MP 2014: Keynote 1: Dr Nicholas McKay, ‘Introversive and Extroversive processes: rethinking Stravinsky’s music as dialogue between formalist and expressive paradigms’.

Nicholas McKay (Canterbury Christ Church University) gave the first keynote of the conference. His paper acknowledged the dialogical processes between subjective and objective hermeneutic windows in Stravinsky’s music, and his interdisciplinary study (semiotics and literary theory) saw that, despite being some of the oldest music discussed at the conference, his approach was current and informed by concepts of contemporary musicology – he acknowledged the heritage of semiotics as a tool for examining music and explained its value with regards to Stravinsky’s music due to its focus on process.

McKay explained the juxtaposition between introversive and ‘conventionally unconventional’ gestures in Stravinsky’s music, such as false relations, tonal parallels (A major vs A minor) and polyrhythms; and extroversive and tropic gestures such as instrumentation and culturally conventional signifiers, the latter of which he went on to discuss further with regards to the ‘paradigmatic pastoralism’ bassoon opening in The Rite of Spring and Oedipus Rex as a stylistic (and ethnographic) trope.

McKay looked at the bifurcation of process (in composition, listening and analysis) in Stravinsky’s music – architectonic (i.e., structure) vs anecdotal gestures: put simply, music for listening vs music for doing.

The talk began with a contextualisation of ideas through illustrative examples from The Rite of Spring before moving on to lesser known (but still popular) Stravinsky works, such as The Solider’s Tale and his Concerto for Piano and Winds. This range of examples substantiated McKay’s ideas in a multifaceted manner.

As a budding semiotician myself, while some names mentioned were familiar to me (such as Nattiez and Hatten), there were many scholars in the field I had not heard of who, since then, I have begun researching (Ratner and Awagu among others) thus, am beginning to gain a wider insight into the methodology. Furthermore, upon first experience of the keynote, I struggled to understand much of McKay’s points, however, after contextualising his theory through research of these scholars, I feel I have more of a grasp on the ideas presented at this keynote.


– Kelly Butler, Music and as Process Intern 2014