Friday, March 07, 2008

Not Quite Terms of Endearment

The poem below depicts extraordinarily well the nature of The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. It is one of the most powerful and effective poems I have come across in terms of capturing the essence of what it describes, and I love the way its ornate vocabulary almost makes it anti-poetical because of its inherent dynamism and cacaphonous density. In-between, the occassional thunderous political comment can be discerned incorporated brilliantly within the lines, coupled with an air of biting satire. All in all, not for the faint-hearted!

The audience pricks an intellectual ear...
Stravinsky... Quite the Concert of the Year!

Forgetting now that none-so-distant state
When they (or folk facsimilar in state
Of mind) first heard with hisses – hoots – guffaws –
This abstract Symphony (they booed because
Stravinsky jumped their Wagner palisade
With modes that seemed cacophonous and queer),
Forgetting now the hullabaloo they made,
The Audience pricks an intellectual ear.

Bassoons begin... Sonority envelops
Our auditory innocence; and brings
To me, I must admit, some drift of things
Omnific, seminal, and adolescent.
Polyphony through dissonance develops
A serpent-conscious Eden, crude but pleasant;
While vibro-atmospheric copulations
With mezzo-forte mysteries of noise
Prelude Stravinsky’s statement of the joys
That unify the monkeydom of nations.

This matter is most indelicate indeed!
Yet one perceives no symptom of stampede.
The stalls remain unruffled: craniums gleam:
Swept by a storm of pizzicato chords,
Elaborate ladies re-assure their lords
With lifting brows that signify ‘Supreme!’
While orchestrated gallantry of goats
Impugns the astigmatic programme-notes.

In the Grand Circle one observes no sign
Of riot: peace prevails along the line.
And in the Gallery, cargoed to capacity,
No tremor bodes eruptions and alarms.
They are listening to this not-quite-new audacity
As though it were by someone dead – like Brahms.

But savagery pervades me; I am frantic
With corybantic rupturing of laws.
Come, dance, and seize this clamorous chance to function
Creatively, - abandoning compunction
In anti-social rhapsodic applause!
Lynch the conductor! Jugulate the drums!
Butcher the brass! Ensanguinate the strings!
Throttle the flutes!... Stravinsky’s April comes
With pitiless pomp and pain of sacred springs...
Incendiarize the Hall with resinous fires
Of sacrificial fiddles scorched and snapping!...

Meanwhile the music blazes and expires;
And the delighted Audience is clapping.

Concert-Interpretation by Siegfried Sassoon