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Post-Tonal Affinities in Piano Works of Bartók, Chen, and Crumb


Monica Kang

The book explores cellular pivots as a new means of progression, functional tonality having disappeared in much of contemporary music. Béla Bartók can be seen as a kind of father figure to the other two composers, Chen Yi and George Crumb, in terms of their stylistic, technical, and even philosophical connections. The musical affinities of all three composers reflect a larger body of post-tonal music. Cell constructions and their pivotal motions span the gamut from traditional/asymmetrical to more abstract/symmetrical formations. This study provides insight into universal principles of the post-tonal era and reveals a broader evolution of the musical language as represented by the three composers.
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Chapter 3 Folk Tunes and Their Transformations in Bartók’s Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20


Chapter 3Folk Tunes and Their Transformations in Bartók’s Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20

The use of authentic folk sources is exemplified in Bartók’s Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20 (1920). His search for a mother tongue in composition began with his early investigations into native Hungarian folk sources, an immersion that stemmed from a reaction against the ultra-chromaticism of German late-Romantic music. Patriotic sentiment during the first decade of the century led Bartók and other Hungarian composers like Zoltán Kodály to turn to the folk music of their own culture. These sentiments infiltrated all aspects of Bartók’s life—he began to wear Hungarian rather than Western dress, spoke only Hungarian at home, and dropped the “von” from his family signature.1 His first major composition to express nationalistic feelings was the Kossuth Symphony (1903), named after the hero who led the 1948 revolution for Hungarian independence from Austria. While other established musicians, such as Liszt, interpreted Hungarian peasant songs as crude, Bartók was inspired by folk songs derived directly from the local people.2 Bartók notated a Hungarian urban folk song, or popular art song (Magyar nóta), after hearing a peasant girl Lidi Dósa in Kibéd, Maros-Torda in 1904, whose rendition was very different from that of the gypsies. This led him to record authentic Hungarian folk music in the summer of 1906, expanding his investigations to other linguistic nations within Greater Hungary. The...

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