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An Autobiography   By:

An Autobiography by Igor Stravinsky

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[ Transcriber's Notes:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation. Some corrections of spelling and punctuation have been made. They are listed at the end of the text.

Italic text has been marked with underscores . ]

Published by M. & J. Steuer, New York, 1958


An Autobiography

Copyright 1936 by Simon and Schuster, Inc.


The aim of this volume is to set down a few recollections connected with various periods of my life. It is equally intended for those interested in my music and in myself. Rather, therefore, than a biography it will be a simple account of important events side by side with facts of minor consequence: both, however, have a certain significance for me, and I wish to relate them according to the dictates of my memory.

Naturally I shall not be able to keep within the bounds of bare statement. As I call my recollections to mind, I shall necessarily be obliged to speak of my opinions, my tastes, my preferences, and my abhorrences.

I am but too well aware of how much these feelings vary in the course of time. This is why I shall take great care not to confuse my present reactions with those experienced at other stages in my life.

There are still further reasons which induce me to write this book. In numerous interviews I have given, my thoughts, my words, and even facts have often been disfigured to the extent of becoming absolutely unrecognizable.

I therefore undertake this task today in order to present to the reader a true picture of myself, and to dissipate the accumulation of misunderstandings that has gathered about both my work and my person.

ONE: Development of the Composer


As memory reaches back along the vista of the years, the increasing distance adds to the difficulty of seeing clearly and choosing between those incidents which make a deep impression and those which, though perhaps more important in themselves, leave no trace, and in no way influence one's development.

Thus, one of my earliest memories of sound will seem somewhat odd.

It was in the country, where my parents, like most people of their class, spent the summer with their children. I can see it now. An enormous peasant seated on the stump of a tree. The sharp resinous tang of fresh cut wood in my nostrils. The peasant simply clad in a short red shirt. His bare legs covered with reddish hair, on his feet birch sandals, on his head a mop of hair as thick and as red as his beard not a white hair, yet an old man.

He was dumb, but he had a way of clicking his tongue very noisily, and the children were afraid of him. So was I. But curiosity used to triumph over fear. The children would gather round him. Then, to amuse them, he would begin to sing. This song was composed of two syllables, the only ones he could pronounce. They were devoid of any meaning, but he made them alternate with incredible dexterity in a very rapid tempo. He used to accompany this clucking in the following way: pressing the palm of his right hand under his left armpit, he would work his left arm with a rapid movement, making it press on the right hand. From beneath the red shirt he extracted a succession of sounds which were somewhat dubious but very rhythmic, and which might be euphemistically described as resounding kisses. This amused me beyond words, and at home I set myself with zeal to imitate this music so often and so successfully that I was forbidden to indulge in such an indecent accompaniment. The two dull syllables which alone remained thus lost all their attraction for me.

Another memory which often comes back is the singing of the women of the neighboring village. There were a great many of them, and regularly every evening they sang in unison on their way home after the day's work. To this day I clearly remember the tune, and the way they sang it, and how, when I used to sing it at home, imitating their manner, I was complimented on the trueness of my ear... Continue reading book >>

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