance (Ex. 17). These recurrences
cannot close the Rite as a thematic construct; they are open associations
elective afnities rather than motivic identities. And in this sense, Stravinsky
was right: accents were really the foundation of the whole thing.
To summarise so far: a tonal investigation of the Augurs chord has ended
up as a rhythmic analysis; tonality as percussion is just one of a series of avant-
garde inversions that Stravinsky performs against the cultivated traditions of
Ex. 16 Final accents of Dances of the Young Girls
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the civilised world. In the Rite, tonality is deliberately turned on its head:
literally, with the tonic on top; hierarchically, with its focus on the dissonant
surface; semiotically, with the decontextualisation of introversive signs as
extroversive ones; symbolically, by turning the civilising tones of tonality into
a barbaric noise; and temporally by turning tonal motion into an instant. The
Augurs chord is a riot precisely because it overturns the status quo; the
particular rebels. Music analysis, unless it is willing to go avant-garde, is too
reactionary to withstand such an assault; indeed, it would be ironic for it to
civilise the sounds of its own destruction, as if the Rite were an extension
instead of a negation of its values.
Emancipation, writes Ernesto Laclau, means at one and the same time radical
foundation and radical exclusion.
The analysis in Part I has explored the
Ex. 17 The development of motif (x)
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notion of radical exclusion in which the particular frees itself against the
universal. In Part II, the analysis focuses on radical foundation; can the particular
ground its act of freedom? A riot may overturn the status quo, but does it
promise anything more than isolated pockets of resistance? The Augurs chord,
for all its this-ness and now-ness, would merely be an autistic rebellion
if it refuses to engage with its harmonic environment. It would be an act of
compositional particularism. Indeed, Adorno speculates that the emancipation
of the particular in the Rite of Spring must have horried Stravinsky. Total
musical freedom . . . must have appeared as a threat, he writes. Suddenly
[Stravinsky] must have perceived the hopeless situation of all music: how was
music which had emancipated itself from all established reference systems to
achieve a coherence based purely on its own inner resources? According to the
philosopher, Stravinskys regression into neo-classicism was brought on by the
very sources of his own inspiration in the Rite; in pulling down the walls of
tradition Stravinsky was confronted with an empty freedom which forced him
to seek refuge among the ruins.
The riotous particular is always prone to
such dialectical reversals. This is because particularity both denies and requires
totality for its denition. As Laclau explains: [the totality] is present in the
particular as that which is absent ... . [And this] forces the particular to be
more than itself, to assume a universal role which can only be precarious and
unsutured. Thus radical exclusion and radical foundation form a contradictory
yet necessary impulse in the particular. But this tendency need not result in an
Adornian false totality in which the particular imposes an arbitrary universal
upon itself. Rather the abyss that Adorno hears in the Rite can be left blank.
In Laclaus words, the universal can stand as an empty signier; its content
is not yet dened but emerges from the particular so that the relation between
the two is one of incompletion and provisionality.
The process of emancipation,
then, is akin to Kants reective judgement, the very model which Adorno
proposes for the future of new music. So whereas in Part I of our analytical
riot the universal determines the particular and is therefore radically excluded
by it, in Part II the particular gestures towards the universal, turning its acts
of negation into one of promise.
One way of pursuing this promise is to begin from within, focusing on just
the seven pitches of the Augurs chord. The desire to construct an external
system can be relinquished and the founding act of analysis can start from the
particular. At its most extreme, this approach would posit the Augurs chord
as the system itself so that it functions as the Rites chord of nature, generating
the materials of the movement. Pitch-class set theory can even be revived if the
Augurs chord, in all its particularity, can function as a kind of nexus set,
creating a source of abstract harmonic relations in the work. As an unordered
collection of pitches, 732 may not dene the chord, but it can be understood
as a theoretical extraction that connects the particular to an unspecied universal.
Although Forte himself does not refer to 732 as a nexus set, he does regard
it as a fundamental structure in the composition.
Many of the discrete
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formations from which Stravinsky fashions the work can be derived from subsets
of the Augurs chord; the distinctive elements that van den Toorn isolates as
the Rites vocabulary the (0235) tetrachord, major and minor triads, dominant
seventh chords and 011 or major seventh vertical interval span can be
gleaned from it;
one could also add to this list Roy Traviss dissonant tonic
sonority which he analyses as a prolongation in the Introduction, and
Taruskins 0511/0611 harmonic cell which he hears as the skeletal sonority
behind the Augurs chord and much of the Rite (Ex. 18).
As a foundational act, the motto chord can become a source of inner coherence.
The sonority constitutes a pole for the entire work, writes Alexandre
Tansman; it gives birth to melodic patterns, he claims and, according to
Robert Morgan, it provides a basic pitch reference for the material that
Thus an external system is no longer required as a means of coher-
ence because the work contains the genetic codes for its own cells, turning the
ballet into a contextual work that generates a purely musical logic relative to
its own processes.
By authenticating itself, the Rite becomes as organic as
the spring it venerates.
Stravinsky was not averse to such organic metaphors, judging by his description
of the Introduction: Each instrument, he writes, is like a bud which grows
on the bark of an aged tree; it becomes part of an imposing whole ... . [A]ll
this massing of instruments should have the signicance of the Birth of
It is certainly possible to hear the continuation of this Birth of
Spring in the Augurs of Spring. Its basic rhythmic energy and dissonant
immediacy, after all, advertises the initial chord as the primal sound from
which the material of spring could erupt; and sure enough, at No. 14, a urry
of horizontal gures shoots out from this vertical mass. But such an organic
vision risks turning the particular into the totality, and might even spiral down
that self-referential abyss which Adorno hears in Stravinskys bid for total
musical freedom.
Structural autonomy would enslave the emancipation of
the particular, divesting the chord of its uniqueness by making its signicance
purely architectonic. Its instantaneous impact as the motto of the work would
be subsumed by the need to petrify its pitches as a permanent xture. But
there is nothing permanent about the chord. In fact, that is part of its unique
quality; the chord is so local that it cannot be properly called a motto at all,
comments Taruskin.
It disappears after No. 22 and only returns at the
Ex. 18 Travis and Taruskin, core sonorities
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conclusion of the work. So far from being structural, the Augurs chord is an
ephemeral sonority, framing either end of the ballet in the Augurs of Spring
and the Sacricial Dance, but leaving the centre too empty for it to constitute
a background pool of intervallic relations. The whole simply isnt there to
function as the telos of the work or to guarantee its organic coherence. To
regard it as a germ cell is asking too much of a sonority that is merely one
out of seven complexes that Forte isolates as the main harmonies of the Rite;
indeed, it is a complex which, apart from the reiteration of the chord itself, is
insignicant in Fortes analysis of the Augurs of Spring.
Thus its return
in the nal movement is not some kind of long-range pitch connection; its
identity is more a timbral and textural recall that punctuates the music with
the particularity of the original than a purely harmonic association (compare
Exs. 1 and 3). Ultimately, the motto is not a xed reference point from which
the harmonies of the Rite can be measured.
Of course, one could be less global and conne the motto chord to the
material between Nos. 1322 which constitutes the rst self-contained section
of the Augurs of Spring; its status as a basic pitch reference would be
indisputable since the sonority consumes 53 out of the 71 bars, many of which
contain nothing but the Augurs chord itself. Repetition alone would make the
sonority a self-referential structure.
However, this would reduce analysis to
the obvious. Besides, the music cannot be restricted within Nos. 1322;
Stravinsky conceived the Augurs of Spring and the Dances of the Young Girls
as one movement stretching from No. 13 to No. 36. From this perspective, the
motto chord dissolves before it gets a third of the way through the tableau, with
only three of its original pitches left in the nal bar. To be sure, bits of it survive
as melodic fragments splintered from the chord, most notably the intervallic
shape of the ostinato and its uppermost pitch Ew (see again Ex. 16), yet this
merely indicates that the Augurs chord is not something xed, but a sonority
in ux. The movement does not grow organically from the inside, but rather,
as Andr Schaeffner suggests, the whole work grows only by addition from
outside, by total and continuous renewal, perpetually abandoning the rhythmic-
harmonic material on which it seized for a moment so ferociously.
So perhaps the Augurs chord should be regarded as an agent of change
rather than a permanent collection, an on-going relation between the particular
and an empty universal. This, after all, is the promise of the particular. Its
uidity is already evident with the unfolding of the sonority at No. 14 where
the vertical texture is disentangled horizontally. For many analysts, the chord
appears to give birth to these melodic patterns, but there is an immediate
deviation where a C major triad re-orientates the sound octatonically (Ex. 19a).
Or take the theme at No. 19; its pitches are embedded within the underlying
Augurs chord except for an F which seems to interact with some kind of
modal scale lying outside the home sonority (Ex. 19b).
Commentators instinctively view the Augurs chord as the source from
which these fragments emanate, for the chord precedes them in the score. In
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the sketches, however, it is the other way round; these melodic fragments come
rst on the page along with a host of other gures (see again Ex. 2). So, if
anything, the fragments give birth to the chord. They are not contained within
the sonority, but criss-cross it. The Augurs chord is an intersection of their
myriad directions. Hearing the sonority in this way would mean hovering
between possibilities where octatonicism, tonality and all kinds of modes and
scales are in perpetual play, creating the undecidability that Whittall regards
as a necessary stance in Stravinsky analysis.
Such a Derridian reading would
subvert the notion of a single origin in favour of an endless and indeterminate
The Augurs chord becomes an entrance to many systems, as
if Stravinsky were beginning in transition, creating a plurality of possibilities.
Thus the stereotypical view of Stravinskys music as static would give way to a
dynamic approach to his harmony.
One way of registering this uidity is to see the chord as a hybrid set which
can function as a pivot from one sphere to another. Elliot Antokoletz, for
example, describes the Augurs chord as an almost perfect fusion or maximal
intersection of octatonic and diatonic spheres;
he lays out the seven notes
of the chord as a scale and explains how the removal of Ew, on the one hand,
would leave the remaining pitches as an octatonic segment, whereas the
removal of G, on the other hand, would leave a diatonic segment (Ex. 20).
However, hybrid sets, precisely because of their interpretative plurality, can
lead to all kinds of sophistry in the desire to satisfy certain theoretical needs.
Antokoletzs analysis may have fused octatonic and diatonic elements together,
Ex. 19 Augurs of Spring
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but his octatonic segment is in Collection I, which is unrelated to the focus on
Collection III in the Augurs of Spring, and his diatonic segment removes the
very note that becomes a centre of diatonic invention in the movement G
(see Ex. 28c). It is the wrong hybrid. In fact, there is no need to invoke a scalic
mixture at all for, as Dmitri Tymoczko observes, the sonority involves all the
pitches of the GC [or Aw] harmonic minor scale.
Such non-diatonic minor
scales, continues Tymoczko, naturally tend to evaporate under the scrutiny of
the analyst predisposed to interpret music in terms of diatonic and octatonic
fragments precisely because they share six notes with a diatonic collection and
six notes with an octatonic collection.
The theoretical xation with octatonic
and diatonic mixtures has certainly precluded the possibilities of other scales,
but Tymoczkos alternative explanation is as spurious as Antokoletzs octatonic-
diatonic fusion; GC harmonic minor implies the very centre that Stravinsky is
at pains to avoid in the movement, particularly given the tendency of the
ostinato to form its dominant seventh. GC/Aw is negligible as a force of har-
monic or melodic organisation; its scale might as well be the unordered pitch
collection 732.
The way a collection is ordered, partitioned, centred and assigned a hierarchical
structure cannot be assumed as Ethan Haimo rightly insists, but must be tested
within the context of the work, otherwise theoretical assumptions will be shown
up as mere presumption. One way of testing the order of a collection is to
differentiate the pool of pitches from the ripples on the surface where the
melodic accents and local patterns draw up boundary lines and locate pitch
centres. Stravinskys stratication of the vertical and horizontal often employs
the surface to dene the relationship between the collection and the mode. The
Wet-Nurses Dance in Ptrouchka, for example, is typical of Stravinskys harmonic
technique of this period (Ex. 21); each bar is saturated with the pitch-collection
Ex. 20 Antokoletzs hybrid set
Ex. 21 Ptrouchka, Wet-Nurses Dance
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CDEFGABw, creating a harmonic hum that envelopes the pitches of the
melodic line; in itself the harmony is non-hierarchical; it is the melody that
gives the harmonic pool a directional force, picking out the order of the collection
as a scale centred on F.
If the Augurs chord is an intersection of possible systems, then it is a more
uid collection of pitches than that of the Wet-Nurses Dance; the ripples on
its surface leak into various pools. This leakage is most obvious in the ostinato
gure prominently embedded within the upper section of the chord. On the
face of it, it seems simple enough to analyse. It precedes the Augurs chord as
a motivic upbeat at the close of the Introduction, offering a clear segmentation
of the sonority. But for many analysts, this ostinato is ambiguously incomplete:
it only comprises three pitches, DwBwEw. The analytical itch to add G to the
concoction is one that Stravinsky does not scratch in his segmentation of the
sonority. This is not a segment of a dominant seventh chord; it is a part of an
Oriental scale. Or as Taruskin would claim: it is a folk source. In fact, the
pattern is commonly found in Slavic folksongs, and is etched in popular con-
sciousness as the initial phrase of the Song of the Volga Boatman (Ex. 22a).
Lawrence Morton has located the origin of the ostinato in the Juszkiewicz
anthology (Ex. 22b), a folk collection which Stravinsky himself acknowledged
as the source of the Lithuanian melody that opens the Rite;
however, as
Taruskin points out, the gure is too widespread . . . to warrant positive
identication, since it also appears as the initial four notes of a Dorian folk
tune in another collection known to the composer (Ex. 22c).
The ostinato,
Ex. 22a Song of the Volga Boatman
Ex. 22b Juszkiewicz, Melodje ludowe litewskie, No. 34
Ex. 22c Istomin/Lyapunov, Pesni russkogo naroda (p. 232)
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as a folk segment, implies a modal rather than triadic analysis of the Augurs
chord; so, as with Taruskins folk source, Dw functions as a Dorian leading note,
pointing to Ew rather than away from it as a dominant seventh towards Aw.
This certainly makes more sense of the chord; the ostinato orientates the
collection of pitches towards a scale on Ew. Van den Toorn acknowledges this
octatonically by arranging Collection III in a descending 21 ordering in order
to give priority to Ew as a descending Dorian fragment ([0235], where the
upper pitch = 0).
However, this [0235] Dorian fragment lls in the three-
note ostinato with a C rather than the Cw of the Augurs chord. If Cw is
retained, however, then a different modal possibility centred on Ew emerges.
Instead of the Russian Dorian, the resulting mode would approximate to
another scale used in the nineteenth century to evoke the Orient. Technically, it
is a variant of the so called Gypsy scale of the style hongrois, known as the Kalindra
scale (Ex. 23),
although at the time of the Rite the sonority was probably
just another Eastern commodity designed by Stravinsky for export to Paris.
The pitches of the Augurs chord do not form a pure Kalindra scale; the D
has been altered to Dw as part of the ostinato, although in practice, the leading
note of the Kalindra scale can be attened.
What is signicant about the
scale is its ability to generate Neapolitan relationships typical of style hongrois,
pitting the tonic triad against the supertonic.
All Stravinsky does is to superimpose
the Neapolitan elements to produce that polytonal clash of the Augurs chord
Ew over Fw. If this is the case, then this polytonal sound is also an Oriental one.
But is this clash the result of the Kalindra scale? Some kind of melodic
evidence is required to pick out the mode from the collection if the harmony
is to assume a Kalindra orientation. To nd this evidence, it is necessary to
return to the Introduction. The material at No. 4, as Pople demonstrates, has
a close harmonic and motivic afnity with the rst thematic statement in the
Augurs of Spring at No. 15; in fact, they share the same pitches, despite the
enharmonic disguise (Ex. 24). At No. 4 the Oriental mode is unmistakable,
with the augmented second interval, so characteristic of the Kalindra scale,
etched out by the clarinet. With the reappearance of this material in the
Augurs of Spring, the Kalindra fragment is obscured as a chromatic line, but
the pitches on the main beats deliberately punch out the same contour Bw, Aw,
G, Fw (marked with an asterisk in Ex. 24) as if to afrm the folk origins of
the Augurs chord.
Ex. 23 The Kalindra scale
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Thus the thematic material of the Augurs chord can be interpreted entirely
within the Russian tradition as an intersection of two distinctive modal possi-
bilities; an incomplete Dorian ostinato and a Kalindra fragment, forming a
hinge either side of Bw, resulting in an altered Kalindra scale on Ew, with the
outer pitches of the fragments accentuating the semitonal clash (Ew/ Fw triads)
of the Kalindra scale (Ex. 25).
But there is a major theoretical assumption being made here: why is Ew the
modal centre of the melodic lines? Is it because its triad within the chord
beguiles the theoretical eye with its tonal texture? The fact that these two
fragments hinge around Bw, however, challenges the instinctive focus on Ew.
Listen again: the Oriental modes of the Augurs chord suggest an entirely
different orientation. After all, Ew is absent in the Kalindra segment, and a
Dorian reading of the ostinato gure on Ew is at variance with the pitches of
the Augurs chord which indicate a Phrygian or pentatonic segment centred
on Bw (there is no C in the upper segment, only Cw). In fact, if Mortons folk
Ex. 24 Kalindra fragments in the Introduction and the Augurs of Spring
Ex. 25 Kalindra-Dorian hybrid
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source or for that matter the Song of the Volga Boatman is taken as a
model instead of Taruskins Dorian alternative, then this Slavic pattern gravi-
tates towards the lower note; the ostinato is a Bw-centred fragment (see again
Ex. 22). Moreover, almost all the thematic materials in the tableau reiterate Bw
as their point of reference (Ex. 26); not only is it the head of the Kalindra motif
(BwFw), it is also the tail with its return at No. 26 (FwBw); Bw is the reiterated
pitch of the theme at No. 19, the theme of the Young Girls at No. 27 and the
pre-emptive Spring Rounds theme at Nos. 29 + 3.
True, all these themes are harmonised with either an Ew major or Ew minor
triad, but any alignment between the surface melody and the triadic core to
create harmonic depth is disrupted by Stravinsky; the melodic and triadic
elements are stratied. Indeed, their disjunction is employed to defamiliarise
the clichs of tonality; the modal gures on the surface render the triad
strangely dysfunctional, undermining Ew as an assumed root. Even when the
harmony mimics a functional texture, Ew is not heard as the tonal anchor. This
is clearly evident between Nos. 27 and 30; the theme of the Young Girls and
the Spring Rounds theme are unequivocally embedded within a Dorian scale
underpinned by Ew, but the thematic surface focuses the harmony modally on
Bw (Ex. 27). Any attempt to recompose the melodies so that they cadence on
Ew would result in an inconclusive gesture. David Lewin is correct; the triads
Ex. 26 Bw themes in the Augurs of Spring
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work upside down; the surface Bw is the root. As for the ubiquitous Ew the
only signicant note that survives to the end of the movement this is not a
melodic centre around which pitches gravitate but merely a straight line drawn
across the harmonic canvas.
Thus one function of the ostinato is to defamiliarise the Ew triad of the
Augurs chord so that it no longer sounds like an Ew triad. In fact, Stravinsky
does just this when he segregates the vertical sonority into various horizontal
groups at No. 14 (see again Ex. 19a). What is odd about his analysis of the
differential elements of the chord is that Stravinsky does not segment the
sonority as a bi-partite structure,
with two triads juxtaposed a semitone
apart; he hears it as a tri-partite structure, in which the dominant seventh
formation above the Fw arpeggio is deliberately split in two to prevent it from
functioning as an Ew triad. The ostinato is severed from the pitch G to focus
modally on Bw. G, on the other hand, becomes the centre of another upside
down triad (GFwC) that severs itself from the ostinato above by alternating
with the Fw arpeggio below. So close is its alignment with the Fw arpeggio that
it transforms the major triad (EGCB) into a minor triad (EGB) in the
bassoon line. Stravinskys parsing indicates how the melodic fragments, centring
on Fw, G and Bw, conceived before the formation of the Augurs chord in the
sketches, are embodied within the chord as a stratied texture. And oddly, the
most signicant pitch in this chord for Stravinsky is the seemingly innocuous
one of G; this is because it is both the moment of ambiguity and the catalyst
for transformation in the Augurs chord. G is literally the pivot for the seven
pitches of this sonority: EwDwBwGCwAwFw. It is the slash within the
Augurs chord, dividing the Occidental from the Oriental, the tonal from the
modal, the triadic from the melodic, and the clichd from the defamiliarised.
G is the hidden focus of Stravinskys compositional strategy. It is both the
problem and solution of the chord. As such, it demands a particular listening.
If further conrmation of this analysis were required, we only need turn again
to Ex. 13; it notates the peculiar way Stravinsky spreads out the chord on the
Ex. 27 Dances of the Young Girls: Bw melodic fragments with Ew triads
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piano during the lming of the CBS documentary. First he groups the Fw triad,
then he places the G before segregating it from the three notes of the ostinato.
Listening in this way to this sonority would mean cancelling the tacitly
assumed texture of eighteenth-century tonality in which chords are gured
from the bass to support an upper line. From this new perspective, the EwFw
dissonance would become something of a theoretical red-herring, for the identity
of the Augurs chord is no longer the generalised clash between the outer
voices, as is often presumed, but an inner clash between Bw and G. This is
perhaps the new order promised by the riot. Indeed, the entire movement is
the working out of this internal partitioning, with G gradually shifting the
focus away from the bottom Fw to pit itself against the Bw ostinato. First, G
denes itself as the root of an upside-down triad that subsumes Fw within its
boundaries (Ex. 28a). Second, as the nal punctuation of the theme at No. 19,
G forms an alternative Phrygian tonic to the reiterated Bws, bringing the ten-
sion between the two modal centres to the fore (Ex. 28b). Finally, G usurps
Bw as the melodic focus, surfacing as the axis in the Young Girls theme at
No. 25, with the upside-down triad now extended to embrace an entire scale on
C (Ex. 28c). The shift of focus obscures the foreground details around Bw, as if
the music were retreating back to a distant or hidden plane in the Augurs
Ex. 28 The emergence of G as a point of melodic focus
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To underline the harmonic strategy, the exploration of the inner spaces of
the Augurs chord is visualised in the actual spaces of Stravinskys choreo-
graphic imagination. The remoteness of G in the nal example is enacted on
stage, for the adolescent girls have yet to appear (Ex. 28c); only their theme is
heard from far away, perhaps from the hills painted behind the giant mound
on Roerichs set. This is evoked by sounding the melody on the French horn,
played mais en dehors. Harmonically, the focus on G at this point blurs the
foreground details around Bw, reducing the Ew Bw Dw Bw ostinato to a murmur
on the strings. It is only after hearing this G-orientated theme that the adolescent
girls, says Stravinsky, are seen to come from the river;
they emerge from a
distant harmonic location. As they appear on stage, the harmonic process is
reversed. Stravinsky switches focus from the distant pitches associated with G
to the foreground pitches of the ostinato by transposing the Young Girls
theme to Bw (Ex. 29a). By changing harmonic allegiance in this way, the theme
reduces the collection around G to a vague hum which eventually disappears
at No. 28. With the elimination of the agent of ambiguity and transformation,
the harmonic and melodic elements synchronise for the rst time in the movement
into one system (Ex. 29b). The texture is no less stratied, but the accretion
of layers is absorbed within an unimpaired diatonic D-scale on Ew,
what Taruskin calls sheer inertial accumulation.
Finally, out of the friction
of Stravinskys harmonic language there emerges a sense of consonance, as if
the planetary forces within the Augurs chord had come into alignment on Bw.
Ex. 29 Dances of the Young Girls: from dissonance to consonance
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As Stravinsky writes, If . . . an as yet unorientated combination [of sounds]
has been found, I shall have to determine the center towards which it should
lead. The discovery of this center suggests to me the solution of my problem.
Clearly, the Augurs chord is not a static dissonance only capable of rhythmic
propulsion but a solution to a harmonic problem; it creates vast harmonic
motions and dynamic resolutions out of its brittle surfaces. But these procedures
do not operate tonally or through prolongational structures; rather, different
systems are superimposed to create a forceeld of latent planes that move in
layers from at least three dissonant strata (Fw, G, Bw) to two (G, Bw) before
resolving to one (Bw) by means of common tones, conjunct motion and block
transposition. It is a movement from confusion to fusion, or, to borrow Stravinskys
words, from an unorientated combination to a discovery of [a] center.
Nijinsky, writes Jacques Rivire, created a ballet of a thousand latent directions
and in the Augurs chord, Stravinsky created a sonorous parallel; in the Rite,
says Rivire, there is an active ubiquity that permits Stravinsky to proceed in
several directions at the same time.
The Augurs of Spring proceeds from
an explosive, multidirectional sonority that narrows down to a unidirectional one.
Given this harmonic strategy, it might be argued that Stravinsky was right
after all the ballet is architectonique. However, the spatial analogy of the
young girls emerging from G (background) to Bw (foreground) suggests that
the harmonic process is both architectonique and anecdotique; the structural
and programmatic elements are not necessarily at variance. After all, Stravinsky
originally conceived the ballet as a musico-choreographic work, without plot,
comprising a series of ritual games designed by Roerich, where the chases,
tugs-of-war, circular dances and competing forces suggested compositional
strategies of juxtaposition, conict, contrast, resolution and synthesis.
Rite may jettison the pantomime gestures of the Firebird and Ptrouchka,
the harmonic process still enacts a formal game-plan inextricably tied to the
events on stage. As Jann Pasler writes, the focus in the [Rite] on abstract
relationships [between the arts] rather than a story brought with it the seeds of
a new formalism,
or what was called at the time Art Plastique.
So what is the game-plan behind the harmonic strategy? The opening tableau
sets out the male-female conict that is the force behind the rituals of the entire
ballet. On the crudest level, the long-range motion from the stratied layers in
the Augurs of Spring to the consonant collection in the Dances of the Young
Girls underlines the sexual stereotypes represented by the two dances one is
predominantly male, the other female. The Augurs chord is masculine; its
texture is muscular, athletic, angular, laconic, dissonant, vertical and original;
its violent rhythmic thrust can only be appeased in the stylised rape of the
Ritual of Abduction. The resolution into a single unstratied pitch collection
is female; the harmonies are bound, decorative and domesticated within folk-
like thematic enclosures. But the scene is not merely one of sexual difference;
in Stravinskys description of events, the moment of harmonic alignment on Bw
is also one of desexualisation. He writes:
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In the rst scene, some adolescent boys appear with a very old woman ... . The
adolescents at her side are the Augurs of Spring, who mark in their steps the
rhythm of spring, the pulse-beat of spring.
During this time the adolescent girls come from the river. They form a circle
which mingles with the boys circle. They are not entirely formed beings; their
sex is single and double like that of a tree. The groups mingle but in their
rhythms one feels the cataclysm of groups about to form.
The mingling of these prepubescent gures is a momentary release from the
sexual conict that is about to erupt: these are unidirectional harmonies for a
unisexual moment. In fact, the Dances of the Young Girls in the sketches stop
abruptly at the moment of consonance;
the game, it seems, has come to a
premature end. The Ritual of Abduction, which comes immediately after this
dance in the nal version, is not sketched until some twenty pages later,
it is only after this material that Stravinsky begins to work on transitional ideas
that will connect the two movements together.
It is as if he had discovered
a new game strategy,
a transition to a game of mass rape, or as Stravinsky
describes it, the cataclysm of groups about to form. The virility of spring, for
Stravinsky, is not found in the mingling of the sexes, but in the aggression of
After the consonant stasis, the young girls theme slips
down a semitone from Bw to A (Nos. 3037), and the harmonies begin to split
into recalcitrant layers. The propulsive accents of the Augurs chord return,
superimposed over the Dances of the Young Girls, until the masculine pulsa-
tions take over the nal bar (see again Ex. 16). Although in Cones terminology
there is a synthesis of materials here, this male-female stratication is more a
collision of opposing forces latent in the Augurs chord. With the assertion of
male dominance, conict erupts and the chase begins. The emphatic return of
these accents is a call to riot.
And this is perhaps what the Augurs chord ultimately is an incitement to
riot. It is a provocation that demands a new order without prescribing any
laws for the future. Enclosed in this particularity is a multivalent core from
which a contingent order may arise. The chord is a junction where various
possibilities are held in suspended animation; its scalic structure is a force-
eld of octatonic, diatonic, triadic and folkloric bits that negate and renegotiate
each others meaning in search of a harmonic strategy that is less theoretically
dogmatic than dramatically impulsive. Crammed together, these elements
create the ultimate focussed dissonance. This is not a dissonance based on
pitch; it is one of simultaneously stratied signs and systems that turn the
Augurs chord into a dynamic source of social and sonic conict. In other
words: a riot.
I am the vessel through which Le Sacre passed.
With these words, Stravinsky
concluded his recollections of the origins of the Rite some 45 years after its
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premire. By turning himself into an empty vessel that funnels the Rite into
being, Stravinsky validates the work as a piece of absolute music, stripping
away the trappings of time and space with all the contingencies and
particularities of the works history; the concrete reality of the Rite evaporates
into the metaphysical, generalised as an abstract structure that is no longer
the property of the balletic body but of pure thought itself, as if the music
were some kind of spirit that passed through the mind of the young
composer. As absolute music, the Rite can transcend history as a modern icon,
acquiring a canonic status to be veried by music analysis as a universal
It is ironic that Stravinsky needed to purify his music through a Teutonic
lter, for this suppresses the very elements which dene the Rite as a radical
assault on the metaphysics of German music that dominated much of the
nineteenth century.
The Rite is, after all, an adoration of the earth. Unlike
Schoenberg, Stravinsky does not seek the spiritual in music by liberating
the psyche from the body to escape the materiality of sound; he liberates
music by discovering matter. This is in fact Adornos insight into Stravinskys
music, but it is also Adornos blindness, for the philosophers Teutonic
prejudice can only see in this animosity against the anima the objectication
of the body that turns the Rite into a monad of conditioned reexes.
The visceral, tactile, somatic energy that harangues Adornos ears is the
blaspheme of the material particular against the absolute. It detunes the
cosmos of intellectual forms and hurls music down to earth with a ground-
breaking thud that relocates the origins of music away from the universal
towards the particular: this music, Stravinsky seems to say, is not found in the
voice of the soul, but in the pulsations of the human body; it does not originate
from the harmony of the spheres but in the material clods of the earth; its
identity is not merely located in abstract pitch structures but in the noises and
textures of socially mediated signs; its sounds are not pure but encrusted
with history. In the Rite, matter matters, because it is matter that particularises
it embodies things. The Rite is, to adapt Rivires phrase, un ballet biologique.
That Stravinsky came to deny this is a betrayal of the work, for what he does
in the Augurs chord is to heighten the particular, concentrating its identity as
an instant that embodies the gestures and noises of the ballet. His xation with
the minutest details of timbre, spacing, attack and accent hones the material
properties of sound, just as his mixture and negation of signs pin-points its
social meaning. The material particularities and local histories from which
the eclectic components of the chord arise do not need to be eradicated in the
name of absolute music; rather what Stravinsky wanted to forget in his later
years are the very constraints that the young composer embraced as a source
of liberation.
Thus music analysis does not need to generalise the Rite, it needs to particularise
it. The tendency of analysis towards the general, however, has made the par-
ticular appear unanalysable, as if the non-identical can only be grasped in its
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immediacy. Frederick J. Smiths reaction is typical: the Augurs chord is simply
the juxtaposition of two hands on the keyboard, he states; it was never
conceived intellectually, he continues; there is no harmonic analysis called for
... . It was this bodily placing of hands which gave birth to the sound and
not some theoretical idea that made it possible.
Such talk reinforces the
opposition in Western philosophy that separates mind from body. But who thinks
without a body?
Why should the material particular defy analysis? Should it
not rather liberate it? Analysis can even inhabit the bodily placing of hands
that Smith champions. Stravinsky may have stumbled across the Augurs
chord at the piano, but there is a kinaesthetic knowledge in the way of the
a knowledge that realises in the esh the innitely sensitive and
fragile logic that Adorno calls for.
In the Augurs chord, Stravinskys
ngers, which were programmed for triadic, folkloric and octatonic doodlings,
were probing for solutions to various ethnographic, choreographic and compo-
sitional games, as his own partitioning of the chord at the piano demonstrates
(see again Ex. 13); this manual process is a somatic form of Kantian reective
judgement. Indeed, Stravinsky himself described his compositonal logic as an
improvisatory search for unknown solutions guided by an earthy, bodily
A composer improvises aimlessly the way an animal grubs about. Both of them
go grubbing about because they yield to a compulsion to seek things out ... . So
we grub about in expectation of our pleasure, guided by our scent, and suddenly
we stumble against an unknown obstacle. It gives us a jolt, a shock, and this
shock fecundates our creative power.
Smiths anti-theoretical stance should goad analysis into action, not
simply by protecting the particularity of the chord in negative terms, but
positively by attending to the microscopic details of sound, sign and
temporality to hear how Stravinsky teases out even the most obscure relations
in order to improvise an open future from the creative shock of this chord.
Riots are not governed by pre-ordained rules. Stravinsky does not impose an
external order on the music, as Adorno would have us believe, but freely
inclines his ear to the plurality of sounds latent in the Augurs chord, divining
from the particular and the contingent possible orders and structures. Such
a sound demands a theoretical openness where everything has to be re-exam-
ined and re-negotiated bass notes, triads, dissonances, modes, scales,
textures and received signs. There is no longer an automatic connection
to tradition or theory but a highly mediated, localised relation where subtle-
ties in the way the sound is arranged can re-dene the meaning of what
seems familiar or obvious about the Augurs chord. Only by grubbing
about in this way can analysis follow Stravinskys scent and discern in the
Augurs chord the rightness of its wrong notes and the strangeness of its
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The research for this article was partly funded by a grant from the Arts and
Humanities Research Council. I am also indebted to Brian Hyer and Arnold
Whittall for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the text.
1. Marie Rambert, Quicksilver: An Autobiography (London: Macmillan, 1972), p. 64.
2. See Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (London:
Faber, 1979), pp. 467.
3. Stravinsky and Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky, p. 46.
4. Louis Vuillemin, Le Sacre du Printemps, Comdia Illustr, 31 May 1913; reprinted
in Franois Lesure (ed.), Anthologie de la Critique musicale: Igor Stravinsky: Le sacre
du printemps: Dossier de Presse (Genve: Editions Minkoff, 1980), p. 21. The
translation is taken from Truman C. Bullard, The First Performance of Igor Stravinskys
Sacre du Printemps (PhD diss., University of Rochester, 1971), I: p. 144.
5. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Expositions and Developments (London: Faber
and Faber, 1959), p. 143.
6. There were only seven performances of the original Ballets Russes production,
four in Paris and three in London; these were followed by two Russian concert
premires under Serge Koussevitzky in February 1914, and then a triumphant
concert performance under Pierre Monteux at the Salle Pleyel in April where the com-
poser was carried on the shoulders of some audience members after the performance.
7. Michel Georges-Michel with Stravinsky, Les deux Sacre du Printemps,
Comdia, 14 December 1920; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps:
Dossier de Presse, p. 53. Sections of this interview have been translated in Vera
Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents (London:
Hutchinson, 1979), pp. 51112, and Minna Lederman (ed.), Stravinsky in the
Theatre (London: Peter Owen, 1951), p. 24.
8. See Richard Taruskin, A Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite of Spring, the
Tradition of the New, and The Music Itself, Modernism/Modernity, 2/i (1995),
pp. 126. On the Rite as a collaborative project, see Jann Pasler, Music and
Spectacle in Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, in Jann Pasler (ed.), Confronting
Stravinsky: Man, Musician, and Modernist (Berkeley, CA: University of California
Press, 1986), pp. 5381.
9. See Taruskin, A Myth of the Twentieth Century, pp. 714.
10. See Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin and Letter to the Editor in Reply
to Richard Taruskin from Allen Forte, Music Analysis, 5/iiiii (1986), pp. 31337.
11. Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin, p. 313.
12. See Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin, p. 315, and Letter to the
Editor in Reply to Richard Taruskin from Allen Forte, pp. 329 and 333.
13. See Richard Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the
Works through Mavra (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996), I:
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pp. 849966, and A Myth of the Twentieth Century, p. 14; see also Fortes
remarks on Taruskins ultra conservative historical perspective in Letter to the
Editor in Reply to Richard Taruskin from Allen Forte, pp. 3326.
14. Despite Taruskins allergy to authenticity elsewhere, he is obviously not immune
to it himself; see The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past, in
Richard Taruskin, Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1995), pp. 90154.
15. See Jrgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick
Lawrence (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987), p. 9.
16. Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 965.
17. Authenticity is modernitys search for the absolute in the absence of its possibil-
ity. This is evident even in Stravinskys preoccupation with the Rite during his
lifetime: he was anxious to bequeath a denitive Rite of Spring to posterity, but
all he achieved by constantly rewriting its history and revising the score was to
undermine his own attempts to authenticate the work, spawning so many
versions of the Rite that the piece does not exist as a single entity. There is not
even an authoritative score of the work, let alone the authentic interpretation that
Stravinsky wanted his revisions and recordings to enforce. See Robert Fink,
Rigoroso ({ = 126): The Rite of Spring and the Forging of a Modernist
Performing Style, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 52/ii (1999),
pp. 299362.
18. Stravinsky admitted to the use of one folk source (the opening bassoon melody)
which is more-or-less intact as a theme; he revealed this information in Andr
Schffners biography Strawinsky (Paris: ditions Rieder, 1931), p. 43, n. and
plate xxi. Other sources found by Lawrence Morton, although treated in a cellular
fashion by Stravinsky, are still recognisable. Taruskin, in trying to account for all
the folk-like snippets in the sketches has to resort to a higher level of abstraction
in order to connect the source to the score. See Lawrence Morton, Footnotes to
Stravinsky Studies: Le Sacre du Printemps, Tempo, 128 (1979), pp. 916, and
Richard Taruskin, Russian Folk Melodies in the Rite of Spring, Journal of the
American Musicological Society, 33/iii (1980), pp. 50143; revised in Stravinsky and
the Russian Traditions, I: pp. 891923.
19. See, for example, Taruskins discussion of a source melody in Ex. 4 of his Rus-
sian Folk Melodies in The Rite of Spring, p. 517; revised in Stravinsky and the
Russian Traditions, I: p. 909.
20. Pieter C. van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring: The Beginnings of a
Musical Language (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987), p. 2.
21. Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), trans. by Anne G.
Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster (London: Sheed and Ward, 1987), pp. 13560.
Adorno regards tonality as the musical equivalent of the Hegelian Absolute, that
is, as the foundation that has collapsed in twentieth-century music, making any
objectively binding law in music highly problematic; instead of negotiating the
difculties, Stravinsky simply imposes an objective style as if authenticity were
still possible without further reection. On tonality as the Hegelian absolute see
Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Edmund Jephcott
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), p. 21.
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22. Ironically, Adornos reading of the Rite is shared by its champion, Richard
Taruskin; see A Myth of the Twentieth Century, pp. 1421. This odd pairing
has also been noticed by Tamara Levitz, The Chosen Ones Choice, in Andrew
DellAntonio (ed.), Beyond Structural Listening? Postmodern Modes of Hearing
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 7380.
23. For Stravinsky, the performer is not an interpreter but an executant who
follows the instructions laid down by the composer in the score; see Igor Stravinsky,
Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons, trans. Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl
(London: Oxford University Press, 1947), pp. 12135; as is well known, these
Norton lectures, given by Stravinsky at Harvard, were ghost-written by Pierre
24. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, p. 145, and Theodor W. Adorno, Stravin-
sky: A Dialectical Portrait, in Quasi una Fantasia: Essays on Modern Music, trans.
Rodney Livingstone (London: Verso, 1992), p. 149.
25. Theodor W. Adorno, Sound Figures, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 148.
26. Robert Craft in Stravinsky (New York: St Martin, 1992), pp. 23348, suggests
from evidence in Stravinskys annotations of a four-hand piano score in his
possession that Stravinsky had composed the choreography at the same time as
the music; these annotations are published as an appendix in Igor Stravinsky,
The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113 (London: Boosey and Hawkes, 1969). Although
this is a disputable conclusion, it is clear that Stravinsky was closely involved with
the choreography, despite his attempts to distance himself from Nijinskys work
after the premire. Indeed, in a letter to Max Steinberg dated 5 June 1913,
Stravinsky states that Nijinskys choreography was incomparable . . . everything
is as I wanted; the translation is taken from Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft,
Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 102. For a concise discussion of these issues
see Peter Hill, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 2000), pp. 10517, and Levitz, The Chosen Ones Choice, pp. 804.
27. See Robert Craft, The Rite of Spring: Genesis of a Masterpiece and Com-
mentary to the Sketches in Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113,
pp. xvii and 4. The opening page of the sketches displays Stravinskys thoughts
with calligraphic precision, as if the composer wanted to commence with absolute
clarity; the ideas are so crystallised that most commentators believe that they
were fashioned at the piano before the composer committed them to paper. The
page begins with fragmentary ideas which are to be bound together as the mate-
rial from the second half of the page demonstrates. Although Stravinsky con-
ceded to Crafts suggestion that the Augurs chord may not have been the rst
idea, since it was the composers habit to compose from top down, the chord
initiates the actual composition of the work in the sketches; the snippets above
are random ideas.
28. Quoted from lm footage of the composer at the piano in the CBS documentary
Portrait of Stravinsky, directed by David Oppenheim; rst broadcast 3 May 1966.
29. Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 597.
30. Craft, The Rite of Spring: Genesis of a Masterpiece, p. xvii.
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31. Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 147.
32. See Jean-Jacques Nattiez, The Concepts of Plot and Seriation Process in Music
Analysis, trans. Catherine Dale, Music Analysis, 4/iii (1985), pp. 10718.
33. Ernst Kurth, Harmonik und ihre Krise in Wagners Tristan, quoted in Carl Dahl-
haus, Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 126.
34. Pierre Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, trans. Stephen Walsh (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 56.
35. Taruskin, Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin, p. 318.
36. Eric Walter White, Stravinsky: The Composer and his Works (London: Faber, 1966),
p. 211.
37. The only possible tonic for this dominant would lie outside the tableau, in the
Introduction preceding the Augurs of Spring, where the initial bassoon melody
returns at the close transposed down a semitone from A minor to Aw minor,
steering the harmonies towards the Augurs chord.
It could be argued that the Introduction functions as a tonal fulcrum for the
Augurs of Spring, turning the movement into a giant dominant domain
attached to a slender melody borrowed from a collection of Lithuanian folk
music (see again n.18). Folk tunes are, of course, tonal; Stravinsky must have
been acutely aware of the possibility of a dominant function at this point because
the introduction of the dominant seventh ostinato (Dw Bw Ew Bw) that coagulates
at the top of the Augurs chord is directly adjacent to the folk melody. What is
signicant is the composers meticulous renunciation of this fundamental tonal
relationship (tonic-dominant); he harmonises the ostinato to ensure that its
adjacency to Aw minor is heard as a juxtaposition and not a functional connection,
with semitonal clusters and octatonic formations that prevent the ostinato from
aligning itself with an Ew major triad. The thematic and harmonic fragments may
gravitate towards the Augurs chord at this point, but it is not a tonal transition.
Any sense of tonality is merely a localised phenomenon, linked to a folk source.
38. See Edward J. Dent, Le sacre du printemps, The Nation and Athenaeum, 18 June
1921; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps, Dossier de Presse, p. 71.
39. Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schnberger, The Apollonian Clockwork: On Stravinsky,
trans. Jeff Hamburg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 231. The
authors are referring to the C/FC Ptrouchka chord.
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40. Constant Lambert, Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline (London: Hogarth
Press, 1985), p. 91.
41. See Allen Forte, The Harmonic Organization of The Rite of Spring, (New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press, 1978). Sections of the Rite are also discussed in Allen
Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1973), pp. 33, 76, 868 and 14460.
42. See Pieter C. van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1983), pp. 4872.
43. See Richard Taruskin, Chernomor to Kashchei: Harmonic Sorcery; or, Stravinskys
Angle, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 38 (1985), p. 103.
44. Arthur Berger, Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky, in Benjamin
Boretz and Edward T. Cone (eds.), Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinsky
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 139.
45. Letter dated 21 July 1911, quoted in Andriessen and Schnberger, The Apollonian
Clockwork, p. 239. Debussys inuence on the Rite should not be underestimated.
Stravinsky writes: Le Sacre owes more to Debussy than to anyone except myself ;
see Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 142, n. 1.
46. Pieter C. van den Toorn, Some Characteristics of Stravinskys Diatonic Music.
Part Two, Perspectives of New Music, 15/ii (1977), p. 61, and Stravinsky and the
Rite of Spring, p. 151.
47. Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, pp. 152 and 178.
48. Robert Morgan, Twentieth-Century Music (New York: Norton, 1991), p. 97.
49. Richard Taruskin, Chez Ptrouchka: Harmony and Tonality chez Stravinsky,
19th-Century Music, 10/iii (1987), p. 286.
50. Van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky, pp. 10616.
51. There is no doubt from the sketches that the link between the E major and C
major triads was formed at the inception of the piece (see the semiquaver
gurations in the top two systems of Ex. 2). However, this merely suggests that
there is a linear connection from the Augurs chord to the quasi-octatonic segments
in the tableau, and not some underlying octatonic system in which the Augurs
chord can be integrated.
52. David Lewin, A Formal Theory of Generalized Tonal Functions, Journal of
Music Theory, 26/i (1982), pp. 413.
53. For a summary of tonal dualism see Henry Klumpenhouwer, Dualistic Tonal
Space and Transformation in Nineteenth-Century Musical Thought, in Thomas
Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 45670.
54. Robert Fink, Going Flat: Post-Hierarchical Music Theory and the Musical
Surface, in Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (eds.), Rethinking Music (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 121.
55. Anthony Pople, Skryabin and Stravinsky: 19081914 (New York: Garland, 1989), p. 270.
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56. Christopher Hasty, Toward a Timely (or Worldly) Music Theory Some Ideas
from American Pragmatism, paper delivered at The University of Texas at Austin,
5 March 2003; see also Christopher Hasty, Meter as Rhythm (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1997). Of related interest to the analysis of the particular is
Jerrold Levinsons Music in the Moment (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
1997), although his emphasis on concatenation is less relevant to Stravinskys
collage technique. The complex dialectical negations in Adornos idea of the
moment, explored in depth by Berthold Hoeckner in Programming the Absolute:
Nineteenth-Century Music and the Hermeneutics of the Moment (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2002), is probably too melancholic and too much
entangled with German Idealism to illuminate the Stravinskian instant.
57. See Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 136, and Craft, The
Rite of Spring: Genesis of a Masterpiece, p. xvii. Darius Milhaud in Entretiens
avec Claude Rostand, 2nd edn (Paris: Zuruh, 1992), pp. 489, suggests that the
harmonies of the Rite inspired the compositional exploration and research on
polytonality in the 1920s. Indeed, the term was already applied to the Rite at its
premire; an article in Le Matin described the ballet as rsolument polyryth-
mique et polytonale; see A. D., Thtre des Champs-lyses: 1
tion du Sacre du Printemps, Le Matin, 30/10685, 30 May 1913, p. 3.
58. Allen Forte, Contemporary Tone Structures (New York: Columbia Teachers College Press,
1955), p. 137. For similar criticism of polytonality see: Pieter C. van den Toorn, Some
Characteristics of Stravinskys Diatonic Music, Perspectives of New Music, 14 (1975),
pp. 10438, and The Music of Igor Stravinsky, pp. 635; Arthur Berger, Problems
of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky, pp. 12354; and Benjamin Boretz, Meta-
variations: Part IV, Analytic Fallout, Perspectives of New Music, 11 (1972), p. 149.
59. Or at least, in the words of Daniel Harrison, bitonality has been under-theorised;
see his Bitonality, Pentatonicism, and Diatonicism in a Work by Milhaud, in
James M. Baker, David W. Beach and Jonathan W. Bernard (eds.), Music Theory in
Concept and Practice (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1997), p. 394.
On the early history of the idea, see Francois de Mdicis, Darius Milhaud and
the Debate on Polytonality in the French Press of the 1920s, Music & Letters,
86/iv (2005), pp. 57391.
60. Edward T. Cone, Analysis Today, in Paul Henry Lang (ed.), Problems of Modern
Music (New York: Norton, 1962), p. 43.
61. Berger, Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky, p. 123.
62. Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, pp. 357; see also William W. Austin, Music in the
Twentieth Century: From Debussy through Stravinsky (London: Dent, 1966), pp. 2601.
63. Arnold Schoenberg, Structural Functions of Harmony (London: Faber, 1969),
p. 194; see also Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, pp. 1257.
64. CBS documentary, Portrait of Stravinsky.
65. William E. Benjamin, Tonality without Fifths: Remarks on the First Movement
of Stravinskys Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, In Theory Only, 2/xi
xii (1977), pp. 589.
66. V. Ko Agawu, Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classic Music
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 2679.
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67. Andriessen and Schnberger, The Apollonian Clockwork, p. 57.
68. Andr Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, trans. Martin Cooper (London: Victor
Gollancz, 1987), p. 71.
69. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act
(London: Methuen, 1981), p. 137.
70. See Taruskin on the distinction in Russian thought between kultura (the articial
culture of the intelligentsia) and stikhiya (the elemental spontaneity of the
people) in Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: pp. 8504.
71. See Craft, The Rite of Spring: Genesis of a Masterpiece, p. xxiv.
72. See Brian Hyer, Tonality, in Christensen (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western
Music Theory, pp. 74850.
73. Fink, Going Flat, pp. 1323.
74. Robert Moevs, review of Allen Forte, The Harmonic Organization of the Rite of
Spring, Journal of Music Theory, 24/i (1980), p. 103.
75. The dominant A is also subject to the same dissonant treatment in the nal bars
of the work where it is set against Bw minor triads and the triadic formations in
octatonic Collection III on C, Ew, Gw and A.
76. See, for example, Taruskin, Letter to the Editor from Richard Taruskin,
pp. 31318, and Chez Ptrouchka, pp. 2657.
77. Pierre Lalo, Considerations sur Le Sacre du Printemps, Le Temps, 5 August
1913, reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, pp. 334;
the translation is taken from Hill, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, p. 93. Similarly
Adolphe Boschot, in Lcho de Paris, 30 May 1913, suggested that to create the
harmonic effect of the Rite, one merely needed to play on two pianos . . . transposing
[the music] by a tone in one part but not the other; reprinted in Lesure (ed.),
Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 16.
78. Arnold Whittall, Music Analysis as a Human Science? Le Sacre du Printemps in
Theory and Practice, Music Analysis, 1/i (1982), pp. 51 and 50.
79. Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 71.
80. Whittall, Music Analysis as a Human Science?, pp. 46 and 50.
81. Whittall, Music Analysis as a Human Science?, p. 50.
82. Whittall, Music Analysis as a Human Science?, p. 45.
83. Whittall, Music Analysis as a Human Science?, pp. 501.
84. Given the images and movement that inspired the composition of the Rite (see,
for example, Stravinskys letters to Roerich and Findeizen reprinted in The Rite
of Spring: Sketches 191113, appendix, pp. 2733), it is probable that Stravinsky
conceived the tapping out of the rhythm of spring before Nijinsky choreographed
it. See n. 26 on Stravinskys involvement with the choreography.
85. Boschot, Lcho de Paris; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier
de Presse, p. 16.
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86. Quoted in Roger Shattuck, The Devils Dance: Stravinskys Corporal Imagination,
in Pasler (ed.), Confronting Stravinsky, pp. 90 and 87.
87. Since the Rite was composed at the piano, it is obvious that the hands also
function as the stomping feet!
88. H. Colles (unsigned), The Fusion of Music and Dance: Le sacre du
printemps, The Times, 12 July 1913; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du
printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 64.
89. Letter to Andr Caplet, 29 May 1913, in Franois Lesure and Roger Nichols
(eds.), Debussy Letters, trans. Roger Nichols (London: Faber, 1987), p. 270.
90. See: Lambert, Music Ho!, pp. 4950 and 91; Cecil Gray, A Survey of Contemporary
Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), pp. 13742; and Adorno, Philosophy
of Modern Music, pp. 1557.
91. Dent, The Nation and Athenaeum; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps,
Dossier de Presse, p. 71.
92. Quoted from footage of the composer at the piano in the CBS documentary,
Portrait of Stravinsky.
93. Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, p. 36. See also Craft, The Rite
of Spring: Genesis of a Masterpiece, p. xxxiii.
94. Quoted in Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 80.
95. Hasty, Toward a Timely (or Worldly) Music Theory.
96. Although there is no harmonic hierarchy, there is a metrical one, since the
accents syncopate against the 2/4 metre set up by the ostinato gure. A purely
metrical hierarchy, however, is just as open to the future as the reiteration of
the Augurs chord, since it has no internal system of closure; it, too, renews and
propels the music from moment to moment, albeit on a higher rhythmic level.
97. Jacques Rivire, Le Sacre du Printemps, La nouvelle revue franaise, November
1913; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 47.
98. Letter to Nicolai Roerich, Clarens, 6 March 1912; translated by Stravinsky in
The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, appendix, p. 31.
99. Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, pp. 56 and 68.
100. This rhythmic pattern, as Boulez points out, also shapes the accents of the
melody at No. 19; see Ex. 19b.
101. The Augurs of Spring and the Dances of the Young Girls form one movement.
Stravinsky conceived the dances as a continuous choreographic action rather
than separate pantomimes and was particularly pleased with the smooth join-
ture between the two. See Stravinskys letter to Roerich, 13 November 1911;
reprinted in The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, appendix, p. 30.
102. Edward T. Cone, Stravinsky: The Progress of a Method, Perspectives of New
Music, 1 (1962), pp. 1820.
103. Ernesto Laclau, Emancipation(s) (London and New York: Verso, 1996), p. 6.
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104. Adorno, Stravinsky: A Dialectical Portrait, p. 160.
105. Laclau, Emancipation(s), pp. 1516.
106. Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music, p. 76.
107. Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, p. 141.
108. Roy Travis, Towards a New Concept of Tonality, Journal of Music Theory, 3/ii
(1959), pp. 25784; Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Tradition, I: pp. 937
48. Taruskin is, of course, thinking the other way round here the Augurs
chord as an extension of a more basic element, rather than the generator of
material; in the end, as far as harmonic unity is concerned, it amounts to saying
roughly the same thing. However, Taruskin in a later article seems less convinced
by his earlier arguments; see Taruskin, A Myth of the Twentieth Century, p. 19.
Taruskin borrows the 0511/0611 harmonic cell from van den Toorns The
Music of Igor Stravinsky.
109. Alexandre Tansman, Igor Stravinsky (New York: Putnum, 1949), p. 143; Morgan,
Twentieth-Century Music, p. 97.
110. Contextual is a term used by Milton Babbitt to describe music which denes
its materials within itself, providing alternatives to what were once regarded as
musical absolutes; see his Who Cares if you Listen?, reprinted in Barney Childs
and Eliot Schwartz (eds.), Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music (New
York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1967), pp. 2445.
111. Igor Stravinsky, Ce que jai voulu exprimer dans Le Sacre du Printemps, Mont-
joie!, 8, 29 May 1913; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier
de Presse, p. 14. The translation is by Edward B. Hill, Boston Evening Transcript,
12 February 1916; reprinted in Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in
Pictures and Documents, pp. 5246. This rsum of the Rite, ghost-written by the
editor of Montjoie!, was persistently disavowed by Stravinsky; however, the
evidence points to Stravinsky as the author. See Vera Stravinsky and Robert
Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, pp. 5226.
112. Adorno, Stravinsky: A Dialectical Portrait, p. 160.
113. Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 947.
114. Roman Vlad, Stravinsky, trans. Frederick and Ann Fuller (London: Oxford
University Press, 1960), p. 31; Forte, The Harmonic Organization of The Rite of
Spring, p. 132; the other complexes are 716, 731, 828, 823, 818 and 816.
115. As Craig Ayrey writes, the principle of repetition on all levels . . . [allows for]
the formation of a self-referential system of prolongational structures. See his Bergs
Scheideweg: Analytical Issues in Op. 2/ii, Music Analysis, 1/ii (1982), p. 196.
116. Schffner, Strawinsky, p. 95; quoted in Boucourechliev, Stravinsky, p. 73.
117. Whittall, Some Recent Writings on Stravinsky, Music Analysis, 8/iii (1989),
pp. 1735.
118. Or what Roland Barthes calls connotation; see Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans.
Richard Miller (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 116.
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119. Elliot Antokoletz, Interval Cycles in Stravinskys Early Ballets, Journal of the
American Musicological Society, 39/iii (1986), p. 608.
120. Dmitri Tymoczko, Stravinsky and the Octatonic: A Reconsideration, Music
Theory Spectrum, 24/i (2002), p. 78. There is an error in the text; instead of
harmonic minor the original reads melodic minor. However, it is clear from
Tymoczkos Ex. 7 that harmonic minor is intended.
121. Tymoczko, Stravinsky and the Octatonic, pp. 802.
122. Morton, Footnotes to Stravinsky Studies, p. 14. Mortons folk tune reproduced
in Ex. 22b has been transposed to correspond to the pitches of the ostinato; the
original starts on A.
123. Taruskin, Russian Folk Melodies in The Rite of Spring, p. 532; revised in
Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 904. Taruskins folk tune reproduced
in Ex. 22c has been transposed to correspond to the pitches of the ostinato; the
original starts on C.
124. Van den Toorn, Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring, pp. 1445.
125. I am indebted to Shay Loya for introducing me to the complexities of these
Verbunkos modes.
126. See, for example, Liszts Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in A Minor. The Rhapsody
opens with a ourish on a pure Kalindra scale to establish its harmonic and
melodic credentials, but in bars 1112 (see below), the octave gurations in the
left hand outline a Kalindra scale on D, with its leading note attened to C in
order to descend smoothly to Bw.
127. This is evident later in the same Rhapsody mentioned in n. 126 where A and Bw
triads are juxtaposed against each other (bars 4042).
128. The sketches show that Stravinsky had intended Spring Rounds to follow the
Augurs of Spring/Dance of the Young Girls, hence the early appearance of the
Spring Rounds theme: see Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, pp. 68.
129. Vlad, Stravinsky, p. 30.
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130. Stravinsky, Montjoie!; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du printemps: Dossier de
Presse, p. 14; translation taken from Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky
in Pictures and Documents, pp. 5246.
131. Van den Toorn, The Music of Igor Stravinsky, p. 103. Note again the theoretical
bias towards Ew in the description.
132. Taruskin, Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions, I: p. 954.
133. Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, p. 37.
134. Rivire, La Nouvelle revue franaise; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du
printemps: Dossier de Presse, pp. 43 and 39.
135. Igor Stravinsky in an interview with the Daily Mail, 13 February 1913; quoted
in Vera Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Stravinsky in Pictures and Documents, p. 95.
136. Letter from Stravinsky to Nicolai Findeizen, Clarens, 2 December 1912;
reprinted in Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, appendix p. 33.
137. Pasler, Music and Spectacle, p. 81.
138. See Levitz, The Chosen Ones Choice, p. 83. Art plastique was architecturally
conceived; concerning this new form of dance, Daniel Chennevire, in La
musique choregraphique, Montjoie!, iii (1914), writes: Choreographic music
. . . must be constructed architecturally and rhythmically . . . in order to mix with
the geometric schemes of the choreography and to penetrate it. This music was
born with Le sacre du Printemps (my emphasis; the translation is taken from
Levitz, The Chosen Ones Choice, p. 83).
139. Stravinsky, Montjoie!, pp. 5246.
140. See Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, p. 6.
141. Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, pp. 2933.
142. Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, p. 34.
143. The orchestration and details of this transition were only realised following the com-
pletion of the work; see Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring: Sketches 191113, pp. 1202.
144. In the ballets nal Sacricial Dance, the virgin is surrounded by the male
dancers (the Ancestors) only.
145. Stravinsky and Craft, Expositions and Developments, p. 148.
146. See my Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999).
147. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, pp. 173 and 200.
148. Rivire, La nouvelle revue franaise; reprinted in Lesure (ed.), Le sacre du
printemps: Dossier de Presse, p. 47.
149. Frederick J. Smith, The Experiencing of Musical Sound: A Prelude to a Phenomenol-
ogy of Music (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979), pp. 70 and 178.
150. In order to criticise Stravinsky, Adorno has to understand the Rite in terms of
a passive, reactive body; however, in Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton
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(London: Routledge, 1973), pp. 26639, Adorno advocates the body that thinks:
thinking cannot be separated from need.
151. See David Sudnow, Ways of the Hands: The Organisation of Improvised Conduct
(Cambridge, MA and London: MKT Press, 1993).
152. Adorno, Sound Figures, p. 148.
153. Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, pp. 556.
The riot that greeted the Rite of Spring only found its analytical counterpart some
70 years after its premire, with factions headed by Pieter van den Toorn, Richard
Taruskin and Allen Forte. But the analytical tussle was hardly a genuine riot in
as much the differing camps subscribed to a premise of authenticity in order to
stabilise the work under a universal concept: the result was a Rite unied by
theory. The scholars may have battled with each other, but the music was not
allowed to have its own riot. This article suggests a more contingent analysis of
the Rite, focussing on the rebellion of the particular against the universal. The
point is not to champion an anarchic or barbaric reading of the music, which
is often attributed to the work because of the ballets violent content, but to open
the possibility of a new order that arises from the rioting particular.