Crane School of Music professor co-authors book on Stravinsky
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 9:14 am

POTSDAM -- Crane School of Music professor John McGinness is the co-author of a recently published book about the influential composer Igor Stravinsky.

"Stravinsky and the Russian Period: Sound and Legacy of a Musical Idiom" was recently released by Cambridge University Press.

McGinness authored the volume along with Pieter C. van den Toorn of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"I am very proud of this project and grateful that I was able to be part of it," McGinness said.

The book proposes a new theory of rhythm and meter in Stravinsky's music, integrating an analysis of the musical materials with the issues of aesthetics and performances.

"Among musician/scholars, Stravinsky is famous for his formalist aesthetics. In short, Stravinsky expected performers to follow his instructions to the letter and leave their own expressive interpretations (especially regarding rhythmic freedom) at home," McGinness said. "Critics of Stravinsky's music have long felt that the composer's prohibition against expressive timing was, somehow, anti-humanistic. Van den Toorn and I believe, instead, that the necessity of strict time flows from the musical invention itself. In other words, the musical expression is already 'built in,' and, in fact, that performances with too much rhythmic freedom do not convey the beauty of Stravinsky's intention."

Van den Toorn and McGinness take a fresh look at the dynamics of Stravinsky's musical style from a variety of analytical, critical and aesthetic angles in the new book. Starting with processes of juxtaposition and stratification, the book offers an in-depth analysis of works such as "The Rite of Spring," "Les Noces" and "Renard."

Characteristic features of style, melody and harmony are traced to rhythmic forces, including those of metrical displacement. Along with Stravinsky's formalist aesthetics, the strict performing style he favored is also traced to rhythmic factors, thus reversing the direction of the traditional causal relationship. Here, aesthetic belief and performance practice are seen as flowing directly from the musical invention. The book provides a counter-argument to the criticism and aesthetics of T. W. Adorno and Richard Taruskin, and will appeal to composers, critics and performers, as well as scholars of Stravinsky's music.

For more information about "Stravinsky and the Russian Period" visit