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Date of Award

1959

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Music

Abstract

What is generally referred to by the public-at-large as “modernism” is thought (by it) to be based upon the denial and contradiction of the fundamental principles of musical art. But it would be a grave error to assume from this that the present age differs in the attitude toward modernism very considerably from any other, except perhaps in degree. The general intellectual or artistic niveau of any period whatsoever is almost inevitably a low one, apart from a few outstanding figures -- rarely exceeding two or three in any single generation -- who impart most of the significance to it. One is too prone to forget that art is somewhat different from other human activities in that the achievement of one man of genius far outweighs that of any number of mediocrities put together, even though he may be outnumbered by them in the ratio of a thousand to one. Even though it is rare, if not impossible, to find a man of solitary genius who is not indebted to at least one or several lesser men for his achievements it still holds true that a thousand noughts added together only amount to nothing in the end. It is the inability to recognize this simple truth that is primarily responsible for the all-too-familiar charge of decadence which is increasingly brought by each successive generation against its contemporary artists, even in the most incomparably fertile periods of artistic activity.

In Bartok’s music one can feel a rich humaneness. The mechanization of music as found in Stravinsky, and the constructivism of Schoenberg in later years, are equally alien to Bartok. No matter how new his music, no matter how far he ventures into unexplored tonal spheres, his music never loses its inherent warmth. His keen mind, thinking clearly and surely, does not chill the emotion and does not allow the soul to freeze, as do the intellect of Schoenberg and the calculated objectivity of Stravinsky.

Regardless of how much Bela Bartok condenses music and reduces it to the very essential of tone and rhythm, and even when he seeks heights where the atmosphere becomes thin and cold, music remains an art of the soul, of its grief and sorrow. The songs of the people, from whom Bela Bartok is descended, still resound into the lonely spheres in which the spirit of a great composer sought a new truth

Pages

184

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Music Commons

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