Monday, April 2, 2012

Review on Bartok and Hungarian music

Just like music of any other cultural groups, Hungarian music is hard to be generally defined, while the term"magyarsag" existed; the term is associated with Hungarian's glory past, and often used opposed to the music of Austria. A debate regarding unification of the rural and urban music styles was raised, mainly because of several reasons: the consideration of "peasant" as insult, the arrogance of the nobles, and how the pop music of the gentry is often regarded as a representative of the nation's spirit.
Bartok, in his paper, strongly criticized about the previous conceptions of what was hungarian music. In his point of view, a mixture of Gypsy music and bad imitations of it made up what people thought of Hungarian music.
He claimed that they did not have a valuable and yet distinctive art music that is characteristically Hungarian, though they had a precious folk music tradition. He also criticized how their "musicologist"consider any melody sung in Hungarian as Hungarian folk song.
Bartok seems to be speaking in a very angry and hostile tone. I can't help wondering under what context he started making these statement since they certainly don't seem like academic papers. They look like public speech debate to me. Therefore, I am expecting reactions from his opponents.
Then I learned from the Trumpener paper that, Bartok, as an ethnomusicologist, was trained with classical music, yet grew up with folk songs, and also broadens his perspective as he works. I also learned that his rejection of Gypsy music and such is partly due to his racism, which was unspoken. And that, from my own observation, is reflected in his own remarks (Page 207, Bartok) "It is disconcerting, though, to observe how musical artistes and writers in high positions endeavour to endow this popular music with the attributes of a serious and superior art."
He is afraid that making Gypsy music as a superior art will inherently make Gypsy culture as a superior culture than Hungarian culture.
After all, I am questioning, shall Bartok's remarks and statements about what is and what is not Hungarian music/culture be justified? Maybe they were justified in his age, when racism itself was justified. But how about nowadays?

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