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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."

—Mnemonic to count drum hits in a movement of The Rite of Spring.

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.

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 the composer 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.

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