Culture Shock 1913

The hour long special

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

What a year was 1913!  In an exhibition in a  New York Armory, Cubism and abstraction were revealed to the American public for the first time.  In Vienna, audience members at a concert of atonal music by Schoenberg and others broke out into a near-riot.  And in Paris, Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s new ballet The Rite of Spring burst on stage with famously inflammatory results.

Culture Shock 1913 tells the stories behind these and other ground-breaking events that year, and goes back to consider the years leading up to this mad, Modernist moment.  WNYC’s Sara Fishko speaks with thinkers, authors, musicians, art curators and historians about this unsettling, shocking era of sweeping change –and the not-so-subtle ways in which it mirrors our own uncertain age.


Host/Executive Producer: Sara Fishko
Associate Producer: Laura Mayer
Editor: Karen Frillmann
Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister, additional mixing by Edward Haber.



Produced by:

Sara Fishko

Comments [22]

yogi-ami from hey hey we're the Monkees.

On a personal note, Disney's brillant and violent marriage of dinosaurs and "Rites of Spring" made a huge impression on me as a 7-8 year old and "set on fire" my passion of classical music.

Dec. 30 2013 10:57 PM
yogi-ami from the space between the spaces

Victorian era aesthetic was over-the- top ornament and structure, facade.Eye candy. A bird singing sweetly in a cage, but not allowed to fly.

Art Nouveau celebrated the sensuality of Nature, basically flirting with the underlying energy.

Both still have a great deal of merit.

Modernism blew it all up, God was dead!, Primalism was both destructive and energetically violent a result of releasing the negative aspect of the pysche...back then it had no context in life let alone art. It was cataclysmic due to the build up of pressure to confirm so.

Don't forget this also was the time of E=mc2, such a reduction, how can it be?

Freud and more so Jung, was showing us the monster within. Both didn't just color in the sections, but gave the underlying forms to be colored by the individual, self knowledge and self empowerment. There may never be as significant a time of discovery in psychology in the future.

Currently the controlled release of negative emotions can be used in a creative and positive way.

There is a great democracy of access to making art, but a near complete void of originality and creativity, a dilution of potency....lots of people doing the old things badly. The only medium making progress seems to be film. Name one painter, sculptor, oragamist, basket weaver, musician, or whatever that has captured the imagination of a wide segment of the population. Social media may help the best of the best get a wider audience.

Man's inventions are now surpassing his own humanity, the capacity and capabilities of any single individual. He is reanimating God through Art and Science.

Dec. 30 2013 10:49 PM

Superb piece about the shattering of a world. (I don't recall if Einstein was mentioned, but he was also certainly part of the Great Unraveling.) I have been a Sarah Fishko fan since the days when she and Steve Post did on-air fund raising together for WNYC. Her Fishko Files on WNYC are gems.

Dec. 29 2013 12:07 PM
Vic from .

Getting back to the notion in art of, "sorting it all out", Marcel Duchamp's ready-made sculpture, Bicycle Wheel, 1913, is not a "baloney" put-on.
Any bicycle racer knows this is the set-up for "truing" a wheel. The precise adjustment of tension on each spoke so that the wheel will spin straight & true is a critical & laborious part of bicycle maintenance. Without it the rider is going nowhere fast.
Perhaps, this attention to detail is something for all of us consider in our daily lives.
Consider Man Ray's image sculpture, Danger/Dancer...
Notice the configuration of this gear mechanism, & how the teeth oppose, & will not turn. What does this mechanism say, & where does it leave us...?

Something else to consider in these shocking times > What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement all about, & why are the details being kept secret.
Wake Up!
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a corporate COUP D ÉTAT, & must be exposed for what it is & STOPPED. Otherwise, this may be one of the final nails of the New World Order in our coffin.

Who, now, is truing society's wheel & why...?

Jun. 02 2013 12:04 PM
Wila from Sea Cliff

What an amazing piece of work! A Master Class: history, philosophy, psychology, art history- including visual, music, dance… A messy-beautiful cultural mosh of an hour! I don't believe a video program could have done the same justice to this subject matter that Sara Fishko's voiceover does, knitting together this rich epically proportioned material. For me the take-away is to wrap my brain around the courage of the artist community making a break from the dogma of traditionalist a mindset that governed both art and patrons. A paradigm shift; non-conformity mounted by a coalition of unique and authentically creative spirits. A dare that shaped the next century in European and American culture. I would be interested to learn how this played in Asia and Africa-- were continued adherence to ancient culture and tradition too strong to invite this movement toward modernism? Was the moment too pre-globalization for such influences to be shared and exchanged?

May. 30 2013 11:49 AM
David Hollis from Hubbardsville, NY

1913 was also when a November storm sank numerous boats on the great lakes, killing some 240 sailors and the year Henry Ford began the assembly line.

May. 29 2013 10:10 PM

@Paul Ezust from Cambridge, MA

That piano piece was a section of the Nicolai Medtner “Sonata Reminiscenza” opus 38, performed by Emil Gilels.

Jan. 29 2013 12:27 PM
Paul Ezust from Cambridge, MA

Excellent program! Thanks so much for making it available on the web.
Can you please identify the 30 second piano piece that starts at 41:36 as the narrator begins to talk about the Russian futurists?
I know that I have heard it before but I can't figure out what it is.
Thanks again!

Jan. 25 2013 11:20 PM

To all who requested a playlist, here is a selected playlist from "Culture Shock 1913"

Igor Stravinsky. “The Rite of Spring” (Dance of the Earth). Kirov Orchestra, conductor Valery Gergiev. 2001.

“Music Futurista: The Art of Noises.” Performed by Marinetti, Russolo, etc. rec. 1909-1935

Schoenberg 5 Orchesterstucke op. 16. I. Vorgefuhle. Berlin Philharmonic cond. by James Levine.

“Great Singers: Caruso.” “COTTRAU: Fenesta che Lucive.” rec. 1912.

J.S. Zamecnik. “Death Scene.” Track 17. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 1999

J.S. Zamecnik. “Mandy’s Ragtime Waltz.” Track 19. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 1999

“Erik Satie: Cubist Works 1913-1924.) “Les Pantins Dansent.” Performed by Bojan Gorisek and Aleksandar Madzar. 1994.

“Erik Satie: Popular Piano Works.” “Les Courses.” Aldo Ciccolini, piano. 1991.

“Debussy, Preludes, I & II.” “Book 1 Voiles.” Walter Gieseking, piano. 1953.

Arnold Schoenberg. “Pierrot Lunaire.”BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor Pierre Boulez. 1978.

“Erik Satie: Popular Piano Works.” “Le Flirt.” Aldo Ciccolini, piano. 1991.

Debussy “The Snow is Dancing” from Children’s Corner

Honneger “Pastorale D’Ete”

“Love, Betrayal and Redemption” Track 11

Schoenberg, 5 Orchesterstucke, see above

Alban Berg. “Lulu-Suite.” London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Claudio Abbado.

Anton Webern. “4 Pieces Op. 5” Ensemble Avantgarde.

Debussy. “La Cathédrale Engloutie.” Jeremy Denk. (live illustration)

Debussy. “Martyre de Saint Sebastian.”

“Love, Betrayal and Redemption: Music of the Silent Cinema” (trk 19). The Monto Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Igor Stravinsky. “Rite of Spring.” Several parts. Kirov Orchestra, conductor Valery Gergiev. 2001.

Jan. 11 2013 04:44 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Could 1913 have been considered pivotal without the sinking of The Titanic the year before [there is a limit to man's supposed techological supremacy] and the beginning of The Great War [that same tech achievement has created a meatgrinder] the year after?

Jan. 06 2013 02:56 PM

@ Molly from Brooklyn
Update: 1/31/13
Jeremy Denk played: Debussy, “Reflets dans l’eau” (reflections in the water) from “Images,” Book I.

Jan. 02 2013 12:03 PM
Kate from Boerum Hill

I enjoyed this program so much - I listened 2-3 times to make sure I really could appreciate each
cultural aspect.

My mother passed away in 2010 and I especially miss her at this time of year.
For decades we journeyed to England every Christmas, to enjoy being with family and partly to assuage my guilt for leaving and making my life in America.
One thing my Mum and I used to talk about often were the many changes that she had seen in her lifetime b.1918 - 2010. Between the 2 of us we spanned almost the whole 20th century - as a baby boomer I think I had the best of it in the second half of the century as I was born after WWII and both World Wars defined the lives of my families.
Growing up with the huge cultural upheavals at the end of the war, the relative prosperity of the 1950's and 1960's, the birth of rock and roll, the Swinging Sixties, the 'youthquake'
the now quaint sounding sexual revolution - a culture shock itself- what a time to be young !

This program, which I am recommending to boatloads of people was a superior entertainment - one that
teaches or reminds and makes us think anew....
Thank you Sarah Fishko and WNYC

Jan. 01 2013 05:31 PM
Molly from Brooklyn

I really enjoyed the program!

Can you please let me know the name of the piece that Jeremy Denk plays at 33:58?

Thank you!

Jan. 01 2013 03:12 PM
suzinne from Bronx

Wonderful program, and what a great idea for a documentary as well. What a great time capsule!

Jan. 01 2013 02:19 PM
Karen from NYC

Everytime I hear your promo for the culture shock program with its driving rhythms from Rite of Spring on WNYC, it brings me back to the same rhythm and primal urgency of the shark theme in Jaws-- certainly an hommage to Stravinsky! I think the instrumentation is also similar. HMMMMMMM

Dec. 30 2012 11:22 AM
mark from Pennsylvania

Thank you for this program. Came at a perfect time for me when I think our current world is going through such rapid changes and groups are rebelling and the notion of uncertainty is in our faces all the time. It's comforting to know that 100 years ago there were just as many changes and protests were loud. And yes, I hope we have a time of reflection in the near future and really watch and listen to our artists.

Dec. 29 2012 12:01 PM

@spurn from NYC
Thanks for listening!

It is the Debussy Martyre de Saint Sebastien.

Written in 1911, the work — a five-act musical mystery play on the subject of Saint Sebastian - was produced in collaboration with Gabriele d'Annunzio. Debussy's contribution was a large-scale score of incidental music for orchestra and chorus, with solo vocal parts.

Both Debussy and D'Annunzio (by the way) were present at the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Paris on May 29.1913.

Dec. 28 2012 11:43 AM
spurn from NYC

Really enjoyed this program.

Can anyone identify the music that occurs from 33:04 - 33:39? I'd love to hear the entire piece.

Dec. 21 2012 01:54 PM
E Yourke from NYC

Beautifully done - balanced, focused, historically anchored but not pedantic, very well edited, hits the high points, which is all you can do in an hour and also reveal the excitement of all these works (many of which, a century later, are still regarded as incomprehensible and scandalous). Please keep doing this kind of thing but run it several times.

Dec. 06 2012 09:14 PM
Valerie Foley from Manhattan

This was a FABULOUS show!!! Kudos to Sara Fishko for putting together something so interesting, cohesive, compelling, and surprising. LOTS of disparate information all woven together to form a stupendous whole. Clearly lovingly done. Brava, brava!!!!

Dec. 06 2012 09:08 PM

Thanks very much for your comment! FYI, later in the program we feature Schoenberg, Freud, Jung, Duchamp, Stravinsky, Nijinsky and cite Einstein, Khlebnikov, Proust and many others as having been central to thinking in this year. We agree, it was a global phenomenon!

Dec. 06 2012 12:14 PM
William Everdell from Brooklyn

This program is a Very Good Thing. One cavil is that it's nearly All-American and does not have to be. In my chapter on 1913 in The First Moderns, I adduced Niels Bohr's quantum atom, the first draft of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Russell & Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, Khlebnikov at al's multimedia play Victory Over the Sun, Anna Akhmatova's near-epic Poem Without a Hero (which begins with a memory New Year's 1913 in St. Petersburg) and the first volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Want more?

Dec. 06 2012 09:50 AM

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