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Reflections on the Rite

Welcome to Reflections on the Rite!  If this is your first time visiting, please check out this post for a brief introduction.  


Spring Encounters BONUS EDITION: Son Lux, Rising

Welcome to Reflections on the Rite!  If this is your first time visiting, please check out this post for a brief introduction.  

On Monday, our Spring Encounters series featured composer Son Lux, who discussed his early experiences with The Rite and the role it played in his musical development.  Son Lux has actually incorporated aspects of Stravinsky’s music into his own electronic work, and in today’s bonus edition of Spring Encounters, he will discuss what Stravinsky has to do with his song Rising.  So, without further ado, Son Lux:


The Rite of Spring, with its imagery of life’s brutal and beautiful cycle, seemed a fitting piece to quote, and to use as a foundation for the song Rising from my 2011 album We Are Rising.

Are we bursting from the ashes?
All things yearning for the push
Can you feel the ever-groaning?
Shedding hours we have become

I found an opportunity to incorporate the beginning of the opening phrase of The Rite in a few places. Listen for it in the vocal melody throughout (“We are Rising Sons!” and responding strings and winds):

It also appears in one of the celesta parts, where it is allowed just a bit more of the original phrase. Listen to the “response” line, which is mostly in the right speaker:


The interplay between strings and woodwinds feels like a Stravinsky rip-off to me. Here are just the winds and strings during one section:
A standout element of the track is the flute part, which is particularly Ritesy. It could almost be a lifted sample. I had written a part for Alex Sopp, who faithfully played it and it sounded dope. But as an aside, I pointed out that I was quoting the first few notes of The Rite in various places in the song. At this she responded, “Oh, if you want it to sound more Stravinsky, you should do it like this… well, just press record.” I did, and what resulted is what you hear in the recording, my simple flute and piccolo parts with Alex’s Stravinsky filter turned on. Here’s a section with the winds solo’d out:

In the final section of Rising, I take a cue from Stravinsky’s clever juxtaposition of inherently frictional rhythms. The goal was to create a similar feeling Stravinsky accomplishes during a particular moment of The Rite.  Here’s the London Philharmonic, led by Kent Nagano, performing a section from Procession of The Sage. Notice how the deep groove turns on its ear. A new rhythmic element enters brashly, capturing your attention, and reorienting your ear’s perception of the elements that continue on as they were. So wicked!

Now here’s what I did to get a similar vibe:

I achieved this effect by suddenly changing tempo and meter in such a way that the time value of a full bar remains the same. Stravinky doesn’t do this, but I was going for a similar result. It’s an example of metric modulation, where a given rhythmic value in a measure is the pivot point around which a new tempo is established at the bar line. But in this case, as the time value of each full bar is the same (so a bar of 5/8 in the first tempo takes up the same amount of time as a 2/4 bar in the second tempo), I was able to continue elements from the first part into the second. They share a downbeat. In a way this is also an example of polymeter. My individual rhythms are far more “polite,” but clashing tempi and meter in disparate chunks has a similar result. Again, it’s shifting chunks of sound and rhythm, smashing into each other.  So to demonstrate it clearly, I’ve pulled apart some elements. Here is one contingent, the celesta, gamelan, strings and winds. They act as a unit, and carry on in one tempo and meter:


And this is a element of the warring faction, the drums. Here’s what they are doing at the exact same moment. You can hear there is a clear shift to a different feeling altogether:

Again together, along with everything else, listen to the battle:


Excerpts of Son Lux’s work were performed by members of yMusic, with the exception of the celesta, which was performed by Judson Crane.

Listen to and purchase Son Lux’s music on bandcampiTunes, or Amazon.

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