Le Sacre du Printemps


Backdrop for the League of Composers’ production, Philadelphia, 1930.

Something for the vernal equinox. The painting is a stage design by artist, writer and theatre designer Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) for an American production of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Roerich designed the costumes and decor for the riotous Paris performance of 1913 and the Roerich Museum has a selection of designs for this and subsequent performances. Stravinsky’s fiercely primitive ballet has long been a favourite musical work of mine so it’s especially satisfying when one enthusiasm bleeds into another. I’ve noted before HP Lovecraft’s praise for Roerich’s paintings of whom he wrote in 1937:

There is something in his handling of perspective and atmosphere which to me suggests other dimensions and alien orders of being—or at least, the gateways leading to such. Those fantastic carven stones in lonely upland deserts—those ominous, almost sentient, lines of jagged pinnacles—and above all, those curious cubical edifices clinging to precipitous slopes and edging upward to forbidden needle-like peaks!

Roerich is also mentioned in At the Mountains of Madness and some of his designs for the Rite—which are, after all, backdrops for a ritual sacrifice—might easily serve as a scene of Cthulhoid invocation. Writer Mike Jay has a fascinating piece about the artist which proposes that he should perhaps be given more credit for the origin of the Rite of Spring. He’s not the first to note that it was the stage designer who nurtured a lifelong passion for mysticism and esoteric ritual, not the composer.

Finally, some slightly more contemporary music: Can performing Vernal Equinox for the BBC in 1975.

Previously on { feuilleton }
HP Lovecraft’s favourite artists

5 thoughts on “Le Sacre du Printemps”

  1. The Vernal Equinox selection reminds me in some ways of an album by Electric Masada entitled, oddly enough, ‘At the Mountains of Madness.’

  2. Wiley: that Can performance isn’t them at their best, unfortunately. Everything great about Can pretty much ended around 1974 when singer Damo Suzuki left. By 1975 they were doing more and more jazzy noodling in that vein; when they’d started out their intention was to play music “like animals”.

    I’ve not heard any of the Masada stuff although I seem to remember that title. Zorn is like Bill Laswell, he records too much to keep up with! The psychedelic band from the Sixties called HP Lovecraft had a song entitled At the Mountains of Madness. I think they were the first to use Lovecraft in that way.

  3. You should try Electric Masada, well, the work I mentioned at least, I don’t know, I am not that captivated by their other release. At the Mountains of Madness was an astonishingly psychotic yet masterful fusion of, shit, I guess wildly played Klezmer, hardcore jazz, improvised psychedelia, and parts that almost seem inspired by early industrial (though, I guess for a lot people who were old enough to fathom music when those earlier groups were new, they consider the first wave of industrial acts to be the only true industrial.) All played live in Russia I believe and no vox whatsoever, in other words perfect.

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