Stravinski Chord Compositions


In gen ed course "First Nights," students invent their own chords and rhythms based on Stravinski's "Rite of Spring" in order to to better describe the way in which the piece was composed by experiencing that composition themselves. 

Before the activity, the students should have already heard a lecture on Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in lecture, and learned about a sound the composer made by combining two sets of notes and playing them in an unusual rhythm. Independently, each set of notes sounds harmonious, but when combined, they have a new, distinctive sound. At the beginning of class, they review the passage in the work in which this phenomenon takes place. Then, using a piano, the students take turns playing their own "Rite of Spring" chord and rhythm, which they invent by choosing their own chords to combine together in the same way Stravinsky did in his piece. The students who are not playing listen to the chord and talk about it. They can also write down something about the chords other students come up with:  their reactions and the ways in which their ideas about the piece change after the exercise.

After each student plays, the class discusses whether this activity changes the way they view Stravinsky's work. The activity allows the students to evaluate the work from an aesthetic standpoint with a fuller understanding of how it was created.