Stravinsky’s statement is a disaster. Why? Because there is so much respect for him (and rightly so) that people take seriously what he said. (Or was said in his name by the person who drafted the Poetics of Music). Stravinsky’s music is unusually expressive. He is one of the most human of composers. Look how he has everything in his work from eroticism to holy scripture, fairy tale to soppy campery, children’s five-finger exercises to 1950s pointillism. He’s the entire human, without the expected limitations.
In order to get further down the highway, we will have to wait for someone to clear up the mess. But, as I say, it’s worse than a mess, it’s a disaster. We can’t get by all that easily.
Do I have to quote the original French? Do I have to research which of Stravinsky’s French minions actually wrote the statement in question? Or do we pick it apart and try to make sense of it? Or do we just ignore it, the way we do when someone drops a lethal fart at a dinner party?
I propose to take the latter course, at least for the moment.
Music is by its very nature spiritual. Therefore, even if you decide to call your pieces “Untitled I”, “Abstract IV” and so forth, they still reveal their origins. We will clearly recognize that “Untitled I” is neither a Pigmy dance, nor a Viennese waltz. We will feel sure that “Abstract IV” is neither a product of the Ars Subtilior movement, nor a hip-hop track.
And Le Sacre du Printemps will not be be confused with jolly waltzing at the Habsburg court, because it is neither jolly, nor Viennese. And it will not call to mind a castle entertainment in late 14th century France because it is not that either.
It might however just possibly be confused with a recording of tribal dancing in an African village. Just possibly, because there IS a connection there.
But I am not here particularly concerned with the nature of Le Sacre. (Though I must add that I find Boulez’s analysis strangely lacking. So far as I am aware, he doesn’t once mention the word “fuck” during the course of it).
Music is by its very nature spiritual.
When we know that, we need look no further for an explanation as to why Mozart piano sonatas are not selling terribly well to African Americans living in urban communities. The spirit of Mozart’s people comes across clearly in his music, and it is very different. We know that it is a people that lived some time before the 1970s and at some distance from New York City. But hey, here’s the point…even if the CDs carried no titles, lacked texts and contained no documentation, we’d still know it. We’d know it because it’s clearly expressed in the music.
I thank you for your attention, and hope that I have cleared up a little of the mess…