Tag Archives: Sergei Prokofiev

Prokof’ev’s bad dog

In 1917 Sergej Sergeevič Prokof’ev briefly returned to one of his childhood interests: writing fiction.

He considered what this pursuit entailed. “My style caused me concern,” he wrote. “Did it have individuality or was it awkward?”

Ultimately he concluded, “If there’s an idea, then the style will be subservient to the idea. If I have an idea, that means I’m an author.”

One of his short stories, Пудель: Мерзкая собака (The poodle: A bad dog) was published in an English translation by Three oranges (3 [May 2002] pp. 6–9; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2002-9136. The full text is here). A surprise twist at the end is a wry nod to the composer’s interest in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Below, Prokof’ev’s good dog.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Animals, Humor, Literature

Èjzenštejn, sound, and time

Sergej Mihailovič Èjzenštejn’s collaborations with Prokof’ev, along with his essays from the same period, illuminate the director’s reconceptualization of his editing practices in relation to the possibilities offered by synchronized sound.

Throughout his career, Èjzenštejn sought to understand rhythm and tempo in their psychological dimension: How fast do things seem to be going? What formal parameters or systems affect our sense of rhythm and of pace? These questions continued to inform his sound films, and shaped his work with Prokof’ev in fundamental ways.

This according to “A lesson with Eisenstein: Rhythm and pacing in Ivan the Terrible, part I” by Lea Jacobs (Music and the moving image V/1 [spring 2012] pp. 24–46). This journal, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Today is Èjzenštejn’s 120th birthday! Above and below, his Ivan Groznyj I, the film discussed in the article.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music

Children and music-animal pairs


In a study of the development of children’s ability to relate musical forms to extramusical concepts, four- and six-year-old children matched appropriate animal pictures to excerpts from Sergej Prokof’ev’s Petya i volk (Peter and the wolf) significantly better than chance, but identified the wolf and bird more readily than the cat and duck excerpts.

Three-year-olds participating in a simplified version of the task experienced a comparable order of difficulty in matching the various music-animal pairs.

A third experiment replicated the first, but with the less familiar music of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le carnaval des animaux. Again, performance was above chance, increasing the likelihood that children’s success in the first two experiments was not attributable to previous exposure to the music.

This according to “The development of referential meaning in music” by Sandra E. Trehub and Laurel J. Trainor (Music perception: An interdisciplinary journal  IX/4 [summer 1992] pp. 455–70).

Below, the Saint-Saëns work.

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Filed under Animals, Reception

On the road with Prokof’ev

Before his departure in 1918 Prokof’ev was fond of taking long walking tours of St. Petersburg with his friends. After he settled in France in the 1920s this hobby took on a new aspect—he bought an enormous car, a second-hand Ballot.

At first he drove around Paris and its environs with his friends, but soon he expanded his scope with trips to the countryside. Sometimes he would plan a route through a selected area and drive off with his wife Lina and some friends to visit historical places and sample the local cuisine. Breakdowns were frequent in those days, and cars were slow, so these trips typically lasted several days.

At the car’s 30th year Prokof’ev replaced the Ballot with a newer and more agile Chevrolet. “Ballot was an old aristocrat” he wrote, “and Chevrolet is a young democrat. It is a thousand times more comfortable to drive in the city and in the mountains, it is mobile and more powerful. But the friendly old Ballot was incomparable on the level road.”

This according to “A story” by Serge Prokofiev, Jr. (Three oranges journal 2 [November 2001] p. 7).

Today is Prokof’ev’s 120th birthday! Above, left to right: Vladimir Sofronitsky, the composer, Vladimir Dukelsky, and Lina Prokof’ev with the Ballot. Below, Svâtoslav Rihter plays Prokof’ev’s Pastoral sonatina, op. 59, no. 3—a work perhaps inspired by such excursions.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities