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Footnotes to Stravinsky Studies: ‘Le Sacre du printemps‘

Lawrence Morton

Stravinsky said that he dreamed regularly, that his dreams were ‘the ground for innumerable solutions in my composing activity’. But it is just these composerly dreams about which he has been reticent. Instead, he has recalled the ‘time dreams and counting dreams [which] are common with me, and … dreams in which people shout, but inaudibly’. And again, ‘I am forever trying to tell the time and forever looking at my wrist watch, only to find it isn't there’. Then there was the dream of being a hunchback, which presaged an attack of intercostal neuralgia brought on by nicotine poisoning; another about the scent of Debussy's Eau de Cologne; and one more about his passport, ‘very yellow’. There are no musical portents in these dreams; but of the ones that are musical, the most practical was the one that prescribed the instrumentation of the Octet; and the most bizarre, even Freudian, was the pink dream (‘I often dream in colour’), during the time he was composing Threni, about the two warm, gelatinous, testicular eggs supporting ‘an elastic substance stretching exactly between the two notes [of an interval] I had composed.’ The tension of the stretched substance assured him that his interval was the right one.

Lawrence Morton was the artistic director of the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles for 20 years, and of the Ojai Festivals for 10. He is now Curator of Music at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.