Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

ACS/CSA Toronto, May 2002
Atelier/Session 4: La sémiotique des frontières /The Semiotics of Boundaries


Bartók’s Boundaries: Trans/position, Trans/mission, Trans/gression
By Damjana Bratuž

In reviewing Bartók's aesthetics and achievement, a long list of "lieux de passage" springs to mind. Foremost is his work of trans/position from the realm of oral tradition to that of Western, original, com/position, a procedure in which, as he said, one can follow three paths: either (1) by preserving and enhancing the boundaries, the identity, of the inherited material; or (2) by playing on the very dividing line (Lotman 1990) between an ancestral tune and an utterly 'other,' advanced idiom; or, finally, (3) by adopting as a 'mother tongue' the codes underlying the ancient material - especially the peasant instrumental repertoire, "un lieu privilégié d'échanges et d'influences entre les folklores" (Lenoir 1986) - in a constant dialogue, contamination, and métissage of compositional elements. Moreover, in the trans/position of orally transmitted folk music into scripted form, Bartók " saisit les subtiles raffinements du passage de la parole à l'expression chantée" (Lenoir 1986).

The Trans/mission of the ancient codes, which are still audible, recognizable, in Bartók's music, is entrusted to performers/interpreters who for the most part still ignore the realm beyond the boundaries of the printed score (Bratuž 1967). Even those performers who have a commendable acquaintance with Bartók's recorded performances have never crossed the line , the "filtering membrane " (Lotman 1990), to the sources from which the composer drew (Bratuž 1996). Scholars still define as "arbitrary" (Wilson 1992) the unrecognized stylistic derivation from peasant vocal practices.

Therefore Bartók's recorded trans/gression in the performance of his printed scores cannot be contextualized and thus properly heard (Bratuž 1993). Nor can trans/gression be grasped as a compositional 'passing over' from one geographical, and therefore stylistic, code to another.
It is a contemporary practice especially in opera to transgress, to appropriate, and to trans/late a work, most often by playing tricks rather than adding insights. In Bartók's opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle a bard's spoken Prologue serves as a threshold to the work, the door which precedes the opera's seven fateful doors. Most often, in Western productions and recordings, the Prologue is omitted altogether. At times it is translated, but without any explanation of its import as a structural lieu de passage. In this paper I will examine an example of 'voice' appropriation of this Prologue, and the way it totally diverts and eradicates the text from its poetic, structural, and mythical boundaries.

Visual and musical illustrations.
Equipment needed: equipment for Power Point presentation (or: Overhead projector and CD player)


  Damjana Bratu TOP

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