Modern Music Ethnology and the Context of Its Emergence

Hungary/Magyarország. The Origins of Ethnography: Ethnomusicology
By Maria Nyéki-Körösy


Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály can be considered pioneers in scientific music ethnology or ethnomusicology. They regarded traditional and archaic songs collected by peasants as the roots of an authentically Hungarian scholarly music. Bartók thought that folklore material comprised music of countries adjacent to Hungary and that their exploitation at varying degrees led to universal music. Kodály’s music remained more linked to homeland. His « method » based on folklore was teached to all young music students. Among his multiple activities Kodály directed the scientific publishing of songs. Laszlo Lajtha also engaged in ethnomusicological research, but as a composer he did not get the recognition he deserved. Kodály’s composition students followed the way opened by their master. From 1948 to 1956, folklore became a compulsory instrument of the communist ideology and lost its vitality. Threatened with disappearance traditional music is re-emerging since 1970 in the music of urban folkloric groups.


  • Hungary
  • folk songs
  • ethnomusicology
  • composers
  • 20th-century music
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