All Publicity is Good

Ninety-six years ago today, a riot broke out among audience members witnessing the premiere of a piece that changed classical-music history.

The composer, Igor Stravinsky, was horrified; the impresario, Serge Diaghilev, was delighted.

Feelings ran high at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris that night, from the very opening bars of Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring” as choreographed by the great Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

The audience was expecting a ballet according to the straitlaced standards of the day. What they got was a pagan spectacle with savage, pulsing rhythms, dissonances and jerky dancing. Boos and catcalls escalated to slaps and fisticuffs. The brouhaha was so loud, according to reports from the scene, that the dancers couldn’t hear the music pounding up out of the orchestra pit.

Diaghilev flipped the house lights on and off hoping to quell the disturbance, while Nijinsky yelled a beat-count from the wings to give the dancers something to dance to. Gendarmes arrived and hauled out some of the most obstreperous patrons between parts I and II, but the mania broke out again following that intermission.

Stravinsky, writing about the incident later — after “The Rite of Spring” was safely recognized as a classic — said the incident left him deeply dismayed. But buzzmeister Diaghilev famously remarked,

“It was just what I wanted.”

On June 4, the Library of Congress will open an exhibition in the Music Reading Room in the James Madison Memorial Building in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 100th anniversary of Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes.

The Library holds significant items from the music and papers of Igor Stravinsky (who wrote his piece “Apollon-Musagete” on a commission from the Library’s patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge) and Serge Diaghilev.

President, Mrs. Obama Honorary Chairs of Book Festival

Both the President and the First Lady will be Honorary Chairs of the 2009 National Book Festival, to be held Saturday, Sept. 26 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. between 7th and 14th Streets, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., rain or shine. This colossal event, heading into its ninth year, lets book-lovers hear […]

A Day at the Beach — Omaha Beach

Memorial Day is upon us again, a time to reflect on American veterans — men and women who sacrificed their lives for our nation. The Veterans History Project (VHP), an oral history program of the Library’s American Folklife Center, was created by Congress in 2000 to collect, preserve, and make accessible the first-hand recollections of […]

Flickr Favorites, in Focus

The Library’s Prints & Photographs Division today is offering a new twist on the Library’s Flickr site in The Commons — a clickable list of favorites from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information collections, under the heading “FSA/OWI Favorites.” There will be 10 “most-requested” photos from these Library collections, including the iconic […]

Uncle Sam 2.0: U.S. Government Goes YouTube

The U.S. federal government has joined several of the departments and agencies under its vast umbrella, including the Library of Congress, that have channels on YouTube. The site aggregates other channels from across the government and features select video content. The channel is broken down into handy playlists by topic such as Health and Nutrition, […]

Stat of the Day: Visitors Up 47 Percent

I thought I would pass along a statistic that has been floating about for the past couple of days: Our total number of visitors from January to April 2009 increased a whopping 69 percent over 2007!  (We’re comparing against 2007 because the same period in 2008 had too many variables, including an extended building closure […]

'Browse by Topic' Among New Features

Longtime visitors to our home page (and we love groupies!) will notice a couple of new features today: First, we’re now highlighting the new World Digital Library partnership in our featured “marquee” at the top of the page. The WDL partnership among the Library, UNESCO and organizations and institutions around the world brings together […]

High Water Mark

This morning at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., about 150 folks got a cultural and environmental treat, hearing several young poets and seeing the work of young artists who were winners and finalists in this year’s “River of Words” competition. 2009 marks the 14th year the program, co-founded by former U. S. […]