A Rural Feel, Without Ever Leaving the City The metropolis is a place where nervous stimulation is found everywhere and getting away from it usually involves a trip outside of the metropolis. Satie’s “Gnossiennes No. 1” and Stravinsky’s “Rite” synthesize rural living by connecting with the listener through the unconscious mind.
By making use of the ideas that Simmel conveys in his lecture The Metropolis and Mental Life, I will reveal how Satie’s Gnossiennes No. and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring transport the audience from metropolitan life to rural living. Simmel explains the difference between the metropolitan life and the rural life in his lecture “The Metropolis and Mental Life”: The psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli. Man is a differentiating creature.
His mind is stimulated by the difference between a momentary impression and the one which preceded it.. Humans are in need of Lasting impressions, impressions which differ only slightly from one another, impressions which take a regular and habitual course and show regular and habitual contrasts-all these use up, so to speak, less consciousness than does the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions.
The constant change found in the city takes a lot of energy to decipher and it negatively affects the individual mind, the schedule is a lot like the thought the individual uses to understand everythiThese are the psychological conditions which the metropolis creates. With each crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life, the city sets up a deep contrast with small town and rural life with reference to the sensory foundations of psychic life. The metropolis exacts from man as a discriminating creature a different amount of consciousness than does rural life.
Here the rhythm of life and sensory mental imagery flows more slowly, more habitually, and more evenly (48). Simmel is saying that Lasting impressions are found in rural life where not much changes from second to second, day to day, and don’t use as much cognition and consciousness (being awake and in the moment) whereas metropolitan life is always changing and needs cognition and consciousness to understand everything that is going on. intellectual thought is playing the same role as the schedule in the city humans are in need of nervous stimulation, but the metropolis creates too much stimulation.
There is little to no new nervous stimulation found within rural living because everything stays relatively the same from day to day in rural life. You can find lasting impressions in rural life because not much changes from second to second, day to day, and you don’t have to use as much cognition or consciousness to understand your surroundings. On the other hand, metropolitan life is always changing and you need more cognition and consciousness to understand everything that is going on. Satie conveys the calmness of rural living by targeting the repetitive nature of life in rural cities.
The bass played in the right hand consistently plays 1 2 – 4 with the same notes. The bass makes you feel like you’re in a 4/4 tempo, but it is actually written in free meter. The tempo is walking speed, but the notes and rhythms are creating the tempo. Usually, the tempo would control how the notes and rhythms would sound together, but Satie does the exact opposite. The musician playing the music has a little bit of freedom when it comes to how fast or how slow they play it, allowing them to feel the notes take control.
This concept is reminiscent of the Flaneur, a man from the late 8th – early 19th century that would stroll through the metropolis, enjoying the city as an environment and finding ease in the unease of metropolitan life. “Gnossiennes No. 1” is a Flaneur in its own right, creating ease within the unease of the metropolis. Simmel speaks of the city and the schedule that keeps everything moving quickly, “The relationships and affairs of the typical metropolitan usually are so varied and complex that without the strictest punctuality in promises and services the whole structure would break down into an inextricable chaos” (50).
Without schedules everyone living in the city would be in complete and utter chaos. Simmel goes on to talk about how important schedules are to a metropolis by using Berlin as an example, “If all clocks and watches in Berlin would suddenly go wrong in different ways, even if only by one hour, all economic life and communication of the city would be disrupted for a long time” (50). This phenomenon would cause the busy, yet structured lives of everyone living in the metropolis to lose all structure and “break down into an inextricable chaos”.
The schedule of metropolitan life is paramount to the success of the organized schedule. With constant changes in stimulation and the need for a schedule the metropolitan man uses his head more than his heart (Simmel 48). Rural life allows you think use your heart more than your head because you are using less consciousness and are able to feel more. Rural living allows for emotions and feelings that scheduled metropolitan living do not allow.
While Satie’s “Gnossiennes No. ” creates a feeling of calm, Stravinsky’s “Rite” gets into your body and suddenly you are expressing everything you feel through movements that you are unaware you are making. “The Rite” shows a pagan ritual that happens at the beginning of Spring. The music transports you out of your consciousness and takes hold of your body. Through the vision of the ballet you are able to see what rural life was like for a certain tribe of pagans in Russia.