Saturday, October 23, 2010

From Rite to ritual

I was struck this morning with the recognition that both the conceiver of the Rite of Spring and its composer passed through it (and their attachment to Russian folk tradition) to a wider, deeper placing both of their art and their spirit.

Roerich's journey was an expansive one both literally in its geography (and as an explorer) and metaphysically as his orientation deepened towards the inner harmony betwixt religious expressions.

Stravinsky's journey was to strike deep and be more contained: an exploration of traditional, classical forms that refreshed them, renewed them. I was struck by something the composer, John Taverner said of Stravinsky that much of his music, the latter in particular, was rooted in a thorough and respectful understanding of traditional chant (both in Western, Catholic and Orthodox forms). In that sense, Taverner saw him as a 'traditionalist' upholding a sacred view of the human: one that sat uncomfortably with the 'romantic primativism' of his youth.

But perhaps the loosening of the former was a necessary component of discovering the latter - a stepping out of the conventionality of late nineteenth century materialism/utilitarianism, opened up a renewed discovery of the sacred beyond the 'projected primitive' of the romantic.

Roerich met the people and places that had held his fantasy face to face and they dissolved the fantasy into an imagined real. Stravinsky met the forms of a tradition that imagined the real and yet yearned for renewal: new forms that went beyond romantic yearning that he sought then to make and offer. Both moved on from the fanciful yet liberating Rite to a more disciplined encounter with the demands of a sacred art towards ritual, even as that 'ritual' was not confined to anyone particular tradition.

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