Rite: BUGS! RoS: Episode 9

Our concept for this particular movement—entitled "Ritual Action of the Ancestors" in Stravinsky's score—revolves around the idea of decay and dissolution. If the organ, in all its curlicued, hoary stateliness, symbolizes the corporeal, then, as with all material things, it cannot exist forever.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ...

Its decay is not only inevitable; it is revealing. Appearances are often deceiving: what is beautiful and alluring on the outside can be corrupt and even depraved within. This episode examines what happens when the protagonists choose to relinquish their material attachments in order to face Reality unencumbered. To communicate this narratively crucial (and rather existential!) denouement, we sought ways to make the organ's degeneration not only visceral but disturbing. In choosing to have the bugs emerge from the organ as it rots, we took inspiration from two things: 1) the organ itself, with its macabre aesthetic, not to mention its many orifices!, and 2) the music, which sounds creepy and crawly and haunting and ominous, with its undulating tell-tale heartbeat spelling doom.

To give credit where it's due, Greg—my ultra imaginative yet sometimes off-his-rocker colleague—was the one who thought of the bugs in the first place, on one of our many in-flight brainstorming sessions during our Asia concert tour last fall. (Although I love to sleep / read / watch movies / basically avoid work on flights, I can attest to planes providing an incredibly fruitful setting for creativity: a) you're captive, b) you're in an almost dreamlike state half the time, and c) you're literally miles and miles above the ground ... that's gotta affect one's mental state, right? Needless to say, folks, the majority of concepts within this Rite of Spring film were dreamt up in the air!) OK, so this long, ostensibly random tangent leads to what I'm about to say .....

I DID NOT enjoy the filming of the millipedes, harmless as they were; to put it simply, I am not a fan of bugs. Just writing about the experience now makes my skin crawl. *shudder* That said, I'm generally open to trying new things, and I'm willing to sacrifice personal comfort (to a degree) for the sake of art. And for all you entomologically-inclined people out there, don't worry—we didn't pluck random bugs off the sidewalk or from someone's yard. We went the "official" route and ordered a bunch of millipedes online, and while they were in our care, Greg fed them little bits of veggies from the nearby farmer's market (not kidding!). To assuage my jitters, I jokingly gave them nicknames (to be said in a kiddie voice for maximum effect): Millie A, Millie B, etc., etc.

The filming required lots of patience, trusty assistants (thank you, Caitlin and Cody!), and chopsticks to keep the millipedes on course. They had a tendency to go astray, crawling in the exact opposite direction from what we wanted. There was always the errant one (or three) that would crawl right off the keyboard, almost into my lap, and every time I yelped in horror. To make things even worse, the first one that was placed on my hand excreted—I think it sensed my fear! Speaking of fear, whenever the millipedes felt threatened, they would curl up in a cinnamon-roll-like bundle, ruining the shot and interrupting the flow of filming. So while they might look coordinated onscreen, they were actually very unpredictable. 

Still, all the discomfort (and squealing on my part) appeared to be worthwhile; the millipedes leave quite an indelible impact and fill the viewer with dread, setting up the organ's cataclysmic swan song. Vivent les mille-pattes! Vive le sacre!

EPISODE 9 of 10: Upon grappling with their inner demons, the journeyers emerge even stronger and more vigilant. This newfound awareness shakes the foundation of their egoic attachments and material trappings. The degeneration of these worldly fetters opens the pathway to their final, inevitable task.