Sacre bleu!

When the music department at Lewis University posted an open call to composers soliciting fixed media audio compositions on the theme of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, I interpreted that invitation as less a collegial overture than a taunt and a provocation. In the wake of a century's worth of criticism, analysis, and legend, what more was there to say about Le Sacre du Printemps? How could any musical meta-work not suffer by comparison to that breathtakingly original modernist masterpiece? Paralyzed with fear, confusion, and self-loathing, I turned to the words of Henri Quittard, music critic for Le Figaro who attended the May 31, 1913 premiere, for inspiration. Sizing up Stravinsky's ballet as une barbarie laborieuse et puérile ("a laborious and puerile barbarity"), M. Quittard observed that history often proves the judgments of critics wrong, but in this particular case it probably wouldn't. Bingo!

If M. Quittard were alive to today, I'd show him what "laborious and puerile" really means: Sacre bleu! is a note-for-note MIDI transcription of the final section of the score, the Danse sacrale (L'Élue), with each pitch mapped to a socially inappropriate but legal public domain audio sample. While not exactly a sacrificial dance of the chosen virgin, the work manages to capture the gentle, wistful, and romantic charm of Mother Russia.