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"Glass Pieces" & "Symphony in Three Movements"Has anyone commented on how much they are alike?


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#16 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 10:16 PM

Thanks, Quiggin, for those insights.

in Balanchhine's Stories of the Great Ballets, a wonderful book published by Doubleday (and mostly ghost-written by Francis Mason, but not entirely), Balanchine writes " after the ballet was in our repertory, I heard that the first movement of the symphony was actually composed as a possible accompaniment for a film about China and that the second was composed (but not used) for a film project -- the apparition-of-the-Virgin scene for the film of Werfel's Song of Bernadette.

"The Sanctuary" is a wonderful expression. Villella has a tremendous imagination and a wonderful way with words.

The outer movements remind me of the expression "the beautiful web of men," which is the Homeric epithet for war. Quiggin used the term "muddle," which is what the British used to call war.-- if you understand it at its highest sense, it mean that everybody's doing what they think best, under the most brain-addled circumstances, to do their duty. Muddle conjures more of the trench warfare, rain, muck, pulling your feet out of hte mud to slog on, when the ballet is pretty fleet-footed -- but the tangles balanchine put onstage though astounding, are CLEAR! And the more you look at htem, and see how the black-leotard people are doing their maneuvers to completely different counts from hte white-leotard folk, AND the pink-leotard folk have a totally different flow-chart they're following -- the more astounding it is, how CLEAR everything is. You can see it all, you just can't take it in -- it's like trying to follow everything going on in Merce Cunningham's "Sounddance" [a ballet that may well have had some influence on what Balanchine was doing].

WAY back when, Ninette de Valois said when she first ecountered Balnchine, she thought he was "a genius, a cross between a dancing-master and a general.":

#17 California

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 06:45 AM

It's amazing that Symphony in Three Movements and Violin Concerto premiered the same night at the Stravinsky Festival, June 18, 1970 – and Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee a few days later. rg, anyone else remember the overall effect at the time?

A typo, I think? These premiered at the opening night of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival.

http://www.nycballet...-Movements.aspx

I did not have the great good fortune of seeing the Festival, but I remember mumblings beforehand that Balanchine was a burnt-out has-been and the Festival changed all of that. I'd be curious if that's the sense of others who saw that remarkable opening night.
(In one of these amazing coincidences of history, the Watergate burglary was the night before.)

#18 kfw

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 07:57 AM


It's amazing that Symphony in Three Movements and Violin Concerto premiered the same night at the Stravinsky Festival, June 18, 1970 – and Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee a few days later. rg, anyone else remember the overall effect at the time?

A typo, I think? These premiered at the opening night of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival.


Nancy Goldner's book The Stravinsky Festival does list them as premiering on June 18, the first night. Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee is listed on the third evening, June 21.

#19 California

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 08:02 AM



It's amazing that Symphony in Three Movements and Violin Concerto premiered the same night at the Stravinsky Festival, June 18, 1970 – and Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee a few days later. rg, anyone else remember the overall effect at the time?

A typo, I think? These premiered at the opening night of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival.


Nancy Goldner's book The Stravinsky Festival does list them as premiering on June 18, the first night. Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee is listed on the third evening, June 21.

Sorry -- I wasn't clear. The Stravinsky Festival was 1972, not 1970. 1970 was the apparent typo.

#20 sandik

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 09:49 AM

I did not have the great good fortune of seeing the Festival, but I remember mumblings beforehand that Balanchine was a burnt-out has-been and the Festival changed all of that. I'd be curious if that's the sense of others who saw that remarkable opening night.
(In one of these amazing coincidences of history, the Watergate burglary was the night before.)


Lordy -- I'd never put it together, but yes indeed!

#21 pherank

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 07:52 PM

I DO feel a lot of conflict in the action -- esp in the first movement -- though it's not literally war-like

For me the most frightening moment is when the ballerina in palest pink [sunday, Vanessa Zahorian, but I first felt it when Lucia Lacarra did it 10 years ago here; both danced it excellently] makes a perfect circle of the stage doing perfect pique turns while the corps girls rush around her chaotically -- I thought she was giongto collide with somebody, like a planet passing through a chaos of asteroids -- or like a soldier moving through a hail of bullets. [i was sitting in the orchestra, seen horizontally, the screen of corps dancers really looks like ONE of them is gong to hit her, you don't know which; I'm told that from upstairs, it's exciting but does not look dangerous because you can see the trajectories do not intersect.

One critic (sorry, don't remember who, but maybe Croce?) described that passage as resembling the signal on a radar screen, with the white radius moving counter-clockwise and the red dot clockwise. I love that image.

For me, it's easy to take in the war/military references without necessarily making 3 Movements into a programmatic ballet. The sense of danger (ha-ha -- I typed that as "dancer") is pervasive, even in the "cheerful" sections of the outer movements. And the second movement? I'm not sure it alludes to war in any way, but I love that pas.


I love the radar image - it actually rings true because Balanchine certainly found inspiration from such visual phenomena (such as the flashing neon lights that inspired certain hand movements in Apollo).

I thought you all might like this quote from the British dance critic Richard Buckle on 3rd Symphony:

Imagine a world ruled by implacable women. Must they not be under the orders of one particular woman, never seen, never spoken of, even in whispers? She holds sway over all the banks, all the mineral resources, all the airlines and railroads, all the munitions factories and all the funeral parlors in the world. Through her international army of women, she controls the men who think they decide the destiny of nations. But it is Madam who gives the signal for peace or war: the first for sowing the seed, the second for gathering her harvest. In their secret rituals, her female storm troopers are drilled like a high-kicking chorus of lethal drum majorettes. To men they show a sweeter side, to obtain marriage dowries, alimony and widows’ pensions. Madam transports them from one country to another according to her need for reinforcements. ln the first and third movements of the symphony we hear their sealed trains passing, steam trains--for we are in the forties--which shriek when they are about to enter a tunnel.

Behind the battlefront, in no matter what war she has instigated, Madam has her girls waiting. Now, in the second movement, we are in the fifties or sixties, and Westerners are increasingly being sent to battle in Asia; Stravinsky’s music for this is Oriental. lt is the soldier’s weekend out of battle, and he looks for solace in a woman’s arms; though she may be trained in every kind of unfamiliar artifice--as an Indian nautch girl, Japanese geisha or Siamese temple dancer--when he lays his head on her neck she becomes for a moment a symbol of all he loves best--mother, sister, sweetheart, the girl next door. She is expert in gilding his moment of oblivion, a lovely interlude, well worth the money--from which Madam will exact sixty percent.

In the third movement the trains are heard again, the women celebrate their domination, and the surviving men are encouraged to retain their illusions. Life of a kind must go on-for business reasons. The sexes get together to pose for a victory photograph.
And we know what victories lead to.

That is all very well, someone who has seen the ballet may protest, but what about the gay scudding dances of the six principals--of the man who, with jerky jumps, is the first to confront the diagonal of threatening girls, and the man who leads the others in the last movement? What about the jitterbugging? Even if the diagonals and lineups of white-clad girls with ponytails, standing with one foot advanced, stabbing the floor while they rotate their right arms as if pitching a ball, are alarming, don’t the three principal girls smile and look charming in their conspicuous rose pink? What about the lovers in the pas de deux? (lncidentally, the strange nature of their movements was originally dictated by Balanchine’s consideration for injuries Sara Leland and Edward Villella had sustained. One had a bad leg, the other a strained back.) Don’t they behave less as if they were in a brothel than as if they were watching the sun rise from the window of a temple? So my imagined scenario about the terrible women can easily be dismissed as nonsense.



#22 carbro

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 08:30 PM

I thought you all might like this quote from the British dance critic Richard Buckle on 3rd Symphony:

...The sexes get together to pose for a victory photograph.
And we know what victories lead to.

I disagree. I don't see any resolution at the end. The closing pose, with the men aggressively poised to pounce, is more foreboding than anything that came before. Here, perhaps, is the ballet's most direct allusion to violence.

#23 sandik

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 08:57 PM

I don't necessarily see the same military allusions in the work, but your comments on the closing pose reminded me of Deborah Jowitt's response -- like many critics covering the festival she had lots of work to see and very short deadlines -- her initial take on the final pose was like a yearbook photo, but looking at the work again she radically revised her perspective, writing about the level of tension in the overall work. She talks about her shift in one of her anthologies -- cannot remember which one right now.

PNB has both Glass Pieces and Symphony in C in their rep, but haven't put them on the same program so I haven't seen the compare/contrast you set up here. The last time we saw the Stravinsky it was on a program with Forsythe's Artifact II, and I did feel there were several connections between those works, from the stripped down stage space to the aggressive quality of the technique.

Glass Pieces always makes me think of the post-modern experimental choreographers, like Lucinda Childs and Laura Dean, who were working in NYC at the time Robbins made this ballet. The walking grid patterns in the opening sequences and the use of pedestrian movement seem to come from the same place as those contemporary works.

#24 Quiggin

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:21 PM

Marcia B. Siegel kept a diary of her attandence to Stravinsky Festival – I just found my copy of Watching the Crowd Go By – which was sold out and difficult to get press passes to. She characterizes the women in white at the first part of Symphony in Three Movements as being launched in space and "pinned there for a minute in midflight". And like Paul, but a priori, she thinks the piece looks like Robbins works, especially in the "jazzy, athletic look of hip-thrusting walks with the opposite arm pushing out into space."

"Violin Concerto is nicer, but I like it somewhat less," she says, and of Divertimento/Fée: "I feel I'm seeing steps I've never seen before, expecially in Tomasson's low, circling, eccentrically timed leaps." Duo Concertante is a great hit with the audience (many bows) but Monumentum/Movements she feels "is perhaps the greatest musical statement of the week."

***

She holds sway over all the banks, all the mineral resources, all the airlines and railroads, all the munitions factories and all the funeral parlors in the world.


The Buckle review is not only programmatic madness but completely over the top in so many ways, even for the time. The war is now the Vietnam War, the pas is a brothel scene in Asia, the woman is "mother, sister, sweetheart, the girl next door" ... from whom "Madam will exact sixty percent."

This surely must be a Monty Python sketch!

#25 puppytreats

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 06:21 AM

The music is so violent, foreboding, dangerous, and clearly alludes to war, at least to my ears.

#26 liebs

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 08:10 AM

The inital NY Times review of Glass Pieces did reference Lucinda Childs work.

#27 Paul Parish

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 09:15 AM

THank you once again, QUiggin, for your insights and your scholarship -- esp for Siegel's coments.

Buckle DOES sound like a Monty Python parody -- "Pretty strong meat there from Longeur!" I've got a soft spot for him -- he was the first critic that really inflamed my imagination [longlong ago]. I protest there IS a value in that style, which plays out a fantasy [in belletristic flourishes] that IS a response to elements in the ballet which other modes of criticism can't mention -- e.g., the "opposite-limb-thrusting" school of "just the facts, Ma'am" style of criticism that prevailed in New York [and which Siegel's work epitomizes].

It's maybe useful to remember that Buckle was writing against the prissy grain of British critics and he delights in being outrageous -- and that's also in a context that values eccentricity.
Siegel and her movement were still bucking the Genteel Tradition in this country that Denby mocked as "another recit[size=4]ation of 'Thanatopsis.'"[/size]

#28 sandik

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 09:42 AM

It's maybe useful to remember that Buckle was writing against the prissy grain of British critics and he delights in being outrageous -- and that's also in a context that values eccentricity.
Siegel and her movement were still bucking the Genteel Tradition in this country that Denby mocked as "another recit[size=4]ation of 'Thanatopsis.'"[/size]


Buckle is also part of a tradition that is looking for stories in the work -- these are critics that learned to see and write during a period when much of the new and radical work had stories and/or narrative themes attached to them. Many critics in Britain had a hard time with the lack of narrative in Balanchine's work, when they encountered it -- they kept looking for a story, and he kept saying they should just look at the dancing.

#29 Paul Parish

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 09:49 AM

THanks, Sandik-- That is so true. But as I'm sure you know, Buckle was NOT one of those who did not get Balanchine; he was one of B's champions.

And as it turns out there IS more story there than some led us to believe -- the ballerina in the adage of Symphony in C is the moon crossing the sky.

Question is, as Balanchine asked, "How much story you WANT?"

Obviously, a ballet based on a symphony rather than an opera is not giong to have a story other than the tonal/rhythmic drama of that symphony.

#30 Quiggin

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 10:59 AM

And as it turns out there IS more story there than some led us to believe -- the ballerina in the adage of Symphony in C is the moon crossing the sky.
Question is, as Balanchine asked, "How much story you WANT?"


I think there's a difference between metaphors (& Homeric similies) and a programmatic narrative in which you check off the boxes as you go down the list. The beautiful image of moon crossing the sky that you cite and the hand mimicing the flashing light at Piccadily Circus from Apollo, and other shifting images seem to bring you closer to the work, whereas the overall Program – war or whatever – migtht tend to keep you away from the work, less vulnerable to its ambiguities.

And thanks for the context regarding Marcia Siegel ... Yes, Richard Buckle was a good guy in the British criticism scene but the review does have the "limitations" of the Orientalist approach, and the sex trade images are a bit too blithely laid out there – this afterall was the period overshadowed by the Korean and Vietnam wars. (Arlene Croce, too, is a bit off-base when she refers to the woman in the pas in Symphony/Three as an "interverted Oriental," in comparison to her role as an "extroverted American" in the first movement.)


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