The Mutability of Public Opinion in The Rite of Spring, a Ballet and Orchestral Concert Work by Igor Stravinsky

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 823 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Dec 11, 2018

Words: 823|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Dec 11, 2018


Table of contents

  1. The Importance of Primary Sources
  2. Interrogating Historical Perspectives
  3. The Dynamics of Composer-Audience Relations
  4. Navigating Bias and Interpretation
  5. Conclusion

Henrik Ibsen's assertion, "Public opinion is an extremely mutable thing," resonates profoundly in the realm of historical analysis, particularly when exploring the reception of artistic masterpieces like Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." This essay delves into the multifaceted dynamics of public perception and the indispensable role of primary sources in shaping our understanding of cultural phenomena. Through an examination of historical documents and scholarly discourse, this essay aims to elucidate how interpretations of "The Rite of Spring" have evolved over time, emphasizing the need for critical engagement with primary sources to construct a comprehensive historical narrative.

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The Importance of Primary Sources

At the core of historical research lies the quest for accurate and nuanced understandings of past events and cultural artifacts. Primary sources, such as contemporary reviews, letters, and personal accounts, serve as invaluable windows into the past, providing direct insights into the reception of seminal works like "The Rite of Spring." By examining primary documents, scholars can uncover the complexities of historical contexts and challenge entrenched narratives. For instance, Slonimsky's "Lexicon of Musical Invective" and Weiss' and Taruskin's "Music in the Western World" offer invaluable insights into the initial reception of "The Rite of Spring," highlighting both the praise and criticism it elicited upon its premiere. These primary sources not only inform our understanding of the work itself but also shed light on broader cultural attitudes towards artistic innovation and tradition.

Interrogating Historical Perspectives

While primary sources offer invaluable glimpses into historical realities, they are not immune to biases and limitations. As scholars engage with historical documents, they must critically evaluate the perspectives presented and consider the socio-cultural contexts in which they emerged. The reception of "The Rite of Spring" provides a compelling case study in this regard. While contemporary reviews often portrayed the work in a negative light, labeling it as "discordant" or "blasphemous," subsequent analyses have offered more nuanced interpretations, recognizing its groundbreaking contributions to music and dance. Weiss and Taruskin, for instance, highlight the significance of Stravinsky's incorporation of Russian folk traditions and his innovative approach to rhythm and harmony, challenging earlier dismissals of the work as mere cacophony.

The Dynamics of Composer-Audience Relations

Primary sources not only illuminate the reception of artistic works but also offer insights into the dynamic interplay between composers and their audiences. In the case of "The Rite of Spring," surviving documents reveal a complex relationship characterized by tension and innovation. While Stravinsky himself acknowledged the initial resistance to his work, his subsequent denial of authorship of explanatory articles suggests a degree of capitulation to public opinion. Moreover, references to the more favorable reception of his earlier works like "Petrushka" and "The Firebird" underscore the shifting landscape of audience expectations and tastes. Through a careful analysis of primary sources, scholars can discern the intricate dynamics that shape artistic production and reception, enriching our understanding of cultural history.

Navigating Bias and Interpretation

Despite their richness, primary sources are not without challenges. Biases inherent in historical accounts and the selective preservation of documents can skew our understanding of past events. As researchers engage with primary sources, they must remain vigilant, questioning the motivations behind the narratives presented and seeking out corroborating evidence where possible. Moreover, the interpretation of primary sources requires a nuanced approach that considers multiple perspectives and contextual factors. Carl Van Vechten's account of the reception of "The Rite of Spring" in the Boston Evening Transcript, for example, offers a contrasting viewpoint to prevailing narratives, highlighting the diversity of opinion that existed at the time. By critically evaluating primary sources and contextualizing them within broader historical frameworks, scholars can construct more robust and inclusive narratives of the past.

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In conclusion, the study of historical reception offers a rich tapestry of insights into the complexities of artistic innovation and public opinion. Through a meticulous examination of primary sources, scholars can uncover hidden truths and challenge conventional narratives, enriching our understanding of cultural phenomena like "The Rite of Spring." However, this endeavor requires a critical engagement with historical perspectives, interrogating biases and contextualizing narratives within broader socio-cultural contexts. By navigating the complexities of historical interpretation with care and rigor, scholars can construct more comprehensive and nuanced narratives of the past, shedding light on the dynamic interplay between artists, audiences, and the cultural zeitgeist.


  1. Slonimsky, N. (Ed.). (1953). Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethoven’s Time. W. W. Norton & Company.
  2. Weiss, P., & Taruskin, R. (Eds.). (2008). Music in the Western World: A History in Documents. Schirmer Books.
  3. Van Vechten, C. (1913). “The American Premier of the Rite of Spring.” Boston Evening Transcript, May 30, 1913.
  4. Ibsen, H. (1890). Hedda Gabler. Gyldendalske Boghandels Forlag (F. Hegel & Søn).
  5. Stravinsky, I. (1967). The Rite of Spring: Centennial Edition in Full Score. Dover Publications.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Mutability of Public Opinion in the Rite of Spring, a Ballet and Orchestral Concert Work by Igor Stravinsky. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“The Mutability of Public Opinion in the Rite of Spring, a Ballet and Orchestral Concert Work by Igor Stravinsky.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
The Mutability of Public Opinion in the Rite of Spring, a Ballet and Orchestral Concert Work by Igor Stravinsky. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
The Mutability of Public Opinion in the Rite of Spring, a Ballet and Orchestral Concert Work by Igor Stravinsky [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Oct 26 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from:
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