It is astonishing that The Miraculous Mandarin’s scenes of urban decay and the pastoral of Evening with the Székelys, the almost brutal dissonances of the First Piano Concerto and the gentleness of Mikrokosmos could come from the pen of one man: Béla Bartók (1881-1945), one of the most celebrated composers of the twentieth century and one of the founding fathers of the discipline of ethnomusicology. Bartók’s contradictions do not end with the eclecticism of his musical style: this composer that many histories of music remember primarily as a “Hungarian nationalist” researched the folk music of Romanians and Slovaks as much as that of Hungarians, and wrote passionately about the “immense variety […] of melodies and melodic types” that had resulted from mixing of peoples.
The goal of this course is for students to become acquainted with Bartók’s musical and (to a lesser extent) scholarly output; to develop analytical skills; and to gain a sensitivity to the historical and cultural context in which he work and in which his music has been understood through the exploration of primary and secondary sources.
Available for purchase at the IMU Bookstore:
Amanda Bayley (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Bartók (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
Benjamin Suchoff (ed.), Béla Bartók Essays (University of Nebraska Press, 1992)
Peter Laki (ed.), Bartók and His World (Princeton University Press, 1995)
Béla Bartók, Allegro Barbaro and Other Short Works for Solo Piano (Dover, 1998)
The Stage Works of Béla Bartók (Opera Guide) (Calder Publications, 1991)
Halsey Stevens, The Life and Music of Béla Bartók, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 1993)
David E. Schneider, Bartók, Hungary, and the Renewal of Tradition: Case Studies in the Intersection of Modernity and Nationality (University of California Press, 2006)
Concerto for Orchestra (Boosey & Hawkes Masterworks Library, 2004)
Piano Music of Béla Bartók, Series I and Series II (Dover, 1981-1982)
Reading assignments – 40%
In order to facilitate an active discussion, all students must hand in a one-page typed summary with discussion questions for each required reading (marked R) (by the BEGINNING of each class; papers WILL NOT be accepted late!). Bring a second copy to use during class. Think of these summaries as a reading/listening journal: thoughtful engagement with the material is more important than carefully polished prose. Feel free to use visual markers/highlighters (bullets, bold or italics lettering, underline, etc) to mark important items: dates, terminology, significant concepts, and connections to the listening assignment of the day.
You are required to provide your own discussion questions, and invited to include your own responses and critiques of the reading—just make sure that you graphically distinguish your voice from the author’s. At the top of each summary you need the full citation for your source in correct bibliographic format. Note that these assignments are weighted heavily in your final grade and take care in the selection and accuracy of information in your summary.
Undergraduates are required to submit 10 such summaries.
Graduate students are required to submit 15 such summaries.
Assignment #1: biographical critique, due Sept. 20 – 10%
Assignment #2: analytical exploration, due Oct. 23 – 15%
Specifications for these papers:
(for undergraduates) 3-5 pages
(for graduate students) 6-8 pages
(for both) 1-inch margins, Times or Times Roman 12-point font
Assignment #3: source study – 20%
Attendance and Participation – 15%
Everyone is expected to attend and to participate actively in class. Students with more than two unexcused absences may earn no more than a C for their participation grade. If you will not be able to attend for some reason, please tell me in advance.
I reserve the right to administer listening quizzes without warning to ensure that students are doing the listening assignments before class.