The Physicality of “The Rite” and Its Source: Remarks on the Forces of Meter and Their Disruption


With the “Evocation of the Ancestors” in Part II as its point of departure, this paper examines the explosive nature of the rhythmic patterning in The Rite of Spring, tracing much of its explosiveness to the underlying metrical forces of parallelism and displacement, forces which, ultimately irreconcilable, lead to disruption. The argument is that these forces play themselves out on the smallest of scales, conspicuously in the “Evocation”, with the main motive of the top layer and its immediate (shortened and displaced) repeat. An irregular seven quarter-note beats in length (although sometimes shortened by a note or two), the main motive is repeated thirteen times in succession. The sort of development that may be inferred from this invention is discussed, along with the requirements for performance. In effect, features of melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, and articulation that might earlier have been subjected to a “developing variation” are kept intact in order that they might serve as a foil for what does change, namely, alignment. The rationale behind this train of thought is one that Stravinsky’s critics, in condemning the repetitious, static, mechanical, and intransigent qualities of The Rite of Spring and other Stravinsky works, have all but ignored.