In sorting through my books on music and worship, I came across a note I had jotted to myself awhile back. A few years ago, I listened with great profit through this series: Robert Greenberg, “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” (The Teaching Company, 1998). Now, most of my exposure to what would very broadly be called “classical music” (not just music of the Classical period) had led me to certain expectations of anything by someone considered a “classical” composer. Imagine my surprise when Greenberg played part of a piece I had never heard before, Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The piece is intentionally primal and elemental. I jotted down Greenberg’s comments on the piece because I thought them so interesting:
It’s absolutely brutal — and it’s quite sexual. And what gives it its sexual brutality is this unbelievably steady beat of heavy, heavy chords — and it’s the same chord over and over and over again — and an irregular accent pattern.
The Rite of Spring was originally performed in 1913.