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Years before the earliest recorded compositions by professional musicians, the common people sang, danced, and chanted lullabies, work songs, and prayers to their gods. Gradually, professional musicians and art music developed, and a distinction grew up between art music and folk music. The theory was that everything good and beautiful came from the gifted few and never from the common crowd. It never struck anyone as odd that those who expressed contempt of the people and all their works, continued to borrow all the best productions of the people, such as its finest folk melodies, dance rhythms, scales, and instruments.

It has only been in the last few years that we have been able to get and accurate picture of what real folk music is. Much that has passed for "folk" was in reality a smoothed-out and ornamented version of the real thing. In the past few decades, some of the world's finest musicians have gone into the remoter areas of their countries and have found a wealth of folk music, which is different from anything every heard from those countries, and much more beautiful.

Béla Bartók, a Hungarian, is one musician who has done extensive folk music research in his own and neighboring countries. As one of the world's most knowledgable ethnomusicologists, Bartók is known internationally for his researches in folk music. He is considered to be a nationalistic composer in every sense of the word. The sound, rhythms, and scales of Hungarian folk music became so much a part of him that he began to think in those terms. In the following discussion, it is shown how Bartók first became aware of this folk music, and how he used in in his compositions.



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