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Igor Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' gets a 'ReRite' on its 100th anniversary

Pacific Symphony's orchestra rehearses
Pacific Symphony's orchestra rehearses "The Fright Of Spring" a re-interpretation of Igor Stravinsky's classic "Rite of Spring."
Pacific Symphony

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This month marks the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky's revolutionary composition, "The Rite of Spring."  When it first premiered as part of a ballet a century ago in Paris, audiences were scandalized by its bold rhythms, risqué costumes and allusions to a pagan sacrifice. Today the work is celebrated as a musical masterpiece.

Starting tomorrow the Pacific Symphony in Santa Ana will commemorate the landmark anniversary with a series of orchestral performances. Recently, the symphony asked the public to submit their own interpretations of Stravinsky's work for a project they're calling the "ReRite of Spring."

"This piece changed the arts in the 20th century. It was sort of the first shot of Modernism," said Kurt Mortensen, Director of Audience Engagement for the Pacific Symphony. "This was a ballet, and it as a combination of both visual arts and music. It wasn't just about Stravinsky's music."

That first performance incorporated Stravinsky's revolutionary music with the costumes and set design of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, who also came up with the concept for the ballet, a pagan sacrifice. Vaskav Nijinsky choreographed the ballet, pushing boundaries of traditional dance. 

"No one had danced like this before," said Mortensen. "Then you have Stravinsky's revolutionary music and doing things we had not heard musically before, most famously the opening bassoon line where people didn't recognize what that even was. People couldn't understand what instrument was making that sound."

The Pacific Symphony's "ReRite of Spring" project garnered works ranging from musical remixes, to paintings and Internet memes.   

"We tried not to put anybody in a box, we just said, 'Hey, this is an important piece, it's not just about music, its about visual arts and anything else you could possibly imagine,'" said Mortensen.  "We just tried to be very open about what people could do."