Composer of the Week: Igor Stravinsky

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Igor Stravinsky wrote a ton of super awesome music — and he is considered by many to be the most influential composer of the 20th century! He is our Composer of the Week.

b. June 17, 1882

d. April 6, 1971

“Consonance, says the dictionary, is the combination of several tones into a harmonic unit. Dissonance results from the deranging of this harmony by the addition of tones foreign to it. One must admit that all this is not clear. Ever since it appeared in our vocabulary, the word ‘dissonance’ has carried with it a certain odor of sinfulness. Let us light our lantern: in textbook language, dissonance is an element of transition, a complex or interval of tones that is not complete in itself and that must be resolved to the ear’s satisfaction into a perfect consonance.”

–Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky’s father was a leading opera singer with the Imperial Russian Opera. Though young Igor expressed interest in following in his father’s footsteps, he was encouraged to study law instead. He endured four years of law school but rarely attended classes. Clearly, this was not what Stravinsky had in mind for his career.

His compositional career is divided into three periods: nationalism (The Rite of Spring, The Firebird Suite, Petrushka), neoclassicism (Pulcinella Suite), and serialism (Cantata, The Flood).

Stravinsky was known to be somewhat of a rabble-rouser. His famous work, The Rite of Spring, generated a historic riot upon its debut. Audiences were stunned by the depiction of fertility rites and violent dance steps within the ballet.

Additionally, Stravinsky was arrested for creating a shocking arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” — he was accused of tampering with public property. Guess the U.S. really liked that gift, eh?

Where to start:

-Listening to all the pieces mentioned above should keep you busy for awhile!

The Rite of Spring is a must. Hint: it was featured in the 1940 release of Fantasia.

Here’s video footage of Stravinsky conducting The Firebird Suite:

And here is a recording Stravinsky playing his Piano Sonata:

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