Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (June 17th)

Photo by Arnold Newman, 1946

Or Игорь Фёдорович Стравинский if you are so inclined. Born June 17, 1882 in Oranienbaum (renamed Lomonosov in 1948), Russia. Died April 6, 1971 in New York, New York.

I must admit that I hadn't given much ear time to Stravinsky's music until a few years ago when (somewhat on a lark), the missus and I attended a performance of the SF Symphony conducted by MTT. The highlight of the program by far was an earlier 20th Century piece from Stravinsky. It at once sounded both completely foreign and familiar. Now after having listened to much more of his work, I am struck by how much of an influence on popular music he was. What I mean by that is how much he influenced music that many of us take for granted - film scores. To call his work "cinematic" is actually inappropriate as he was composing long before our contemporary notion of cinema. And yet, you can hear the Stravinsky-influence in so many film scores from the 1940s through today. Of course, this is not only notable contribution to culture - modern classical and jazz music both absorbed his influence greatly. The latter has grown into somewhat legendary status with no less than Charlie Parker famously name-checking the Russian-born composer often as one of his favorites. Bird reportedly also had the opportunity to play for the man himself in 1951.

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