World-renowned composer who was born in St. Petersburg scventy-five years ago. IGOR STRAVINSKY studied composition under Rimsky-korsakov and made his reputation with the Firebird ballet produced by Diaghilev in Paris in 1910. In this anniversary month ice are happy to present the following self-portrait of the composer which emerges from his recent talk with Robert Craft.

ROBERT CRAFT.— When did you become aware of your vocation as a composer? IGOR STRAVINSKY. — I do not remember when end how I first thought of myself as a composer. All I remember is that those thoughts started very early in my childhood, long before any serious musical study. R.C. — Would you describe Rimsky-Korsakov as a teacher?

I.S. — He was a most, unusual teacher. Though a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory himself, he advised me not to enter it; instead he made me the most precious gift of his unforgettable lessons (1903-1906). These usually lasted a little more than an hour and took place twice a week. Schooling and training in orchestration was their main subject. He gave me Beethoven piano sonatas and quartets and Schubert marches to orchestrate, and sometimes his own music the orchestration of which was not yet published. Then, as I brought him the work f did, he showed me his own orchestra score, which he compared with mine explaining his reasons for doing it differently.

In addition to these lessons I continued my contrapuntal exercises, but by myself, as I could not stand the boring lessons in harmony and counterpoint I had had with a former pupil of RimskyKorsakov.

R.C.—What music of yours did Bimsky-Korsakov know? What did he say about it? What were his relations with new music: Debussy, Strauss, Scriabin?

I.S.— He knew well my Symphony in E-flat dedicated to him, and also my vocal suite Faune et Bergère, both performed in a concert arranged with his help and supervision. He had seen the manuscript of my Scherzo Fantastique but his death prevented him from hearing it. He never complimented me; he was always very close-mouthed and stingy in praising his pupils. But I was told by his friends after his death that he spoke with great praise of the Scherzo score.

When asked to go to a concert to hear Debussv’s music he said, “I have already heard it. I had better not go: I will start to get accustomed to it and finally might like it. “ He hated Richard Strauss but probably for the wrong reasons. His attitude toward Scriabin was different. He didn’t like Scriabin s music at all, but to those people who were indignant about it his answer was: “I like Scriabin’s music very much.”

R.C. When you were a pupil of ItimskyKorsokov, did you esteem Tchaikovsky as much as you did later, in the twenties and thirties?

I. S. — Then as later in my life I was annoyed by the too frequent vulgarily of his music — annoyed in the same measure as I enjoyed the real freshness of Tchaikovsky’s talent (and his instrumental inventiveness), especially when I compared it with the stale naturalism and amateurism of the “Five” (Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Balakirev, and Aloussorgsky).

R.C. — Of your early contemporaries, to whom do you owe the most? Debussy? Do you think Debussy changed from his contact with you?

I.S. — I was handicapped in my earliest years by influences that restrained the growth of mv composer’s technique. I refer to the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s formalism, from which, however — and fortunately—I was soon free. But the musicians of my generation and I myself owe the most to Debussy.

I don’t think there was a change in Debussy as a result of our contact. Reading his friendly and commendatory letters to me (he liked Petrauchka very much) I was puzzled to find quite a different feeling concerning my music in some of his letters to his musical friends of the same period. Was it duplicity, or was he annoyed at his incapacity to digest the music of the Saere when the younger generation enthuhastically voted for it? This is difficult to judge now at a distance of more than forty years.

R.C. — What were Diaghilev’s powers of musical judgment? What, for example, was his response to Le Sucre du Printemps when he first heard it ?

I.S.— Diaghilev did not have so much a good musical judgment as an immense flair for recognizing the potentiality of success in a piece of music or a work of art in general. In spite of his surprise when I played him the beginning of the Sucre (“ Les Augures Printanières”) at the piano, in spite of hisè at first ironical attitude to the long line of repealed chords, he quickly realized that, the reason was something other than my inability to compose more diversified music; he realized at once the seriousness of my new musical speech, its importance, and the advantage of capitalizing on it. That, it seems to me, is what he thought on first hearing the Sucre.

R.C. — Will you describe your meeting with Schoenberg in Berlin in 1912? Did you speak German with him? Was he cordial or aloof? Was he an able conductor of Pierrot? Webern [the Viennese composer and conductor] was present at the Berlin rehearsals of Pierrot; do you have any recollection of him? You wrote about the instrumentation of Pierrot but not about its use of strict contrapuntal devices or its atonal polyphony; how did you feel about these innovations at the time.-'

I.S.— Diaghilev invited Schoenberg to hear my ballets, Firebird and Petrouchka, and Schoenberg invited us to hear his Pierrot Lunaire. I do not remember whether Schoenberg or Scherchen or Webern conducted the rehearsals I heard, Diaghilev and I spoke German with Schoenberg and he was friendly and warm and I had the feeling that he was interested in my music, especially in Petrouchka. It is difficult to recollect one’s impression at a distance of forty-five years; but this I remember very clearly: the instrumental substance of Pierrot Lunaire impressed me immensely. And by saying “ instrumental" I mean not simply the instrumentation of this music, but the whole contrapuntal and polyphonic structure of this brilliant instrumental masterpiece. I nfort unately I do not remember Webern — if I did meet him.

R.C. — And Berg, did you know him?

I.S.— I met him only once, in Venice in September, 1934. He came to see me in the greenroom at La Fen ice, where I conducted my Capriccio in a Biennale concert with my son Soulima at the piano. Although it was my first sight of him and I saw him for only a few minutes, I remember I was quite taken by his famous charm and subtlety.

R.C. — While you are reminiscing, would you describe your last meeting with Proust?

I.S.— After the premieres of Mavra and Hsnard in June, 1922, I went up to a party given by a friend of mine, Princess Yiolette Murat. Marcel Proust was there also. Most of the people came to that partv from my premiere at the Grand Opera, but Proust came directly from his bed, getting up as usual verv late in the evening. He was a pale man, elegantly and Frenchly dressed, wearing gloves and carrying a cane. I talked to him about music and he expressed much enthusiasm for the late Beethoven quartets — enthusiasm T certainly would have shared were it not a commonplace among the intellectuals of that time and not a musical judgment but a literary pose.

R.C. — Klee, Kandinsky, and Busoni attended the 1923 Weimar performances of Jlistoire du Soldat. Do you remember anything about these gentlemen at the time?

I.S.— I was only a very short, time at Weimar — just time enough lor the rehearsals and the performance of Histoire conducted by Hermann Scherchen. Of the three artists you mention, I met only Ferruccio Busoni, who was sitting at this performance in the same box as I was. He seemed to be very much touched by the work. But whether it was the play of Ramuz, my music, or the whole thing, was not easy to determine, especially since 1 knew that 1 was his beta noire in music. Lnfortunately I did not meet Paul Klee there or later in mv life. 1 did have the good fortune to know Kandinsky in Paris in the 1930s and I will always remember him as an aristocrat, un honime de choix.

R.C. Do you agree with Schoenberg’s premise that a good composition is playable, in only one tempo? (Schoenberg’s example of a piece of music of uncertain tempo was the Austrian hymn from Haydn’s Emperor Quartet).

I.S.— I think that any musical composition must necessarily possess its unique tempo (pulsation); the variety of tempi comes from performers who often arc not very familiar with the composition they perform or feel a personal interest in interpreting it. In the case of Haydn’s famous melody, if there is any uncertainty in the tempo the fault is in the alarming behavior of its numerous interpreters.

R.C. — You protest that you are a doer, not a thinker; that composing is not a department of conceptual thinking; that your nature is to compose music and you compose it naturally, not by acts of thought or will. A few hours of work on about one third of the days of the last fifty years have produced a catalogue which testifies that composing is indeed natural to you. But how is nature approached ?

I.S.— When my main theme has been decided I know in general lines what kind of musical material it will require. I start to look for this material, sometimes playing old masters (to put myself in motion), sometimes starting directly to improvise rhythmic units on a provisional series of notes (which can become a final series). I thus form my building material.

R.C. — When you achieve the music you have been working to create, are you always sure of it, do you always instantly recognize it as finished, or do you sometimes have to try it for a greater period of time ?

I. S.— Usually I recognize im find. But when I am unsure of Et I feel uncomfortable in postponing a solution and in relying on the future. The future never gives me the assurance of reality I receive from the present.

R.C. — You have often remarked that the period of harmonic discovery is over, that harmony is no longer open to exploration and exploitation. Would v on explain ?

I. S. — Harmony, a doctrine dealing with chords and chord relations, has had a brilliant but a short history. This history shows that chords gradually abandoned their direct function of harmonic guidance and began to seduce with the individual splendors of their harmonic effects. Today harmonic novelty is at an end. As a medium of musical construction, harmony offers no further resources in which to inquire and from which to seek profit. The contemporary ear (and brain) requires a completely different approach to music. It is one of nature’s ways that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us. Therefore, the present generation’s interests are directed toward music before the “harmonic age.” Rhythm, rhythmic polyphony, melodic or intervallic construction are the elements of musical building to be explored today.

R.C. — How has composing with a series affected your own harmonic thinking? Do you work in the same way — that is, hear relationships and then compose them?

I.S. — I hear certain possibilities and I choose.

I can create my choice in serial composition just as I can in any tonal contrapuntal form. I hear harmonically, of course, and I compose in the same way I always have.

R.C. — Nevertheless, the Gigue from your Septet and the choral canons in the Cantieton Sacrum are radically more difficult to hear harmonically than any earlier music of yours. Hasn’t composing with scries therefore affected your harmonic scope?

I. S. —The serial technique I use impels me to greater discipline. It is certainly more difficult to hear harmonically the music you speak of than my earlier music; but any serial music intended to be heard vertically is more difficult to hear.

The rules and restrictions of serial writing differ little from the rigidity of the great contrapuntal schools of old. At the same time they widen and enrich harmonic scope: one starts to hear more things and differently than before.

R.C. The musical idea: when do you recognize it as an idea?

I S. — I recognize musical ideas when they start to exert a certain kind of auditive sense. Rut long before ideas take shape I begin work by relating intervals rhythmically. This exploration of possibilities is always conducted, in my case as well as in Webern’s, at the piano. Only after I have established my melodic or harmonic relationships do I pass to composition. Composition is a later expansion and organization of materials.

R.C. — Is it always clear in your mind from the inception of the idea what form of composition will develop? And the idea itself: is it clear what instrumental sound will produce it?

1.5. — You should not suppose that once the musical idea is in your mind you will see more or less distinctly the form your composition mav evolve. Nor will the sound (timbre) always be. present. But if the musical idea is merely a group of notes, a motive coming suddenly to your mind, it very often comes together with its sound.

R.C. — In your own music, identity is established by melodic, rhythmic, and other means, but especially by tonality. Do you think you will ever abandon the tonal identification?

1.5. — Possibly. We can still create a sense of return to exactly the same place without tonality: musical rhyme can accomplish 1 lie same thing as poetic rhyme. Rut form cannot exist without idenJ ity of some sort.

R.C. — Do you think of the intervals in your series as tonal intervals; that is, do your intervals always exert tonal pull?

I-S. — The intervals of my series are attracted by tonality; I compose vertically and that is, in one sense at least, to compose tonally.

R.C. — Do you work with a dialectical conception of form? Is the word meaningful in musical terms?

I.S. — Yes to both questions, insofar as the art of dialectics is, according to the dictionaries, the art of logical discussion. Musical form is the result of the logical discussion of musical materials.

R.C.— ‘tour music always has an element of repetition, of ostinatd. What is the function of ostinato?

I.S.— It is static; that is, antidevelopment. And sometimes we need a contradiction to development. However, it became a v itiating device and was at one time overemployed by many of us.

R.C. — While composing do you ever think of an audience? Is there such a thing as a problem of communication ?

I— When I compose something, I cannot conceive that it should fail to be recognized for what it is, and understood. I use the language of music, and my statement in my grammar will be clear to the musician who has followed music up to where I and my contemporaries have brought it.

R.C. — How do you understand Anton Webern’s remark: “Don t write music entirely by ear. Your ears will always guide you aright, but you must know why"?

I.S. — Webern was not satisfied with flic, from one point of view, passive act of hearing; he requires that the hearer, whether composer or listener, make cognizant relations ol what he hears: von must know why.”He obliges the hearer to become, a listener, summons him to active relations with music, without which there are in any case no real relations with music whatever.

R.C. — Paul Valery said, “We can construct in orderly fashion only by means of a group of conventions.”How do we recognize those conventions in, sav, Webern’s songs for clarinet and guitar?

I.S.— We don’t. An entirely new principle of order is found in the Webern songs which in time will bo recognized and conventionalized. But Valery’s essentially classical dicta do not foresee that, new conventions can be created.

R.C. — In your Greek-subject pieces Apollo, Oedipus, Orpheus, Persephone, dotted rhythms are of great importance (the opening of Apollo; the canonic interlude in Orpheus; the “Underworld" music in Persephone; the Oedipus F major aria). Is the use of these rhythms conscious stylistic reference to the eighteenth century?

1.5.— Dotted rhythms are characteristic eighteenth-century rhythms. My uses of them in these and other works of that period, such as the introduction to my Piano Concerto, are conscious stylistic references. I attempted to build a new music on eightcent h-cent ury classicism using t he const met ive principles of that classicism (which I cannot define here) and even evoking it stylistically by such means as dotted rhythms.

R.C.— A novelist (Isherwood) once complained to you of his difficulties in a technical question of narration. You advised him to find a model. How do you model in music?

1.5.—As I have just described in the case of eighteenth-century dotted rhythms: I have modeled this conventional rhythmic device so that I could “construct in orderly fashion.”

K.C.— Isn’t Busoni’s famous “attempted definition of melody" (1922) a fairly accurate prophecy of the melodic conception of many young composers today? Melody, he said, is “a series of repealed rising and falling intervals, which are subdivided and given movement by rhythm; containing a latent harmony within itself and giving out a moodfeeling; it can and does exist independently of words as an expression and independently of accompanying parts as a form; in its performance the choice of pitch and of the instrument makes no difference to its essence.”

I.S— The last two points are the most remarkable coming from Busoni. The idea that the actual pitch of the note is not so important in an absolute sense has been supplanted, to my mind, by the idea that pitch matters only because of the interval. Today the composer does not think of notes in isolation but of notes in their intervallie position in the series, in their dynamic, their octave, and their timbre.

Apart from the series, notes are nothing; but in the series their recurrence, their pitch, their dynamic, their timbre, and their rhythmic relation determine form.

R.C. — What, piece of music has most attracted you from a composer of the younger generation?

I.S.— Le Marteau sans Maitre by Pierre Boulez. The ordinary musician’s trouble in judging composers like Boulez and the young German Stockhausen is that he doesn’t see their roots. These composers have sprung full-grown. With Webern, for example, we trace his origins back to the musical traditions of the nineteenth and earlier centuries. But the ordinary musician is not aware of Webern, He asks questions like “What sort of music would Boulez and Stockhausen write if they were asked to write tonal music?" It will be a considerable time before the value of Le Marteau sans Maitre is recognized. Meanw hile I shall not explain my admiration for it but adapt Gertrude Stein’s answer when asked why she liked Picasso’s paintings; “I like to look at them" —I like to listen to Boulez.

R.C. — Do you know the present status of your music east of N ATO ?

l.S.— Friends who attended the Warsaw conference of contemporary music last October say that my music was officially boycotted there but enthusiastically received nevertheless by composers from the Soviet sphere. My music is unobtainable, all of it and in any form, disc or printed score, east of NATO; not only my music but Webern’s, Schoenberg’s, Berg’s as well. Russia’s musical isolation she will call it our isolation — is at least thirty years old. We hear much about Russian virtuoso violinists, pianists, orchestras. The point is, of what tire they virtuosi? Instruments are nothing in themselves; the literature they play creates them. The mandolin and guitar, for instance, did not exist until Schoenberg imagined them in an entirely new way in his Serenade. A new musical masterpiece of thiit kind is a demand that musicians be created to play it. The Soviet virtuoso has no literature beyond the nineteenth century.

I am often asked if I would consent to conduct in the Soviet Union. For purely musical reasons 1 could not. Their orchestras do not perform the music of the three Viennese and myself, and they would be, I am sure, unable to cope with the simple, problems of rhythmic execution that we introduced to music fifty years ago. The style of my music would also be alien to them. These difficulties are not to be overcome in a few rehearsals; they require a twentyor thirty-year tradition. I discovered something of the same situation in Germany at the end of the war. After so many years of Hitler in which my Histoire du Soldat, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Berg’s and Webern’s music were banned, the musicians were unable for a long time to play the new music, though they have certainly made up for it. since. It is the same thing with ballet. A bullet exists in its repertoire as much as, or more than, in the technical perfection of its dancers. The repertoire is a few nineteenth-century ballets. These and sentimental, realist. Technicolor Kitsch are all the Soviets do. Ballet in this century means the Diaghilev repertoire and the creations of the very few good choreographers since.

R. C. — Isn’t the general public everywhere just as isolated from contemporary music since about 1909 as the Soviet Union?

1.5.—Not even where; not in Germany where, for example, Schoenberg’s Five OrchestraI Pieces are performed as much for the general public as Till Fulenspicgel is in the U.S. The year 1909 means atonality, and atonality did create a hiatus for a long time. But Marxists do not explain that atonality was an irresistible pull within the art. Any explanation based on outside pressures or social incubation is no more than a metaphor. You can ‘t explain musical evolution from without.

R.C. — Do you wish to say anything about pal ron age?

I.S. — Haphazard patronage, whether or not it is better than systematic patronage, is extremely inadequate. It called into being all of the music of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Bartók, and myself, though most of our music was not called into being at all, but only written and left to compete against more conventional types of music in the commercial market. This is part of the reason why four of those composers died in the mid-twentieth century in humiliating circumstances, or at least in circumstances that were far from affluent. Patronage has not changed in one hundred and fifty years except that today there seems to be less of it.

R.C. — What do you mean when you say that critics are incompetent?

I.S.— I mean that they are not even equipped to judge one’s grammar. They do not see how a musical phrase is constructed, do not know how music is written; they arc incompetent in the technique of the contemporary musical language, Critics misinform ihe public and delay comprehension. Because of critics many valuable things come too late. Also, how often we read criticisms of first performances of unknown music in which the critic praises or blames (but usually praises) performance. Performances are of something; they do not exist in the abstract, apart from the music they purport to perform. How can the critic know whether a piece of music he does not know is well or ill performed ?

R.C. — What music delights you most today?

I.S.—I play the English virginalists with neverfailing delight. I also play the Brahms-Chrysander Couperin. Bach cantatas too numerous to distinguish, Italian madrigals even more numerous, Schulz sinfoniae saerae pieces, masses by Josquin, Ockeghem, Obreeht, and others are always delightful to me. Haydn quartets and symphonies, Beethoven quartets, sonatas, and especially symphonies like the Second, Fourth, and Eighth, are sometimes wholly fresh and delightful to me. Of the music of this century I am still most attracted by two periods of Webern: the later instrumental works and the songs he wrote after the first twelve opus numbers and before the Trio — music which escaped the danger of the too great preciosity of the earlier pieces, and which is perhaps the richest Webern ever wrote. I do not say that the late cantatas are a decline—quite the contrary—but their sentiment is alien to me and I prefer the instrumental works.

We finish our conversation, as I notice, on the music of Webern. People who do not share my feeling for this music will wonder at my attitude. So I explain: Webern is for me “just before music” (as man can be “just before God”), and I do not hesitate to shelter myself by the beneficent protection of the Muse of his not yet canonized art.