Chun Fai John Lam

Stravinsky à Delage: Pentatonic Scales as Japonisme in Three Japanese Lyrics

Stravinsky’s illustrious collaborations with Ballets Russes in the 1910s have for long overshadowed his association with Les Apaches, a group of Parisian avant-gardists preoccupied with Japanese aesthetics. Stravinsky scholarship has in recent decades revisited Three Japanese Lyrics (1912–13) in the light of Stravinsky’s friendship with Maurice Delage (18971961), who translated the three Japanese waka from Russian into French, and travelled to Japan in 1912 (Pasler 1982; Funayama 1986). Nonetheless, analytical readings remain entangled with Schoenbergian pierrotic gestures (Boulez 1968; Taruskin 1996) and the octatonic-diatonic framework purportedly shared by The Rite of Spring (Kaminsky 1983). Stravinsky’s autobiographical account further hinders scholarly venture beyond what Richard Taruskin refers to as a ‘Japanese perspectiveless style’ (Taruskin 1987).
The present study probes into the Franco-Japanese musical exchanges in the early twentieth century and illuminates the sound world of Stravinsky’s Three Japanese Lyrics in relation to Delage’s Sept haïkaï (1923). Importantly, it unravels hitherto unknown appropriation of the Japanese In scale (hemitonic pentatonic) and scale (anhemitonic pentatonic) in the first Lyric 'Akahito' and the third Lyric 'Tsaraiuki' respectively. Terminologies used by Japanese theorists, Uehara (1895) and Fumio (1958), will be adopted. The two Japanese pentatonic materials, In-scale trichord [015] and Yō-scale tetrachord [0257] are embedded and transformed at strategic points and relate Stravinsky and Delage musically. The distinctive sound of these pentatonic materials, arguably received as a kind of Parisian Japonisme, can be traced back to the Paris Exposition of 1889 and 1900 and informed Maurice Courant's study of Japanese music in Lagvinac's Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire (1913). This study impacts on our understanding of Stravinsky’s musical language during his years with Ballets Russes, demonstrates notable influence of Japanese music, and throws light on Stravinsky’s and Delage’s shared Japonisme in their waka- and haiku-inspired music.