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Excerpt from Ignor Stravinsky Essay

In this passage, Stravinsky discusses orchestra conductors, making observations and conclusions concerning their true necessity. He seemingly has carefully studied conductors’ behavior and effectively conveys his view to the reader. To present his point of view clearly, Stravinsky makes use of diction, satirical statements, and comparisons.

Stravinsky manipulates his diction throughout the passage. He often uses quotations to place emphasis on certain words. His placement of quotes around the words “great” and “style” encourage the reader to look into the word for added meaning. Throughout, Stravinsky’s overall diction and statements seem rather rash and bold. He does not hesitate to present his feelings about the subject. For instance, he boldly states that “the incidence of ego disease is naturally high to begin with.” In doing so he presents the reader with the feeling of confidence. In turn, the reader doesn’t question Stravinsky’s overall knowledge of the subject matter. Also this creates a sense of informality. Throughout the passage, it seems as though Stravinsky is simply conversing with his audience. He uses parentheses and dashes within statements to create somewhat of an aside with the reader as in lines 9 and 31-34. Using this technique makes the reader feel more comfortable and therefore better relate to the ideas being presented.

Stravinsky also employs satire to attack the necessity of conductors in orchestras. Opening, Stravinsky states that conductors’ careers are not dependant on music ability, “but on the society women (including critics).” Through this statement, Stravinsky communicates that a career dependent on the ideas of women contradicts a career in music. Continuing, he speaks of ego as a natural trait in all men, and as an uncontrollable disease. In this, Stravinsky attacks how the conductors are merely concerned with their status rather than the quality of the music they render.

The quotations around the words “great” and “style” also serve to create a satirical emphasis on the words’ accompanying connotations. For instance, conductors are often revered as great but for various reasons. According to Stravinsky, this status is not acquired through the creation of “great” music, but through making the former seem to be true. Also the conductor’s “style,” according to Stravinsky, is not a genuine technique in conducting, but merely a series of fabricated gestures that make them unique from other conductors.

Several comparisons to conducting also serve to express Stravinsky’s overall point of view and desired message. First, he relates conducting directly to politics. He regards conducting as “more for the making of careers and exploiting personalities.” Conductors must manipulate people just as politicians do; they must be a “complete angler.” Through the manifestation of the relationship between politics and conducting, Stravinsky depicts conducting as a dishonest and manipulative affair. Stravinsky then speaks of conductors’ ego and relates it to a disease, a “disease that grows like a tropical weed under the sun of a pandering public.”

This comparison demonstrates how conductors’ egos control their actions and provide the social façade of “greatness.” Stravinsky relates conductors to actors as well. He mentions that conductors must play a role to appear great. Also expressed in the passage is that most audiences know very little about the music being performed, therefore allowing the conductor to merely show the audience how to feel and react.

In conclusion, Stravinsky attacks the actual necessity and overall role of orchestra conductors. Throughout he effectively uses distinct rhetorical devices and language and, in turn, successfully conveys his inclusive perception of them.


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