Today is the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring!

The Rite of Spring 1913: Why did it provoke a riot?

The Rite of Spring caused an outrage on its premiere in Paris a century ago. But was it the music or the dance? 

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Mischief-makers: Igor Stravinsky with Diaghilev

 It was 100 years ago that the most famous scandal in the history of the arts took place, at a swanky new theatre in Paris. Anyone who was anyone was there. The cosmopolitan German aristocrat Count Harry Kessler said that “it was the most dazzling house I’ve ever seen in Paris”. Jean Cocteau wrote that “the smart audience in tails and tulle, diamonds and ospreys, was interspersed with the suits and bandeaux of the aesthetic crowd. The latter would applaud novelty simply to show their contempt for the people in the boxes… Innumerable shades of snobbery, super-snobbery and inverted snobbery were represented.”

What drew them on the night of May 29 1913 was the whiff of something potentially outrageous: a brand-new ballet from the Ballets Russes, which had entranced and shocked Paris ever since their first appearance there in 1909. What gave the event an extra frisson was that this Rite of Spring was the product of the most savage of all these so-called “Northern savages”.

Igor Stravinsky, the composer, had scored a massive hit the previous year with Petrushka, which added an exciting element of modernist collage to colourful Russian folklore. Vaslav Nijinsky, the choreographer, had caused a minor scandal a few months previously, with his blatantly erotic portrayal of the lovesick faun in Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune.

Stravinsky was hoping the new ballet would be an even bigger hit than Petrushka. “From all indications I can see that this piece is bound to 'emerge’ in a way that rarely happens,” he wrote gleefully to Nicholas Roerich, who was the guiding spirit behind the ballet’s vision of pagan Russia. It’s a fair bet that Diaghilev, the great entrepreneur behind the Ballets Russes, was hoping for something more than an emergence. He wanted a scandal.

 And he got one, though what actually happened that night is something of a mystery. The dancer Dame Marie Rambert remembered that “a shout went up in the gallery: 'Un docteur!’. Somebody else shouted louder, 'Un dentiste!’” Kessler said that people started to whisper and joke almost immediately. The conductor of the premiere, Pierre Monteux, was told by one of his double-bass players that “many a gentleman’s shiny top hat or soft fedora was ignominiously pulled down by an opponent over his eyes and ears, and canes were brandished like menacing implements of combat all over the theatre.”

These are just a few of dozens of eyewitness reports. As the musicologist Richard Taruskin points out, the Rite is the most over-documented premiere in history, and yet so many things are obscure. Was it the choreography that annoyed people, or the music? Were the police really called? Was it true that missiles were thrown, and challenges to a duel offered? Were the creators booed at the end, or cheered?

There were certainly plenty of good reasons for outrage, starting with the high, almost strangled bassoon melody that begins the work, soon draped with fluttering, twittering woodwind sounds.

It’s often said that the pulsating rhythms of the Rite of Spring are what caused the outrage, but pulsating rhythms at least have an appeal at a visceral level (an appeal certainly felt at the Rite’s premiere, where according to one eye witness one excited onlooker beat out the rhythms on the bald pate of the man in front). It’s more likely that the audience was appalled and disbelieving at the level of dissonance, which seemed to many like sheer perversity. “The music always goes to the note next to the one you expect,” wrote one exasperated critic.

At a deeper level, the music negates the very thing that for most people gives it meaning: the expression of human feelings. As Stravinsky put it, “there are simply no regions for soul-searching in The Rite of Spring”. This is what separates it so decisively from Stravinsky’s hit of 1911, Petrushka. There we’re immersed in a human world, which exudes the very specific cultural ambience of Russia. It’s true that the main characters are puppets, rather than rounded human beings. But they have characters, even if they’re somewhat rudimentary, and at the end there’s even a suggestion that Petrushka might have a soul.

There’s no sign that any of the creatures in the Rite of Spring has a soul, and there’s certainly no sense of a recognisable human culture. The dancers are like automata, whose only role is to enact the ritual laid down by immemorial custom. An iron necessity rules everything: there has to be a game of Rival Tribes, there has to be Dance of the Young Girls, and an elder has to bless the earth. And finally, a young girl has to be chosen and then abandoned to her fate, which is to dance herself to death.

Which brings us to the other great innovator of that long-ago premiere, Vaslav Nijinsky. This strange young man, with his oddly shaped body and strange naive air (“One became aware of strange absences in his personality,” said Stravinsky) created something as epoch-making in dance as Stravinsky’s score was in music. Whereas classical dance aspired upwards, in defiance of gravity, Nijinsky’s dancers seemed pulled down to the earth. Their strange, jerky movements and awkward poses defied every canon of gracefulness.

Given all this, it’s no surprise there was a scandal. And yet, among the shouting and hissing, there were one or two sensitive observers who realized they were witnessing something deeply original, rather than merely shocking. The French writer Jacques Rivière observed that “there is something profoundly blind about this dance. There is an enormous question being carried about by all these creatures moving before our eyes. It is in no way distinct from themselves. They carry it about with them without understanding it, like an animal that turns in its cage and never tires of butting its head against the bars.”

To be reminded of that brute animal unconsciousness at the zoo is one thing; to have it enacted by a troupe of highly trained dancers and musicians, in a theater full of Parisian sophisticates, is quite another. Perhaps the riot was a sign of disquiet, a feeling that the world had lost its moorings, and that barbarism was about to be let loose in the streets. Given that the First World
would soon break out, that feeling wasn’t so wide of the mark.

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The Sound of Hope

 In Venezuela, Classical Music Fights Poverty

Is music literally capable of saving lives? According to Dr. José Antonio Abreu, it definitely is. His story is a reason to celebrate, and a powerful reminder of the power of music for children.

In 1975, Dr. Abreu, a Venezuelan economist and musician, founded El Sistema, ”The System,” a classical music youth training program for children in some of the poorest Venezuelan communities. Now publicly funded with branches in the United States, United Kingdom, and Portugal, El Sistema helps Venezuela’s 125th youth orchestras with training, funding, and the ability to travel worldwide to perform some of the highest level youth classical music in the world.

Why use music as the mechanism for social change? When asked about his vision for El Sistema, Dr. Abreu said:

“Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values – solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings.”

Seventy to ninety percent of the children who participate in the program come from the poorest neighborhoods in Venezuela– like Sevilla, a slum in Caracas. Abreu’s success in navigating the program through thirty-eight years of political turmoil is testament to his determination and conviction about the power of music for children. Watch the 60 seconds video here, or watch the clip below!

Imani Winds: Tiny Desk Concert

When Igor Stravinsky began composing The Rite of Spring, his ballet for vast symphonic forces, he could hear the music in his head but couldn't quite figure out how to write it down. It was just too complicated.

Today, 100 years after The Rite's premiere, the fearless musicians of Imani Winds make it all sound remarkably easy, given that they've condensed Stravinsky's massive walls of sound down to just five instruments: bassoon, clarinet, flute (doubling on piccolo), oboe and French horn.

Joy in the Congo: A musical miracle

"Joy in the Congo" seems an unlikely -- even impossible -- title for a story from the Congo, considering the searing poverty and brutal civil war that have decimated that country. Yet in Kinshasa, the capital city, we found an unforgettable symphony orchestra -- 200 singers and instrumentalists defying the poverty, hardship, and struggles of life in the world's poorest country...and creating some of the most moving music we have ever heard. Follow Bob Simon to the Congo to hear the sounds and stories of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra.

Beauty has a way of turning up in places where you'd least expect it. Kinshasa, the capital, has a population of 10 million and almost nothing in the way of hope or peace. But there's a well-kept secret down there. Kinshasa has a symphony orchestra, the only one in Central Africa, the only all-black one in the world. 

It's called the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra. We'd never heard of it. No one we called had ever heard of it. But when we got there we were surprised to find 200 musicians and vocalists, who've never played outside Kinshasa, or have been outside Kinshasa. We were even more surprised to find joy in the Congo. When we told the musicians they would be on 60 Minutes, they didn't know what we were talking about but, still, they invited us to a performance.

We caught up with them as they were preparing outside their concert hall, a rented warehouse. As curtain time neared, we had no idea what to expect. But maestro Armand Diangienda seemed confident and began the evening with bang.

The music, Carmina Burana, was written by German composer Carl Orff 75 years ago. Did he ever dream that it would be played in the Congo? It wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for Armand and a strange twist of fate. Armand was a commercial pilot until 20 years ago when his airline went bust. So, like ex-pilots often do, he decided to put together an orchestra. He was missing a few things.

Bob Simon: You had no musicians, you had no teachers, you had no instruments.

Armand Diangienda: Yes.

Bob Simon: And you had no one who knew how to read music?

Armand Diangienda: No, nobody. Nobody. 

Armand's English is limited. He preferred speaking French, Congo's official language.

Bob Simon: When you started asking people if they wanted to be members of this orchestra, did they have any idea what you were talking about? 

Translation for Armand Diangienda: In the beginning, he said, people made fun of us, saying here in the Congo classical music puts people to sleep. 

The music, Carmina Burana, was written by German composer Carl Orff 75 years ago. Did he ever dream that it would be played in the Congo? It wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for Armand and a strange twist of fate. Armand was a commercial pilot until 20 years ago when his airline went bust. So, like ex-pilots often do, he decided to put together an orchestra. He was missing a few things.

Bob Simon: You had no musicians, you had no teachers, you had no instruments.

Armand Diangienda: Yes.

Bob Simon: And you had no one who knew how to read music?

Armand Diangienda: No, nobody. Nobody.

Armand's English is limited. He preferred speaking French, Congo's official language.

Bob Simon: When you started asking people if they wanted to be members of this orchestra, did they have any idea what you were talking about?

Translation for Armand Diangienda: In the beginning, he said, people made fun of us, saying here in the Congo classical music puts people to sleep.

But Armand pressed on. He taught himself how to read music and play the piano, play the trombone, the guitar and the cello. He talked a few members of his church into joining him. They brought their friends which brought more problems.

Translation for Armand Diangienda: We only had five or six violins, he said, for the 12 people who wanted to learn how to play the violin.

Translation for Armand Diangienda: So they took turns, he said. One would play for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. That was very difficult.

But more instruments started coming in. Some were donated; others rescued from local thrift shops -- in various states of disrepair. Then it was up to Albert -- the orchestra's surgeon -- to heal them. He wasn't always gentle with his patients, but they survived. Armand told us that when a violin string broke in those early days, they used whatever they had at hand to fix it.

Bob Simon: You took the wire from a bicycle?

Armand Diangienda: Bicycle, yes.

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Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii

The late Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Kah-MAH-kah-VEE-voh-OH-lay), did something rare in music. He redefined a beloved classic.

His version of "Over the Rainbow" has the poignancy of Judy Garland's and the shimmering vulnerability, but these days it's heard so often on TV and in the movies, a younger generation may only know Israel's version. It's become so popular, it is now the most requested version of the song by far, according to music publishing house EMI. That's quite remarkable for a rendition with one voice, accompanied only by ukulele.

"In Hawaii, we talk about this thing we call mana," says musician Del Beazley, who grew up with Israel and wrote two of his songs. "Mana is like an energy that you get. We believe we get ours from the elements first, the Earth, your sky, your ocean, your God, and all that is inside of us. And when we open our mouth to speak, to sing or to play, that's what we let out. But it's that that makes him [Israel] special, because his mana always came out."

Beazley remembers the first time he heard Israel sing.

They were teenagers and Israel showed up with his older brother Skippy at a graduation party.

"They set up with instruments that were kind of beat up. In fact, one of the ukuleles was held together with bubble gum. What happened was, as soon as Israel Kamakawiwo'ole opened his mouth and sang, that whole place went quiet. Every great singer has something special. It's almost a nasal or head tone. And that thing just cut right through the air, stopped everybody in their tracks."

Israel was still a teenager when he and his brother formed a band with three other local guys. They called themselves the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau. In the 1970s, young Hawaiians were rediscovering their language and culture. In music, that meant getting away from kitschy hula tunes for tourists, like "My Little Grass Shack." Israel's group was among those who embraced traditional melodies.

Israel was the group's standout — for his voice and also his size. Both he and Skippy weighed hundreds of pounds — the girth of sumo wrestlers. Israel was over 6 feet tall with flowing black hair.

The 1988 Recording Session That Made Him A Legend

It began at 3 in the morning. Milan Bertosa was at the end of a long day in his Honolulu recording studio.

"And the phone rings. It was a client of mine," Bertosa remembers. The client rattled off Israel's unpronounceable name and said he wanted to come in and record a demo. Bertosa said he was shutting down, call tomorrow. But the client insisted on putting Israel on the phone. "And he's this really sweet man, well-mannered, kind. 'Please, can I come in? I have an idea,' " Bertosa remembers Israel saying.

Bertosa relented and gave Israel 15 minutes to get there. Soon, there was a knock at the door.

"And in walks the largest human being I had seen in my life. Israel was probably like 500 pounds. And the first thing at hand is to find something for him to sit on." The building security found Israel a big steel chair. "Then I put up some microphones, do a quick sound check, roll tape, and the first thing he does is 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' He played and sang, one take, and it was over."

The next day, Bertosa made a copy for Israel and filed the original recording away. But he was so taken with it, that over the next few years, he played it occasionally for family and friends. "It was that special," he says. "Whatever was going on that night, he was inspired. It was like we just caught the moment."
Web Extra: Isreal Speaks

Jump Ahead Five Years

In 1993, Milan Bertosa wound up working as an engineer for Mountain Apple Company in Honolulu, a long-established recording house, where Israel was making a solo album. As Bertosa listened during the final days of recording, he had an epiphany. He turned to producer Jon de Mello and said, "This is great, but there's more." Bertosa fished out "Over the Rainbow" and played it for de Mello.

"Israel was really sparkly, really alive," recalls de Mello after hearing the recording. "He had a grand heart attack in 1989, so this was right before his heart attack." De Mello put "Over the Rainbow" (actually a medley, with "What a Wonderful World") on Facing Future, which is still the best-selling Hawaiian album of all time, thanks to one song.

"There's been a bunch of articles written about 'Over the Rainbow,' " says Bertosa. "He gets the lyrics wrong, he changes the melody. If you sat there with a book and a score card, you could count the mistakes or you could listen to the song and smile."

Family Struggles

Israel weighed close to 700 pounds when he came to de Mello to start a solo career in 1993. He was in and out of the hospital.

His brother Skippy died from complications of obesity, as had almost all of Israel's immediate family. He knew he was destined for a brief life. To de Mello, everything Israel sang and said became precious. So he instructed his engineers to keep the tape rolling for all the rehearsals, all the jokes.

Israel was a very funny man, he says. "And every session, I would keep him for an hour afterwards." Just tell me stories, he told Israel. "There was such great content in what this beautiful Hawaiian man was talking about — the trials and tribulations of his own life and his family's life."

"I was scared when I lost my mother, my father, my brother, my sister," Israel told de Mello. "I guess this is gonna sound kind of weird, but I'm not scared for myself for dying. Because I believe all these places are temporary. This is just one shell. Because we Hawaiians live in both worlds. It's in our veins. When our time come, don't cry for me. Don't cry for me. Plant a tree in the middle ... where they play soccer," he laughs. "Kind of small, then I'll grow big."

In the summer of 1997, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole , by then one of the most beloved singers in the history of Hawaiian music, died of respiratory failure. He was 38 — and just beginning to see the huge success of "Over the Rainbow."

Israel's body lay in state at Hawaii's Capitol building, a rare honor.

Days later, he was cremated, along with his vintage Martin ukulele — the one he used to record "Over the Rainbow." The ashes were carried on a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe.

His longtime friend Del Beazley and producer Jon de Mello were among those onboard.

"And going down the coastline," says de Mello, "all the big semi-trucks on the island of Oahu had their air horns blowing. And from the ocean we could hear the echo, the bounce off the mountain ranges."

"In the old days," says Beazley, "people would wail when the mo'i or 'king' passed away — and cry. And that's really what it was. This whole island came together just to say goodbye to this one Hawaiian. But I tell you, he would have been laughing."

Book Review: Dr Fuddle and the Gold Baton by Dr Warren L Woodruff by ajoobacats


When the dark musician Jedermann and his fierce Seirens of Dis gain control of the legendary Gold Baton, Tyler, his sister Christina, and their friends are drawn into a perilous adventure foretold by an ancient prophecy.

Guided by the mythical Dr. Fuddle, the explorers must leave earth and journey to Orphea. Will the Messengers of Music be able to save the world of the immortal composers from chaos and destruction? For them to have even a chance at victory, they must master the most difficult instruments of all—themselves.


A delightful tale of good versus evil, by a music teacher, where the power of good is conveyed through classical music. This is a lovely book for children from the age of 10, who are advanced readers, the illustrations are lovely but I wish there were more.

It’s difficult conveying a story like this without actual music but Dr Woodruff does it well. For those children who are musically inclined this is a good story which aids and enthuses children learning music. It isn’t the most imaginative story for children around but it ties music and reading together adequately, despite the lack of audio.

A good lesson about finding your voice no matter what disabilities maybe in your way.

Five Star Review For Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton

Read - let it touch your soul - DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON will do that.

Sure to reach a whole new generation of musicians, DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON was written in honor of a mother who knew her son was brilliant, and it is a privilege to read his beautiful work. 

The writer, Warren L. Woodruff, "holds Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Piano Performance as well as a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Miami School of Music". When you read his novel, you will be given a look at music like never before told. Music enters a new dimension as time stops when, after about the first few paragraphs, you make the decision to adventure into reading this story. Many thanks go to Warren L. Woodruff, Ludwig Van Beethoven, The Bach family, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, and Orpheus for this contribution to the world of children's literature. Read where readers are introduced to the Messengers of Music who bring them to a place where love meets strength and together with them you will hang on to hope amidst peril and the forces of evil. Perhaps fine music really may reach the ears of angels in dark times. 

If you have a child interested in music they must read DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON because they will thoroughly enjoy it; and even if your child is not interested in music, they will love reading this book as they nevertheless learn to appreciate harmony, chords, chromatic scale, chamber orchestra, rhythm, crescendos and fugue sounds with enthusiasm throughout mystery, intrigue and adventure, in a tale that may appear like a Scooby Doo adventure at first but brings you into a completely - worthy of the respect of one of the well written great mysteries - solved mystery that will become a classic in time. After all, there is a place to learn about how well sound may be put together with story. 

Illustrations added to the story are from "an accomplished pencil and charcoal portrait artist", Donna Burtch. Overall, the novel is a job well done, thus earns a position on a livingroom/readingroom bookshelf beside the best in literature for Middle School and High School aged students. 

*The writer of this review has not received benefits other than copy of review book to review and has not been contracted to promote a business or products.

To purchase DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON at Amazon click here.
To hear Rachmaninoff concert music click here.

Top Five Studies on Classical Music and Health

1. Lowering Blood Pressure

Looking for a calming experience? The most often cited benefit of listening to the three B's is stress relief. The soothing experience when you hear a masterful opus isn’t just imagined; a 2004 study out of the University of San Diego found that after hearing classical music, listeners had lower blood pressure. A 2008 article published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing also claimed pregnant women reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression after listening to a 30-minute CD of classical hits.

2. Relieving Pain After Surgery

Reach for the Beethoven along with the Bayer aspirin. It turns out that melodious music can help tune out pain. A team out of Britain was able to reduce the amount of opiates given to people recovering from stomach surgery with a steady dosage of classical music. Another study in the Journal for Advanced Nursing showed that music could relieve chronic pain.

3. Making You More Emotional

Music may be the food of love, and a 2001 study out of Southern Methodist University seems to support Shakespeare’s claim. Researchers found that listening to classical music heightened the emotions in the study subjects. Not only were they more expressive and effusive with their comments, but they were more forthcoming as well.

4. Making You Sleep

If you’re looking for better sleep, why not turn to Brahms? A Hungarian team showed that listening to 45 minutes of classical music before bedtime helped students from 19 to 28, who had problems falling asleep. The researchers suggest turning on the famous Lullaby or similar peaceful pieces, could be an effective way of battling insomnia.

5. Making You Smarter

And the Granddaddy of them all, the infamous Mozart Effect. When researchers in 1993 published studying drawing a link between listening to the maestro's music and heightened IQ scores, it spawned a cottage industry of brain-power boosting products (remember Baby Mozart?). However, later studies have shown that playing his works have lessened symptoms associated with epilepsy.

Rhapsody In Blue: Gershwin At His Greatest

On June 23rd, 1959, Leonard Bernstein and the Columbia Symphony took their places at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y. and made a landmark recording of Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue.'

Rhapsody In Blue, the first "serious" composition by George Gershwin (1898-1937), is likely to remain his most popular work in any form, more for its prodigious melodic richness rather than for any deeper expressiveness or structural brilliance. 

 In the hands of another composer, Rhapsody In Blue could easily have turned into a disjointed exercise in symphonically dressed up jazz rhythms, melodic figures and quasi-improvisatory instrumental licks. Instead, Gershwin's uncanny sense of timing, and a gift for memorable melody unparalleled in the 20th century, turned the Rhapsody into an embodiment of the Jazz Age's upbeat lyricism and dance-driven vitality. The roaring Twenties had a soul, and this was it. 

The piece was composed in considerable haste, for a concert on February 12th, 1924, organized by jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman. It took place at New York's Aeolian Hall, billed as an "Experiment In Modern Music." The piece was scored for jazz band by Whiteman's arranger, the multitalented Ferde Grofé, and Gershwin himself played the piano solo — though at the time of the premiere he had not yet written it out. Grofé also scored the work's orchestral version. Listen to the entire Rhaspsody in Blue

Baseball's Prince Fielder goes classical with walk-up music


Prince Fielder is not your prototypical slugger. The Tigers first baseman famously went vegetarian for a while, and now he's going classical with his walk-up music. Fielder is now using Mozart's 1791 piece Requiem during his at-bats at Comerica Park in Detroit according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. Here's the backstory, courtesy of Lowe:

Fielder said his path to choosing Requiem began when he found out that Torii Hunter listened to classical music leading up to games.

Fielder sought classical music used in movies.

“I thought about how all the scores for the ‘Batman' movies are pretty cool,” Fielder said. “So I went on Pandora and typed in movie scores, and I thought, ‘This isn't bad.'

“I heard one, and I liked it.”

I dig the originality. There are only so many top-40 tracks or generic rock songs players can walk-up too. Variety is the spice of life.