It is widely known that Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály conducted fundamental research in the field of Hungarian rural folk music. During their fieldwork, they focused almost exclusively on monophonic songs. Their preference had at least two main criteria: firstly, monophony as a folk music phenomenon showed striking differences to the harmonically based, often over-harmonized, polyphonic Western music; secondly, this music inspired their compositional processes. Monophony alone must have been a major discovery, the significance of which was further enriched by the abundance and unique character of its scales and rhythmic diversity. This freshly discovered musical universe would not have been a true revelation if its essential harmonic implications had been similar to those of Western music. However, Bartók and Kodály were aware of the musical taste of the period; accordingly, they knew that to popularize their discovery and impress wider audiences, or even simply shock trained musicians by Hungarian monophony, they still had to dress folk melodies in Western-style musical clothing. As they wrote in the “Foreword” to the jointly released first edition of the Magyar népdalok [Hungarian folk songs] series in 1906:
The best must be selected and then to some extent adapted to the public taste by some sort of musical arrangement. Folk songs must be dressed to be taken from the fields to the city.2
They immediately emphasized their own role, which consisted of harmonizing the melodies:
In urban attire, however, they [the folk songs] feel awkward and uncomfortable. Their apparel must be cut in a fashion that will not hinder their breathing. Whether for chorus or for piano, the accompaniment should always be of a nature as to make up for the lost fields and village. But as far as the authenticity of the melodies is concerned, a popularizing edition should not be inferior to the complete [i.e. scholarly] edition.
For both composers, the worlds of folk and peasant music became sources of inspiration. They viewed the humble harmonization of folk songs as the composer’s highest task, convinced that the ultimate degree of composition entailed mastering the ancient musical language, absorbed to the level of a native tongue. Kodály formulated this view in an article from 1925, originally written in German, which was entitled Ungarische Musik:
Those who become imbued with this kind of music [i.e. Hungarian folk music] will understand much easier the new Hungarian music. … These songs give the foundation, the productive soil of our new music. For the new Hungarian composers are inspired directly by these melodies, more than by any other European school of composition. Not that they would treat these songs as “themes.” Folk themes hardly occur in their free compositions. Only their atmosphere, their primary matter comes to life in these works.3
In relation to composition, Kodály considered personal involvement an essential condition for folk-song arrangements: the composer had to acquire instantaneously “the vivid image he should reflect.” In addition, it was necessary to familiarize himself with a large repertoire; the melodies must be well-chosen from a corpus and “adequately fitted” musically, including employing the “correct” harmonization, and should remain “spiritually: in the same mood dimension.” These abilities “require poetic empathy and total absorption.”4 Bartók and Kodály viewed the possible solutions relating to harmonization similarly, the most important of which was that the horizontal (melodic) features should also appear vertically: in the harmony.5 Kodály identified this aspect in connection with Bartók’s music already in 1921:
In the fight, going on since the sixteenth century, between the “vertical” and the “horizontal” principles, harmony has triumphed. By the nineteenth century, harmony dominated music so strongly that melody and rhythm became increasingly impoverished. … What Saint-Saëns sought for in the Far East and in the Church modes, what Debussy found in the Russian songs, Bartók discovered in the old Hungarian folk song. The folk song, conceived in the pentatonic system, offered a fruitful contrast to the harmonically pre-defined melodic world and to the fatigued chromaticism. . The change in the melodic style has inevitably affected the harmonies. The new relationships, which have been created between certain notes in “succession,” also prevailed simultaneously, in the consonances. We perceive now as relaxing even such consonances that previously had been unintelligible without being resolved.6
A decade later, Kodály condensed the essence of his concern with the polyphonic structure of Hungarian music in the following single sentence:
(It is a difficult question!) Not the reconciliation of the Hungarian melody with the Western-European harmony, but the finding of the harmony anxious to get out from the Hungarian melody.7
The question arising from this perspective is: to what extent can the harmo-nization preserved in folk tradition match the composers’ expectations, and to what degree does it reflect the idea of the consonance (derived by the composer) of the melodic style?
I employ the term “folk harmonization” for various phenomena relating to intentional folk polyphony, in connection with instrumental performance. The nature of the instrument itself provides the possibilities of harmonization in the case of the bourdon instruments (bagpipe, hurdy-gurdy, and zither). Their influence is significant, appearing many times in the works of Bartók and Kodály. Ethnomusicological research, however, primarily determines the use of chords within instrumental folk music based on the practice of string bands.
István Pávai classified coordinated folk polyphony according to harmonization styles. He established the existence of two types of harmonization in the Transylvanian practice he examined, as well as their various combinations: firstly, tune-oriented harmonization, the most common form of which is the accompaniment moving in mixtures of parallel major chords, performed by ensembles consisting of a violin, a three-stringed kontra, and a double bass; secondly, harmonization based on the validation of functional attractions familiar from the classical repertoire. However, even this harmonization approach is not realized in a manner customary to the practice of art music. The main melodic movement, reinforcing functional harmonies (such as the step from the dominant to the tonic, or from the leading note to the fundamental note), is played by all accompanying instruments, and sometimes also by the melodic instrument.8
Harmonization which shadows the melody with major chords is aligned with the ancient manner, and developed from the spirit of monody. These elements are also demonstrated in the organ accompaniment of uneducated peasant cantors.9 This custom of harmonization also corresponds to the composers’ aforementioned expectations, inasmuch as the accompaniment does not obscure, or re-interpret, the characteristics of the melody, and does not impose a foreign harmonization practice. The initial shift towards to the use of harmonies reflecting functional influences was the appearance of derivatives of subdominant, dominant, and tonic chords in the cadences. In the Hungarian dance music tradition of Transylvania, however, even the so-called functional harmonization is connected to monophony, as all instrumental parts seek to play the main melodic step, from the leading note to the cadential note. For the ear accustomed to art music, these harmonization methods already encompass a unique color. Furthermore, folk music performance practices result in harmonies which are complicated further to the theoretical construction seeking to mirror the musical thinking of the performers.
It is well documented that both Bartók and Kodály had personal experiences with village Gypsy bands, or at least with the violin accompanied by the kontra, it is therefore clear that they encountered folk harmonization. Bartók collected music from Romanian musicians in the Transylvanian Plain in 1912,10 and Kodály from village Gypsy musicians performing peasant music, in Bukovina in 1914.11 Kodály also produced a sound recording of a Gypsy band performance in 1928 in Nagykálló, Szabolcs County, an ensemble he had previously heard in 1926.12 Additionally, as mentioned in the preface to the score of his Dances of Galánta, Kodály had childhood experiences with a Galánta band’s performances led by the prime violinist Mihók.13 The Transylvanian Plain on the one hand and Szabolcs County and Galánta on the other, represent two distinct worlds of folk harmonization: the former a more archaic, tune-oriented harmonization based on major chords, while the latter embodies the new style practice of harmonization, applying the functional harmonies of Western music.
A notable variant of functional harmonization, often leading to overcomplicated harmonies, can be observed in the practice of urban Gypsy ensembles. In these performances, harmonization is not limited to single chords, but rather progresses continuously as a harmonic circling on the viola; accordingly, the rigidity and the rhythmic constrainedness of the harmonies no longer dictate the melody. Simultaneously, the use of harmonies is further expanded through the minor seventh and ninth chords, up to the dominant chords with diminished fifth – or augmented sixth, if we take into account chordal inversions or reinterpretations.14 These particular harmonies were especially important to Kodály (cf. the socalled “Kodály dominant”).15
Comparing the aforementioned types of folk harmony with folk-song harmonization in the works of Bartók and Kodály reveals a general difference: the presence of polyphonic writing, involving imitation, and harmonies resulting from the movement of the voices. Such features are characteristic of the folk-song arrangements of both Bartók and Kodály, creating a transparent, balanced musical texture at times rich, even dense, yet meticulously planned. In precisely this respect their works differ from urban Gypsy band performance practices. Although the inner voices are also present, they typically lead to textual overcrowding: an approach which is quite similar to that of the village bands. Musicians require musical signals to communicate amongst the ensemble indicating the anticipated harmony, and within instrumental parts; they master the variations, employ rich figurations, and ornaments akin to a village band prime violinist.
Kodály and Bartók’s folk-song arrangements and harmonizations reflect the stylistic changes of their respective œuvres, which evolved in a largely parallel manner. In their first joint publication of folk songs (the set of 20 Hungarian Folk Songs from 1906) the melody was also included in the piano accompaniment, with reference to the contemporary state of the musical culture in Hungary. However, modal relations were already typical in the harmonization of folk songs at the time of publication, while the presence of authentic cadences and functional harmonic relations were less common: thus acquiring a special emphasis. Finally, in the case of repetition, harmonization was subjected to variation.
Istenhozzάd szülöttem föld (Farewell my native country) is a pentatonic, descending shepherd’s song from the Transdanubian Region,16 with a progression in the harmonic minor and a functional harmonization directed towards a false cadence; subsequently – from the minor mode sixth degree – it circumscribes the
Neapolitan harmony in a manner that is familiar from the works of Romantic masters like Schubert and Brahms (measures 5–6). Following the authentic cadence, the tonic alternates with a subdominant pendular movement (I – IV7 – I); this type of plagal cadence is well known in classical practice (see Example 1).
Kodály’s use of harmony is based on Romantic and Impressionist styles. As research has established, in the 1920s there was a shift in Kodály’s use of harmony; the first emblematic piece of his new style is the Dances of Marosszék.17 Kodály collected the rondo theme in this work from a Gypsy violinist in Gyergyóremete (today: Remetea, Romania).18 Kodály believed he had identified the source of the tune in the melody Égo lángban forog szívem (My heart revolves in burning flame) in the Vietórisz Codex, where the melody has a Phrygian cadence, though the melody itself is in the Aeolian mode.19 Meanwhile through further research, the melody has been identified in broader contexts, namely in the form of vocal and instrumental connections with music from Transylvania (including a texted version in the Bartalus collection and a Romanian version recorded in an eighteenth-century Viennese source).20 Kodály harmonized the melody, according to its cadence, in G-sharp Phrygian (see Example 2). However, the consistent use of E-sharp in the first part of the melody reinforces the tonality of C-sharp major and the actual Phrygian tonic gives the impression of a dominant half-cadence, according to tradition. The second part approaches F-sharp minor, through harmonic steps of an authentic nature. Subsequently, a succession of the second inversion of a seventh chord with an augmented sixth, followed by the dominant seventh ensues, arriving at B major, and followed by an ascending bass progression in harmonic C-sharp minor which arrives at a cadence in G-sharp Phrygian. (NB: For a short moment, we also perceive the change of two third-related harmonies: B major–D minor. This is a disjunctive third relation, with no common notes between the two chords, also known as “ultra-third relation” in Hungarian terminology.)
In later works that were similarly inspired by instrumental folk music, Kodály used more simplified and consolidated harmonies. In both the Dances of Galánta and the first section of the Kálló Double Dance, he utilized a descending melodic structure. In the Dances of Galánta he placed the harmonies on a descending bass progression (Example 3). The theme’s particularity in Dances of Galánta is the distance of a major second between the cadences of the first and the second half of melody, which, in relation to harmony, results in a difference between the starting
and the closing tonality: a modulation from E minor to D Dorian. In other words, Kodály interpreted the theme, in terms of both the mode and the fundamental note, as a modulating period.
When harmonizing the melodies in Kálló Double Dance, Kodály could draw from sound recordings which feature the Nagykálló Gypsy band. In this instance, Kodály’s use of harmony comes the nearest to the performance practice of Gypsy musicians. In the first melody (Example 4), he only employs harmonies with a
leading note and a constant dominant character anticipating the next note or harmony sparingly – in instances of structural significance – in a manner characteristic of the functional harmonization cultivated by Gypsy bands. Kodály initiates the descending Dorian melody21 in a tonality based on E, with the seventh chord on the sixth degree, thus weakening the impression of tonality. Subsequently, be-fore the cadence of the first melodic line, we hear the applied dominant seventh chord on the second degree, i.e. secondary dominant (m. 20). The cadence of the second melodic line – the first degree of E minor –is preceded by the following succession (in E minor): second inversion of the seventh chord on the second degree followed by a dominant seventh chord, with a suspension 6 to 5, familiar from Romantic practices. Prior to this, the first measure of the second melodic line (m. 22), forming the G-major seventh chord, (an applied dominant on the third degree), leads to a C-note in the bass (a component of the second inversion of the seventh chord on the second degree). That is to say, the harmony is not defined by the note of the melody, but by the descending fifth in the bass. Kodály also harmonizes melodic lines 3 and 4 in a similar manner.
The final examples demonstrate emblematically Kodály’s complex and sophisticated harmonic processes for the accompaniment of folk songs in order to create autonomous music. Especially when the melody borrowed from folk music appears in its original form, unchanged.
In harmonizing the decasyllabic, descending Phrygian melody,22 heard in the third number of Kodály’s Székely fonó (Transylvanian spinning room), the tonality is indicated by a fourmeasure introduction, reiterating the tonic (E) in quarter values (see Example 5). At the start of the melody, according to the tradition of harmonizing Phrygian melodies, we hear the minor triad on the fourth degree throughout the first melodic line, with the tonic chord only appearing under the last note of the melody as a viola-like inner part. By the end of the second melodic line, there is a shift to the parallel major of A minor (also the sixth degree of the Phrygian mode, in m. 187). The third melodic line contains a descent, in the authentic manner: through perfect fifths in the bass (F-major chord with minor seventh – B-flat major chord with major seventh – E-flat). At the phrase’s conclusion (once reaching the melodic cadence) there is a seventh chord in the third inversion with an augmented sixth. As a continuation, at the beginning of the fourth melodic line, the bass descends a fifth to A-flat, above which is placed a further seventh chord in the third inversion with an augmented sixth. This is resolved on a G in the bass and a dominant ninth chord built above. The cadence at the end of the melody would be C, according to the harmonic sequence. Kodály, however, retains ambiguity; E can only be heard in the melody, and, with the repetition of the E-major seventh chord, returns to A minor. It is worth noting that the augmented sixth above E-flat (C-sharp) remains unresolved in the harmonic sequence, yet appears in the melody, where line 4 starts with the note D (m. 191). Simultaneously, the augmented chord built on E-flat is resolved, in the accompaniment, on A-flat, which is the corresponding resolution for the Kodály-dominant
(E-flat–G–B-double flat–D-flat), enharmonically identical with augmented sixth chord built above E-flat.
In the finale of the Peacock Variations, the descending, fifth-shifting pentatonic melody appears in its original form (Example 6). Here, Kodály musically illustrates, so to speak, his famous statement made two years later: “one of our hands is still held by Nogai-Tatar, Votyak, and Cheremissian people, the other by Bach and Palestrina,”23 by anticipating that the two universes can converge. During the two appearances of the pentatonic melody, the bass descends chromatically (two semitones during a melodic line). Above this bass progression, dominant and applied dominant seventh and ninth chords are heard with suspended dissonances, which relate to the notes of the melody by causing further friction in the form of seconds and other harsh dissonances. Concurrently at the melodic cadences, relative consonances appear, suggesting hidden, yet animated, connections between the two systems that otherwise appear separated.
For Kodály, harmonizing folk songs meant the art of harmonization, since the folk songs are masterpieces in their own right. Folk songs are like precious stones, which can be framed only by rare, initiated, goldsmiths:
Harmonization of folk songs… The poetry of harmonization.
… Folk songs are not raw materials. They are rather pieces, frequently series of masterpieces, in an accomplished and crystallized state. Legare pietre.
… Leave them to one or two dozen people who are cut out for them.24
Open Access. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecom-mons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated. (SID_1)
English version of a paper the author delivered on 27 April 2017 in Budapest, in the context of the conference organized by the Hungarian Kodály Society and the Institute for Musicology (Research Center for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) on the 135 th anniversary of Zoltán Kodály’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his death.
Béla BARTÓK and Zoltán KODÁLY, Magyar népdalok. Énekhangra, zongorakísérettel [Hungarian folk songs, for voice and piano] (Budapest: Rozsnyai Károly, 1906), 3.
Zoltán KODÁLY, “Magyar zene” [Hungarian music], in id., Visszatekintés [In retrospect], ed. by Ferenc BÓNIS (Budapest: Zenem?kiadó Vállalat, 1982), vol. 1, 25.
Zoltán KODÁLY, Magyar zene, magyar nyelv, magyar vers [Hungarian music, Hungarian language, Hungarian poetry], ed. by Lajos VARGYAS (Budapest: Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, 1993), 64. (= Kodály Zoltán hátrahagyott írásai [Zoltán Kodály’s posthumous writings], vol. 2).
On Bartók’s principles and practice of folk-song harmonization, see Pál RICHTER, “A népi harmo-nizálástól a népdalok harmonizálásáig” [From folk harmony to harmonizing folk songs], Magyar Zene 51/4 (November 2013), 369–383.
. Originally published in French, as Zoltán KODÁLY, “Béla Bartók,” La Revue Musicale 25 (March 1921), 205-217.
KODÁLY, Magyar zene, 61.
For the most recent summary of folk harmonization and the use of chords in instrumental folk music (mainly the practice of string ensembles), see István PÁVAI, Az erdélyi magyar népi tánczene [Hungarian folk dance music from Transylvania] (Kolozsvár [Cluj-Napoca]: Kriza János Néprajzi Társaság, 2012), 344–345. For further examples, cf. RICHTER, A népi harmonizálástól a népdalok harmonizálásάig, 369–383.
Ibid., 375–380. Pál RICHTER, “Organ Accompaniment Practices of Uneducated Cantors in Small Villages of the Carpathian Basin,” Traditiones [Journal of the Institute of Slovenian Ethnology], 48/2 (2019), 133–147.
Bartók was the first to describe the three-stringed kontra, which he first encountered in the Transylvanian Plain, in the village of Mez?szabad (in Romanian: Voiniceni) in 1912. He recorded a further encounter with the instrument in the valley of the Görgény (in Romanian: Gurghiu) River in 1914. A good example is his transcription of the melody from Mez?szabad which became the source of the first piece in the series Romanian Folk Dances (1915, BB 68). Cf. Folk Music in Bartók’s Compositions. A Source Catalog, ed. by Vera LAMPERT and László VIKÁRIUS (Budapest: Hungarian House of Traditions / Helikon Kiadó / Museum of Ethnography / Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2008), 113–114.
Lujza TARI, Kodály Zoltán, a hangszeres zene kutatója [Zoltán Kodály, researcher of instrumental music] (Budapest: Balassi, 2001), 228–262; Olga SZALAY, “Kodály népzenei gy?jtésének mutatói” [Indices of Kodály’s folk music collections], appendix in Kodály népdalfeldolgozásainak dallam- és szövegforrásai [Melody and text sources of Kodály’s folk-song arragements], ed. by János BERECZKY, Mária DOMOKOS, Imre OLSVAI, Katalin PAKSA, and Olga SZALAY (Budapest: Zenem?kiadó Vállalat, 1984), no. 73 from Guraszolce, Bukovina.
János BREUER, Kodály-kalauz [A guide to Kodály] (Budapest: Zenem?kiadó, 1982), 263–265; BERECZKY et al. (eds.), Kodály népdalfeldolgozásainak dallam- és szövegforrásai, 309–314, items no. 531, 535, and 537.
“The author spent in Galánta the most beautiful seven years of his childhood. The Galánta band, led by Mihók, was famous at that time.” Zoltán KODÁLY, “Galántai táncok. El?szó a partitúrához. 1934” [Dances from Galánta. Preface to the score. 1934], in id., Visszatekintés, vol. 2, 493.
Cf. the collection and recording made with Gypsy musician Kálmán Bakos, viola player of the Honvéd Ensemble’s folk band (ZTI_DM_2O12_11_25). Bakos came from Szabolcs County, from near Nyíregyháza, i.e. the same area where Kodály collected from a Gypsy band in 1928.
The dominant seventh chord with a diminished fifth (in C major: G–B–D-flat–F) was identified as the Kodály dominant by Ern? Lendvai. See Ern? LENDVAI, Bartók és Kodály harmóniavilάga [The harmonic world of Bartók and Kodály] (Budapest: Zenem?kiadó, 1975), 19–28. The Kodály dominant was treated in detail, in connection with Kodály’s use of harmonies, by Anna Dalos. See Anna DALOS, Forma, harmónia, ellenpont. Vázlatok Kodály Zoltán poétikájához [Form, harmony, counterpoint. Essays on Zoltán Kodály’s poetics] (Budapest: Rózsavölgyi és Társa, 2007), 170–188.
Type no. 18.079.0/11 in the Folk Music Collection of the Institute for Musicology.
DALOS, Forma, harmónia, ellenpont, 169.
BERECZKY et al. (eds.), Kodály népdalfeldolgozásainak dallam- és szövegforrásai, 68, item no. 96.
Zoltán KODÁLY, A magyar népzene (1937) [Hungarian folk music] (Budapest: Zenem?kiadó, 9/1984), 89.
István PÁVAI, “A Marosszéki táncok f?témájának folklórkapcsolatai” [The folklore connections of the main theme of the Dances from Marosszék], in Utunk Kodályhoz [On our way to Kodály], ed. by Ferenc LÁSZLÓ (Bukarest [Bucure?ti]: Kriterion, 1984), 69–87; id., “Kodály marosszéki dallamai” [Kodály’s Marosszék melodies], A Magyar Kodály Társaság Hírei [Bulletin of the Hungarian Kodály Society] 34/3 (September 2012), 6–9.
Type no. 18.246.0/0 in the Folk Music Collection of the Institute for Musicology, it belongs to the dance tune style with the rhythmic pattern of the swineherd’s dances.
Ibid., type no. 10.016.0/0, belonging to the Rákóczi tune and its Phrygian environment.
Zoltán KODÁLY, “Magyarság a zenében (1939)” [Hungarianness in music], in id., Visszatekintés, vol. 2, 260.
KODÁLY, Magyar zene, 61, 65.