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Building Blocks: Repetition and Continuity in the Music of Stravinsky

Building Blocks: Repetition and Continuity in the Music of Stravinsky Blessed are the peacemakers. Gretchen Horlacher's illuminating study of Stravinskian form and texture, the product of two decades' research and reflection, is a quietly persuasive, stimulating, and, above all, constructive contributiontoafieldofinquirythathasseenmorethanitsshareofsquawking.Themanyexclamationpointswithwhichshesomewhatoverseasonsher otherwisegracefulprosearemorewhimsicalthanhortatory.Theyconveyan airofdelighteddiscoverythatreaderswillshare. Thetitlegivesaforetasteofthebook'spremiseandeventualachievement.Blocks,toaStravinskian,aretheformalconstituentsthat,inthewellknown words of Pieter van den Toorn, maintain a high degree of "consistency,identityanddistinction,"aswellas"insulation"fromoneanother,so that Igor Stravinsky's music appears to proceed not through the smoothly continuousanddynamicdevelopmentalprocessesthatgiveunifiedshapeto earliermusic,butinsteadthroughthejuxtapositionoralternationofhypostatizedunitsthatarehighlycontrastiveinsuccessionandthataccomplishthe shapingprocessthroughsheerinertialaccumulationofdisunifiedanddiscontinuous elements, producing a paradoxical impression of continuity by discontinuity.1 Horlacher's complaint is that earlier writers have tended to exaggeratethesehabits,contentingthemselveswithadescriptionofStravinskianformthatapproachesrandomness,whereasacloserlookrevealsafar moreinterestingandstrategicpracticewherebytheapparentlystaticrepetitionsofandwithinblocksactuallysetandachievegoals,andthejuxtapositionsbetweenthemarecalculatedtorealizedynamicgrowth.Inshort,the blocksbuild. Ishouldhavesaid"contentingourselves"intheforegoingparagraph, becauseIamoneofthosenamedalongwithvandenToornashavingunder1 For the phrase "consistency, identity and distinction," seevandenToorn1983,xv;headds"insulation"at339 whendiscussingtheSymphonies of Wind Instruments. Journal of Music Theory 56:2,Fall2012 DOI10.1215/00222909-1650424 ©2012byYaleUniversity estimated Stravinsky's formal strategies. (Others are named as well, but as Horlacher'sindeximmediatelydiscloses,vandenToornandIarethewriters towhoseworksheisatgreatestpainstooffersupplementsandcorrectives.)I havebeenperhapsevenmoreinsistentthanvandenToornoncharacterizing Stravinsky'smusicasstaticanddiscontinuous,becauseIhavedonesowithin anoverarchingargumentthatStravinsky'smusicisthewayitisbecauseitis theworkofarussiancomposer.Thisraisesspectersofexoticismandessentialism, which my notorious(even, according to Stephen Walsh, "sadistic") russian-derived technical vocabulary reinforces by identifying the static aspects of Stravinsky's music with the russian word nepodvizhnost' (literally "immobility") and the discontinuousness with the word drobnost' (literally "fragmentedness").2athirdrussianterm,uproshcheniye,whichmeans"simplification,"completestheimpressionthatStravinsky'smusicisdeficientin qualitiesthatnormallyconnotequalityinacademicmusicstudy.Horlacher, blessheragain,isunafraidoftheterms,seestheirpoint,andhelpfullyglosses them(althoughshemistakenlyinfersthattheyoriginatedinthediscourse offolklorestudies).nevertheless,itisnotsurprisingthatshewouldwantto countertheirpotentiallydisreputableimplications. ratherthanstaticaccumulation,Horlacherproposesthatweidentify Stravinsky'sformalprocessas"orderedsuccession,"forwhichshehasdevised averyeffectivemeansofgraphicrepresentation(reminiscentofedwardT. cone'sfamousdiagramoftheSymphonies of Wind Instruments,whichevidently inspiredit)inwhichsimilarelementsarealignedvertically,sothattheirconstituentunitscanbecomparedwithgreatestease,and(inparticular)sothat theirsubtledifferencesarerenderedasconspicuousaspossible(1962,158­ 59).Inaseriesoffivechapters,startingwithoneonthefirstoftheThree Pieces for String Quartet,probablyStravinsky'smostthoroughlyostinato-drivenpiece, andending--inevitably--withoneontheSymphonies,whichhasalwaysbeen theprimeexhibitforconnoisseursofdrobnost' andthesubjectofcelebrated analysesbycone,lászlóSomfai,JonathanKramer,christopherHasty,and others,HorlacherpainstakinglyandpersuasivelydemonstrateshowStravinsky's"meticulousprocessoffleshingoutapiecesuggeststhatthecomposer wasacutelyawareoftheorderinwhichitsreiterationsoccur,"andconcerned withmakingthatorderaseffectiveaspossible(x). Thisisanadmirablymodestwayofstakingherclaim,andallthemore compellingforthat.Becausesheisconcernedtodemonstratenotonlythat themusiciseffectivebutalsothatthecomposer'sprocessofshapingitimplied definitecriteriaofeffectiveness,shemakesfrequentandprofitablereference toStravinsky'ssketches.(Ihaveoftenvoicedskepticismabouttherelevance of sketch studies to analysis or evaluation, to the point where I http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Music Theory Duke University Press

Building Blocks: Repetition and Continuity in the Music of Stravinsky

Journal of Music Theory , Volume 56 (2) – Sep 21, 2012

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Duke University Press
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Copyright © Duke Univ Press
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0022-2909
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10.1215/00222909-1650424
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Abstract

Blessed are the peacemakers. Gretchen Horlacher's illuminating study of Stravinskian form and texture, the product of two decades' research and reflection, is a quietly persuasive, stimulating, and, above all, constructive contributiontoafieldofinquirythathasseenmorethanitsshareofsquawking.Themanyexclamationpointswithwhichshesomewhatoverseasonsher otherwisegracefulprosearemorewhimsicalthanhortatory.Theyconveyan airofdelighteddiscoverythatreaderswillshare. Thetitlegivesaforetasteofthebook'spremiseandeventualachievement.Blocks,toaStravinskian,aretheformalconstituentsthat,inthewellknown words of Pieter van den Toorn, maintain a high degree of "consistency,identityanddistinction,"aswellas"insulation"fromoneanother,so that Igor Stravinsky's music appears to proceed not through the smoothly continuousanddynamicdevelopmentalprocessesthatgiveunifiedshapeto earliermusic,butinsteadthroughthejuxtapositionoralternationofhypostatizedunitsthatarehighlycontrastiveinsuccessionandthataccomplishthe shapingprocessthroughsheerinertialaccumulationofdisunifiedanddiscontinuous elements, producing a paradoxical impression of continuity by discontinuity.1 Horlacher's complaint is that earlier writers have tended to exaggeratethesehabits,contentingthemselveswithadescriptionofStravinskianformthatapproachesrandomness,whereasacloserlookrevealsafar moreinterestingandstrategicpracticewherebytheapparentlystaticrepetitionsofandwithinblocksactuallysetandachievegoals,andthejuxtapositionsbetweenthemarecalculatedtorealizedynamicgrowth.Inshort,the blocksbuild. Ishouldhavesaid"contentingourselves"intheforegoingparagraph, becauseIamoneofthosenamedalongwithvandenToornashavingunder1 For the phrase "consistency, identity and distinction," seevandenToorn1983,xv;headds"insulation"at339 whendiscussingtheSymphonies of Wind Instruments. Journal of Music Theory 56:2,Fall2012 DOI10.1215/00222909-1650424 ©2012byYaleUniversity estimated Stravinsky's formal strategies. (Others are named as well, but as Horlacher'sindeximmediatelydiscloses,vandenToornandIarethewriters towhoseworksheisatgreatestpainstooffersupplementsandcorrectives.)I havebeenperhapsevenmoreinsistentthanvandenToornoncharacterizing Stravinsky'smusicasstaticanddiscontinuous,becauseIhavedonesowithin anoverarchingargumentthatStravinsky'smusicisthewayitisbecauseitis theworkofarussiancomposer.Thisraisesspectersofexoticismandessentialism, which my notorious(even, according to Stephen Walsh, "sadistic") russian-derived technical vocabulary reinforces by identifying the static aspects of Stravinsky's music with the russian word nepodvizhnost' (literally "immobility") and the discontinuousness with the word drobnost' (literally "fragmentedness").2athirdrussianterm,uproshcheniye,whichmeans"simplification,"completestheimpressionthatStravinsky'smusicisdeficientin qualitiesthatnormallyconnotequalityinacademicmusicstudy.Horlacher, blessheragain,isunafraidoftheterms,seestheirpoint,andhelpfullyglosses them(althoughshemistakenlyinfersthattheyoriginatedinthediscourse offolklorestudies).nevertheless,itisnotsurprisingthatshewouldwantto countertheirpotentiallydisreputableimplications. ratherthanstaticaccumulation,Horlacherproposesthatweidentify Stravinsky'sformalprocessas"orderedsuccession,"forwhichshehasdevised averyeffectivemeansofgraphicrepresentation(reminiscentofedwardT. cone'sfamousdiagramoftheSymphonies of Wind Instruments,whichevidently inspiredit)inwhichsimilarelementsarealignedvertically,sothattheirconstituentunitscanbecomparedwithgreatestease,and(inparticular)sothat theirsubtledifferencesarerenderedasconspicuousaspossible(1962,158­ 59).Inaseriesoffivechapters,startingwithoneonthefirstoftheThree Pieces for String Quartet,probablyStravinsky'smostthoroughlyostinato-drivenpiece, andending--inevitably--withoneontheSymphonies,whichhasalwaysbeen theprimeexhibitforconnoisseursofdrobnost' andthesubjectofcelebrated analysesbycone,lászlóSomfai,JonathanKramer,christopherHasty,and others,HorlacherpainstakinglyandpersuasivelydemonstrateshowStravinsky's"meticulousprocessoffleshingoutapiecesuggeststhatthecomposer wasacutelyawareoftheorderinwhichitsreiterationsoccur,"andconcerned withmakingthatorderaseffectiveaspossible(x). Thisisanadmirablymodestwayofstakingherclaim,andallthemore compellingforthat.Becausesheisconcernedtodemonstratenotonlythat themusiciseffectivebutalsothatthecomposer'sprocessofshapingitimplied definitecriteriaofeffectiveness,shemakesfrequentandprofitablereference toStravinsky'ssketches.(Ihaveoftenvoicedskepticismabouttherelevance of sketch studies to analysis or evaluation, to the point where I

Journal

Journal of Music TheoryDuke University Press

Published: Sep 21, 2012

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