Director’s News

“Doc Talk”/Class Lesson 6/1/2020




1) This Thursday, June 4th, from 9:00am-3:00pm, students may stop by the band room to do the following types of activities:

-Return concert music, instruments, accessories (mouthpieces, mutes) – this is especially critical for SENIORS!

-Pick up instruments to be used for marching band, this includes mallet instruments to take home to practice.

-Students who have earned positions in the East Central District Honor Band and All-State Band, as well as senior Tri-M members, can pick up their medals and honor cords.

-You are also welcome to just drop by to see meJ

-There will likely be some restrictions in place (masks, entrance locations, etc.); please check the school’s website and I will also try to keep you informed.


2) Registration for Marching Band is OPEN on our website!!!

Please sign up ASAP, and spread the word, especially to rising 9th graders!  The due date is Friday, June 19th.


Today’s Lesson: “Toy Story” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” Tableaux 1-2

100 years or so before Pixar and Disney produced “Toy Story,” Igor Stravinsky and Serge Diaghilev produced a ballet with a very similar “spin.”  In 1911, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, the most promising composer of the day having just received rave reviews for his ballet “The Firebird,” completed another masterwork, “Petrushka.”


Stravinsky originally wanted to write an orchestral piece about a puppet that was brought to life by a magician.  His friend and manager Serge Diaghilev, having experienced the recent success of “The Firebird,” asked that Stravinsky compose the work as another ballet and Stravinsky agreed.


Here’s the story:

“Petrushka” (the name means “Peter” in Russian) is the name of the main character of this ballet, one of 3 puppets who are brought to life by a magician at a carnival in St. Petersburg.  Petrushka falls in love with the 2nd puppet, a beautiful ballerina.  However, the ballerina is not attracted to Petrushka because Petrushka is very clownish, immature, and not attractive–a sort of “sorry character.”  However, the ballerina does fall in love with a moor, the 3rd puppet who is a handsome prince from a distant land.  Upon having been rejected by the ballerina and discovering that the ballerina is in love with the moor, Petrushka decides to “have it out with the moor,” and the moor kills him.  The magician, finding the broken puppet on the ground, simply decides to put the puppet away…however, when the magician walks back outside his tent, the ghost of Petrushka appears on a rooftop.  The ghost is laughing at the magician, heckling him for bringing Petrushka to life and subjecting the puppet to such torment.


Before we jump into the music, let’s talk briefly about Igor Stravinsky.

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian composer who lived in Russia, Switzerland, France and eventually the United States.  Like his domestic movement, Stravinsky composed in many different styles throughout his life, from “neo-romantic,” to “new-classical,” to “serialism.”  He just never “stood still,” always tackling new compositional challenges.


He is especially known for the 3 ballets that he wrote in his early 30’s that launched his career and significantly widened the perimeters of music composition–just as Beethoven did in the early 1800’s.  With “The Firebird,” “Petrushka,” and “The Rite of Spring,” Stravinsky introduced new compositional techniques/musical sounds that we are still exploring to this day!


As we explore Petrushka, we will identify those techniques/sounds and explain why they are so effective.


The actual music for “Petrushka” in concert form is about 25 minutes long and is broken up into 4 acts, or tableaux.  You can also think of them as 4 movements, as in a symphony!


Tableaux I:  The Shrovetide Fair (St. Petersburg, 1830)

Music cue #1:  0:02-0:53 in the attached link

Imagine yourself at the State Fair…with all its crowds, rides, foods, attractions, craftsmen, sounds…

You hear the “Fair Motif” sounded by the flute…a fanfare-like, dotted figure.

The music becomes increasingly chaotic as if one is describing the hustle and bustle of the fair.


INNOVATION #1:  Note the “Crowd Motif”—a rhythmic figure in 7/8 time!  Not only is the asymmetric meter new, but it is played simultaneously with music in ¾ time… HOW???? (3/4 time has 6 eighth notes, 7/8 has 7…)


The conductor must beat through the music in 3/4, however, the instruments playing in 7/8 actually need to play their parts at a faster tempo so that the first downbeat (count 1) of each bar is together.  This is another NEW innovation—and it works!  (But it takes A LOT of practice to achieve!)


Music cue #2:  0:53-1:42 in the attached link

After all the hustle and bustle of the previous section, Stravinsky has the entire orchestra playing an actual Russian folk song in a unison rhythm.  There is nothing innovative about this; however, it is quite refreshing after all the chaos of the previous section.  You will note that the “Crowd Motif” interrupts this Russian folk song followed by the “Fair Motif” that appeared at the beginning of the work.


Music cue #3:  1:42-3:21 in the attached link

Enter an Organ-Grinder!  (A person playing a small, portable organ)

After a brief interruption of the “Crowd Motif” and “Fair Motif,” two melodies are heard from the Organ-Grinder: a sad little tune played by the clarinets followed by a much perkier tune that is actually a very popular French Folk Song!  [Stravinsky composed this piece in Paris and actually heard an Organ-Grinder outside his apartment window playing this tune!]  A third tune is sounded by the orchestral bells (or glockenspiel) that has a “music box” sound.


After this, the music and motifs heard in the first 5 minutes return, as if the “camera” lifts off the organ-grinder and pans the entire fair atmosphere.


Now we come to the puppets!


Music cue #4:  5:09-6:59 in the attached link

An old magician is announced to the stage by 2 drummers.  The mystery that shrouds this old man and his art is musically illustrated by a chromatically descending figure in the bassoons and horns.  The old magician plays arpeggiated figures on his flute—Eb major and Bb7 arpeggios in alternation.  This “traditional-sounding” music actually seems out of place in this very modern piece (but reflects the age of the magician).  The descending chromatic passages reappear in the strings casting a very cool, mysterious glow to this passage.  At the conclusion of this section, 3 two-note phrases by the flute are sounded, signaling the “bringing to life” of the 3 puppets!


Music cue #5:  6:59-7:44 in the attached link

And now the puppets dance!


Note the use of the xylophone to give the music a “wooden” quality—like a stringed “Pinnochio” puppet.


Tableaux 2:  Petrushka’s Room

Music cue #6:  10:00-10:15 in the attached link

The “Petrushka Motif” (an arpeggiated “charge-like” figure) is sounded by 2 clarinets that are playing a C Major and F# Major arpeggio simultaneously creating a very dissonant, but colorful, sound.  This C-F# chord is actually very well-known in music circles and is known as the “Petrushka Chord.”


INNOVATION #2:  The use of an “octatonic scale.”

An octatonic scale, also known as a symmetrical scale or a diminished scale, is an 8-note scale that is comprised of alternating half steps and whole steps.  The chords that are possible within this scale are very different than the chords available within the traditional major and minor scales.  One of the significant differences is that the C octatonic scale contains both the C Major and F# Major triads—and these are a “tritone” apart!  Stravinsky uses this sound a great deal in this work!


Music cue #7:  10:15-11:05 in the attached link

The music for this section sounds very different than traditional music… Stravinsky is really playing off the contrast of C Major (no flats and sharps in the key) and F# Major (which has 6 sharps in the key!).  In the piano part, the right hand is in C Major and the left hand is in F# Major!  All of these notes fall within the octatonic scale.


The musical chaos of this section is meant to depict the character of Petrushka—clumsy, awkward, and emotionally immature.  He is definitely not as “cool” as Woody in “Toy Story.”


Music cue #8:  11:05/12:33-13:09 in the attached link

This quieter music is meant to depict the love that Petrushka feels for the ballerina.

However, once the ballerina actually enters his room to say “hello,” Petrushka falls all to pieces and basically makes a fool of himself… The ballerina leaves and Petrushka cries out in grief!


Tomorrow, we will look at the last 2 tableaux of this work and find out how Petrushka turns out!



1) Listen to the first two tableaux of “Petrushka” several times.  Do your best to keep up with the story.  Once you get the hang of it, I believe that you will find the music quite interesting, and the novel sounds quite refreshing .


2 )Listen to the first tableaux with the score.


3) Watch the actual ballet!!!  This may be the best way to enjoy this work!!!


4)  Below are a few video analyses of this work that are very easy to understand—and they will really help you enjoy this piece more!  I highly encourage watching them!



Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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