Igor Stravinsky

Born June 17 (The Day of Artful Force)

Igor Stravinsky cut most of his law school classes and spent more and more time studying orchestration with Rimsky-Korsakoff. For  Diaghalev’s dance company he wrote the ballets Firebird, Petrouchka, and Rite of Spring. The latter was written in 1911 and caused a sensation at its Paris premiere where shouts and screams of protest were heard, even the firing of a gun. The music itself was so revolutionary that the entire Modern period of music is often dated from 1911 and from the composition and  premiere performance of the Rite. A true Diversifier (sign of Gemini) in his approach to music, Stravinsky wrote in many different styles and composed musical commentaries and arrangements of well known pieces of Pergolesi, Tchaikowsky, even Happy Birthday (he called it Birthday Greeting and it reminds one a bit of Jimi Hendrix recreating the Star Spangled Banner).

The Rite of Spring itself was an exceedingly complex piece for the time, written for large orchestra, changing time signatures and tonalities with dizzying frequency. It is a savage, highly dissonant, disturbing work which in one go cuts Western music adrift from anything written before it. This single composition opened the floodgates to musical freedom (some would say anarchy), making almost anything possible for new generations of composers who followed.

Stravinsky also showed interest in folk music, medieval and renaissance compositions, baroque, classical and romantic music, incorporating elements and compositional techniques of many periods and composers into his colorful, playful, witty compositions. He also wrote for a wide variety of instruments – piano, voice, chorus, orchestra, plus opera, oratorio and chamber music.  Following his departure from Russia to live in Paris, he later relocated to California and at the end of his life to New York City.

In a famous interview, Stravinsky was asked, as a man whose works had changed the entire course of music, what music expressed. He replied: “Music expresses nothing. “ I’m sorry said the interviewer, you cannot be serious. Then Stravinsky’s wife explained apologetically that Igor was a wonderful, very emotional person who  really believed that music expressed feelings. Stravinsky was adamant, repeating: “Music expresses nothing.” And then he added: “Music expresses Music.”

By Gary Goldschneider

About the author: Gary Goldschneider Gary began his extensive career in the public eye with weekly performances on WCAU radio’s Children’s Hour at the tender age of two. Reciting Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth and other famous poets, he later did scripts and commercials which laid the foundation for public speaking and college lecturing later in life. At seven, he began his piano study with David Sokoloff in Philadelphia. As a concert pianist he has appeared worldwide in recitals, including 12-hour Beethoven marathon concerts in which he performs all 32 piano sonatas of this great composer. Gary is the father of seven children, and his wife Berthe Meijer and he live in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Gary is internationally known as the bestselling author of The Secret Language of Birthdays, The Secret Language of Relationships, and the Secret Language of Destiny. This trilogy derives from his training in psychiatry and medicine at Yale University, his background in English Literature (B.A., M.A. University of Pennsylvania), his forty-year study of astrology, and his experiences living and working with spiritual groups in California and New Zealand.

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