Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

International Musicological Society
IMS 2002 SYMPOSIA  -  August 2002, Leuven, Belgium
I : Hearing-Performing-Writing

…a sign, a summons, a wink:”  Shamanic traces in Bartók’s Szabadban

by Damjana Bratuž

The title of this paper is borrowed from a page of Calvino (1985), a meditation on coincidence, on things that present themselves and ask for attention and observation; it is the thread linking the observations of a pianist used to the summons of the composer's indications as a guidance to the score. When the performer is ethnically and linguistically removed from the composer's background, the task is however one of observing what one does not know, rather than of deriving and applying already familiar relationships.

By coincidence the edition of Szabadban that came first into my hands was the old Universal which gave the pieces' titles in 3 languages. Thus the first title, Síppal, dobbal was followed by three dots: "…" that were missing in the English and German translations. A Hungarian child would have known the text referred to; I could only recall having encountered those foreign terms during the preparation of my thesis, when I examined the collections of hundreds of Hungarian folk tunes (Bratuž, 1967). When I did retrieve the text I sensed its great mythical import, and 'healing' connotations, but only after a few years I also found confirmation for it (Viski, 1932). The shamanic resonances of the Regös songs were mentioned by Bartók (1931). This paper probes, throughout the suite, those ancient kinetic and gestural patterns that call the attention of a pianist's hand and ear, and are neglected by current analytical practices; it does not presume to document, explain, verify, only to 'make audible.'

The first and the fifth pieces, especially, reveal not only the intervallic construction typical of Regös tunes (Kodaly, 1971), but also that particular fragmentation of the material which for the modern artist echoes the ancient shamanic rituals and initiations (Woodcock, 1980). The second piece invites the exploration and the retracing of the Water element as conceived by Bartók, both through sound layering and undulation. If in the third piece one follows the composer's note about bagpipe tunes (Bartók, 1981) and one "adds in one's imagination" the unwritten, permanent sound of the drone (the 'magic' polyphonic peasant instrument), one creates a rotating sound-spectrum with built-in inner harmonics. When the figurations are thus played in relation to the imagined drone, the Musette is heard as a sort of emanation - breath and Air. The Night's Music is examined for the seven 'territories,' or piano registers, in which the musical elements appear in a state of formazione .Through similarity of pitch and melodic contour an ancient (unconscious) connection appears, echoing a XII.cent. hymn. The final piece, with its left hand finger- drumming and its fiery speed, reminds us of the 3rd Mvt. of op.14 as recorded by Bartók: it foreshadows the Chase in the instrumental 'juxtaposition' of circular and vertical planes, and the clarity of the left-hand design. The Chase appears to embody, through those Arab characteristics, the ceremonies of exorcism described in detail (Bartók, 1933), "in which the possessed, je veux dire les auditeurs, doivent être poussés jusqu' á l'extase pour être libérés, guéris."


  Damjana Bratu TOP

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