When Igor Stravinsky debuted “The Rite of Spring,” a riot ensued.
People don’t riot about classical music anymore, so as a modern equivalent, imagine Steve Jobs holding a press event to announce the iPad, and then actually trying to sell them from the stage. You’d be lucky to get out alive.
We’re a bit late with this video, which depicts the still-amazing “The Rite of Spring” with a space-age musical notation from Stephen Malinowski, because he only just told us about it, although it was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the piece’s debut. Interestingly, humans did not record this version of the piece; you can read more about that below.
Each shape in this animated score corresponds to a family of instruments, while colors are mapped to the “circle of fifths” (more details on that below, too). You don’t need to know what that means in order to get a kick out of this video. And if you love it, you can spend $1 for a downloadable high-resolution version designed to work with the iPad:
The FAQ from the video’s page has some good background:
Q: What do the shapes indicate?
A: Each shape corresponds to a family of instruments:
ellipse: flutes (also cymbals and tam-tam)
octagon: single reed (clarinet, bass clarinet)
inverted ellipse/star: double reeds (oboe, English horn, bassoons)
rectangle: brass (also, with “aura,” timpani, guiro and bass drum)
Q: How was this recording made?
A: Jay Bacal performed and rendered this piece using virtual instrument software by Vienna Symphonic Library.
Q: Why did you to use a synthetic rendering instead of an actual performance?
A: There are several reasons that I’m happy I ended up using Jay Bacal’s recording, but the reason I used it ended up was simple: it was the first recording I found that I could get permission to use. I’d started out looking for conventional recording I could license, but couldn’t find one. I’d almost given up looking (and was running out of time) when I found Jay’s excellent rendition. The fact that Jay let me use the MIDI file the recording was generated from meant that I didn’t have to do the synchronization step, but other aspects of the process were more difficult (because the MIDI file that contained the data to create the recording was not, in its original form, suitable as an input to my animation software), so in the end, it’s hard to say whether it was easier or harder than my usual approach. One benefit of using a synthetic recording is that it’s note-perfect and very clear, which makes it better for pedagogical/study purposes.
Q: What do the colors indicate?
A: In this video, musical pitch (as ordered in the musician’s “circle of fifths”) is mapped to twelve colors (as ordered on the artist’s “color wheel”). With this mapping, changes in tonality and harmony correspond to changes in the color palette. You can read more about this technique here:
Unpitched instruments (bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, guiro) are shown in gray.
Q: What’s the best way to watch this?
A: The best way is to watch it on a big screen; the second best is to watch the custom iPad version; for these two options, use the download for sale here:
The iPad’s video out can be sent to a big screen TV or video projector. For the YouTube version, I recommend watching it in full-screen mode, at the highest resolution available.
Q: Where can I get the sheet music for this piece?
Q: Where can I learn more about this piece?
Q: Where can I learn more about the composer?
Q: Where can I get the t-shirt for this piece?
A: I’m not sure, but I think that if you go here …
… you can order it.
Q: Are there more notes about this piece somewhere?
A: Here are some better-formatted program notes:
Q: Could you please do a video of _______?
A: Please read this: