Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music: The Game Plan – Part 2

These posts on Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons (Amazon affiliate link) are part of a new project I’m undertaking.  I was deeply moved when I first read this book; I highly recommend it.  The content provides a very deep and rich way of thinking about a creator’s role in music and the world.

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As I mentioned in part 1, discussing aesthetics is troublesome but I think I’ve found a reasonable approach.  Discussing someone else’s aesthetics is troublesome for different reasons.

Stravinsky was and is an inspiring figure in music; it’s reasonable that we want to learn from our heroes.  But these lectures were written in 1939; to what degree are they still relevant?  They were also originally in French; how much was lost in translation?

And who actually wrote them?  From Robert Craft’s Roland-Manuel and the ‘Poetics of Music:’


“Stravinsky wrote approximately 1,500 words for the Poetics of Music, but in verbal note-form: not a single sentence by him actually appears in the book of which he is the author.  The 30,000-word text was written by Roland-Manuel, with assistance, in the lecture on Russian music, from Pierre Suvchinsky…The aim of the present investigation is simply to translate and publish Stravinsky’s own words, leaving the discovery of the ideological differences between his annotations and Roland-Manuel’s book to the reader.”

Ideological differences undoubtedly exist.  The difficulties are piling up.  Is an accurate depiction possible?

From another angle: Is an accurate depiction desirable?

Not necessarily; an accurate depiction isn’t our end goal. We need to distinguish between using Stravinsky’s Poetics as a means to uncover Stravinsky’s aesthetics, and use them as a means to inspire our own.  After all, if we’re searching for a theory of the arts that explains and inspires our music, why does Stravinsky’s matter?

Well, it matters up to a point.  Our music came from Stravinsky’s music; our perspective came from Stravinsky’s perspective. In learning about Stravinsky, we learn a bit about ourselves.  It would be prudent to check out his Poetics.  Not necessary, just prudent.

It’s not necessary because we’re all individuals.  Being an individual, having a solid theory of the arts and making meaningful music aren’t dependant on Stravinsky or his Poetics.  It could be a piece of the puzzle though…which leads back to prudence.

So how deep should I go?  At what point will it influence our individualism?  At what point will it become impractical?

I’ve juggled with this considerably in preparing for these posts.  My only solution is to rely on humble intuition; I’ll have to feel it out as I go!

And of course, if you have a perspective you’d like to share, please leave comments!

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