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The Flood (1962)

Compiled by Andrew Kuster

The Flood: Matrix and Row Use

Stravinsky composed The Flood for production as a short television opera. The half-hour-long work takes its text from Robert Craft's selections of various English allegorical pageants, including both the York and the Chester Cycles of Miracle Plays. The Flood is for large orchestra (, strings, and percussion), tenor soloist, bass duet, SAT chorus, and speakers.

The Matrix

The Prime form of the row of The Flood that appears here is the same as in White's Stravinsky: The Composer and his Works (White, 520-21). The P-0 form is the original transposition, as is evident from markings in facsimiles of Stravinsky's drafts (Kunstmuseum Basel, Strawinsky: Sein Nachlass, Sein Bild (Kunstmuseum Basel: Basel, 1984), 172-75.). The first appearance of the row is in transposed form in M. 6, where woodwinds play the P-5 row while the harp plays the R-5 form. Stravinsky calls this measure a "musical Jacob's Ladder" that becomes an important formal pillar in each of its four occurrences (MM. 6, 179, 496, and 582). (Stravinsky, Igor and Robert Craft, Dialogues and a Diary, (New York: Doubleday, 1963). See Genesis 28:12, "there was a ladder, planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down it.") Table 1 shows the matrix for Stravinsky's The Flood.

TABLE 1. The Flood (1961-62) Matrix
   int:   -2   +1   +6   -3   +2   -1   -2   -4   -1   -2   +1     

       I-0  I-10 I-11 I-5  I-2  I-4  I-3  I-1  I-9  I-8  I-6  I-7  

 P-0   C#   B    C    F#   Eb   F    E    D    Bb   A    G    Ab   

 P-2   Eb   C#   D    Ab   F    G    F#   E    C    B    A    Bb   

 P-1   D    C    C#   G    E    F#   F    Eb   B    Bb   Ab   A    

 P-7   Ab   F#   G    C#   Bb   C    B    A    F    E    D    Eb   

 P-10  B    A    Bb   E    C#   Eb   D    C    Ab   G    F    F#   

 P-8   A    G    Ab   D    B    C#   C    Bb   F#   F    Eb   E    

 P-9   Bb   Ab   A    Eb   C    D    C#   B    G    F#   E    F    

 P-11  C    Bb   B    F    D    E    Eb   C#   A    Ab   F#   G    

 P-3   E    D    Eb   A    F#   Ab   G    F    C#   C    Bb   B    

 P-4   F    Eb   E    Bb   G    A    Ab   F#   D    C#   B    C    

 P-6   G    F    F#   C    A    B    Bb   Ab   E    Eb   C#   D    

 P-5   F#   E    F    B    Ab   Bb   A    G    Eb   D    C    C#   

In The Flood Stravinsky sets the poetry four different ways: The words of mortals - Moses, his wife and sons, etc. - are spoken; God's words are sung by a duet of basses; Lucifer, who becomes Satan, is sung by a tenor; and an SAT chorus sings the opening and closing excerpts from the liturgical Te Deum and Sanctus. All the rows that Stravinsky employed in the vocal parts of The Flood are indicated in Table 2 below.

Measures Vocal Part Text (or Form) Rows


Chorus (SAT)

Te Dominum

I-0, R-10


Te aeternum

I-0 (notes 1-6)



I-0, RI-0 (row crossings)


God (two basses)

1. "A skillful beast"

R-0, RI-2


P-0, I-2


2. "I make thee master"

R-0, RI-0 (cross after "mirror")


Lucifer (tenor)

"The beams" (A section)





"More fairer by far" (B section)



P-7 (3-1, 6-4)


Lucifer now as Satan

"God made" (A' section)






3. "I God"

R-0, RI-2


P-0, I-2


R-0, RI-2


RI-0, I-0


I-0, RI-0


4. "Noah, as I bid thee"

RI-0 rot1, I-0 rot1


5. "I shall thee succor"

R-0, I-0


P-0, RI-0


6. "Noah, I shall guide"

R-0 rot1, I-0 rot1


RI-2, I-0


P-0, R-0 (cross for final notes)



7. "A Covenant"

R-0, RI-2


P-0, I-2



"The forbidden act"









I-0, RI-0


Pleni sunt coeli

I-0, RI-0



I-0, RI-0


Tibi Cherubim

I-0 (notes 1-6)

TABLE 2. The Flood (1961-62) Rows Employed by All Vocal Parts

The vocal parts, then, confine themselves to the following rows: P-0, R-0, I-0, RI-0, I-2, RI-2, P-7, RI-7, and R-10. The important "Jacob's Ladder" rows should also be included: P-5 and R-5. Characteristically, all of these rows are related to each other by first and last notes. Each of the rows begins or ends on two of the following pitches: Eb, Ab, C#, F#, and B. These pitches are related by the circle of fifths because the interval class between the first and last notes of the Prime form of the row is ic5. Stravinsky chooses these particular rows for reasons described below.

The Flood: Analysis of Structure and Musical-Poetical Effect of Rows

This portion of the paper will focus on only those rows used by the voices and the Jacob's Ladder row noted above. Other row relationships in instrumental and melodramatic sections will be discussed later in the chapter.

Graphical Representation

Before proceeding further with analysis, note that the rows employed for the music sung by God use the six characteristic foundational rows in Stravinsky's shorter works analyzed above. These foundational rows are the Prime row (P-0) and its Retrograde (R-0), the Inversion (I-0) and its Retrograde (RI-0), and the Retrograde Inversion beginning with the last note of the Prime form (RI-2) and its Retrograde (I-2). These rows and their relationships are shown in Table 3 below.

TABLE 3. The Flood, Graphical Representation of Rows Sung by God
                      I-2  E
                       |   Bb
                       v   C#
                       ^   C
                       |   D
                     RI-2  F#
       P-0 ->              G
 C# B C F# Eb F E D Bb A G Ab
 D                 <- R-0
 Ab    I-0
 B      |
 A      v
 C      ^
 E      |
 F    RI-0

God sings seven times (identified with Arabic numerals 1-7 in Table 25 above), each statement interrupted by Noah speaking or by other scenes. In those statements in which each bass sings more than one row sequentially, consecutive rows share a beginning or ending pitch. The only exception is the sixth statement of God (MM. 235-246), where God tells Noah that all the world will perish, save Noah, his wife, and his three sons and their wives. The disconnectedness of Noah and his kin from the dead old world is depicted by the disjunction of the consecutive rows in this instance, in contrast with the row connectedness of all the other statements of God.

Tonal Analogy

Since the first and last notes of the Prime row for The Flood is one related by ic5 (an ascending perfect fourth, or a descending perfect fifth), Stravinsky's practice of pivoting or hinging rows means that the beginning or ending pitch classes are also in an ic5 relation with P-0. These related rows based on fifths create an analogy with tonal practice.

An example of Stravinsky's exploitation of his fifth-related rows is the tenor's first aria, MM. 130-167. This passage is Lucifer's first entrance, during which he is changed into Satan. Table 4 shows this "aria" in A-B-A' form.

TABLE 4. The Flood: Satan's Aria
Form Rows Employed by the Vocal Part


I-0 (MM. 130-133), P-0 (MM. 134-138)


RI-2 (MM. 139-143), P-7 (3,2,1,6,5,4) (MM. 144-146)


I-0 (MM. 152-160), P-0 (MM. 161-166)

Both A sections of this aria use identical rows in the same order, and all four forms begin with C#, the first note of the Prime row. In contrast, the B-section of the aria uses rows that both begin on Ab. While Ab is the last note of the Prime row, it is also ic5 from the first note of the Prime row. Like the analogous dominant-key B section in aria form, Stravinsky's B section is likewise pitched a perfect fifth higher. (See discussion about similar structural functions of the set in Schoenberg's Klavierstück, Opus 33a in George Perle, Serial Composition and Atonality, 6th ed. (Berkeley: University of California, 1991), 111 ff. Set succession employing traditional tonal formal concepts is not unique to Stravinsky. A textbook example is in Webern's Symphony, Op. 21 where the first movement begins with rows P-0, I-8, P-4, and I-0; and the development section (MM. 25 ff.) begins with the same forms transposed by ic5, or up a perfect fifth: P-7, I-3, P-11, and I-7.) Thereby, the implications of the poetic text--that of Lucifer raising himself higher in heaven--are confirmed in the musical setting.

The analogy to tonal function may be carried even further in row choices for The Flood, considering not only the P-0 form (acting as "tonic"), and P-7 and RI-2 (rows a fifth higher (+7) acting as "dominant"), but also in the use of rows whose beginning pitches are a fifth lower (-7) from P-0, setting up a "sub-dominant" area as shown in Table 5.

TABLE 5. Tonal Implications of the First and Last Tones of the Rows in The Flood
                 -7         -7         +7         +7
 int:      10          5          0          7           2
 pitch:    B           F#         C#         Ab          Eb
 "key:"    "sub-dominant"      "tonic"            "dominant"

Certain rows are reserved for individual characters, while other rows are used by more than one character. Returning to Table 2, the chorus uses rows I-0, RI-0, and R-10; God uses rows P-0, R-0, I-0, RI-0, I-2, and RI-2; Lucifer uses rows P-0, I-0, P-7, and RI-2; when Lucifer becomes Satan, he uses rows P-0, I-0, P-7, RI-7, and RI-0; and finally, the Jacob's Ladder rows are P-5 and R-5.

Pursuing the analogy to tonal music, Stravinsky employs these "dominant" and "sub-dominant" areas for musical-poetical effect to depict the celestials and terrestrials. The characters in the story are given particular row regions to sing. In addition to being the only sung solo parts, God, Lucifer, and Satan also sing rows only in the "dominant" and "tonic" tonal areas. In other words, these voices employ rows starting or ending on either C# or Ab. The chorus employs rows in the "sub-dominant" area, or forms beginning or ending on F#. The Jacob's Ladder row symbolizes the bridge between the terrestrials and celestials: whenever it occurs both the Prime and Retrograde forms simultaneously move in both directions from the sub-dominant to the tonic - from F# to C#, and from C# to F#. What better way to depict Jacob's Ladder, described in Genesis 28:12, "there was a ladder, planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down it." Thus, the row choices depict Jacob's Ladder not only because Stravinsky uses both the Prime and Retrograde forms at once "going up and down it," but also because one end of the ladder is "on the ground" in the sub-dominant area of the terrestrials, and the other "reaches to heaven" - to the tonic area where the celestial voices sing.

Graphical Depiction of Rows in an Object

Table 6 shows all the rows that Stravinsky employed for the vocal parts in The Flood characteristically hinged together by their first and last pitches. Next to the rows are labels showing the rows used (P-0, I-0, etc.) and arrows showing the direction of those rows. Next to the labels, the table lists those voices that sing the rows associated with the labels. The construction depicted in the table is a portion of an Object, which will be fully explained in my dissertation.

TABLE 6. Musical-Poetical Aspects of the Vocal Rows in Stravinsky's The Flood
                             D   F
                    R-7    E       E     I-2   God
                         F           Bb
                       A               C#
                     B                   B
 Lucifer           C                       C
 Satan           Bb                          D            Lucifer
       P-7     C#                              F#    RI-2   God
             G                                   G
           F#                                      A
         Ab                "dominant"                Ab
           Bb              celestials              G
             A                                   A
       I-7     Eb                              Bb    R-0   God
                 F#                          D
                   E                       E
                     F                   F
                       G               Eb
                         B           F#          Lucifer/Satan
           Satan   RI-7    C       C     P-0   God
                             D   B
                               C#  "tonic"
                             C   Eb
                    R-5    D       D     I-0   God
                         Eb          Ab          Lucifer/Satan
       JACOB'S         G               B           Chorus
       LADDER        A                   A
                   Bb                      Bb           Chorus
                 Ab                          C            Satan
       P-5     B                               E     RI-0   God
             F                                   F
           E                                       G
         F#              "sub-dominant"              F#
           Ab             terrestrials             F
             G                                   G
       I-5     C#                              Ab    R-10   Chorus
                 E                           C
                   D                       D
                     Eb                  Eb
                       F               C#
                         A           E
                 RI-5     Bb      Bb    P-0
                             C   A

Dramatic Characterization by Row

Stravinsky carefully assigns the rows to the characters, differentiating between the celestials and terrestials. The "dominant" rows, which depict God and Lucifer--the celestials--are toward the top of Table 6. The "tonic" rows--employed at times by all of the vocal parts--are in the center. Finally, the "sub-dominant" rows--sung by the chorus of terrestrials--is toward the bottom.

It is noteworthy that God is the only voice to employ the "highest" row from the important forms on this object, the I-2 form. The I-2 row is "highest" in that it employs the row with beginning and ending notes that are furthest up in the circle of fifths pattern of the row's object. Additionally, Stravinsky confines the rows for God to the foundational rows, which all begin or end with the first or last pitch of the Prime row: P-0, R-0, I-0, RI-0, RI-2, and I-2. These foundational rows are related in the exact same manner as those employed in The Owl and the Pussy-cat.

Misordering as a Depictive Device

Stravinsky sometimes changes the ordering of rows to symbolize dramatic events in the poetry. An example of this kind of poetically depictive row employment is in the B-section of Satan's aria (MM. 139-152). Lucifer sings the RI-2 row, which is shared with God (MM. 85 ff., 181 ff., and 458 ff.) for the line "More fairer by far my fees, My power surpasses my peers." In the next line, Lucifer breaks God's order, along with the normal order of pitches for the text "I will be highest of Heaven!" Lucifer sings half of the P-7 row in the broken (Retrograde and rot3) order: 3,2,1,6,5,4. (See the introduction for a discussion of set rotation.) Here, Lucifer tries to get above God by approaching P-7's last note, the sharpest beginning/ending pitch of any vocal part of the work, Eb, which God sang as the first pitch of the I-2 row. Hence, Lucifer's approach to Eb does not use the same row as God's, and can perhaps be thought of as climbing the under side of a ladder. But before Lucifer climbs higher towards the Eb, God changes Lucifer to Satan, and temporarily Lucifer only speaks, like the mortals in The Flood, until he is put back in his place with the tonic rows of the A' section of the aria: P-0 and I-0.

Depictive Changes in Row Returns

When Stravinsky brings back Satan in another aria (similar to his first) near the end of The Flood, only three rows are sung, RI-0, P-7, and RI-7. Two rows Satan has heretofore not sung: the RI-0 and RI-7. This aria relates humankind's continuous attempts to disobey God's order, even after the lesson of the flood, but also prophesy a Redeemer who will "drown" the cacophony with his blood. The return of the A' section is truncated by the closing strains of the chorus, who return with material similar to that of the opening of the work.

The Flood: Conclusion

In The Flood, Stravinsky employed specific rows for structural and poetic-textual meaning. Because the rows used to depict God are the same foundational rows and use similar linking techniques that Stravinsky employed in his smaller twelve-tone works, The Flood can be seen as an outgrowth of the compositional techniques that characterize these works. Stravinsky extended those techniques through his use of the relationship of the rows depicting Lucifer and Satan with those foundational rows used for God. The rows sung by the Chorus, and employed for the Jacob's Ladder also have structural and musical-poetical significance. The rows Stravinsky used in The Flood propel the drama of the poetic text.

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