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Blue Devils & Primitivism

Posted December 27, 2012 by Dave Glyde | CATEGORY Music

The 2013 Blue Devils will be immersed in the Raw, Sensual & Intoxicating

World of Primitivism.


As the Concord Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps help celebrate the 100 Year Anniversary of Stravinsky's "THE RITE OF SPRING," they will draw much of they're inspiration from Primitivism and Primitivism Art as the 2013 Show takes shape.


Primitivism refers to A) an artistic movement in particular which originated as a reaction to the Enlightenment, or B) the general tendency to idealize any social behavior judged relatively simple or primitive, whether in the arts, social sciences or elsewhere. 



Rousseau was the first to draw attention to the concept of the 'noble savage'. What 18th Century culture lacked, he argued, was nature, passion, emotion, instinct and mysticism. The Romantics developed this idea further. They believed that 'modern' society was moving away from its traditional roots, losing touch with its true 'primitive' condition. Out of this came Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Byron and Wordsworth, and later Conrad and Picasso. 

Picasso-Les Demoiselles





Primitivism could also be seen as a set of modern European and Euro-American representational conventions inspired by non-Western art and artifacts. These conventions were first developed by Europeans and Euro-Americans who were dissatisfied with a variety of aspects of European culture, and sought to find what they were missing in other parts of the world. What emerged was a simplistic understanding of other cultures, structured by the primitivists' own desires, their lack of knowledge of other societies (e.g. Moroccan), and the racism of European society. Their work has contributed to an ongoing belief in the multitude of non-western societies as fundamentally similar in their "primitiveness," supposedly meaning their irrationality, closeness to nature, free sexuality, freedom, proclivity to violence, "mysticism," etc. Such artists, especially Picasso, are still popularly understood as somehow escaping European conventions and expressing "primal" impulses within themselves. 


Combat of a Tiger




Paul Gauguin's paintings, Pablo Picasso's paintings and Igor Stravinsky's music are sometimes cited as examples of primitivism in art. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, is "primitivist" in that its programmatic subject is a pagan rite: a human sacrifice in pre-Christian Russia. It uses dissonance and loud, repetitive rhythms to depict "Dionysianmodernism, i.e., abandonment of inhibition (restraint standing for civilization). Nevertheless, Stravinsky was a master of learned classical tradition and worked within its bounds. In modern visual art, Picasso's work is also understood as rejecting Beaux Arts artistic expectations and expressing primal impulses, whether he worked in a cubist, Neoclassical, or tribal-art-influenced vein.




"Art is not Submission and Rules, but a Demon which Smashes the Moulds"

- Picasso


rite notes

Inherent within musical modernism is the conviction that music is not a static phenomenon defined by timeless truths and classical principles, but rather something which is intrinsically historical and developmental. While belief in musical progress or in the principle of innovation is not new or unique to modernism, such values are particularly important within modernist aesthetic stances.

—Edward Campbell [emphasis added](2010, 37)


Primitivism is associated with: 

  • A concern with cultural phenomena on the periphery of European society--particularly sexuality, madness, spiritual punishment, violence, and alterity. 
  • Celebration of the "unconscious," often with the implication that non-western cultures are more "in touch" with the unconscious. A concern with dreams and symbols, often assumed to be "universal." 
  • Abstraction of the figure, particularly facial and bodily proportions. Inspired by "non-Western" arts, particularly African masks. Occidental primitivist artists were inspired by the visual abstraction of African artworks, which tend to favor it over naturalistic representation. This is because many African artworks, regardless of medium, tend to represent objects or ideas rather than depict them. 
  • Focus on rhythmic and percussive elements, especially in music and ritual performance. 
  • Overt sexuality, particularly when combined with exaggeration and exposure of the genitals. The assumption is that "non-Western" cultures have a greater appreciation of sexuality or sensuality than European and European settler societies. In the U.S., this movement was often associated with Africans or African-Americans--particularly the popularity of Josephine Baker, jazz, and the broad characterization (esp. in France) of Africans as "soul of rhythm." 
  • Flatness and geometric designs inspired by "non-Western" art forms. 
  • Application of paint in a rough, manipulated style, so as to connote "rawness." 
  • The history of Anthropological theory.

  • Comments 2

    Showing 2 of 2 Comments

    Craig Cosue 6 years ago
    I can't wait to see it! Definitely gonna see a show or two! West side is gonna be intense though, good luck BD!

    Brian Carroll 6 years ago
    Oh man this is so cool! BD has been doing just the kind of music i just love!

    So ahead of their time and thought provoking. Thank you so much for doing shows that can get in touch with the last few years!