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Music Divided

Music Divided: Bartók’s Legacy in Cold War Culture

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    Music Divided
    Book Description:

    Music Dividedexplores how political pressures affected musical life on both sides of the iron curtain during the early years of the cold war. In this groundbreaking study, Danielle Fosler-Lussier illuminates the pervasive political anxieties of the day through particular attention to artistic, music-theoretical, and propagandistic responses to the music of Hungary's most renowned twentieth-century composer, Béla Bartók. She shows how a tense period of political transition plagued Bartók's music and imperiled those who took a stand on its aesthetic value in the emerging socialist state. Her fascinating investigation of Bartók's reception outside of Hungary demonstrates that Western composers, too, formulated their ideas about musical style under the influence of ever-escalating cold war tensions.Music Dividedsurveys Bartók's role in provoking negative reactions to "accessible" music from Pierre Boulez, Hermann Scherchen, and Theodor Adorno. It considers Bartók's influence on the youthful compositions and thinking of Bruno Maderna and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and it outlines Bartók's legacy in the music of the Hungarian composers András Mihály, Ferenc Szabó, and Endre Szervánszky. These details reveal the impact of local and international politics on the selection of music for concert and radio programs, on composers' choices about musical style, on government radio propaganda about music, on the development of socialist realism, and on the use of modernism as an instrument of political action.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93339-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Note on Hungarian Pronunciation
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. 1 Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and the Demise of Hungary’s “Third Road”
    (pp. 1-27)

    The years immediately after the conclusion of the Second World War were turbulent ones in Hungary. Occupation by the Soviet army and food shortages made people’s everyday lives difficult, but the end of hostilities also brought the hope of establishing a democracy and renewing concert life. This was a moment of great openness, when all political and musical possibilities could be discussed frankly and their validity debated. The events of this period present a rare opportunity to glimpse Hungarian musicians’ ideas about their musical future just before their choices were restricted by the increasingly severe policies of the Communist regime...

  7. 2 A Compromised Composer: Bartók’s Music and Western Europe’s Fresh Start
    (pp. 28-50)

    The sentiment that drove forward the postwar transformation of German musical life is usually described today as theNachholbedarf,or the need to catch up. For some, catching up meant forging a new connection to the traditions of modernism that had been abandoned in the early 1930s, picking up the thread as if Nazism had never existed; for others, it meant reconnecting to international musical life after a period of isolation.¹ Perhaps most important, catching up meant making judgments about what had happened to music over the past few decades and what should happen next. In the late 1940s hard-fought...

  8. 3 “Bartók Is Ours”: The Voice of America and Hungarian Control over Bartók’s Legacy
    (pp. 51-71)

    The summer of 1950 saw a tremendous increase in funding for American foreign propaganda efforts, largely because of concerns about Soviet jamming of broadcasts from the West as well as Soviet propaganda broadcasts to Europe and to the United States. The lion’s share of the funding increase went to the radio broadcasting project known as the Voice of America (VOA), an ongoing program administered by the U.S. Department of State. The radio shows VOA aimed at the satellite states attempted to combat information printed or broadcast in those countries and to provide complementary information that exposed and embarrassed the Soviet...

  9. 4 Bartók and His Publics: Defining the “Modern Classic”
    (pp. 72-93)

    We have seen that some of Western Europe’s most devotedly modernist musicians harbored serious doubts about Bartók’s music in the late 1940s and 1950s. Yet for the concertgoing public on both sides of the Atlantic, this music’s appeal was widespread and growing. The composer and critic Vincent Persichetti noted that though Bartók’s music had been neglected in the United States before his death in 1945, by 1946 several American orchestras were already programming his works as a means of “making amends.”¹ In October 1947 the critic Bernard Gavoty reported that Bartók’s music had begun to enjoy enormous success with French...

  10. 5 Beyond the Folk Song: Or, What Was Hungarian Socialist Realist Music?
    (pp. 94-116)

    At the very end of his career, Béla Bartók wrote, “It is almost a truism that contemporary higher art music in Hungary has Eastern European folk music as its basis.”¹ This casual acknowledgment belies the considerable effort that Hungarian composers and critics exerted throughout the first half of the twentieth century toward the creation of an art-music culture that embraced folk music. It is well known that both Bartók and his colleague Zoltán Kodály worked hard to cultivate the urban public’s acceptance of peasant music as an important resource for art music, in part by composing works that incorporated various...

  11. 6 The “Bartók Question” and the Politics of Dissent: The Case of András Mihály
    (pp. 117-148)

    The most infamous Hungarian political event of 1949 was the show trial of László Rajk. Rajk, who had served as Hungary’s minister of the Interior and then foreign minister during the early postwar years, was imprisoned in May 1949 on false charges of treason, war crimes, and espionage largely associated with his ostensible support for Tito’s Yugoslavian brand of Communism rather than Stalin’s Soviet variety. Rajk was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death; he was executed on 15 October 1949. His arrest and trial, as well as those of other prominent members of the Hungarian Workers’ Party, closely resembled the...

  12. Epilogue East: Bartók’s Difficult Truths and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956
    (pp. 149-156)

    The Hungarian ban on Bartók’s most modernist works remained in place from its inception in 1950 through 1955. As the tenth anniversary of Bartók’s death drew near, however, Hungarian officials were concerned about a possible recurrence of American propaganda attacks. Rákosi, who had recently resumed dictatorial control over the government as Hungary’s premier, decided that the best way to avoid this scenario was to provide internationally visible signs of support for Bartók’s music without spending too much money or making any ideological concessions to Western views of the composer’s importance. In April 1955 two high-level functionaries, Gyula Kállai and Erzsébet...

  13. Epilogue West: Bartók’s Legacy and George Rochberg’s Postmodernity
    (pp. 157-166)

    Looking back on the relationship between politics and music during the cold war, György Ligeti observed that “with the collapse of practical, existing socialism the ice began to crack under the feet of the true-believing, ‘socially critical’ avant-garde.”¹ It is true that Western modernism fell into uncertainty after the decline of socialism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s; but the seeds of this uncertainty were sown in the 1960s, when some musicians began more openly to question the ethical superiority that modernists had been asserting since the end of the Second World War. Although the polar oppositions of cold war...

  14. APPENDIX 1: Compositions by Bartók Broadcast on Hungarian Radio, 18 September to 1 October 1950
    (pp. 167-169)
  15. APPENDIX 2: Biographical Notes
    (pp. 170-172)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 173-206)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 207-220)
  18. Index
    (pp. 221-229)