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Stravinsky's Les Noces (Svadebka), and The Prohibition Against Expressive Timing

Pieter C. Van Den Toorn Van Den Toorn
The Journal of Musicology
Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 285-304
DOI: 10.1525/jm.2003.20.2.285
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jm.2003.20.2.285
Page Count: 20
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Stravinsky's Les Noces (Svadebka), and The Prohibition Against Expressive Timing
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Abstract

In Stravinsky's Les Noces, folklike fragments are repeated relentlessly and literally (ritualistically). They are not varied or developed, strictly speaking, but are cut up and displaced metrically. Typically, displacement results in a disruption of the meter. Conflicting expectations of metrical parallelism are raised in the mind of the listener, expectations which catch the listener off guard. And if this disruptive effect is indeed to materialize, then the beat must be held firmly and without expressive nuance. This analytical perspective suggests a specifically musical rationale for exact, metronomic readings of the composer's music, and it also offers a way out of the doomsday aesthetics of "anti-humanism" (T. W. Adorno) with which the inflexible elements of the composer's idiom have been identified. The psychology of metrical entrainment and disruption can speak to the vitality of Les Noces, the ability of this music to excite in ways unrelated to the familiar socio-political equations.

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