Disney's Fantasia and the Rite of Spring - Communism and Music
Cross Cultural Multimedia
Because the small portion of the film that I saw as a child had such impact on my imagination and visual appreciation, I still feel that the greatest animated film every produced is Walt Disney's Fantasia.
The film itself as well as documentaries about its production are intriguing. The steps up to Fantasia remind me very much of the efforts and discoveries that led up to the beginnings of the US Space Program and our 1969 Lunar Landing. In fact, the hallucinations experienced by potential astronauts in pre-selection sleep deprivation studies coincidentally resemble some of the cartoon characters in Fantasia as well!
Today, Collector's DVDs are available of this animation, including scenes cut from the original film. The film portions of Fantasia that I saw in childhood on TV comprised my introduction to Classic Music. I fell in love with Night on Bald Mountain and Cossack Dance . as well as images of outer space and dancing Asian mushrooms and booms.
Fantasia was to be produced as a feature-length concert film, an experiment in incorporating classical musical with attention-grabbing animated characters like dancing brooms, bobbing mushrooms, ballet hippos, and many more. A few of the classics from the film include:
- Igor Stravinsky's controversial The Rite of Spring
- Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite
- Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice
- Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain
- Schubert's Ave Maria
The addition of these classical pieces make Fantasia my favorite animated film, but the work of Stravinsky was perfect for this production, because it was different from others' work and rejected in Europe and USSR.
The Rite of Spring, 2006 Stage Production
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The films I have chosen in this list seem to me to be those that have impacted society immensely and led the way for 21st Century innovations in animation. They can be considered a list of old classics. ...
Classical Music Riot
A classical music riot is a spontaneous event in which an audience becomes loud and aggressive, because it does not like a concert performance. It is not simply grumbling or the throwing of rotten vegetables (as in vaudeville), but a full fledged riot in which police must usually be summoned for crowd control.
When Stravinsky first presented The Rite of Spring , the 1913 audience response was grumbling, rumbling, and a riot to which the French Police were called to quell. Even though the French have been known as artistically innovative, the Stravinsky ballet lay further along the innovation scale than they could tolerate. It contained primative, non-melodic tone combinations and rythyms. Native American and Sami-related peoples were portrayed in ceremonial and religious dances that were new and thus offensive to the audience (reference: the film Coco and Igor ). In the USA years later, he caused an incident in 1944 by adding a major 7th chord to the national anthem.
Despite riots, Stravinsky became the reference point for revoluton in the music and dance arts. In this way, he was like George Balanchine (who became his friend), going against the grain of government-certified and therefore allowable, "art." White Nights as a film explores this concept, as does the earlier Moscow on the Hudson . Communist countries such as USSR and China have controlled the arts strictly, prescribing for the populace what is good for them. In France, Stravinsky exercised his creativity and was met with shock and anger on the part of a traditionist audience. Thus. he finally moved to America, the land of revolutionairies in 1939.
In the later 1960s, my classmates and I in newly-instituted Russian language classes enjoyed reading Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, but it was illegal to have it in Ohio in that decade.
Igor Stravinsky qualified as a US citizen after WWII and became friends with other Russian immigrants. He live in West Hollywood and enjoyed LA as well as friendships with Geoirge Balanchine and other immigrants such as Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Piccaso, Leopold Stokowski, and other artists and composers. Often times, they collaborated on creative, innovative and successful musical productions outside of Communist control.
Stravinsky was rejected in Russia and the USSR after he immigrated to France and Switzerland in the 1910s. France rejected both his The Rite of Spring and his benefactor Coco Chanel's fashion design style. They both became almost worshipped for their work in Paris later in the 20th Century.
Russia/USSR suppressed his music from the early 1930s for 30 years, exerting government control over musical compositions and productions. Elsewhere, the composer went to Denmark to accept Sonning Award for music in 1959. In the 1960s, Stravinsky became a mentor to Warren Devon. In 1962, he was finally invited to Leningrad USSR and presented by the government as an artist in concert, officially declared respected by the nation and its peoples.
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring, Part 1 - Genesis in FANTASIA (1940)
Part 3: Extinction
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