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Music / Igor Stravinsky

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"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it."

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17, 1882 - April 6, 1971) was a Russian-born composer. He is the only classical composer present on Time Magazine's list of "100 People of the 20th Century". Regardless of what criticism people might have of this list, Igor Stravinsky is widely acknowledged as a massively influential composer and one of the most important and iconic figures of modern classical music.

Igor Stravinsky's most famous works include three early ballets: "The Firebird", "Petrushka", and "The Rite of Spring". "The Firebird" is one of the most accessible and popular works that Igor Stravinsky wrote, and was his first major work, premiering in 1910. Many people will recognize certain parts of the piece due to its use in Fantasia 2000 and the opening for live concerts of Yes. It was frequently compared to the works of Claude Debussy by critics. It uses many more Romantic elements than Stravinsky's later work.


"Petrushka" is a ballet about a puppet that come to life. It premiered in 1911, and is a more modernistic work, using more polytonality and polyrhythms. Although less accessible it nevertheless found critical success upon its debut, and is very popular today.

"The Rite of Spring" was a ballet portraying a savage tribal ritual in which a virgin is sacrificed to bring about spring; it premiered in 1913. It uses dissonance, primitive melodies, polyrhythm, and polytonality, to express this. It was met with extreme hostility on its opening night (the audience rioted, leaving few people in the theater and Stravinsky in tears.) The piece is now critically acclaimed as a masterpiece, and is one of the most famous works of classical music of the modern era, and of all time. Walt Disney even used it in the original Fantasia, which cemented its reputation and even overshadowed it. (Stravinsky is the only composer of a piece used in the Fantasia films that actually was alive to see it used on the movie in theaters. Unfortunately, he hated it.)


This is by no means the entirety of Stravinsky's work, as he went through a multitude of styles after the three ballets for which he is most remembered. His change in style throughout his career has been compared to that of Pablo Picasso. Among other works were the ballet "Agon", the ballet "Pulcinella", and the opera "The Rake's Progress".

Rumoured that he had an affair with French couturier Coco Chanel, although this is likely untrue.

This creator provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Avant Garde Music: Stravinsky's music pushed the boundaries of harmony, rhythm, and instrumental technique far beyond what was conventional in his day.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: Despite his reputation for dissonance most of his work is actually quite melodic.
  • Badass Boast: When Stravinsky played sections of "The Rite Of Spring" to ballet choreographer Sergei Diaghilev Diaghilev was shocked by the dissonance. So he asked Stravinsky: "How long does this go on?" To which the composer snapped back: "Until the very end!"
  • Classical Music: Between 1920 and 1950 Stravinsky composed a lot of neoclassical works, where he reinvented 18th century style baroque music, sometimes to the point of parody.
  • Deal with the Devil: Central plot in L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldiers' Tale") and The Rake's Progress.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: While The Rite Of Spring blew up musical conventions, he later became a cofounder of Neoclassicism, which essentially was a Reconstruction of pre-Romantic Classical Music.
  • Homage: He wrote an "in memoriam" both for Dylan Thomas as well as John F. Kennedy.
  • Lighter and Softer: After The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky never wrote anything as extreme or as shocking ever again.
  • Living Toys: Petrouchka, about a puppet that comes to life.
  • Mood Motif: Used in "L' Histoire du Soldat" ("The Soldiers' Tale")
  • Music of Note: One of the biggest names in twentieth-century music.
  • Neo Classical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Stravinsky used some ragtime influences in his work "Rag-Time".
  • Odd Friendship: He was mutual admirers with Charlie Parker, surprising many in both the classical and jazz worlds.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Stravinsky is still mostly associated with the scandal of "The Rite Of Spring", more than any other composition he wrote during his life. Still the infamy helped his name to be recognized all around the world.
  • Refuge in Audacity: If you compare "The Rite of Spring" to the music before it, it's incredibly brutal. It did away with all melody except for brief melodic cells, and the overwhelming focus is on pounding rhythm. With a good orchestra and conductor in a decent hall, it's like listening to metal, only less predictable and so more disturbing. Back in 1913, there was literally nothing like it.
  • Shout-Out: In his neoclassical works Stravinsky often provided little shout outs to composers from previous centuries.
  • Small Reference Pools: Stravinsky is the most famous composer of the first half of the 20th century, at any rate.
  • Uncommon Time: Used this so much he nearly inverted it, and considered it noteworthy when he wrote a piece (Symphony in C) that had no meter changes at all. Generally considered the Trope Codifier for this tendency in modern Classical Music, and undoubtedly a rather large influence on many of the legions of Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal bands who use the trope as well.

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