About Béla Bartók and Zoltan Kodaly; from a TQP level 5 workbook

Updated: Feb 15

Béla Bartók: 25 March 1881 - 26 September 1945

20th Century: 1901 - 2000

Location: Born: Kingdom of Hungary. Now known as Romania

(Stevens, 2018)

Hungary has two famous musicians and composers, one is Franz Liszt and the other is Béla Bartók. Both these gentlemen were composers and virtuoso pianists, Bartók was also an ethnomusicologist.

An ethnomusicologist studies local music from a cultural and a social perspective.

Bartók became friends with Zoltan Kodaly around 1906 where he learnt a lot about the collecting of folk music.

They became lifelong friends and now Bartók is remembered for his compositions in Slavic folk styles. This was very unusual at the time. From this beginning, he and Kodaly, established a new school of comparative musicology. This became ethnomusicology. (Nelson, 2012) In 1908 Kodaly and Bartók set out to research and collect Magyar melodies. The Magyar are an distinct ethnic people local to what was known as the Kingdom of Hungary. This Kingdom ceased to exist due to the Treaty of Trianon which ended the Kingdom and World War 1. (Trueman, 2015) At this time there was an increase in interest regarding folk music and traditional Hungarian or Magyar culture.

The music of Hungary had often been associated with Gypsy music, for an example listen to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, these are based on melodies sung by Romani bands in the 1880's.

Forty years later when Bartók and Kodaly started to look closely at local folk music they found the music to be constructed from pentatonic scales commonly found in Asian folk traditions, unlike Gypsy music.

A phonograph was an essential tool for recording folk music. (Cowan, 2015) The term phonograph ("sound writing") was derived from the Greek words φωνή (phonē, "sound" or "voice") and γραφή (graphē, "writing"). (www.etymonline.com, n.d.)

At the time Bartók was using a phonograph, invented by Edision in 1877, it would have consisted of a large trumpet style bell to collect the sound which would be transferred on to a wax cylinder. We know this from an article the New York Times that states "An Edison phonograph, his portable tool for ethnic research, was a family entertainment as well, Bartok shaving and reusing the wax cylinders and from time to time recording his own playing on them." (Holland, 1981)

This device in time became known as a gramophone and a record player. (Electrohome Blog, 2017)

Bela Bartok using a gramophone to record folk songs sung by Slovak peasants.

Unknown author - Griffiths, Paul (1978) A Concise History of Modern Music, Thames and Hudson ISBN: 0-500-20164-1.

From Level 5 Workbook to go with Quasi Adagio available from this link.

Quasi Adagio - Grade 1 Piano.


Cowan, R. (2015). Béla Bartók – the life and music of the Hungarian maverick. [online] Gramophone. Available at: https://www.gramophone.co.uk/other/article/bela-bartok-the-life-and-music-of-the-hungarian-maverick [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Electrohome Blog. (2017). The History of the Record Player. [online] Available at: https://blog.electrohome.com/history-record-player/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Holland, B. (1981). BARTOK- A LIFE BARED ON DISKS (Published 1981). The New York Times. [online] 22 Nov. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/22/arts/bartok-a-life-bared-on-disks.html [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Nelson, D. (2012). Béla Bartók: The Father of Ethnomusicology. Musical Offerings, [online] 3(2), pp.75–91. Available at: https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=musicalofferings [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

Stevens, H. (2018). Béla Bartók | Hungarian composer. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bela-Bartok [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Trueman, C.N. (2015). The Treaty of Trianon. [online] History Learning Site. Available at: https://historylearningsite.co.uk/modern-world-history-1918-to-1980/the-treaty-of-trianon/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

www.etymonline.com. (n.d.). phonograph | Search Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=phonograph [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021].

Cite this publication (Harvard)

In text: (Caton-Greasley, 2021)

Bibliographic entry: Caton-Greasley, C.L. (2021). Knowledge Skills. Quasi Adagio by B. Bartók. A Level 5 piece. 2nd ed. [online] Stalybridge SK15 2JE: Triquetrae Ltd, pp.1–10. Available at: https://www.musicacademyhub.com/level-5-grade-1-piece-study-packs [Accessed 15 Feb. 2021]. A brief study on the composer to be used when studying the piece.

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