Book Series Speculum musicae, vol. 45

Stravinsky and the Musical Body

Creative Process and Meaning

Massimiliano Locanto

  • Pages: xiii + 398 p.
  • Size:210 x 270 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59778-2
  • Hardback
  • Available

This book sheds new light on the role of the body in the music of Igor Stravinsky


Massimiliano Locanto is Associate Professor in History of Music at the University of Salerno. His research interests and publications are in two main areas: the history of medieval monody and twentieth-century music, with a particular focus on the music of Igor Stravinsky and on the relationship between music theories, compositional techniques, and scientific thought. He edited, among others, the volume Igor Stravinsky: Sounds and Gestures of Modernism (Brepols 2014).


The idea that the body plays an essential role in music has stimulated a wide range of new approaches in recent musicology. This book tries to apply them to the music of Igor Stravinsky from the perspective of the creative process and the construction of meaning. Most of the works examined are compositions for theatre and dance, and the analyses address many other features of the spectacle, such as choreography, scenography, stage, and television direction.  That said, many compositions not intended for the stage are also considered from the perspective of the ‘embodied’ creative process and their implicit bodily expressiveness. Each chapter focuses on a number of Stravinsky's most famous and significant works, from the Firebird to the late serial compositions. A special place is reserved for the latter, which undoubtedly constitute the least well-known part of Stravinsky’s output. The chapters are accompanied by a large number of analyses that invite readers to go ‘beyond’ the musical text while still relying on it, allowing them to understand how the strong physicality clearly perceived in Stravinsky's music can be associated with some of its formal and structural characteristics.  In so doing, the book encourages the reader to overcome overly rigid dichotomies such as formalist/contextualist, or historical/ analytical.


Notes on Musical Examples,
Abbreviations and Conventions

Chapter One
In Search of the Musical Body

Part I: Body, Voice, and Music in Stravinsky’s Theatre
Premise: Stravinsky’s Bodily Topics
The Emergence of an Anti-Realistic Vision of the Body
Against Logos

Part II,: Analytic Issues
Music Analysis, Meaning, and Embodiment: The Problem of ‘Formalist’ Analysis
Music Gestures as Energetic Continuities
An Example: Variations for Orchestra
Source for the Choreo-Musical Analysis: Some Issues
The Firebird between Tradition and ‘Reconstruction’
A Collaboration Reconsidered

Chapter Two
Representing the Body in The Firebird
A Collaborative Project
Excursus: Composing Music in the ‘Old’ Ballet
Composing Music for a ‘New’ Ballet
A ‘New’ Collaborative Method
Words, Gestures, Movements
Movements, Actions, Processions
‘Improvising’ Ballet Music
‘Improvising’ with Leitmotifs
Opposite Characters, Opposite Bodies
Conclusion: After The Firebird

Chapter Three
«Il ne faut pas mépriser les doigts»:
Composing with Hands, Composing with Intervals

Part I: Composing with Hands
Thee ‘Musical Idea’ and the ‘Composer’s Mind’
The Body and the Hands: A Theoretical Framework
From Keyboard to Paper: Improvisation and Composition
Piano vs Orchestra?
Ways of the Hand, Keys, Steps
Symmetries over the Keyboard:
From Rimsky-Korsakov to Stravinsky
A ‘Danse’ of the Hands

Part II: Composing with Intervals
‘Change of Life’
What Is a Motif ?
From Steps to Rows
From Motifs to Rows
From Rows to Motifs
Movements… over the Keyboard
Conclusion: Theory and Practice

Chapter Four
Supernatural Beings, Human Bodies:
The Flood as an Anti-Realistic Television Opera
Intellectuals and Mass Culture
A Collective Work
Between Theatre and Television: The Problem of ‘Realism
Different Styles, Different Bodies
From Heaven to Earth

Index of Names