On 29 May 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris, a new ballet by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, received its premiere. Many of the cultural big names of Paris were there, or were rumoured to have been there: Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Picasso. When the curtain rose on a cast of frenziedly stamping dancers, a near-riot ensued, ensuring the evening would enter the folklore of modernism. While it was the dancing that triggered the mayhem, Stravinsky's score contained shocks enough, with its innovations in form, rhythm, dissonance and its sheer sonic power. The Rite of Spring would achieve recognition in its own right as a concert piece, and is now seen as one of the most influential works of the 20th century.
Gillian Moore explores the cultural climate that created The Rite, tells the story of the creation of the music and the ballet and provides a guide to the music itself, showing how a scandalous novelty of 1913 became a 21st-century concert staple. As well as considering its influence on 20th-century classical composers, she probes The Rite's impact on film music (including scores for Star Wars and Jaws); its extensive influence on jazz musicians (including Charlie Parker) and by artists as diverse as Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa and The Pet Shop Boys.