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THE MUSIC BOX

By Jonas Barish

The "Strawinsky influence" is one of the most talked about aspects of modern music. It is so important that an analysis of the style of a contemporary composer more often than not contains some comparison with the style of Strawinsky.

Because of his tremendous effect on the development of twentieth century music a concert of his works is not only a demonstration of different aspects of Strawinsky's art, but also a showing of many ideas which have become basic characteristics of the contemporary musical idiom. Strawinsky himself will conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra in just such a program on Friday and Saturday when they will play The Card Game ballet music, the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, the suite from Petrouchka, and the Symphony of Psalms.

It is always hard to decide to what extent an influential artistic figure is a product of the period in which he lives and, on the other hand, to what extent he has instigated and furthered the tendencies of his time. Strawinsky, however, has certainly been the leader in developing the aesthetic attitude which has prevailed among musicians in the last two decades. By various methods--from vague and theoretical presentation of his views as in the Charles Eliot Norton lectures, to his more specific writings and the practical application of his ideas in his compositions themselves--he has encouraged the concept of music as an essentially non-representational, independent artistic product.

The average concert-goer is not concerned with these abstractions, but even a casual listener, if he is at all acquainted with Strawinsky's music, must notice in contemporary compositions the re-echoing not only of his spirit, but also of his treatment of the actual details of writing music. For example, the exciting sound of regular, freakily marked rhythmical beats varied by complex shifts of pulse and accent is a commonly heard effect which everyone associates immediately with the "Strawinsky influence."

Opinions differ greatly as to the absolute value of Strawinsky's music and his position as a composer. His place as the most influential figure in the modern music world, however, is incontestable, and familiarity with his music and ideas is absolutely necessary for an understanding of the music of our day.

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