Bartókiana - Abstracts
Influence and affinity:
from Béla Bartók’s direct filiation to Umberto Eco’s primitive affinities.
Influence et affinité:
De la filiation directe de Béla Bartók,
aux affinités primitives de Umberto Eco
Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Research Professor
The University of Western Ontario
When in 1913 Béla Bartók heard in Biskra (Algiers) a type of ornamented melody analogous to the ones he had collected the previous year in Romania, he assumed a possibility of “filiation directe.” In 1932, at congress in Cairo he heard similar melodic types from Iraki performers, and speaking of a triangle he hypothesized the existence “d’une étonnante chaine d’influences réciproques.”
This concern with the provenance of a folk tune paralleled the concern with the origin of a folk tale by the scholars of “the ‘Finnish’ or historical-geographic school” which Italo Calvino discussed in the Introduction to his Fiabe Italiane (Italian Folktales) of 1956. It was the Finnish ‘method’ that Bartók and Kodály had adopted in their first transcriptions of ancient Hungarian tunes. Calvino opposed the old concern with provenance to the transformational aspect of the tale itself.
In an essay devoted to the 1984 exhibit of tribal and avant-garde art at MOMA in New York, Umberto Eco probed the concepts of analogy and of the distinction between influence and affinity which the exhibit made possible through its gioco di confronti.
A similar play of comparisons is used in this presentation to examine, through visual and musical examples, some aspects of national identity both in Bartók’s collected folksongs and in his own compositions.
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