A gala performance of Métachorie
was eventually arranged at the New York Metropolitan Opera for April 4, 1917. Pierre Monteux conducted the full orchestra, including a Prelude
by Erik Satie orchestrated by Rudhyar as well as Rudhyar's original compositions. This was the first performance of dissonant polytonal music in America. The fact that it occurred virtually the night America entered World War I completely eclipsed any cultural impact it might have had. See the New York Times article on Metachorie,
from 4 February 1917.
During the summer 1917 Rudhyar lived in destitution, passing most of his days at the New York Public Library. He read books on Oriental music, Oriental philosophy, Rosicrucianism and Alchemy. Two Japanese artists, Kawashima (a painter of lacquered screens) and Sensaki, who later became the Zen master Saski Roshi, introduced him to Buddhism. He became close friends with Carlos Salzedo, the composer-harpist, and the avant-garde composer Edgard Varése. On Christmas Eve 1917, with thirty-five cents in his pocket and a small trunk of clothes, and still not in command of the English language, he left his Parisian associates, whose ways of thinking and living he came to realize were diametrically opposite to his.
He was able to reach Canada, where he stayed in Toronto with the pianist Djane Lavoie Herz and her husband Sigfried, and later in Montreal with Alfred Laliberté, a close pupil of Scriabin. It was then that he came in touch with both the theosophical teachings of H.P. Blavatsky and the music of Scriabin's. Rudhyar composed a book of French poems, Rhapsodies
(published in Toronto 1918) and recited them to private groups there and in Philadelphia to the Art Alliance. The summers 1917-1918 were passed in Seal Harbor, Maine (pictured). There he met Salzedo, Stokowski, Hoffman, Gabrilowitch and many musicians who, unable to reach Europe during wartime, had found refuge at Seal Harbor.
During the winter season 1918-19, Rudhyar saw a great deal of Leopold Stokowski, and was given access to the Stokowski's orchestra rehearsals. Stokowski introduced him to a remarkable pioneering woman, Christine Wetherill Stevenson (pictured). A prominent Theosophist and an heiress, Mrs. Stevenson had begun the Little Theater movement and the Art Alliance a few years before. Winter 1919 saw Rudhyar in Philadelphia under the sponsorship of Mrs. Stevenson.
There he composed his early orchestral work Soul Fire
, which won him in 1922 a $1,000 prize from the newly formed Los Angeles Philharmonic (Rothwell conductor). He wrote a cycle of piano pieces, Mosaics
, related to episodes in the life of Jesus, and short preludes, Ravishments
, the best of which were later integrated in other works. During this productive musical period he also composed Trois Poëmes Tragique
for contralto. Rudhyar continued writing French poems, as well as unpublished essays on the Bahai Movement and social organization. It was then that he first developed his ideas for a new global civilization and for a humanity unified in what he called The Synanthropy
. Rudhyar even made sketchy plans for a world city, somewhat resembling those for Auroville, built during the second half of the 20th century near Pondicherry, India, by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
The Philadelphia period was crucial for Rudhyar's inner development, a true "dark night of the soul." His rejection of his ancestral name in 1917 reached deeper levels of the psyche, a death-rebirth process. The change of name was a necessity and a manifestation of the same type of resolve as the dedication of a monk or a Hindu swami to the service of a religious ideal. Rudhyar not only left physically his native land and the language of his ancestral French culture, he turned his back on the implications and patterns of the whole Western tradition, and sought to uproot from his psyche the negative, dualistic and spiritually crystallized aspects. His birth name was a symbol of all this past, and he dedicated himself as a "seed man" to a future which as yet he could but dimly envision. The name "Rudhyar
" is close to old Sanskrit terms implying dynamic action, the color red (he was born with the Sun in Aries, a zodiacal sign related to the red planet, Mars) and the electric power released during storms — the "god" Rudra
. The first name, Dane, had to be added for legal requirements when he became an American citizen in 1926; but all his true friends called him Rudhyar
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