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Bela Bartok: An Analysis of His Music

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This important and highly original book, written by one of Hungary's leading musicologists, makes a vital contribution to the understanding of the work of one of the greatest composers of the last century. His research and analysis is liberally illustrated with music examples and diagrams. This important and highly original book, written by one of Hungary's leading musicologists, makes a vital contribution to the understanding of the work of one of the greatest composers of the last century. His research and analysis is liberally illustrated with music examples and diagrams.


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This important and highly original book, written by one of Hungary's leading musicologists, makes a vital contribution to the understanding of the work of one of the greatest composers of the last century. His research and analysis is liberally illustrated with music examples and diagrams. This important and highly original book, written by one of Hungary's leading musicologists, makes a vital contribution to the understanding of the work of one of the greatest composers of the last century. His research and analysis is liberally illustrated with music examples and diagrams.

30 review for Bela Bartok: An Analysis of His Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    What Kenneth Chalmers writes in his biography of Bartók summarizes my ambivalence about the so-called "credibility" of Lendvai's theorizing, so I will merely quote it here: For Lendvai, this is the development of what was hinted at in the irregular numbers of bars of galloping chords in Allegro barbaro years before. On the debit side, there is the problem that the time-signature of the fugue is constantly changing, so hardly two bars in succession are of the same length; the fifty-fifth bar is c What Kenneth Chalmers writes in his biography of Bartók summarizes my ambivalence about the so-called "credibility" of Lendvai's theorizing, so I will merely quote it here: For Lendvai, this is the development of what was hinted at in the irregular numbers of bars of galloping chords in Allegro barbaro years before. On the debit side, there is the problem that the time-signature of the fugue is constantly changing, so hardly two bars in succession are of the same length; the fifty-fifth bar is consequently not a very exact Golden Section. Nor is there any written evidence from Bartók that he worked out such numerical devices, or any trace on the sketches of the proportions being assembled. It is possible that Lendvai is simply fixing in detail what Bartók could create instinctively. Yet other aspects of Lendvai's theorizing do seem to account for the sound Bartók makes, in the chords which he habitually constructs. As always, the key to Bartók's method is the use of what is natural, like the acoustic scale of overtones, technically a 'natural' phenomenon." (178). Fair enough. Lendvai does contain a nice note about how he feels the 'inconsistent' pulsating of music, or rather, how humans perceive the ebb and flow of music, should be prioritized over the presence of any hard-line "bars-and-measures" counting. I see it both ways here, and it makes intuitive sense that intuitive, folksy performance profoundly influenced Bartók, even if it was to compose in a domain that was more fastidious about abiding every iota of notation. Lendvai's book is mostly that: theory. Having said that, what marvelous theories they are. The introduction of the Golden Series and the math behind it was a gorgeous learning experience for me, as was the Fibonacci series. For anyone who treasures Bartók's work and also feels that those little and strange irrational numbers can behave creepily sometimes, this book has some gems. Furthermore, putting aside some of the "is it or is it not true?" debate, what is stunning to watch is not necessarily that Lendvai "busted" Bartók for his secret tools and tricks. Either way, the story behind this book is fascinating. The first option is: this book is an accurate discovery which then exposes Lendvai as an analytical puzzle-solver extraordinaire. Furthermore, it shows the brilliance of Bartók's method as it incorporated folk idioms into a beautiful, thrilling new harmonic language. The other option really is that Lendvai's theories and faults don't have a "perfect fit," but what we then have is an "ambitious failure." If that is true, Bartók becomes a mystery of genius. Either Bartók felt all these natural principles through his brain, guts, and bones, and it just so incidentally captures a lot of natural principles. As for Lendvai, his analysis of the music makes him less of a musical theorist, but more of a conspiracy theorist. I envisioned him with sheet music posted on bulletin board, red yarn connecting each push-pin to different parts where the GS principles aligned. The book reads like a Jorge Luis Borges fable about the unraveling of an obsession with a composer and the way he crunched numbers. In short, if you are open to that glorious area of intellectual malleability known was the willingness to abide ambiguity, this book is a thrilling, brilliant reward. It is either the work of an obsessive aficionado projecting all kinds of theories to preserve his own love for a composer, or it is an analysis of a thrilling, brilliant, obsessive composer. Either way, the book is sublime when the beauty behind the acoustic principles indeed possess solid "red yarns" between Bartók's mission in life, his belief system about nature, and lastly, his reticence. "Let the music speak for itself," he would say (something similar, at least). He rarely (if ever) spoke of, or written of, these techniques. As a composer there are lovely new ways that this book will inspire you to explore the classic circle of fifths and find what lies beneath. This read is an inspiring read for the "music as math" types especially (cough Duke Ellington cough). Besides that it reinvigorated my admiration for the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Reads like this will keep my awe and reverence of Bartók longer that even I anticipated. Great work that functions a little above my 'level,' but whatever flickers of shadows I can pick up on the wall are enough to open my mind in ways well worth the read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    T.W. Huey

    This book is excellent and will always be in my music theory library. Batok's axis system is unlocked in full detail and ready for your compositional explorations. This book is excellent and will always be in my music theory library. Batok's axis system is unlocked in full detail and ready for your compositional explorations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Billy Moroney

  4. 4 out of 5

    Owen K

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pedram Forootan

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

  7. 4 out of 5

    Manolo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Davis

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emanuele Pasqualin

  10. 4 out of 5

    Curtainthief

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brett Banducci

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary-Jane

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pavel Richiard

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave Roche

  16. 4 out of 5

    Annamaria Nemedi

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gustavo Lange Fontes

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucian Roman

  20. 5 out of 5

    Uğur Sakarya

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jack Hosking

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Adams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Namrirru

  24. 5 out of 5

    Toto

  25. 5 out of 5

    Enrique Saad

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vic Dillahay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nacho Roca barber

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scott Watson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrei Pogorilowski

  30. 5 out of 5

    Soma Badami

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