The influence of Petrushka was particularly strong on the Parisian aesthetic of the 1920s, on composers like Les Six, particularly Auric and Poulenc. But enough of the "street ballet" Petrushka. On to the Rite.
The original conception of "The Great Sacrifice" actually predates Petrushka and Stravinsky promised his collaborator Roerich that he would get back to it as soon as the earlier ballet was finished. But before he did, he did some vocal settings, one of which provided a path to the latter ballet. Konstantin Balmont, while not the most fashionable poet, was, due to the sonorousness of his verse, immensely popular with composers. The anthology Zelyonïy vertograd (A Green Garden) from which the poem Zvezdolikiy was taken, consists of stylizations of Russian spiritual folklore. The inspiration was a sect, the skoptsï, known for their ritual castration, that were a breakaway from the khlïstï, known for their ritual, whirling dances. These late 18th century sects, with their evocation of a huge army of the castrated rather remind one of the Unsullied from Game of Thrones! This is the esoteric subtext to the poem Stravinsky set.
A musical influence around this time on Stravinsky, despite his later denials, appears to have been Scriabin whose Prometheus was published in early 1911. Incidentally, one of the chords from the "motto" of the Stravinsky song Zvezdolikiy is a C minor chord superimposed on a C major chord:
|"Coll. III" refers to one of the three possible octatonic scales|
The melodic line found in the Zvezdolikiy motto also connects to perhaps the most memorable melodic motif from the Rite, the ostinato found in the pizzicato strings in "Augures printaniers":
Zvezdolikiy, dedicated to Debussy, is also known under its French title Le roi des étoiles:
Debussy, among others, regarded this little "cantata" as being unperformable due to intonation problems for the choir and it was not premiered until 1939! The importance of the song is due to its development of the intersections between the octatonic collections and the diatonic and whole-tone ones, techniques that will prove to be of great importance in the composition of the Rite.