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Celebrate the Riotous 'Rite of Spring'

Stravinsky's work goes modern for 100th anniversary
Monica Riese, 3:07pm, Wed. May. 29, 2013

If you'd told me in March that it'd still feel like spring mere days before the start of June, I'd have laughed in your face.

And if you'd told the audience members of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées who'd paid 35,000 francs for tickets to attend the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring that they'd leave in a near riot, they probably would've been pretty skeptical too.

But that's precisely what happened.

One hundred years ago today, Stravinsky's latest ballet premiered onstage to uproar and pandemonium in the audience; his dissonant score was a little too avant-garde for the theatregoers of the time. Today, it's considered one of the more influential pieces of the 20th century.

And while it's easy to understand where the composition might have upset its 1913 traditional crowd – its rhythm and structure and … melody (?) … are all quite experimental – there's a definite beauty in it too. In celebration of the premiere's centennial, music animator Stephen Malinowski and music synthesist Jay Bacal collaborated on a visual score for the piece that emphasizes that beauty and, in turn, becomes something beautiful all its own.

Viewers can follow along with each piece of the orchestra as it chimes and trills and slides through notes in peculiar rhythms and bold combinations, watching the complex piece unfold in a borderline cacophonous whirl made all the more bold by its bright neon colors and sharp polygons.

The score covers Stravinsky's 15-and-a-half-minute introduction; see if your 21st century ears can make it through the whole thing before you try to throw things at the pit.

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