Dé Céadaoin, Eanáir 28, 2009

Béla 'Wow' Bartók

Not able to concoct any kind of sensible mental rambling, I'd like to share with you something that Bartók wrote in his Harvard Essays which resonates strongly with me and my attempts to use Irish music in contemporary contexts:

'It is an amazing phenomenon that just the archaic features [of folk music] will admit of a much wider range of possibilities in harmonizing and treating melodies or themes of the pentatonic kind, than would be the case with the common major or minor scale melodies.'

In the Cambridge Companion to Bartók, Stephen Erdely writes of Kodály:

'Kodály’s experiences of field collection revealed that folksong does not have a ‘genuine’ form of the kind that amateur collectors hoped to discover in perfect, most beautiful shape; for the genre lives and spreads in variant forms which may show greater or lesser similarity. The tune or poetry may remain stable in one village and appear in diverse forms in the next. Melody, rhythm and structure may endure or show unusual diversity, for folksong is basically an idea which is re-created anew in each performance and by each performer.'

I'm very slowly discovering that a lot of the path I wish to tread or empathise with has already been travelled - not in any kind of 'burned out' manner but merely that it is possible to understand the spirit of folk music and not to feel some kind of injustice when marrying it with contemporary music. The hitherto conceived idea that there is no communication, or rather no possibility of communication between the two cultures, no longer has any substance. But yet I can't help but feel it...

What is my music?