rtr: le sacre du printemps

i'm sitting at a picnic table beneath an outdoor overhang at the park, waiting for simon to finish a summer basketball session.  i really need to shower.  the cool wind feels good on my oily skin, which is acting like a protective sheath. good thing nobody is out here looking at me, aside from the thankfully uninterested parks & rec people.

i’ve never heard this complete work before.  i like stravinsky’s writing; his use of color combinations, adventurous lines, crafty harmonic movement, and drive.  there is a lot of music I’ve never heard – an embarrassing amount, actually.  this is the summer i get even further out of my box and embrace the world around me.  yesterday was me learning how to shoot while my son drives the car in his new “fast and furious” xbox game.  today is rite of spring.

my faves, the bad plus, are doing a version of this for their trio.  i want to hear the real deal before learning their reimagination.  i know a bunch of old school soul music from hip hop samples, and want to dig around and understand the musical origins of other things along with their path traveled.  bill evans said that those who look furthest into the future are also reaching the furthest back into the past.  establish a balance, get informed, and take action (but don’t wait around for this magic recipe to show itself).

harbingers of spring - i really like the immediate and challenging use of the winds.  this primal string rhythm throbs, firmly establishing a vibe for the entire work.  go flutes!!!  I like the bow attacks on the strings, the passing lines that require you to really count and see the continuation of the idea.  reminds me of wayne gretzky, talking about how he became a hockey whiz. the great one 
separated himself from the pack by being able to see three plays ahead.  bobby fischer would tell his opponents that they should forfeit instead of getting beat. 

spring khorovod - man, I bet brass players like playing this.  everybody probably likes playing this.  cool bottom lines in the lower woodwinds.  robust advanced counterpoint to the floaty string chorus and the obligatory french horn passages.  why do they get all the good parts?  blasty brass always sounds good when it doesn’t splatter and sacrifice pitch.  
CSO has got that on lock.  pedal in the flutes while woodwinds transition into games of the rival tribes.  inventive.

i love the moving parts within.  i started out singing in vocal jazz and, as much as I hated the actual singing part, i fell for certain arrangers (gene puerling, clare fischer, the take six guys) that would actually give something to the tenors and altos.  it keeps the players engaged, the audience fighting for detailed understanding, and all insisting upon repeated performances and listens.

wise elder - damn, this one is cool.  great rhythmic articulations, counting, dramatic percussion lines, heavy (in the head) shift to dense ideas at the sacrifice: introduction.  so far, the rhythmic stuff and the thickness, stick-to-your-ribs ensemble writing is carrying the work.  the meat is usually found in melodic heroics, but that has yet to carry me through.  and – news flash – CSO is pretty good.  woah.  i bet ozawa is gearing up for his second wind in this movement.  not that you take any plays off so to speak, but the orchestra can shape these phrases and cover you while you rehydrate and get back in to the game.  

mystic circles of the young girls – beautiful round lush playing in the upper strings.  alto flute?  woodwinds huddle up and attack again.  here come the strings, finally getting a brief sniff of the action.  great writing, crunchy voicings.  passing around the short melodic idea, allowing it to naturally adjust with the new orchestratioi pairings. 

glorification of the chosen victim – here comes the gist of the opening material, with a new twist.  this is amazing.  how have I not heard this before?  the slips in the high voices, the emphatically argumentative response in the middle voices, the deep sawing by the bass section.  so good.  tribal, african, comprehensive.  i wonder how many times people played these lines for stravinsky, with different lineups and players, so he could evaluate and hear new things and revise?  thank goodness there wasn’t a finale playback to kill the creative juices needed for such a seminal work as this.

time is flying by in this work.  i usually steer clear of longer pieces because i stink at focusing for big stretches of time, but this is cruising through my ears.  bass clarinet is hard, so i’m appreciating the music and the musicianship with both barrels.  and i’m a sucker for pizzicato, especially when it is accentuated with percussion that isn’t overbearing. 

stravinsky is allowing you to join him for the climax, not giving it away or shoving it down your throat.  I’m buying it hook, line, and sinker.  slow play.  quick crests in the cymbals and matching dynamic crescendos in the brass cumulate to take you to the top.  love the quick flute ditty and half-hearted string tremolo before getting whapped over the head with the final blow.

this recording of CSO with seiji ozawa (who i thought only conducted boston) belongs to the wife.  i am lucky to have a built-in cross disciplinary library and real life resource to open my eyes to new music.  i need to know my stuff better, but want to know everyone else’s simultaneously.  visual, theatrical, literary, musical, philosophical.  it’s a big world out there and a short life we lead.  giddyup.

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