Dionysos monometrikos


The idea of the single-beat metric unit, which underlies the experimental rhythms of “The Rite of Spring”, is one of a number of techniques in that ballet that originate in the work of his kuchka predecessors. It can notably be traced back to, or at least compared with, the speech melody in certain vocal works of Musorgsky. Stravinsky seems to have identified it subsequently as an aspect of “The Rite” that was worth exploring further, and “monometrics,” as he called the technique, figure in sketches of the Swiss years and characterize much of the music of that period. Stravinsky adapted the idea to a concept of metric modulation in major works of the neoclassical period, most notably “Oedipus Rex”, in which proportional metronome markings control whole scenes through series of complex changes of tempo. These proportions are seldom if ever observed in performance (including by the composer himself), but their existence in the score shows that, at least when composing, he was a true inheritor of the typically Russian love of formulaic background structures.