Then The Curtain Opened: The Bracing Impact Of Stravinsky’s ‘Rite’

One hundred years ago this week, a ballet premiered that changed the art world. Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du PrintempsThe Rite of Spring — was first seen by the public on May 29, 1913, in Paris. As the orchestra played The Rite‘s swirling introduction, the audience at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées began to murmur. Then the curtain opened.

Dancers dressed in folkloric costumes began to move unpredictably to the pounding chords. In the theater, the rumbles grew to pandemonium — hoots and jeers, arguments and even fistfights between traditionalists and modernists in the audience. It became difficult to hear the music.

The composer, who was sitting in the theater, described the scene in a 1965 interview, included in the documentary Stravinsky.

“When the curtain opened on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down … the storm broke,” Stravinsky said. “They came for Scheherazade, or for Cleopatra. And they saw Le Sacre du Printemps. They were very shocked. They were very naïve and stupid people.”

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross says Stravinsky shocked the audience with a revolution in harmony.

“You have these two chords slammed together: E Major — actually F-Flat Major, as it’s spelled in the score — and an E-Flat Dominant 7th chord,” Ross explains. “These are two adjacent chords. They’re dissonant. They’re being jammed together. And that’s a harsh sound, and he keeps insisting on it. That chord repeats and repeats and repeats, pounding away.”

And then, Ross says, there was Stravinsky’s revolution in rhythm.

“It seems as though at first he’s just going to have this regular pulse. But then these accents start landing in unexpected places, and you can’t quite get the pattern of it,” Ross says. “It’s as if you’re in a boxing ring, and this sort of brilliant fighter is coming at you from all directions with these jabs.”

As unsettling as the music was, the audience at the premiere of The Rite of Spring was even more shocked by Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography.

“This was not ballet,” says Lynn Garafola, a professor of dance at Barnard College and author of a history called Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. “It was a style of expressive performance that was extremely violent, and that seemed to depart completely from conventional ballet vocabulary.

An image from the 2013 production of Le Sacre du Printemps by the Joffrey Ballet, Chicago, reflects the hard jumps and stamps of Vaslav Nijinsky's original choreography. Enlarge image i

An image from the 2013 production of Le Sacre du Printemps by the Joffrey Ballet, Chicago, reflects the hard jumps and stamps of Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography.

Herbert Migdoll/Joffrey Ballet

An image from the 2013 production of Le Sacre du Printemps by the Joffrey Ballet, Chicago, reflects the hard jumps and stamps of Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography.

Herbert Migdoll/Joffrey Ballet

“It included a lot of stamping. It included jumps. It didn’t aspire to be ethereal — in other words, to look like jumps that could hang in the air. … They seemed to go up simply to crash down into the earth. And then there were parts where they were simply trembling, when their hands were in fists, doing something that seemed, for all the world, to be primitive.”

The story itself is primitive: An ancient Russian tribe makes a sacrifice to the gods of fertility; a virgin is chosen; and she dances herself to death.

But Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev, who staged the ballet, was also intent on presenting modern works. Stravinsky had already written two scores for the company, The Firebird and Petrushka. He said the idea for The Rite of Spring came to him in a dream. He also claimed a sort of mystical creative process.

“Very little immediate tradition lies behind Le Sacre du Printemps, and no theory,” Stravinsky said. “I had only my ear to help me. I heard, and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which the Sacre passed.”

However it came to Stravinsky, Alex Ross says the music still has an impact.

The Rite felt completely different. And that has remained a very powerful influence,” Ross says. “Even the youngest composers coming to the fore today listen to The Rite and think, ‘my God.’ It still sounds new to them.”

The Rite of Spring influenced 20th century composers from Bartok and Stockhausen to Steve Reich and the American minimalists. Within a year of the premiere, the score was hailed by critics and audiences as a masterpiece.

As for the ballet, Nijinksy’s original choreography was abandoned after the initial run, and wouldn’t be seen again until the 1980s.

But historian Lynn Garafola says the choreography had an equally dramatic impact on the world of dance.

“I think it was the beginning of what eventually becomes modern dance. It meant that it was possible to create a large-scale work — not a work for a soloist — that departed from the traditional vocabularies of ballet,” she says. “This was a new kind of ballet, a new kind of choreography, and a new kind of music.”

In the century since its premiere, The Rite of Spring has become a symbol of what’s modern. And Igor Stravinsky knew better than to try a sequel.

Travel agent Jimmy flew bookies, lands in Ahmedabad cops’ net

Big fish like bookies Jitu Tharad and Dinesh Khambat may have eluded the Delhi police special branch. But the latter has managed to net Jimmy, not so small a fish either. A travel agent based in Ahmedabad, he was allegedly involved in booking a majority of air tickets of almost all the bookies like Ramesh Vyas, Chandresh, Jitu Tharad and a few others. And, the money was easily transferred to Jimmy through the Hawala route.

Sources in the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) confirmed that Jimmy was nabbed from the city and handed over to the Delhi police for his alleged role in booking tickets for bookies.

Jimmy, police believe, has the potential to turn into a key witness as he was familiar with the bookies and their travel plans during IPL 6. DCB sleuths arrested Jimmy from his hideout on Monday and handed him over to the Delhi police, which had sought their help to nab him.

Sources said Jimmy used to book tickets on the basis of just a call. “It has been found that he had booked many domestic and international tickets in lieu of a heavy commission,” a police source told dna.

Police found that the bookies had a busy schedule during the IPL 6 season and had to travel, most of the time unplanned, from one city to another. “All they did was to call Jimmy, who took the pain to make all the arrangements in both cities,” a police source said.

Police had also found that it was easier for the bookies to book the tickets from Ahmedabad compared to any other city as the Hawala transaction here is far easier and safer than elsewhere. “He used to book the tickets through credit cards and getting the cash through Hawala,” said a source.

Jimmy, according to police sources, could prove to be a vital witness to nail people associated with the bookies, their travel plans and their connection with S Sreesanth, Vindoo Dara Singh and others as they were also using Vyas’s network to book tickets. Vyas has already been arrested by the Delhi police.

Georges Moustaki, Who Wrote Songs For Edith Piaf, Dies

Georges Moustaki, one of France’s most beloved songwriters, died Thursday in Nice after a long illness. He was 79. Moustaki was known for infusing French song with sounds from around the world.

In 1959, Moustaki wrote the lyrics to Edith Piaf’s international hit “Milord,” a song about a working-class girl who falls for an English gentleman. At the time, Piaf was in her early 40s and the handsome Moustaki was in his mid-20s.

Piaf was smitten with Moustaki’s music, as well as his great charm. Carolyn Burke, who wrote a biography of Piaf, says the two were lovers. They wrote “Milord” while they were on vacation.

“He started writing words down on a paper napkin. One of them was the word ‘milord.’ Piaf chose it, drew a circle around it and told him, ‘Start from there,’ ” Burke says.

Although Moustaki did not write the music for “Milord,” Piaf liked how his compositions were flavored with jazz and styles that went beyond France’s borders. She sang a number of his songs, including “Le Gitan et La Fille” and “Eden Blues.”

Moustaki was born in Egypt to Greek parents and moved to France when he was a teenager. He wrote poetry and worked as a journalist for an Egyptian newspaper. As a solo artist, Moustaki became popular for songs about freedom and individuality. His first hit — “Le Meteque” (or “The Mongrel”) — is about being an outsider.

In one of the many tributes being written today, France’s culture minister wrote that Georges Moustaki was “an artist committed to humanist values.”

Henri Dutilleux, Leading French Composer, Dies At 97

Henri Dutilleux, a leading French composer who wrote music of luminous perfection, died Wednesday in Paris at age 97. His family announced the death, which was reported by one of his publishers, Schott Music, and the Agence-France Presse.

Throughout his career, which took off after World War II with performances of his First Symphony, Dutilleux wrote music with particular musicians in mind. His cello concerto Tout un monde lointain was written for Mstislav Rostropovich and the violin concerto L’arbre des songes for Isaac Stern. One of his last works, Le temps l’horloge, was composed for soprano Renée Fleming, who won a Grammy for her recording of the work.

Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, whom Dutilleux asked to record his 2003 piece Correspondances, attested to the composer’s perfectionist tendencies. At a record release party in Paris in January to celebrate the composer’s 97th birthday, an event recorded for a promotional trailer, Salonen recalled the recording sessions: “I indeed remember moments in Correspondances, when after a take I would turn towards Mr. Dutilleux and I said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ and he said, ‘Well, you know, this phrase should be a little faster and maybe you might want to take a little bit more time there.”

Dutilleux, who continually revised his works, abandoned most of his compositions that preceded his Piano Sonata, begun in 1946. He composed the piece for the pianist Geneviève Joy, whom he married the same year.

Born in Angers in 1916 into a family with artistic connections (his grandfather was a composer and close friend of Gabriel Fauré, his great-grandfather a painter and friend of Eugène Delacroix), Dutilleux studied first at the local conservatory in Douai. As a teenager, after the family moved to Paris, he attended the Paris Conservatory, winning the Prix de Rome in 1938 on his third attempt. After the outbreak of World War II, Dutilleux was enlisted to carry stretchers. Later, he held posts at the Paris Opera and French Radio. His teaching jobs were few, but significant, with stints at the École Normale de Musique and Paris Conservatory and frequent visits to Tanglewood as a guest instructor.

Tom Service, writing for the Guardian, notes that Dutilleux never fit (or associated himself) with any particular school of composition. His anti-ideological approach to music history, Service says, resulted in “some of the most poetically flexible music of recent decades.” Dutilleux’s rich coloration, shifting textures and streams of melody seem to form a style of his own, with influences of Debussy and Bartók.

Dutilleux’s love of literature resulted in numerous songs, incidental music for Wuthering Heights, and Correspondances, in which he set texts by Rainer Maria Rilke, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Vincent Van Gogh. His family ties with visual artists and his lifelong love of painting surfaced not only in the calligraphy of his beautifully crafted scores but also in one of his best-known works, Timbres, espace, movement, a 1978 orchestral piece inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

In 2012 Dutilleux was the first to receive the New York Philharmonic’s newly established Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music. The award resulted in performances of three of his works at Avery Fisher Hall last summer. His other awards include the French Grand Prix de la Musique, an honorary membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a MIDEM lifetime achievement award.

At a Paris event in January marking the release of a new album and his 97th birthday, Dutilleux, in a wheelchair and slightly frail, was appreciative of both his longevity and of the musicians and recording industry colleagues gathered around him.

“I have had the great joy of living a long life,” the composer announced. “And you are, each and every one of you, doing all that can be done to make the end of it as easy and enjoyable as possible. Thanks to all of you.”

Dutilleux’s legacy will hang on relatively few perfectly polished compositions such as The Shadows of Time, his symphonies, Timbres and the concertos. But it’s not the quantity of pieces that’s important to Tom Service:

The influence of Dutilleux’s music on the 20th and 21st centuries isn’t to be measured in how his work revolutionized the languages of musical possibility, or even in the roster of his pupils (who include Gérard Grisey). Instead, his music is a realization of a complete world, independent of concerns for cutting-edge contemporaneity, and one that becomes more essential the more you hear it, above all for how he transforms his astonishing compositional refinement into real emotional immediacy.

China’s Artist Provocateur Explores New Medium: Heavy Metal

The man ArtReview magazine named the most powerful artist in the world is trying his hand at rock stardom. In 2011, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei spent 81 days in detention. He was later let go and charged with tax evasion. Now, he has released his first heavy metal song, based on his time in police detention.

Ai monitors the reaction to his new song on Twitter on Wednesday, the day the song was released. Enlarge image i

Ai monitors the reaction to his new song on Twitter on Wednesday, the day the song was released.

Louisa Lim/NPR

Ai monitors the reaction to his new song on Twitter on Wednesday, the day the song was released. Louisa Lim/NPR

The video for the song, “Dumbass,” opens with a scene showing Ai Weiwei sitting in a chair, a black hood over his head. Written on the hood are the words “suspected criminal.” As he paces the cell, two guards pace with him. As he sleeps, one stands over his bed. Even seated on the toilet, they are just feet away, always present. These scenes dissolve into the fantasies of one of the prison guards, including plastic blow-up dolls taking Ai’s place in his bed, and the whole video ending with Ai, head shaved, dancing in drag. Ai says this dystopian nightmare — shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle — reflects his detention experience. “At least you shared my nightmares. I had terrible nightmares after I was released,” Ai says during an interview in his Beijing studio Wednesday. “But think about so many political prisoners, they’re still in jail. So I make my music to give to them.” Ai’s voice is angry, and the lyrics are explicit, at one point comparing China to a prostitute. The music was written by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, known as “China’s Leonard Cohen.” The song’s title refers to anybody, Ai says, “who still has illusions about this political condition and have illusions to think there is possibility to make some kind of change. I think the system itself refused to make any kind of change.” This is the first track issued from The Divine Comedy, an album set to be released on June 22, the anniversary of his release from detention. As he taps away incessantly on Twitter, Ai Weiwei seems to be becoming a global brand. He can’t leave China because the government never gave him back his passport after he was released from his detention. But he has ongoing projects scattered around the world. He has an exhibition in Indianapolis and another piece in Hong Kong. Three projects are coming up in the Venice Biennale,, and he has a traveling exhibition heading for Princeton, N.J.; Cleveland; Toronto; and Miami. He’s the featured interview in this month’s Playboy magazine, while filmmaker Alison Klayman’s documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry has played in theaters around the world.

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There’s even a book about his arrest, “Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei,” which has been adapted into a hash-tagged, live-streamed stage play in London, “#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei.” Ai says he’s “amazed” by the experience of watching someone portraying his experience on stage on the other side of the world. But playwright Howard Brenton sees the play as a collaboration, pointing out that it was Ai’s own idea. “We are part of his project really,” Brenton told the BBC. “Ai Weiwei’s work is like stones being thrown into a pond; the ripples, sort of like shock waves, get everywhere.” So what is his project anyway? “My project is very simple,” Ai answers. “It’s freedom.” Though Ai Weiwei may not be able to carry a tune, he’s not deterred. It may be dumb to speak out, he says. But Ai believes every citizen with a voice should use it to speak up for those who cannot. “Courage,” he says, “is not something you should sacrifice.”

Microsoft confirms Halo Bootcamp

 In addition to Halo 5, Halo 6, and the new Halo TV series, it appears Microsoft is working on yet another project in the science-fiction series.

A listing for “Bootcamp” appeared on the Korean Game Rating Board today (via GameFront) with Halo 3 mentioned in its product description, suggesting the project could be the long-rumored Halo 3 PC port.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed with GameSpot that Bootcamp is something unrelated to the company’s other Halo  Wow Gold endeavors, but wouldn’t go into further detail.

“What’s Bootcamp? It is not related to our Xbox One efforts, or the Reclaimer Saga, but rather a project we’re very enthusiastic about and will have more to say about in the near future,” the company said.

As GameFront points out, Bootcamp is referenced in the title of Brian Reed’s novel Halo: Fall of Reach: Boot Camp.  

The Doors’ Keyboard Counterpoint Goes Silent: Remembering Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek, the founding keyboardist of the Los Angeles rock band The Doors, died in a clinic in Germany on Monday after a lengthy battle with bile duct cancer, according to his publicist. He was 74.

The Doors

Music News

Morrison In Miami: The Doors’ Manzarek Tells The Story

The Doors arrive at London Airport in 1968.

The NPR 100

Set The Night On Fire: Behind The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’

Born Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. and raised on the south side of Chicago, he resisted piano lessons when he was young, until he heard Chicago blues and jazz on the radio. In 1965, he formed The Doors after moving to Los Angeles and meeting Jim Morrison. “We were aware of Muddy Waters. We were aware of Howlin’ Wolf and John Coltrane and Miles Davis,” Manzarek told WHYY’s Fresh Air in 2000.

Manzarek brought the Chicago sound to L.A.’s beaches, and The Doors added beat poetry and psychedelic drugs to rock ‘n’ roll. “As the sun is setting into the Pacific Ocean at the end, the terminus of Western civilization, that’s the end of it,” Manzarek said. “Western civilization ends here in California at Venice Beach, so we stood there inventing a new world on psychedelics.”

The group became well-known for Morrison’s magnetism and volatility. Drummer John Densmore says Manzarek recognized Morrison’s talent for words.

“He saw in Jim the magic before anyone,” Densmore says. He also figured out how to add something new to the band. “We didn’t have a bass player, which is really against the rock ‘n’ roll rules, but we found this keyboard bass. And so Ray’s left hand and my drumming were … cooking up the groove for [guitarist] Robby [Krieger] and Jim to float on top of.”

Manzarek pulled double duty: Not only did he provide half of the rhythm section, but he played melodies too.

“I had a keyboard bass sitting on top of a Vox Continental organ,” he told Fresh Air in 2000. “The Vox Continental organ was what I played with my right hand and the Fender keyboard bass with my left hand.”

It was Manzarek’s interpretation of Bach — with that right hand — that launched The Doors’ first hit, “Light My Fire,” in 1967.

“That was like a giant hook,” Densmore says. “Schools of fish bit that. Ray’s keyboard licks will go down in history as the most memorable hooks you could never forget.”

His keyboard playing would drive many classic Doors songs, like “Riders on the Storm” and “Break on Through (to the Other Side),” but just four years after “Light My Fire” hit the top of the charts, Morrison was dead. Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger tried to continue, recording two albums with Manzarek singing some of the lead vocals, but eventually called it quits. Manzarek recorded several solo albums, collaborated with poets and produced for other groups, including X, another Los Angeles trailblazer.

In 1998, Putnam published Manzarek’s autobiography to critical acclaim, though Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors, was more about Morrison than Manzarek. He also wrote two novels. And in 2002, he reunited with Krieger to play The Doors’ songs live. But he maintained that his identity was formed in Los Angeles with his three bandmates nearly a half-century ago.

“Once you open the doors of perception,” he said, “the doors of perception are cleansed, they stay cleansed, they stay open, and you see life as an infinite voyage of joy and adventure and strangeness and darkness and wildness and craziness and softness and beauty.”

And Ray Manzarek leaves all of that behind in his music.