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Conducting and Politics: a Igor Stravinsky's Comparison

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Conducting and Politics: a Igor Stravinsky's Comparison essay

Igor Stravinsky, often hailed has one of the greatest and most influential composers of the 20th Century, influencing other legendary composers such as Aaron Copeland, remarked that “conducting, like politics, rarely attracts original minds.” His strong rhetoric undoubtedly conveyed the idea that conductors may be “unequipped” and ultimately unqualified to do their job whilst keeping their position of “arbitrary authority” because they are good at “power politics.”

In addition to the last statement, it is gathered right from the beginning of the document that, according to Stravinsky, politics and conducting have a lot in common. In the first sentence, he makes the claim that both are “more for the making of careers and the exploitation of personalities than a profession for the application of exact and standardized discipline,” meaning that there isn’t a certain set of rules to abide by when conducting music or politics, which also means that he hints at a belief that both are informal in nature, given that a lack of a defined set of rules and mannerisms constitutes informality.

He goes on to say that “society women (including critics)” are more akin to observing aspects of the conductor other than his or her “musical qualities.” That could be a possible hint pointing towards a belief that perhaps critics and other spectators are more entertained by the informality they see leading the orchestra rather than the musicians themselves. To elaborate further, it may even be said that Stravinsky’s point was to convey the idea that in this way, the conductor distracts the audience and turns them from listeners to viewers.

It can then be deduced that he is not only comparing conducting and politics, but he is also juxtaposing conductors and the musicians being conducted because he mentions that a conductor can be “less well equipped for his work than his players,” which helps reemphasize the point that a conductor holds a less valuable position than those actually playing. After that, he gives the mention that “his [the conductor’s] career is not dependent on” the musicians, an almost ironic statement considering that a conductor is usually held to the highest esteem when he or she can be such an “incomplete musician.”

With the emergence of the second paragraph of the document, Mr. Stravinsky diagnoses conductors of having the “ego disease,” declaring that it was “naturally high to begin with,” further stating that “the disease grows like a tropical weed under the sun of a pandering public,” which is a metaphor that symbolizes how the audience contributes to the growing popularity of this phenomenon; how they practically encourage the conductor “to impose a purely egotistical, false, arbitrary authority,” and how they seemingly exaggerate the “real value” of the conductor “as opposed to the music-business.”

It is partially the conductor’s fault for exhibiting attention-seeking values, as Stravinsky mentions how the “cult of the ‘great’ conductor also tends to substitute looking for listening,” further elaborating that even “reviewers who habitually fall into the trap of describing a conductor’s appearance rather than the way he makes music sound” and that “the important part of the performance becomes the gesture.” His point was that people rely too much on how the conductor, who knows that he has the attention of the audience, to give cues on how the piece should be interpreted rather than each individual interpret the piece in his or her own way.

He finally confirms his overall belief by saying outright: “If you are incapable of listening, the conductor will show you what to feel.” He alludes to a “film-actor type of conductor,” “acting out” his own version of Napoleon in Eroica, to emphasize this point. In a Coup de grâce, a final blow to conductors, he summarizes all that he said while ending his allusion: “If you are unable to listen to the music, you watch the corybantics, and if you are able, you had better not go to the concert.”

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Conducting and Politics: A Igor Stravinsky’s Comparison. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/conducting-and-politics-a-igor-stravinskys-comparison/
“Conducting and Politics: A Igor Stravinsky’s Comparison.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/conducting-and-politics-a-igor-stravinskys-comparison/
Conducting and Politics: A Igor Stravinsky’s Comparison. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/conducting-and-politics-a-igor-stravinskys-comparison/> [Accessed 7 Dec. 2022].
Conducting and Politics: A Igor Stravinsky’s Comparison [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Apr 10 [cited 2022 Dec 7]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/conducting-and-politics-a-igor-stravinskys-comparison/
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