From The Desk Of Holsapple & Stamey: Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring”

hp100bThere are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.

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Chris: Before the Sex Pistols’ tour of America, before Elvis incited riots in concert, there was the Paris premiere in 1913 of Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral ballet score The Rite Of Spring. Although this work is now part of the standard repertoire, at the time its musical innovations—including shifting, complex time signatures, loud drums and nontraditional dissonances—were shocking and, taken altogether, unprecedented. The sounds, coupled with the sight of the dancers’ onstage depiction of fertility rites, incited an unrest and agitation in the audience that grew into a full-scale riot. It started from the very beginning: The harmonization of the bassoon’s signature riff caused catcalls and whistling, then fights broke out in the audience as the turbulent rhythms began. Even though the police arrived by intermission, they could not completely quell the chaos, though the orchestra and dancers bravely continued to the end of the piece. This was mostly the shock of the new musical vocabulary Stravinsky had found to describe the libretto—involving the sacrifice of a young girl to the gods of fertility, if memory serves—but it was also an example of the real power of music itself to be more than just a “uh huh,” a buzz band and a background noise on the laptop. Music can shake you and envelop you. And the work itself, years later, caused an upheaval in my life: It was the first time I had heard a world of music possibility beyond the safe confines of pop music and Romantic classics. I could not put the headphones down. This had guts and grip and the constant feel of a committed intelligence at the helm. This was what large-scale musical composition could be. And I venture to suggest that it still functions as a “gateway drug” into what can be done with focused musical imagination and hard work. If you don’t know it, you owe it to yourself to find out what the riot was all about.

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One Comment

  1. Alphonse Sattinger
    Posted November 7, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    It did not shake me up… it grabbed all of me into it! I became it. Such ecstasy!
    The music and the coreography were truly “in concert”.