Essay on Hungarian Peasant and Folk Music

Essay on Hungarian Peasant and Folk Music

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Hungarian Peasant and Folk Music


I. General confusion about Hungarian folk music.
Gypsy music Peasant music - the real Hungarian folk music - is not Gypsy music. Peasant music certainly had influence on the songs and playing of gypsies who lived in Hungary and performed in ensembles, though. Gypsy music used to be the basis of all generalizations about Hungarian music. It was Ferenc Liszt's monumental error to state that Gypsy music is the creation of gypsies. The so called 'gypsy scale' points to a southern oriental (Arabic) origin and may possibly have reached Hungary through the gypsies. This music falsifies Hungarian folk songs by introducing augmented intervals of the Gypsy scales, which scales were never used by peasants.

Some of the gypsy composers e.g. Pista Danko wrote and performed songs on more than 400 contemporary Hungarian texts. Whereas others specialized playing the instrumental csárdás. Gypsy music was influenced by West European melodies and they second-rate imitated Hungarian style. Gypsy music therefore is not even Gypsy music. It is true, however, that real Gypsy music existed but they were mainly sung by nomadic tent colonies and to a lesser extent by settled village gypsies. The civilized town gypsies and hence the musicians did not know them at all.

Popular art music

Peasant music must neither be confused with popular art music, which is the music of town (also could be named as flourishing popular town art music or light popular style). Popular art music is the wide category for all the artistic product of the current generations of industrialized culture following the fashion of the day with the tremendous influences of Western European music and any surrounding styles. Obviously, Gypsy ...


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...ate the songs to their origin and eliminate the "contamination".

The singers, however, do distinguish the next, third category from the rest. They name it themselves as "szentes énekek" (sacred songs).

3) Sacred songs - Hungarian sacred folk hymns of a variety of origins also make up a wide repertoire of songs present in live folk tradition. The valuable and most significant part of church songs in folk tradition is ecumenical - ignoring the different type of denominations (that is Evangelic, Catholic, Reformational). We find songs with a) Gregorian origin (Psalmtones, Te Deum, Hymns - sometimes sung in Latin, even funeral parodies); b) songs evolved from medieval canticles; c) songs of the Reformation era; d) the psalms of Genf and other metric songs; d) 16th, 17th century Hungarian Chorals) songs of Counter-reformation f) sacred gongs set on peasant tunes.

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