Rap Session


When I begin to be over conscious of my lungs I go to sea…for the pure air…quitting the good city of old Manhatto….

Moby Dick

The isle is full of noises.

The Tempest

NYR: The Times said you had chosen to live in New York, Mr. Stravinsky.

I.S.: Chosen? Well, yes; I can see what you mean: rather than the Galapagos. In fact I am here because I can manage to be looked after medically, though if I weren’t here I might not have to be quite so often. Still, one adapts, perhaps even to environmental poisons: the argument of mithridatism which the ecological bores may be overlooking.

NYR: The Times also said that you were selling your manuscripts and papers.

I.S.: Hoping to. Without concerts and recordings my income has dwindled; and while the popular part of my catalogue is free in the United States (which did not sign the Berne Convention), the unpopular, to judge by the present rate of progress, should be able to “fund” my pharmacy bills by about my hundred and second birthday. Yet the apparent assumption behind the new tax laws is that composers are likely to be richer sources of revenue than all those still-untapped oilmen. The latest decrees not only forbid gifts of manuscripts to libraries and universities in exchange for tax deductions, but require the giver to pay a tax himself; and thus are one’s assets turned into one’s liabilities. In my case the only recourse is to sell, if I can, though the commissions and the tax “bite” (crapulous, needless to say) would leave only a fraction of the sum the newspapers report. But all may not be lost. I have been offered as much to appear on a TV talk show—or was it “What’s My Line?”—as I have earned from my entire life work as a composer.

NYR: But the Times said you had bought an apartment.

I.S.: For economy, so the argument runs. Besides, I need more room for books—like those book club subscribers who discover that it is impossible to unjoin, and who escape biblio-suffocation only by moving. My father had the largest private library in St. Petersburg, incidentally, or so I learn from the latest issue of Sovietskaya Muzyka, which also reproduces an early painting of mine, and some drawings, views of Königstein, Höchst (famous for its faïence), and other Nineties resorts. But a new Soviet book, The Formation of Igor Stravinsky, by one Smirnov (sic), promises to remind me of a lot more about my early life.

NYR: Why did you move from Central Park South?

I.S.: I needed a change of statuary. (The new apartment is not far from that alfresco hall of fame, the Mall.) Consider Fifty-Ninth Street, beginning at the Fifth Avenue corner. But first, who is that mounted warrior led by the palm-bearing female angel? The pharisaism of the combination is up-to-date, to be sure, but the style and means of transportation are more like…

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