Thanks, Disney.


I know very little about classical music.  I can't tell Baroque from...the other ones.  We had a bit of training in elementary school, and I was in band (percussion) in junior high, but the musical knowledge that really stuck only had to with pop music.

Anyway, as I've been listening to Desert Island Discs (about 8 a day--I'm obsessed), I'm being reacquainted with a lot of classical music.  Like Elgar's Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, which is just incredible and every time someone picks it I think "that's PERFECT for being stranded on a desert island!"  It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous song and I've been haunted by it for days.  But I have no idea where I've heard it before.  Was it featured in a particularly famous movie?

(Speaking of hearing classical music in movies, last night I watch Brief Encounter (1942) for the first time.  And the whole movie I kept thinking, "Why are they playing the opening lines to 'All By Myself' over and over?"  Because it's Piano Concerto No.2 by Rachmanioff, and Eric Carmen incorporated it into his 1975 ballad.)

As I tried to fall asleep last night (it didn't work) I was listening to theatrical producer/director Hal Prince's DID, and he picked Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."  And I thought, that name sounds familiar, I wonder if I'll recognize it?  When they played the audio clip I immediately thought, "FIGHTING DINOSAURS!"  My mind raced--are fighting dinosaurs in Fantasia?  It's been so long since I've seen it... but where else would I have seen dinosaurs set to Stravinsky?  And sure enough...

I started questioning Disney's choice.  Why would a song called "Rite of Spring" be set to dinosaurs?  Shouldn't it have to do with spring-ish things like flowers or rain or newborn animals?  But then I realized: because this music doesn't sound like any of those things!  It's terrifying!  I should be questioning Stravinsky, not Disney!  Which then made me wonder, why the hell would you want to hear this music when you're stranded on a desert island!?!  The elements are already out to get you--how on earth would this music do anything but make you more horrifically afraid?  Or maybe I've just associated it too much with fighting dinosaurs. Still.  You can't deny it's scary.


Linda said...

From Wikipedia regarding the Rite of Spring's premiere performance:

The première involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario and choreography shocked the audience that was accustomed to the elegant conventions of classical ballet. The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, some members of the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance.

Maryann said...

Huh. Well, I guess I'm not the only one! I suppose that was Stravinsky's intent: to be unsettling.