on tradition

Robert Craft: Do you have a special theory of, or meaning for, tradition?

Igor Stravinsky: No, I am merely very prudent of the wrod, for it now seems to imply ‘that which resembles the past’— the reason, incidentally, why no good artist is very happy when his work is described as ‘traditional’. In fact, the true tradition–making work work may not resemble the past at all, and especially not the immediate past, which is the only one most people are able to hear. Tradition is generic; it is not simply ‘handed down’, fathers to sons, but undergoes a life process: it is born, grows, matures, declines, and is reborn, perhaps. These stages of growth and regrowth are always in contradiction to the stages of another concept or interpretation: true tradition lives in the contradiction. ‘Notre héritage n’est précédé d’aucun testament’ (Our heritage was left to us by no will). [— René Char]

Memories and Commentaries [emphases added]


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