So, I was reminded by a group I follow on twitter about the original debut of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” I had learned about this specific incident in my Music Appreciation class during the Spring 2012 semester and forgot. :)
Written and first performed in the conservative 1910s, Igor Stravinsky threw conventional and popular music out the window and composed this very aggressive and unsettling musical piece, with of course the unorthodox ballet dances to accompany it choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. (The video above is choreographed by Maurice Béjart)
Up until this time, ballet and music were the epitome of high society, fine morals and good judgement. The Rite of Spring is none of that. The idea behind this historical ballet is thus: a very old and pagan Russia setting, with Spring finally arriving and the people celebrating with a sacrifice — a girl dancing herself to death.
On opening day, the 29th of May in 1913, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, hardly had the performance managed to get underway when the crowd erupted in rage. Hisses and jeers soon gave way to yelling and shoving and eventually to all out fighting.
Innovative ideas are hard to catch on to the public witnessing them, but this is just how the mass human population is wired to react. People have had a long history of rejecting any change, from the steady and sure traditions of Ancient Egyptians to their hieroglyphs and worship, all the way to Japan’s many years of trying to isolate themselves from the outside world and maintain their culture (namely from the Europeans who wanted to stop by).
But time heals all wounds and the initial shock of the Rite of Spring as finally accepted it and put it in a special spot in music history, forever famed for its innovative ideas, composition, and difference.