Folk in Nationalist Music

901 Words4 Pages
Using a folk idiom in art music is a problematic practice for composers because folk and Art music traditions stem from fundamentally different origins. Art music is part of a literate tradition with recognized authorship, as opposed to the folk tradition, which is part of a communal tradition disseminated anonymously by means of oral communication. Thus, art music composers aspiring to leave a legacy often refrain from utilizing folk idioms in their music for several reasons; to compose cultured music, to create pure and authentic works that are associated with single composer, and to legitimize their philosophies above national and fugal divisions. The binary between folk and art music began much before the Baroque era, yet the use of folk was a significant feature of the Nationalist movement in art music during the 19th century. Composers such as Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857), Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884), and Edvard Greig (1843-1907) used folk influences in their compositions in fundamentally new ways; as part of the communal tradition of their heritage, as an organic spring of inspiration, as well as in an effort to create a national style in tribute to their respective homelands. Consequently, musical nationalism had a dramatic effect on the 19th century art music landscape and the conception of folk as an authentic musical idiom. Folk music, as defined by the International Folk Music Council, is the “product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. The factors that shape the transition are: (I) continuity which links the present with the past; (ii) variation which springs from the creative impulse of the individual or the group; and (iii) selection by the community... ... middle of paper ... ... music is more than just themes,” states Satsov, “In order to be national, to express the soul and spirit of a nation, music must partake of the very roots of the life of a people.” Folk music is essentially cultural property, whereas art music is intellectual property of a single person. When a composer removes national folk from the natural discourse in a culture in an attempt to isolate that flavor in a timeless work of genius, he fails to capture the true spirit of such a dynamic, communal idiom. Ultimately, such attempts are not “creative”, but “photographic.” Works Cited Gelbart, Matthew. The Invention of "Folk Music" and "Art Music". Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. The New Russian School: V. V. Stasov. Izbrannïye sochineniya. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1952. Trans R. T. Bjarne Kortsen (ed.). Grieg the Writer I. Bergen: B. Kortsen, 1972
Open Document