|Poster for 100th anniversary performances of the Joffrey Ballet restaging of|
original Rite of Spring choreography from 1913.
If you're not a ballet fan you might actually like this one.
There is some debate as to what riled the audience at the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. Some suggest a furor arose over the musical style which was alien and cacophonous to most ears, others believe some audience members were offended by the primitive choreography and staging, and still others think it was a combination of both of these things. There are even some music historians who believe that the events of that night were blown out of proportion by the press and perhaps a publicity stunt to attract larger audiences to the next performances.
Whatever happened that night is the stuff of music history legend. Several conflicting reports have been recorded, but alas there is no film of the occasion so we must rely on what has been written. There is no question that some find the music of Stravinsky's ballet to be strange and maybe even unpleasant listening, but at the same time The Rite of Spring has become a highly regarded and much beloved work even to the point of there being several jazz adaptations recorded by various artists and even an excerpt having been used in the Disney animated feature Fantasia.
For some fun reading you might like to check out the Wikipedia article about The Rite of Spring. That article gives a good account of what eyewitnesses reported from that premiere performance. There is a BBC movie Riot at the Rite which you can watch on YouTube if you're willing to devote 90 minutes. I haven't watched the film in its entirety, but from what I watched it seems to be a fairly credible interpretation of what might have happened on that premier night. Also on YouTube you can find the performance recreation of the original choreography and costuming as presented by the Joffrey Ballet in 1989. The complete 30 minute video can be found at this link as well as several others. I quite enjoyed the video and I've been a big fan of the Stravinsky musical piece since my college years.
So what's all this have to do with my most recent Battle of the Bands post? Well, to say the least, my match of Lotte Lenya versus Marilyn Manson doing their respective versions of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht composition "Alabama Song" was not overly appreciated by most of the readers who stopped by to vote. Most voters were almost reluctant to vote for either version, a few outright refused to vote, and a couple insisted on voting for the Doors version--votes which I threw out in order to keep the contest according to my parameters.
Why the adverse reactions? In part it was due to the strange nature of the song. I think just about any artist who would perform this song would not do a version that would be palpable to many listeners. Even the Doors version apparently is not overwhelmingly loved.
I'll concede that it is a somewhat strange song, but those are the kinds of songs Weill and Brecht generally wrote. Even their biggest hit "Mack the Knife" would not be something many of you would probably like in its original rendering. Later artists were able to jazz that one up for the modern listening audience, a feat which I'm not sure anyone could do as well with "Alabama Song".
In any case I happen to like the song a great deal and a handful of you enjoy it as well, perhaps not as much as I do, but have an appreciation for nevertheless.
|"Alabama Song" comes from the opera|
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
The Outcome of the Voting
I was surprised by the outcome of the voting. My expectation was that most of you would have been so taken aback by the Marilyn Manson performance that Lotte Lenya would have swept the contest with an overwhelming victory. Indeed, there were some of you who detested Manson not only in the way he looked but by the way he sang. "Evil" was the description suggested by a couple of voters.
In my opinion Manson delivered a fascinating interpretation. The sparse staging with the freaky twin piano accompanists gave his performance an appropriately cabaret-like appearance. He was a bit hard on my ears, but at the same time growled drunkenly like one might expect a singer of this song to sound. Manson was interesting, but not interesting enough to get my vote.
My preference for the Lenya version is based on the orchestral accompaniment--especially the muted trumpet, the background singers, and the haunting phrasing in Lenya's vocals. This version has so much texture and variation. I could listen to this kind of music all day--well, maybe half the day. Apparently the majority of you agreed with me to some degree since Lotte Lenya's rendition won this Battle of the Bands edition at Tossing It Out.
Marilyn Manson 8 votes
Lotte Lenya 12 votes
Don't miss the next Battle of the Bands coming on Saturday November 1st. My next BOTB post should be an innocuous matching that hopefully more of you will find appealing. It's an early 70's minor hit that will be themed for the day on which it will be first appearing.
Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before? If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like? Do you enjoy Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring?