Folk Music, Art Music, History of Music

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<ul><li><p>Folk Music, Art Music, History of MusicAuthor(s): Bence SzabolcsiSource: Notes, Second Series, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Autumn, 1964), pp. 503-510Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 11:21</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Music Library Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Notes.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 11:21:29 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>FOLK MUSIC, ART MUSIC, HISTORY OF MUSIC By BENCE SZABOLCSI </p><p>Those who peruse the principal literary works written in the last hun- dred years on the history of music may note with some astonishment how closely this literature is marked by constant, changing references to folk music. What had seemed natural to the generations of Ambros a hundred years ago became problematic to the generation of Riemann; what was self-evident to Rolland and Coirault has been received with sceptiscism and suspicion by young French scholars; and again, from the studies of Wiora to the volumes of the New Oxford History of Music, it has been proclaimed and confirmed by the documents of recent history that knowledge concerning the great periods of the history of music cannot be complete without being acquainted with the folk music sources on which they fed. The problems presented by the relations of folk music and art music are so multifarious and intricate that even a simple survey is well nigh impossible. In the following pages an attempt is made to seize a few main issues and discuss them in the light of present knowledge. </p><p>1. The fundamental differences between folk music and art music are an old subject in European musicology; however, almost until recent times our science paid much more careful attention to the differences between the two than to the features and fundamental elements which meet or even converge. The development of bourgeois civilization also contributed to the ever wider separation of the villages from the towns, of the life of the people from that of the so-called educated classes, so that in time the distance that yawned between the two appeared to be a virtually insuperable gulf. Folk music, when it was studied with serious attention, was prone to present a phenomenon outside of time, outside of history, or rather an increasingly isolated, withering state as the forgotten, neglected legacy of long past centuries, a sunken relic (de- scended to the depths from the superior social stratum) which, its development having been arrested, was doomed to inevitable extinction. </p><p>What, in fact, were the obvious differences between folk music and art music? They were separated by differences of purpose, function, and social role. Obviously, only the tunes favoured by many for a long time in numerous places may be denoted as folk music, tunes born in a community, spread in a community, and appealing to a community. Art music, on the other hand, derives from an individual, has been invented by a composer, may for a long time be known only to a narrow circle, apparently remaining "the cause of a few." Folk music </p><p>503 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 11:21:29 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>is marked by typicalness; it flourishes in similar forms, in groups, unat- tached to any individual personality. It does not aspire to the finality characteristic of individual artistic achievement; moreover, it is known in multitudes of variations in time and space alike, its true life being manifested by these variations. It is preserved by oral tradition and not in writing-being averse to all fixation. A type and variations, with a tendency to permanent anonymousness and ceaseless change: these have been quoted as the decisive factors which set off so sharply the contrast of artistic, professional, individual composition, when compared to folk music, a popular product as regards origin, spread, existence, and fading away. </p><p>In the light of recent research, these contradictions have, however, mostly proved to be superficial and exaggerated. This recognition has been maturing for a long time in musicology; increasing numbers have discovered that, notwithstanding the essential differences between them, folk music and art music are in many respects connected and related with each other. They are related, because the elements accumulated in one are ceaselessly under way to reach the other. Who would believe that in Hungarian folk music, in the Eastern part of Central-Europe, old Central-Asian patterns, Gregorian types, early-mediaeval hymn-tunes, metric forms of the late Renaissance, Viennese Baroque and Rococo, italianising romantic melody-turns have survived up to our present days? Truly, a great part of the cultural history of the people, of the country is to be read here! And in spite of all that, how much more, how infinitely more is the essence of folk music! It is more than a diary of historical adventures, more than a musical geology of various cultural strata, of foreign influences and acclimatisations. </p><p>Nearly a quarter of a century ago Zoltan Kodaly gave an excellent summary of these relationships in his study entitled "Folk Music and Art Music" (1941). "In folk music" he says "strictly speaking a new transcription, a variation is produced by the lips of the singer on every occasion. This operative power of unconditional ownership has been emphasized many times as an essential trait of the folk song. It used to exist also in higher art." (Here Kodaly alluded to Shakespeare, Bach, Handel, and the great classic of Hungarian poetry, Janos Arany.) "Ap- parently, the mode of production is entirely different: here it is a process of individual creation, there the slow variation of the existing gradually leads to a new work through the links of tiny changes. But let us look more closely at the history of music: does composition of so much indi- vidual character, showing no likeness to anything in existence, spring from the heads of composers as did Minerva from the head of Jupiter? The early works of even the greatest masters are also mere imitations, often scarcely differing from the compositions of their predecessors. Their originality, their individual tones develop only step by step. The influence of others can be discovered even in their most original works. No one </p><p>504 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 11:21:29 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>could have guessed the composer of Tristan from Wagner's first operas. He was doubtful about himself at the age of thirty, because he found so much imitation, so many foreign influences in his own works. This was natural. The artist does not live in a vacuum, but in the company of other people; he feels and thinks like millions of other people; only he can express himself in a better way . . .In the history of art, schools, groups, and hosts of followers mean the same as does the variation in folk music . . . A new type of song is developed from existing forms by slow variation, always growing more different, but hardly at a slower pace than that discernible in art music. There, too, the appearance of a new style has been found to act like a revelation. However, the history of music can in most instances demonstrate its gradual preparation by a long line of forgotten works." </p><p>Concerning the argument that folk music is an unwritten, oral tradition while art music lives in a written, fixed form, Kodaly remarks "In the European art music of our days there are elements which can be perpet- uated only by living tradition . . . An artist does not always play a piece in the same manner." Kodaly draws the final conclusion: "Taking an over-all view it may be stated that there is no essential difference between the two. They are the varying manifestations of the same human function. The differences have been caused by historical, national, social and cultural stratification. The most precious manifestations are equiva- lent. Estimation of the rest depends on artistic value. Hence folk music and art music do not follow paths so wide apart as to preclude influence on each other. At the development of great, classical periods, folk music or popular music is thus always found to be present as a stimulation and a model in endeavours towards simplicity." </p><p>What is summed up by Kodaly with such exemplary lucidity is the fundamental perception of the whole of contemporary musicology. The rigid differentiation of individual and common achievement, of popular and professional composition can be abandoned without any qualm, to be replaced by new, more convincing, more vital definitions. Dissemination by word of mouth or in a fixed written shape, a final or changing form, individual invention or variant, original or non-original composi- tion, all these have failed to establish decisively defining, differentiating criteria. What is common to both is much more important. Their common ground and starting point is a certain colloquial convention: the "tongue of the village" or the "style of the age," according to your preference. Their common road of development leads from the primitive type to the production of a work of superior type; the finest form of the ballad of Lasz16 Feher, of True Thomas, or Lindenschmidt's ballad, or the most brilliantly constructed Vienna opera which happens to bear the title of The Magic Flute. </p><p>This parallelism having been established beyond any doubt, it seems natural that unconscious kindred endeavours should have exerted the </p><p>505 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 11:21:29 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>strongest influence on one another in past epochs, with the benefit of mutual enrichment. The periods where new styles of art music were born from the effect of folk music appear to our eyes in colours that differ from those which mark the times when folk musics took over and back elements from the works produced by art music. "The artist does not live in a vacuum"; nor do musical cultures and musical styles unfold in a vacuum. They are created, carried on, and shaped by the human </p><p>community which lives in a thousand ways, entertains a thousand kinds of relationships, in struggle and in alliance. </p><p>2. But what is the people, what is the folk song, and what is the folky-popular style? Were not the citizen, the petty bourgeois, the worker of the mediaeval town, in a certain sense, the "folk" of those times? A certain law that governs the movement of styles is evident also in this field. The great periods in the European history of music, when rich cultures of art music sprang from folk music styles, indicated an appearance, an invasion, a rise or at least an increased advance of the often hardly visible masses, of the submerged and deep layers of the population. This is what happened in the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation, when the choral art of Europe was reborn under the influence of folk song forms; in the 18th century, on the eve of the French revolution, when the Italian and French comic opera and minor </p><p>popular forms of music brought about a decisively significant change of style which finally led to "grand classicism"; and in the 19th and 20th centuries, at the time when the various movements of national independ- ence came to fruition, and in numerous parts of Europe new, universally important musical styles of national character developed under folk music's influence. </p><p>The movements of society loomed in the background of all these renewals. The rise of a new layer or group or of a new community may be noticed in every instance, in transient or permanent alliance with the masses of people heaving behind or beneath them-hence the ever renewed inroads of folk music in all of these eras. We are still far from seeing clearly as regards the birth of new styles. It is becoming increasingly obvious, however, that in this sphere as well as elsewhere the path of progress is marked by accumulation and by break-through: old relations are disrupted and new connections are begun. Illustrative examples are presented by the accumulation of German Protestant choral material before Bach and its rise to perfection in the art of Bach; or the concen- tration of popular forms of Italian song around Verdi and their triumph in his art; by the rise of Hungarian recruiting music to Erkel and Liszt, of the Russian folk song to Glinka and Mussorgsky, and of the Hungarian folk song in the art of Bartok and Kodaly. </p><p>The relevant examples afforded by the history of music also furnish evidence that such an accumulation and break-through rarely proceed easily, free of resistance or tension, even crisis. The victory whereby the </p><p>506 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 11:21:29 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>new Italian realistic comic opera came to occupy the stage around 1730 with the art of Pergolesi was preceded by decades of collection and inquiry in dismembered Italy languishing under various yokes. To Haydn, the great master who built up the monumental world of classical Viennese music from materal and spirit of the South German-Austrian folk song, it cost several decades of hard struggle to achieve this marvel- ously clear and popular simplicity. The approach of the simplicity of the folk song presented a problem and a test of strength also to Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. (In connection with folk songs a Hungarian poet in 1789 declared: "I wish I could write such a song.") As with every other creative artist, the decisive question with these composers was: what does an age, a generation, a creative genius see in folk music, or, more accurately, in the musical material and musical language recog- nized as the music of the people, of the largest community? </p><p>3. Research in Eastern European and Asian folk music of the last few years has in many respects shed light on the transitional elements whi...</p></li></ul>