le sacreAt age 14, I was thumbing through recordings in my High School music teacher’s office when I came across a series of recordings meant to be used as part of a Music Appreciation class. One of the tracks I played was the famous section from The Rite of Spring where the strings perform a series of down bows with the brass accentuating syncopated rhythms. My entire body and soul connected with the drive of the music and I immediately had to find out the name of the work. Shortly after this encounter I went to the public library and checked out the recording of Stravinsky conducting The Rite of Spring. I had never in my life heard music with such power and raw energy. At the conclusion of the work, with musical accents falling on what seemed to be arbitrary beats, I was so startled that I thought the record was scratched and cleaned the needle. I played it over again soon discovering that this was not the byproduct of a dirty record player needle, but the way the music was interned to sound. Seemingly over night my taste in music changed. Led Zeplin and Iron Butterfly had met their match in the name of a Russian composer named Igor Stravinsky.

In an attempt to learn more about the composer I came across the series of books written by his assistant Robert Craft which were compiled in the form of a diary and conversations, explaining Stravinsky’s life as composer, conductor, and living repository of what was, to me, an intellectual giant.  Over the next few years in High School, I read book after book about what had become my favorite composer. As I was nearing graduation I had come the the realization that I had not only picked a genius to be my mentor, I had latched on to a person who knew some of the most gifted, and talented people of the 20th century. Due to my independent reading, by the time I graduated, I had a reasonable understanding of people pictured below:


Simply put, because Stravinsky thought these people were cool, I wanted to find out why and I wanted to understand why Stravinsky was attracted to their work. This meant I would have to at least sample some of their writings or stage creations, and in the case of visual artists, take a look at their work. If you look at the names of just some of the people displayed (not all are included, and yes….I notice there are no women; consider the time frame), I was provided my own personal education in the humanities. In this assembly of intellect there are writers of prose, and poetry, visual artists, and dancers. A sixteenth century composer, 20th century abstract atonalists, and two absurdist playwrights.

Due to Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) and my interest in the composer, I was offered formation within the composer’s intellectual synergy: the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects, meaning the combined output of those associated with Stravinsky afforded me greater opportunities than a simple recording I enjoyed. This gift has been with me the rest of my life and I still garnish the benefits of my original discovery.

May 28, 2013 humanity celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1913. This work, with its gut wrenching agitation shook from the earth the primeval scream of modernity. For me, it shook loose the quest for knowledge and lifetime of learning and it will always hold a special place in my soul for my own awakening. Still, in the 21st century, Le Sacre holds the power to change and to look beyond where we exist reaching out beyond what we know to be true, what we seek to express if we dare to risk.