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Igor Stravinsky Appears on American Network TV & Tells Stories About His Unconventional Musical Life (1957)

One evening in 1957, onlookers all across America tuned in to see Stravinsky. The broadcast wasn't a execution of Stravinsky's music, although those would continue to draw television gatherings well into the following decade. It was a conversation with the three men himself, Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky, who even when he was still alive had become an institution by virtue of his industry and innovation. “For half a century, Stravinsky's melodic explorations have predominated modern music, ” says the program's narrator. “His nearly 100 directs -- ballets, concerts, religious music, even jazz -- have often outraged audiences at first hearing.”

The famously “riotous” audience reaction to the Paris debut of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring had happened 44 times earlier, back when the Russian-born composer was rising to international notoriety. But by 1957 he'd been an American citizen for years, and it's in his Hollywood home -- and on the eve of his 75 th birthday -- that NBC's gang shot this episode of Wisdom.

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Having debuted merely that time, Wisdom would continue to run until 1965, broadcasting long-form interviews with chassis like Marcel Duchamp, Pearl S. Buck, Robert Frost, Somerset Maugham, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Now Stravinsky speaks with his young protege, the American conductor Robert Craft, who expects him to remember numerous assemblies of his long melodic man, which included meetings with the likes of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Dylan Thomas, and Pablo Picasso.

The story begins with Stravinsky's firstly improvisations at the piano during his childhood in Russia( and his first readings, schooled by a woman of nineteen: “for me that was an old maid, but of course I was in love with this old maid” ). All throughout, we consider flashes of the invention-above-convention sensibility that built Stravinsky more a Homo faber, as he liked to say, than a Homo sapiens. “Who devised the scale of assessments? ” he invites, rhetorically. “Somebody fabricated the scale of assessments. If individual invented the scale of assessments, I can change something in the scale and develop something else.” And why is it, Craft requests, that every new work of yours incites affirms in the public? “Each time I have new difficulties, and this new problem requires a new approaching, ” Stravinsky explains, and but for the public, “the idea of a new coming, of a new difficulty, doesn't come to their mind.” So you're ahead of the public- including, implicitly, the American public view at home? “Inevitably.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and programmes on metropolitans, communication, and cultural activities. His programmes include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21 st-Century Los Angeles and the video serial The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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