Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Visualized in a Computer Animation

Even those of us who only took half a music appre­ci­a­tion course in col­lege know about the impact of Igor Stravin­sky’s The Rite of Spring, the orches­tral bal­let that near­ly caused a brawl at its debut. Ah, but how times have changed in the exact­ly one hun­dred years since that May evening at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Now no music, no mat­ter how rad­i­cal­ly it breaks from tra­di­tion, caus­es any­thing like a riot; at worst, lis­ten­ers shuf­fle out ear­ly, and that’s mak­ing the debat­able assump­tion that such a piece would draw an audi­ence in the first place. Today’s musi­cophiles like what they like, often to the point of obses­sion, and sim­ply ignore what they don’t. The past cen­tu­ry, of course, has proven Stravin­sky’s com­po­si­tion­al instincts ahead of their time, now that we all know the name of the The Rite of Spring, and the com­plex work itself has attract­ed plen­ty of obses­sive musi­cophiles of its own.

Some have gone as far as to turn the music into imagery. In 1913, we had no more tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced way to visu­al­ize a piece of music than through dance, such as The Rite of Spring’s bal­let. In 2013, the art of com­put­er graph­ics great­ly expands the quest for an ever more per­fect way to rep­re­sent music not just to the ear, but to the eye. Com­pos­er, pianist and soft­ware engi­neer Stephen Mali­nows­ki has long led the way with the var­i­ous iter­a­tions of his Music Ani­ma­tion Machine. At the top of the post, you can see a visu­al­iza­tion of The Rite of Spring’s first part, “The Ado­ra­tion of the Earth.” Just above appears its sec­ond part, “The Exalt­ed Sac­ri­fice.” “I was not aware of the kind of har­mon­ic things Stravin­sky has going on,” Mali­nows­ki told NPR, explain­ing what he learned about the piece in the process. “It’s incred­i­ble — Stravin­sky con­tin­u­al­ly torques you, star­tles you, and frus­trates your antic­i­pa­tions.” Imag­ine how it would have blown those ear­ly-twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Parisian minds to see this at the debut.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

Visu­al­iz­ing Bach: Alexan­der Chen’s Impos­si­ble Harp

Stephen Hawking’s Uni­verse: A Visu­al­iza­tion of His Lec­tures with Stars & Sound

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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