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Between Emotion and Objectivity: Igor Stravinski

Symposium mit dem Seminar für Musikwissenschaft und dem SFB "Ästhetische Erfahrung im Zeichen der Entgrenzung der Künste"


Programm des Symposiums

Programm des Symposiums

Organization: Albrecht Riethmüller

26. - 27. Januar 2012

Harnack-Haus der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Two clichés regarding Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) and his music abound:

i) For far more than half a century, music critics, musicologists, textbook authors, and fellow musicians held fast to the opinion that Stravinsky was a poor conductor who, particularly in his later years, did not even follow his original compositional intentions when performing his own works. Pierre Boulez, for example, repeatedly stated that Stravinsky lacked any and all professional disposition for conducting.

ii) Similarly, the composer and his music embodied the paradigm of the ideal of aesthetic objectivity ("Sachlichkeit"), which has been viewed in certain artistic circles since the 1920s as the cornerstone of true modernity. This complemented the firm conviction that music should be de-sensualized and de-emotionalized, and it was this conviction that later led to a virtual taboo on music’s emotive character, which has dominated most discussions on avant-garde music since the end of World War II. But do these interpretations reflect the musical reality in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s and during the following decades in the USA? Do they in fact mirror Stravinsky the musician and his oeuvre?

Questioning these assumptions, the symposium will focus on several aspects of Stravinsky’s artistic achievements with regard to the tension between this supposed ideal of objectivity and the strong emotional impact of his music. Two areas of Stravinsky’s musical activities will be examined: his conducting and his approach to distant cultures in his works—either historically, regionally, or linguistically, whether Greek, Japanese, folkloristic, or traditional. In a work such as Oedipus Rex, several relevant elements coalesce, such as an ancient Greek plot and modern European languages retranslated and sung in Latin.  The ideal of objectivity goes hand in hand with a paradigm of classicism that developed around 1920 and has continued henceforth; with respect to music this concept is particularly vague, a circumstance that has served the need for distance well by nurturing the idea that twentieth-century music should either be entirely void of emotion or possess only a marginal amount, with a restricted range of feelings and passions.


Thursday, January 26


Did He Really Mean It? (Richard Taruskin, University of California, Berkeley)

Stravinski as Pioneer of a New Conductor Style? (Oleg Caetani, Firenze)

Screening: Stravinski conducts the Symphonie de psaumes in Budapest, 1963

Friday, January 10

"Cult of Inexpressiveness" - Strawinskys Verhältnis zur Filmmusik (Irene Kletschke, Universität der Künste Berlin)

Wertungen und Einschätzungen von Grenzfällen strawinskyscher Werkausgaben bis 1971 (Helmut Kirchmeyer, Robert Schumann-Hochschule Düsseldorf)

Resourcing Sravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps and Yvonne Rainer's ROS Indexical (Gabriele Brandstetter, Freie Universität Berlin)

Sacred Matter: The Symphonies of Wind Instruments (Lawrence Kramer, Fordham University, New York City)

"Music to Hear..." from Shakespeare to Stravinski (Manfred Pfister & Albrecht Riethmüller, Freie Universität Berlin

Final Discussion

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