An in depth exploration of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps ("The Rite of Spring") for Seminar In Musicology Summer I 2009 Dr. Melanie Foster Taylor Converse College

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Zietgeist: Stravinsky's Paris Circa 1910's

Igor Stravinsky composed his work Le Sacre du printemps ("The Rite of Spring") between the years of 1911 and 1913 while he lived in Clarens, Switzerland and traveled frequently to Paris. The atmosphere of Paris was one of economic rebirth, technological achievement, and progressive artistic expression. The period time is somewhat enigmatic. Falling between the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of World War I in 1914 the decade of the 1910's is more easily defined by what it was not rather than branding it with a monchar. But for lack of a proper label it was no doubt a progressive age.

Some notable occurrences in the years of 1911-13

  • The sinking of the RMS
  • Titanic in 1912
  • Air flight recently achieved in 1903 reaches new heights - A plane lands on the deck of a ship The first airshows are held in Chicago and Paris. An everywhere records are set and broken by intrepid aviators including a young man latter to be known as Harry Houdini.
  • Automobiles increased in number and affordability changing the city street forever
  • Radio and radio programming are entering popular culture
  • phonograph records transitioned from cylinders to discs and the modern record was born
  • the first silent feature films were released
  • Cubism lead by Pablo Picasso spread through Europe
  • Jazz was gaining popularity across America and Europe
  • Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy die
  • European militarism grows beginning the chain of events leading to the first World War
  • The seeds of communism which lead to the October revolution are being sown in Russia
  • Women wore large plumed hat, bodices, and hobble skirts
  • the zipper and the first pop up toaster are invented

From: The Meccas of the World By Ruth Cranston

“this early morning calm, of solitary spaces and clear sunshine, fresh-sprinkled streets and gently fluttering trees, one meets with a new and altogether different Paris from the dazzling, exotic city one knows by day and at night. Absent is the snort and reckless rush of motors, the insistent jangling of tram and horse's bells, the rumble of carts and clip-clop of their Norman stallions' feet; absent the hurrying, kaleidoscopic throngs who issue from the subway stations and fill the thoroughfares; absent even that familiar smell-of-the- city which in Paris is a fusion of gasoline, wet asphalt, and the faint fragrance of women's sachet:“

“Motor-buses are whirring by now, and a maze of fiacres, taxis, delivery-boy's bicycles, and heavy trucks skid round the slippery corner in dangerous confusion. The traffic laws of Paris are of the vaguest, and policemen are few and far between; all at once, the Place seems unbearably thick and full of noise. “

“I read last week in one of the French illustrated papers a serious treatise on ladies' dogs. It was divided into the three categories: "Dogs for morning," "Dogs for afternoon," "Dogs of ceremony" — meaning full- dress dogs. And the article gravely discussed the correct canine accessory that should be worn with each separate costume of the elegante's elaborate day.?

From: Paris nights : and other impressions of places and people (c1913)

Describing the lighted signs of Parisian cafe’s at night.

“The shops and cafes were all on fire, making two embankments of fire, above which rose high and mysterious facades masked by trees that looked like the impossible verdure of an opera. And between the summits of the trees a ribbon of rich, dark, soothing purple the sky ! This was the city.”
“The wings of the Moulin Rouge, jewelled now with crimson lamps, began to revolve slowly. The upper chambers of the restaurant showed lights be- hind their mysteriously-curtained windows. The terrace was suddenly bathed in the calm blue of electricity. No austere realism of the philosopher could argue away the romance of the scene. “


"1910s -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 03 June 2009 .

Bennett, Arnold. Paris nights : and other impressions of places and people (c1913). London: London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1915. 3 June 2009 .
Walsh, Stephen. "Stravinsky, Igor." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed June 3, 2009).

Warwick, Anne. The meccas of the world; the play of modern life in New York, Paris, Vienna, Madrid and London ([c1913]). New York: New York, John Lane company, C1913. 3 June 2009 .

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