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Google 'doodler' explains genesis of Stravinsky birthday logo*

June 17, 2009 |  2:47 pm

Stravinsky09

Today is Igor Stravinsky's birthday, and if you've been surfing the Web at all in the last 15 hours, you will no doubt have come across Google's visual homage to the controversial 20th century composer.

On the search engine's main page, the Google logo has been replaced by a colorful illustration that combines themes from two of the Russian composer's most famous pieces, "The Firebird" (1910) and "The Rite of Spring" (1913).

So how did the Internet company come up with the fetching birthday tribute? Culture Monster asked the designer himself, Ryan Germick, who works on the company's "doodle" team. We wanted to know whether he was a classical music fan and how he came up with a visual way of expressing Stravinsky's modernist, atonal sounds.

Here is Germick's response in full:

I'm a casual fan of classical music, and was introduced to Stravinsky through a couple of different avenues of popular culture as a teenager, namely Disney's "Fantasia" and Stravinsky-inspired works of Frank Zappa. At the time I generally didn't relate to classic music, but I found and continue to find Stravinsky's compositions undeniably fresh and full of life.

Google has celebrated many visual artists on the homepage -- mostly because we love art, but also perhaps because it's more immediate and recognizable to appropriate an established visual style into the logo, as opposed to something abstract like music.

We, on the doodle team, always try to push ourselves though, and during a brainstorming session Stravinsky popped into my head as a great composer to feature.

"The Firebird" and "The Rite of Spring" instantly sprang to mind as famous pieces associated with strong visual symbols. Also, including them both allowed the logo's composition to create a clash of warm and cool colors that seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate Stravinsky and his dynamic, emotive music.

The doodle started out as a whiteboard sketch, had a brief life on a Post-it note and was finished in Photoshop with a Wacom Cintiq monitor, while listening to Stravinsky piano arrangements on repeat.

Stravinsky, born on this day in 1882, is part of a group of prominent 20th century composers with strong ties to L.A. He lived for a period in what is now West Hollywood and composed many of his important works here. Esa-Pekka Salonen put his music at the center of the L.A. Philharmonic's repertoire during his tenure as music director and recently closed the season with a performance of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex" and "Symphony of Psalms."

Happy birthday, Igor.

-- David Ng

(A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Stravinsky had lived in Brentwood. Thanks to  reader Patric Caird for pointing this out. )

Illustration credit: Google

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