Stravinsky and Nationalism

I have a theory about Stravinsky’s famous “The Rite of Spring.”

Many assume that the riots surrounding the premiere of his ballet had to do with the fact that he made ballet “ugly,” or that he destroyed conventional concepts of dance, beauty, etc.

I’m sure this represents part of the reason for the intense negativity–possibly even most of it.  But I wonder if part of the reason was not that Stravinsky showed people themselves — a pagan people who worshipped the tribe.   But here I need help from someone who knows more about Stravinsky than I, for I know next to nothing.

Every religion involves sacrifice, and Stravinsky here reminds me of Wilfred Owen’s line,

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Translated, I believe, “It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.”

Toynbee also commented incisively on this era,

Great, for example, as was the havoc wrought in Hellenic history by the Hellenes’ sin of idolizing their parochial states, the havoc was still greater when this particular form of Hellenic idolatry was resuscitated in a Western Christendom where the vein of Judaic fanaticism . . . was lying in wait . . . imported from Hades with a demonic intensity which it had never attained in even the deadliest of its manifestations on its native heath in a heathen Hellenic World whose life it brought to a bad end.

Stravinksy seems to have embraced Christianity.  Among some of his comments are,

Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church’s greatest ornament.


I cannot now evaluate the events that, at the end of those thirty years, made me discover the necessity of religious belief. I was not reasoned into my disposition. Though I admire the structured thought of theology (Anselm’s proof in the Fides Quaerens Intellectum, for instance) it is to religion no more than counterpoint exercises are to music. I do not believe in bridges of reason or, indeed, in any form of extrapolation in religious matters. … I can say, however, that for some years before my actual “conversion,” a mood of acceptance had been cultivated in me by a reading of the Gospels and by other religious literature. ..

If “The Rite of Spring” is art, does art always have to be beautiful?  Or does art merely need to reflect truth?