“A folk melody is like a living creature: it changes minute by minute, moment by moment. One should never state, therefore, that a melody is as notated on the spot, but rather that it was such at the time it was notated…”
~Béla Bartók, “Why and How do We Collect Folk Music?” (1936)
Realized that Hungarian folk songs traditionally employed by “classical” composers were not autochthonous (biography, 1918)
Began search for true indigenous Hungarian folk melodies and rhythms
Work with Zoltán Kodály
Kodály had already published a study of folk music
Began lifelong collaboration
1906 – Magyar népdalok (Hungarian folk songs)
20 settings of Hungarian folk melodies harmonized for voice and piano
10 by Bartók
10 by Kodály
Intent: to popularize Hungarian folk music
Finding the music
Traveled to remote villages
Sought out those who could replicate true or original folk songs
Further Documentation – Bartók’s photographs
Romania: Alpenhorn, fiddle
Slovakian peasant girls
Split with Kodály
Bartók’s interest expanded to include indigenous musics of
“… before World War I went to North Africa as well to collect and study the Arabic music of the Sahara. I was not averse to the influence of Arabic folk music either: the third movement of Suite for Piano was influenced, for example, by Arabic folk music.” http://www.bartoknewseries.com/en/bartok-new-series-27
Bonis. Ferenc, Bela Bartok His Life in Pictures Boosey & Hawkes, Budapest Hungary 1964.
Hinson, Maurice; Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire, Second, Revised and Enlarged Edition. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis. 1987.
Knapp, Calvin Horace. “A Study, Analysis and performance of Representative Piano Works of Various periods of Bela Bartok.” Ph.D. thesis Columbia University, 1973.
Lampert, Vera, and Laszlo Vikarius, ed.; Folk Music in Bartok’s compositions – A Source Catalog – Arab, Hungarian, Romanian,Ruthenian, Servian, and Slovak melodies; Hungarian Heritage House, Helicon Kiad/o, Museum of Ethnography, Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2008; G. Henle Verlag, Germany 2008.
Lesznai, Ljos, Bartok JM Dent & Sons Ltd Aldine Press London 1961.
Sadie, Stanley et al. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol 2. MacMillan Publishers LTD, London, 1980.
Yeomans, David; Bartok for Piano; Indiana University press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1988.
Images courtesy of Google Images, http://www.bartoknewseries.com/en/bartok-new-series-27 , http://www.zti.hu/bartok/exhibition/de_P9.htm
Piano score for use in scan: http://imslp.org/wiki/15_Hungarian_Peasant_Songs,_Sz.71_(Bart%C3%B3k,_B%C3%A9la)
Bartók on composition
"Many people think it is a comparatively easy task to write a composition on found folk tunes...
This way of thinking is completely erroneous. To handle folk tunes is one of the most difficult tasks; equally difficult, if not more so, than to write a major
If we keep in mind that borrowing a tune means being bound by its individual peculiarity, we shall understand one part of the difficulty. Another is created by the special character of folk tune. We must penetrate it, feel it, and bring out its sharp contours by the appropriate setting...It must be a work of inspiration just as much as any other composition.”