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Radical Folk: Stravinsky

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Radical Folk: Stravinsky

In 1914, while living in the tiny village of Salvan, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, Stravinsky composed a number of pieces based on Russian folklore. This is carefully documented in the second volume of Taruskin's monograph on Stravinsky, Stravinsky and the Russian traditions: A Biography of the Works Through Mavra (cf op. cit. pp 1136 passim).

I call this "radical folk" music because Stravinsky, in the process of composing these often tiny pieces (the four songs of Pribaoutki take just over four minutes to perform), radically hewed away everything that smacked of European influence. This can be seen by reviewing the compositional process in the sketchbooks.
It is only by knowing the sketches that we can see the plainness of this music for the "second simplicity" it is and appreciate the merciless repression of spontaneous "instinct" in pursuit of a higher truth. Ultimately both the received folkloric model and the unmediated personal response have been refined away, leaving behind a "small, dry thing" such as T. E. Hulme, that great prophet of modern art, foretold as the vessel of a new beauty he called Classical. [Taruskin, Stravinsky, vol. II, p. 1182]
 This fills in some of the gaps that people have puzzled over between Stravinsky's early Russian compositions, including the Rite, and his later neo-classical style.

Here are the four tiny Pribaoutki songs:




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