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       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E

                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1995 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 1, Number 5    September, 1995    ISSN:  1067-3040   |

  All queries to: mto-editor@boethius.music.ucsb.edu or to
AUTHOR:  van den Toorn, Pieter C.
TITLE:   A Response to Richard Taruskin's "A Myth of the Twentieth Century"
KEYWORDS:   Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Taruskin, new musicology

Pieter C. van den Toorn
University of California, Santa Barbara
Department of Music
Santa Barbara, California 93106-6070

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Professor van den Toorn's response to Professor
Taruskin's essay appeared in the journal *Modernism/Modernity*
2.2 (1995), and is reproduced here, with permission, as a way of
stimulating discussion on a vital, current topic.  Brief comments
may be posted by mto-talk subscribers to that mailing list (mto-talk@
boethius.music.ucsb.edu).  Lengthier commentaries should be prepared
according to the MTO author guidlines (available through mto-serv as
authors.txt, and by anonymous FTP at boethius.music.ucsb.edu in the
pub/mto/docs directory), and should be submitted to the General Editor

[1] The following is a response to a recent paper of Richard
Taruskin's entitled "A Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite of
Spring, the Tradition of the New, and 'The Myth Itself'."  Taruskin's
paper addressed the aesthetic, historical, and analytic-theoretical
legacy of Stravinsky's early ballet. It was read at a special festival
of Stravinsky's music held at the University of California at Santa
Barbara, May 7-9, 1995; also featured at the festival were papers by
Robert Craft, Stephen Walsh, Glenn Watkins, and myself.

[2] Subsequently, Taruskin's paper was published in
*Modernism/Modernity* 2, no. 1 (1995), 1-26. The response followed in
a succeeding issue, *Modernism/Modernity* 2, no. 2 (1995).

[3] Since many of the issues raised by this exchange involved theory
and analysis and, more specifically, aesthetic assumptions likely to
be made when analyzing or theorizing about a piece such as *The Rite*,
some form of publication in *Music Theory Online* seemed ideal as a
way of stimulating discussion and possibly further response.
Taruskin's main point was that, in passing off as "extramusical" many
of the ballet-related ideas that accompanied *The Rite's* conception,
scholars have "sanitized" the work, brushing aside its explosive
character, concentrating instead on matters of unity, integration, and
method. Several recent textbooks on twentieth-century music were cited
as examples of this. In contrast, Taruskin would point to the scenario
and Nijinsky's choreography of the music, conceptions which, according
to the recent work of several dance historians, can be related to
socio-political matters early and later in the century.

[4] Musical biography by way of Richard Taruskin can consist of
conspiracy tales in which the public, led by an easily compromised
academic community, is duped big-time by figures such as Stravinsky
and Robert Craft.(1) In the majority of these cases, the story is
given a new twist, one that is fresh, insightful, and brilliantly
argued. At other times, however, Taruskin's judgements are too
sweeping, too dismissive of concerns no less relevant than his own in
coming to terms with musical meaning and interpretation.  Both forces
are at work in his recent "A Myth of the Twentieth Century: The Rite
of Spring, the Tradition of the New, and 'The Music Itself'"
(*Modernism/Modernity* 2, no.1 (1995), pp.1-26).

1. See, for example, Richard Taruskin, "Revising Revision," *Journal
of the American Musicological Society* 46 (1993), pp.114-138, in which
the dissemination of twelve-tone music in the United States is treated
as a kind of academic plot perpetuated by specialists such as Milton
Babbitt on an unwilling public. With Stravinsky, the conspiratorial
aspect of facts and circumstances that may have gotten hidden or
concealed is often treated too seriously, it seems to me. (Perhaps
that seriousness is a reflection of Taruskin's faith in the ability of
words to contend with music in general--a faith far greater than my
own.)  In the process, Taruskin can expect too much of his characters,
exaggerate the significance of many of Stravinsky's remarks in
conversations and at interviews; see his "Back to Whom? Neoclassicism
as Ideology," 19th-Century Music 16, no.3 (1993), pp.268-302, in which
Stravinsky's early neoclassicism is treated as little more than the
creation of a few conservative French critics; or witness the
Stravinsky-Schoenberg battles of the 1920s and 30s, a debate Taruskin
elevates to the status of a critical "public discourse," but one in
which the two contestants knew almost nothing of the music about which
they expressed such hostility.  No doubt, during his neoclassical
period, Stravinsky forgot or deliberately misled the public about much
of the original conception of *The Rite of Spring* (1913).  But this
does not privilege that conception, in my opinion.  The conviction of
Stravinsky's later conception of *The Rite* as a concert piece, one in
which the music was left to imply images of a pagan or Spring ritual
less explicit than those which presumably accompanied the original
version, was felt no less keenly by the composer, and it is for us no
less viable aesthetically.  See the discussion of this in my
*Stravinsky and The Rite of Spring* (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1987).

[5] Taruskin begins by taking aim at phrases such as "the music
itself" and "music in its own terms," the unmediated experience or
autonomy such phrases would seem to imply.  He suggests that their use
by specialists such as Stravinsky, Joseph Kerman, and myself has had
the purpose of sidelining non-specialist talk about personal,
cultural, and socio-political matters, relegating such matters to the
"extramusical."(2) Such phrases have served as "instruments of
rejection," in his view.

2. I would not have grouped Kerman's views so squarely with those of
Stravinsky and other imagined formalists, however, notwithstanding
Kerman's references to "the music itself."  Always stressing music
criticism and the need to confront expressive content, Kerman's stand
on theory and analysis is close to Taruskin's.  See Joseph Kerman,
*Contemplating Music* (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985),
pp.80-84.  More immediately relevant, however, is Kofi Agawu, "Does
Music Theory Need Musicology?"  *Current Musicology* 53 (1993), p.90.
In a positive light, Agawu connects ideas about "the music itself"
with the practices of theory and analysis; negatively, of course, that
connection underlies Taruskin's complaint.  "Although the community of
theorists is in some ways fragmented," Agawu writes, "the overriding
focus of 'the music itself'... ensures a communality of vision that
historians have yet to achieve."  Agawu suggests that "critics who
shun 'hard' theory... often end up either trafficking in an older
theory or simply reinventing the wheel."

[6] Next, he takes aim at the discipline of music theory and analysis,
another culprit in these sins of omission and "rejection."  He accuses
that discipline of ignoring the tradition within which a piece such as
Stravinsky's *The Rite of Spring* (1913) was conceived, of ignoring,
indeed, the explosive character of such a piece, the features which in
this instance precipitated a riot at the time of the premiere.
Instead of investigating such a biography, theorists have concerned
themselves with elements of a wholly artificial unity and
integration.(3) I shall want to take up these points.

3. In this, especially, Taruskin's criticism of theory and analysis is
not unlike Kerman's in Kerman, *Contemplating Music.* Kerman's
complaint is that, in their quest for unity by way of the application
of general methods, theorists have ignored the "salient features" of
individual works.  But neither Taruskin nor Kerman acknowledge the
degree to which analyses of such "features" must rely on standards of
commonality and relatedness, in short, theoretical premises.  And the
sophistication of those analyses depends to some degree on the
sophistication of their underlying premises.  See the discussion of
this in my forthcoming book *Music, Politics, and the Academy*, to be
published this Fall, 1995, by the University of California Press.

[7] "The music itself" need not imply that which is susceptible to
measurement alone, of course, music's pitches, intervals, and rhythms.
It can allude to all that is proper to it, the uniqueness that is
attributed to a piece of music, for example, what is felt and sensed
as unrepeatable.  My own use of the phrase stems accordingly, and
involves the individual context and its felt individuality.
(According to Taruskin, both Stravinsky and Kerman imply "some kind of
primary, inarticulate, implicitly incommunicable activity."  For
Stravinsky that activity involved composing, evidently, for Kerman,
"performing and listening.")

[8] And I suspect that for many listeners an individual work and their
experience of that work can indeed be individual, something for which
there is no substitute and which is beyond their capacity to
comprehend fully.  In this respect, of course, musical works are not
unlike individual human personalities, while the difficulties
encountered in the study of music and its single instances are not
unlike those encountered in the study of psychology and its single
manifestations.  Musicology can sometimes give a different impression
of music and its experience, to be sure, especially when, all too
relentlessly, music is treated as a "product of culture;" today's "new
musicologists" can seem especially rosy in their forecasts, confident
in their ability to treat music as a sexual or political
enterprise.(4) Yet there is little certainty about the meaning of
music, it seems to me, why a specific piece should have the attracting
effect it does, why it should be that piece and not another, this
observer and not someone else, here rather than there, and so forth.
The synthesis that is the whole of this complex web remains a mystery,
however much individual pieces may be discussed part by part or in
terms of their general features or characteristics (which is also part
by part), separated analytically to be made whole again synthetically.
(Analysis separates in order to assemble again, a process that permits
the acquisition of a familiarity with the detail of a musical whole,
and for the purpose of enhancing what may be sensed and felt of that
whole, adding to the pleasure that is to be gained from

4. See, for example, McClary's feminist analysis of Tchaikovsky's
Fourth Symphony, first movement, in Susan McClary, *Feminine Endings:
Music, Gender, and Sexuality* (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1991), pp.69-79.  Proclamations of the new postmodernist creed
are Lawrence Kramer, "The Musicology of the Future," *Repercussions*
1, no.1 (1992), and Gary Tomlinson, "Musical Pasts and Postmodern
Musicologies: A Response to Lawrence Kramer," *Current Musicology* 53

[9] Partial and incomplete, then, knowing in analysis is knowing in
relation to something else.  And this is as true of Taruskin's
interpretation of the concluding "Sacrificial Dance" of *The Rite of
Spring*, in which the ballet's sacrifice of a "Chosen One,"
ritualistically impersonal, is linked to "biologism, sacrifice of the
individual to the community, absence of compassion, and submission to
compulsion" (indeed, to a host of 20th-century horrors, including Nazi
Germany), as it is of the more "technical" analyses of music theory
and analysis which Taruskin is apt to dismiss as sterile and
[10] Indeed, I doubt that even Taruskin would wish to replace the
"Sacrificial Dance" with his particular construction of it, "the music
itself," then, with images of a pagan or fascist collectivity, images
which are necessarily partial and approximate, as I understand them,
analytical tools at best.  (Only as a form of representation does a
musical work become vague and imprecise.  As an object of attraction,
it is likely to be specific and highly contextual; even very slight
changes in its details are likely to bring about a reversal in
response.)  And there is little reason why "the music itself" should
not call to mind not just the materials of music but the uniqueness of
those materials as part of single instances, what, sensed and felt,
lies beyond analysis and our ability to unravel.  Indeed, not to make
an assumption of this kind, one involving a transcending reality, is
to assume that our descriptions and explanations are capable of
standing for the whole, of unlocking music, in effect, rendering its
composition, performance, and listening no longer necessary or
essential.  My instinct is to trust music first and foremost, on the
other hand, treating description as a means rather than as an end, a
way of invoking its truth, sustaining a sense of its context.  And
while, to that end, I would not wish to do without socio-political
inquiry, my emphasis would be on a more specific "technical" theory
and analysis which could penetrate some of the detail of music,
allowing that detail, in however indirect a manner, to become a part
of what is indeed sensed and felt.  Working closely with the materials
of music, "technical" analysis can become a way of sustaining the
aesthetic presence of a given work.

[11] As is well known, of course, Stravinsky was suspicious of
descriptions of music, especially when they involved self-expression.
And this was not out of squeamishness, I suspect, out of a fear of
disclosure or "defeat," but out of a regard for music; its description
and explanation could too easily take on a life of its own, become
ends rather than means.  Instead of serving music as a foil, it could
too easily distract, become a substitute for the real thing.  In the
main, Stravinsky would not have shared Taruskin's confidence in our
ability to cope with music outside of music, to deal with its passions
in translation; and he would not have placed the same sort of
significance in our efforts at translation.  Only another piece of
music served as a legitimate form of criticism.  He would acknowledge
that his own work was to some extent "the embodiment of his feeling,"
that it could be considered "as expressing or symbolizing" that
feeling.  But he would counter that "consciousness of this step does
not concern the composer."  Fancying himself as an instinctual
composer, a doer rather than a thinker, he continued to stress the
boundaries between perception and conception:

	The composer works through a perceptual, not 
	a conceptual, process.  He perceives, he 
	selects, he combines, and is not in 
	the least aware at what point meanings of a 
	different sort and significance grow into 
	his work.  All he knows or cares about 
	is his apprehension of the contour of the 
	form, for the form is everything.  He can 
	say nothing whatever about meanings.(5)

	My mind does not count.  I am not mirror-
	struck by my mental functions.  My interest 
	passes immediately to the object, the thing 
	made;  and it follows that I am more 
	concerned with the concrete than with the 
	other thing, in which, as you see, I am 
	easily muddled.(6)

	To borrow G.E. Moore's example--"I do not 
	see how you can explain to anyone who does 
	not already know it, what "yellow' is"--I 
	do not see any means of explaining why I 
	have chosen a certain note if whoever hears 
	it does not already know why when he hears 

5. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, *Expositions and Developments*
(New York: Doubleday, 1962), p.115.  Taruskin's interpretation of
Stravinsky's "form" seems pedestrian to me, as if the composer were
referring to a detached and lifeless outline of some kind, such as
that often associated with the sonata, and not to a dynamic,
lived-through sense of timing and place, the musical idea as a rhythm
of the whole.

6. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, *Retrospectives and Conclusions*
(New York: Knopf, 1969), p.48.
7. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, *Memories and Commentaries* (New
York: Doubleday, 1960), p.108.

[12] Ideas of this kind are dismissed as so much formalistic banter by
Taruskin, a form of "rejection," again, the means by which Stravinsky
and others (deceivers, all) conceal or brush aside issues central to
music.  Such ideas are felt to be fundamentally at odds with passion,
with the experience of music as passion.  But what Stravinsky sought
was a state of mind, after all, precisely that to which he refers in
the above quotations; immediate contact, the feeling of being at one
with music, at one with the world through music.  And notwithstanding
the sharp distinction Taruskin draws between composing and listening,
between Stravinsky's concerns and those of the listener, I doubt that
Stravinsky's central purpose is felt any less keenly by average
listeners; with a sense of focus and concentration, they too wish to
become immersed in music, thinking in rather than about it.

[13] Of course, for the listener too, moments of contemplation are but
moments.  Owing to an inability to hold fast, immediacy gives way to
reflection.  Yet reflection need not signal a complete break with
immediacy.  Striving to regain a sense of rapport, the mind may remain
suspended in music, seeking assistance not from the outside but from
connections that may suggest themselves as part of the continuing
context.  In this way, reflection follows as a way of sustaining
immediacy, and by constructing an image of aesthetic pleasure, what is
sensed and felt in immediacy.  Theory and analysis follow as a further
extension of this process, a way of constructing for the purpose of
sustaining and enhancing.

[14] Indeed, in so sharply distinguishing the larger concerns of the
composer from those of the listener, Taruskin betrays not a little
brushing-aside of his own.  Depicting Stravinsky's remarks as
professional and as involved solely with the "manufacture" of music,
he dismisses them not only as formalistic but as "technical" as well,
pronouncing them, along with theory and analysis, incapable of
addressing the concerns of the listener and of experience in general.
In the case of *The Rite*, he recommends the ideas of several dance
historians, huge ideas about our "collective unconscious," in fact,
but ideas with no chance at all of being pushed into the detail of the
music, of answering questions about anything but *The Rite's* most
general and obvious features.  Thus, starting with the usual premise
of a "primeval universe," of primitive man "before the birth of
thought and conscience," Lynn Garafola confines herself to the ballet
scenario and Nijinsky's choreography.(8) She refers to Nijinsky's use
of the body as "an instrument and object of mass oppression" and to
the "totalitarian function" of the overall design; she identifies the
latter as "masculine" as well, alleging it to have marked Nijinsky's
renunciation of homosexuality.  The spectacle is then linked to later
contemporary events:

	But as much as the ballet looked back to the 
	dawn of human life, so... it also looked 
	into the future:  to a war that unleashed 
	the accumulated evil in men's souls and to a 
	society ruled by the machine.  In this 
	sense, Sacre was a harbinger of modernity:  
	of its assembly lines and masses, its war 
	machines and cities of slain innocents.  
	Stripped of their costumes, Nijinsky's 
	masses were both the agents and victims of 
	twentieth-century barbarism.(9)

8. Lynn Garafola, *Diaghilev's Ballet Russes* (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1989), p.70.

9. Garafola, Diaghilev's *Ballet Russes*, p.70.  Actually, the views
of both Garafola and Taruskin have been anticipated to some extent
by Theodor Adorno.  See, especially, Theodor W. Adorno, *Philosophy
of Modern Music*, trans. Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Bloomster
(New York: The Seaburg Press, 1973), p. 145:  "Both [*Petrushka* and
*The Rite*] have a common nucleus:  the anti-humanistic sacrifice to
the collective--sacrifice without tragedy, made not in the name of a
revewed image of man, but only in the blink affirmation of a situation
recognized by the victim."

[15] But why should talk of "oppression," "war machines," "slain
innocents," "accumulated evil," "assembly lines," "barbarism," and
"the masses" (all within five lines) bring us closer to the music and
its appreciation, a sense of its immediacy, than talk--even
"technical" or specialist talk--about its polyphony, motives,
harmony, or rhythms?  And why should the former be judged
sympathetically humanist and interdisciplinary, the latter distant and
distancing, as if the materials of music were by nature off-putting, a
nitty-gritty bound to inhibit appreciation and to alienate those truly
in touch? In my view, both Garafola and Taruskin burden the
choreography and the music with expectations which cannot reasonably
be fulfilled, expectations which, indeed, in any attempt at
fulfillment, distract rather than assist, hinder the listener in
arriving at a closer understanding and appreciation.

[16] And my sense of much of today's impatience with close,
"technical" analysis is that it is neither new nor all that reflective
of current trends in sociology and literary criticism.(10) It
reflects, rather, the familiar ambitions of musicology, its demands
for products that are sufficiently competitive and public, mixed up in
turn with a degree of snobbery.  Musicologists have always preferred
not to deal with music, let alone "the music itself," music's
materials and individual contexts and their need for a more
"technical" dialogue.  In "A Myth of the Twentieth Century," Taruskin
is no exception in this.  Compared to the grand issues of musicology,
which can now boast gender and sexuality as well as politics,
"technical" nitty-gritty can seem lowly and ineffectual, to reek all
too readily of the rudimentary, in fact, of chalk and erasers.
Returning to the ballet scenario and choreography, tying those
conceptions to ideas and events later in the century, Taruskin can
follow Garafola in tackling the blue chips, pointing to re-discovered
isms in the process, BIOLOGISM, for example, the idea of life defined
by its physical facts.  Here again, however, the problem lies with the
indifference of the music to these socio-political shifts, with an
impersonal collectivity imagined as fascist rather than (or as well
as) pagan; the music neither suggests nor supports these specifics,
remaining all the while, and in reaction to them, too abstract and
indirect.  As with Garafola, too, the relevant terms ("oppression,"
"Hitler," "nationalism," "submission," "communalism," "Nazi regime")
are introduced with no attempt to pursue them into the musical detail.
Nor could any such pursuit have been realized, of course, without
reducing their mention to silliness, *The Rite* and the implications
of, say, "submission," "Hitler," or Nazi Germany to trivialization.
(I have argued similarly in cases involving the application of
sexuality and gender.) (11)

10. Nonetheless, see the objections raised to the "close reading" and
analysis of music in Tomlinson, "Musical Pasts," pp.21-22.  Tomlinson
associates close analysis with various deceptions of modernism,
including, as he understands them, notions of autonomy, criticism,
"internalism," "Westernism," "transcendentalism," and so forth.  See
also the treatment of conventional theory and analysis in Susan
McClary, "The Politics of Silence and Sound," Afterward to Jacques
Attali, *Noise: The Political Economy of Music*, trans.  Brian Massumi
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985),
pp. 150-153. Another recent source of criticism is Edward W. Said,
*Musical Elaborations* (New York: Columbia University Press,
1991). Amidst much ado about what musicology should or should not be
(the "new musicologists" are favored, albeit with reservations), Said
points to the severity of the "technical requirements imposed by
musical analysis," the isolation of those "requirements" (p. xvi).
And see Peter Kivy, *Music Alone* (Ithica: Cornell University Press,
1990), pp.  126-127, 137, where the practice of Schenkerian analysis
is judged cult-like and elitist, too "technically" isolated for the
average listener or musician.

11. *Music, Politics, and the Academy* (forthcoming).  No doubt, the
line between helpfulness and distraction can vary. Many of us start
with a musical articulation in *The Rite* that seems "brutal" or
"violent" in character, even though the helpfulness or appropriateness
of any further elaboration along these lines, the notion that that
articulation is "fascist," for example, is another matter.  My
objection even to some of these general images is that, while capable
of being suggested by the music and then of overwhelming it, they can
say very little about its materials and their organization, about the
choice of a particular chord, for example, about Stravinsky's
melodies, rhythmic patterns, or Dorian tetrachords, even though the
meaning of the latter detail must reside with that of the whole, and
hence presumably with the image that is being proposed.  In other
words, there can be little specific accounting of one side in terms of
the other; greater specificity on one side of the connection (the
musical side, for example) leads to the collapse of the other, in
fact, not to greater individuality but to what is more crudely

[17] Indeed, with less a belief in the transcending powers of music,
in the ability of music to speak to some degree for itself, musical
structures are not more but less free, less able to stand apart from
the material or the materially purposeful.  Drawn more and more into
the uses of the world, into direct forms of ideological and
personal-political manipulation, they are less able to function as an
alternative to those uses or to awaken a capacity for that
alternative.  Deprived of a measure of aesthetic autonomy, they lose
all significance in and of themselves.  Rather, they are valued solely
as socio-polictical comment and for the opportunity they afford for
such comment.  And in the current balancing act between object and
subject, musical structure and sensing subject, attention shifts not
from music to the musically experiencing subject but from music to the
experiencing subject as such, the subject and his or her needs, wants,
and concerns.

[18] But more specifically, too, it is inaccurate to imply, as indeed
Taruskin implies repeatedly, that specialized, detailed, and hence
more "technical" accounts of *The Rite* have failed to address the
explosive character of the music, its sense of conflict and
discord.(12) Theorists such as Elliott Antokoletz and Joseph Straus
have dealt at length with the element of conflict in Stravinsky's
music, as it is defined by traditional common-practice tonality and by
various polarities and symmetries; Straus's more specialized study
deals with various irreconcilable tendencies in neoclassical


12. Taruskin's selection of two general textbooks on 20th-century
music to demonstrate the "conventional wisdom" of *The Rite* and its
analysis is bizarre; not only are those texts necessarily condensed
and often derivative, but the more detailed, specialized literature on
Stravinsky and *The Rite* is vast and readily available. Taruskin is
not averse to treating specialized papers when it suits his purpose,
however; he refers to articles by Robert Moevs and the British
theorist Arnold Whittall.  The textbooks are by theorists: Robert
Morgan *Twentieth-Century Music* (New York: Norton, 1991), and Elliott
Antokoletz, *Twentieth-Century Music* (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice-Hall, 1992).

13. Joseph Straus, *Remaking the Past: Musical Modernism and the
Influence of the Tonal Tradition* (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1990).

[19] My own book on *The Rite* is little else but a discourse on
conflict at various levels of structure.  Much of the harmonic and
melodic vocabulary of *The Rite* is familiar enough, consisting in the
main of triads, dominant-seventh chords, and short, diatonic melodic
fragments.  New, however, are the referential implications of this
vocabulary: a simple, folk-like diatonicism is made to stand against
chromatic vertical structures which are derived from an eight-note
scale commonly referred to as the octatonic scale.  (Octatonic
relations, which are symmetrical in nature, figure prominently in the
music of Debussy, Scriabin, and Bartok as well.  In this connection,
too, Pierre Boulez has described *The Rite* as a piece in which a
horizontal diatonicism stands opposed to a vertical chromaticism.)

[20] At the same time, instead of a steady, measure-by-measure sense
of harmonic progress, Stravinsky piles chords and melodic fragments on
top of each other in layered structures, assigning fixed registers and
instruments to the various layers.  The fragments of these layers
repeat ostinato-like according to varying cycles so that, rhythmically
too, there is a sense of conflict and opposition.  Typically, the
separate layers take on a superimposed rather than blended quality;
the reiterated chords and fragments appear as if locked in
confrontation, standing at an impasse.  And as the individual dance
movements draw to a close, there is an accumulation or build-up of
such chords and fragments, often in the form of climaxes which,
however, lack a clear sense of resolution; the music grinds to a halt
as if from exhaustion.  The effect can be static yet enormously tense
at the same time.

[21] The hammer-like ostinato chord mentioned by Taruskin at the
beginning of the "Auguries of Spring" is a case in point.  The
configuration consists of upper and lower components, a
dominant-seventh chord on Eb superimposed on a major triad on E.  And
as the initial pages of Stravinsky's sketches for *The Rite* indicate,
those components are treated somewhat separately: each fragment
remains confined to a specific register even as it is detached from
the initial configuration.  The components are not mixed up as, say,
motives would be in the development section of a Haydn quartet, tossed
from one octave or instrument to another.  They remain fixed in
superimposition, as it were, without the sense of a developing
dialogue.  Hence the resistance of so many scholars and analysts,
including Taruskin, to more general systems of pitch- and
interval-class reduction, systems which would bypass these
registral considerations.

[22] But this should not suggest, on the other hand, that a sense of
integration or harmony is altogether missing from this music.  On the
contrary, although the two components in question remain separate in
their respective registers and pitch contents, they sound together.
And their union reflects the other side of *The Rite*, namely, its
vertical chromaticism; Eb clashes repeatedly and harshly with a lower
E.  And it is by such means that a characteristic dissonance, along
with the octatonic implications of that dissonance, is made to emerge.

[23] A more rigorously applied theory and analysis would pursue these
relationships in pitches, intervals, and durations large and small,
seeking to construct images of varying kinds and degrees of
determinacy.  In this way, it would ask how *The Rite* is put
together, how its materials are organized, grouped, and segmented,
related to other music outside its immediate context.  As an extension
of the reflection that follows and interacts with immediacy, such an
activity seems to me altogether natural for anyone with a yen for a
particular musical train of thought.  And I would welcome Taruskin's
concluding appeal for a compromise between theory and analysis and
more general modes of description and explanation, even if many of his
terms seem resistant to such a meeting, remaining too specific in
themselves to be hooked up with music's detail, applied as a means of
explaining the determination of that detail.  I can appreciate the
need for both aesthetic and socio-political discussion and close,
"technical" analysis, but remain skeptical about the forging of
relations on terms anything more than fleeting, remote, and tenuous.
Indeed, I am leery of the alienating effect of more substantial terms,
saddling individual musical structures with stereotypical images
inhibiting rather than extending expressive capacity.

[24] Still, my argument is less with Taruskin's socio-political
constructions (or with those of the "new musicologists," for that
matter) than with his treatment of theory and analysis apropos of *The
Rite*, the implication that, as analysis, those constructions can take
the place of detailed, specialized study.  On other occasions, of
course, Taruskin has been an imaginative analyst of detail, especially
of Stravinsky's music and of Russian music of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries.  My worry here is that this current dismissal
will add to the growing chorus of dismissals of theory and analysis by
"humanists" and "postmodernists" both within and outside the
profession.(14) More specifically with respect to the latter, my
concern is that, whether intentional or not, the growing dissent
(indeed, impatience with "technical" matters) will eventually
translate into an indifference towards musical literacy, perhaps even
an ideological prejudice thereof, something which can ill be afforded,
obviously, but perhaps especially in coincidence with today's
succession of budget cuts.  Indeed, my sense is that, if the latter
cuts in education do not succeed in scuttling "technical" study, then
perhaps musicologists aided by today's social critics will.  In the
final analysis, it cannot be in the interests of music to discourage
the close study of its workings, dismiss, almost as a matter of
course, that study as unrewarding and forbidding, indeed, as "alien,"
"formalist," "specialist," "insular," "elitist,"
"Westernist,""masculinist," and so forth. Too much is made of the
difficulty, in any case, and of our inability to cope with a means of

14. See notes 2 and 10. A first wave of criticism of "technical"
theory and analysis came in the early 1980s from musicologists who,
styling themselves as "humanists," argued against the "formalism" and
"positivism" of contemporary scholarship; they included Joseph Kerman
and Leo Treitler.  A second wave has come from "new musicologists,"
postmodernists, and feminists, many armed with arguments derived from
Jacques Derrida.

[25] It should be borne in mind that analytic-theoretical methods are
distinguished not by their "technical" means but by their study at
close range, their determination to come to grips with the details of
musical structures; the "technical" angle which, necessarily, is
descriptive and metaphorical, notwithstanding the label, is
symptomatic of that intimacy, of an overriding focus and determination
in the direction of detail.  Moreover, if the metaphorical content of
many "technical" terms is rather neutral and inexplicit, their
application will depend to a greater extent on the musical phenomena
to which they refer.  And the advantage here is that, in seeking to
clarify their meanings, it is with the music that the observer is
brought into closer contact.


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