Beyond “The Soul of a Nation”: New Meanings for Irish Music

Harry White


The reception history of Irish traditional music as “the voice of nature” (Joseph Cooper Walker, 1786), or as “the soul of a nation” (John Millington Synge, 1902) has had a long innings. Although a romantic attachment to Irish traditional music as the definitive signature of Irishness itself abides to the present moment, its capacity to define Ireland musically, and to engender national identity, has been overtaken by more recent modes of cultural transmission within the past half-century. This is because the global reception of Irish music now bypasses its national meaning in favour of other distinctive agencies of interpretation.

My purpose in this short paper is to examine two such agencies. The first of these can be located within the domain of Anglo-American and American-Irish popular culture, including cinematic culture, in which Irish traditional music more than occasionally functions as a hybridized signature of violence or protest, or both. The second agency is also American-Irish in origin, and it lies along a much older axis of reception history in which the canonic ingathering of Irish dance music in Boston and New York in the early 20th century would gradually relieve the tradition of its national signatures in favour of a new and essentially apolitical emphasis on mastery in performance. In this progression, the refuge of Irish traditional music attains to a globalised condition of meaning.

Nation Building through Solmization. Nationalism and Music Pedagogy in the Context of Zoltán Kodály’s Method

Anna Dalos


The use of solmization in musical pedagogy is connected to the name of Zoltán Kodály worldwide. However, my paper does not aim to investigate the different musical pedagogical sources or the influence of the Kodály method. It looks primarily for the political and cultural background of the formation of the method, concentrating on the Hungarian nationalism of the 1940s which influenced Kodály’s concept about “Hungarianness”, and tries to answer the question why the composer, despite his individualistic modernism, turned to musical pedagogy at all. Thus, the paper aims at revealing the historical context that made possible the development of the method. Similarly, it examines the question of what musical benefit Kodály recognized in the method of solmization for the national and democratic development of Hungary, amidst Nazi and fascist orientation of the official state politics. Following this question, the paper turns to the issues of clear singing, of the development of hearing and musical memory, as well as the problems of monophony and polyphony in singing as symbols for the “unity” of the Hungarian nation.

Balancing Nationalistic Tendencies in the Musical Life of the State-Socialist Federal Yugoslavia

Melita Milin


Yugoslavia shared all the main ideas of the Eastern bloc, but only during the first four post-war years, as its president, Tito, split with Stalin in 1948. The political and cultural climate became progressively more liberal and west-oriented after that. The Yugoslav state supported the shaping of the national identities of its peoples, but on a strictly controlled basis, as a vehicle for stimulating revolutionary patriotism. As a multinational federal state whose nations and minorities had very different cultural traditions, Yugoslavia was frail because equilibrium among the six republics and two autonomous provinces was hard to achieve and was based on problematic compromises. Different aspects of balancing nationalisms in the musical sphere are discussed in examples of the positive discrimination of the constitutive nations and minorities, some of which had only a very slight, if any, tradition of art music. On the other hand, some other constitutive nations of Yugoslavia possessed a relatively rich musical heritage, as they had been parts of the most developed Western nations for centuries. Also posed is the question as to whether it was at all possible to achieve a supra-national, Yugoslav musical identity in the given circumstances.

Marching the Nation. Military Bands and the Construction of a National March in Communist Romania

Nicolae Gheorghiță


Folkloric themes have been a major source of constant inspiration for Romanian brass band compositions since their foundation in 1831. However, with the establishment of the communist regime in Romania, the transformation of the Society of Romanian Composers into the Union of Composers and Musicologists of the Romanian People’s Republic (1949) and the establishment of the Military Music Subsection (1957), following the Soviet model, a body that would manage and guide, at the level of the whole country, the entire creation for brass bands, folkloric music became dominant and obligatory in all compositions for brass bands, both military and amateur. All the compositions produced during the Romanian Monarchy will be rejected and taken out of use, being replaced by “new” repertoires, accessible and standardized at the Army level, repertoires based on an exclusively folk and Romanian melody. The study investigates the musical production of the best-known cazon genre, inseparably linked to the existence of brass bands – the march, the ways in which nationalist ideas and themes were assimilated, metamorphosed and expressed by the genre in question during the communist period in Romania, in relation to the political transformations of the state and the “cultural” policies of the Military Music Bureau.

Johann Sebastian Bach – National Composer or “Earthly Orpheus”?

Antigona Rădulescu


A study of Romanian musicology during the communist regime in Romania is an undertaking that still requires re-evaluation. Apparently, the main flaw of the period for writing about music would be the political entrenchment, the discourse becoming a tool of narrow interests, directed by several forces in power. But it can also reveal other coordinates – not only those subject to the totalitarian mentality, but also those that indicate the relationship with the national theme, with the place of a culture often understood through the filter of binomials such as national-universal, center-periphery, formalism-realism, etc. Even at the level of a punctual analysis around the texts written or translated in Romanian on J. S. Bach, from which the present study starts and will be largely based, some of the tendencies of Romanian musicology, with their hidden aspirations, complexes and intentions, are quite clearly visible, in close relation to the evolution of historical events on the scale of the whole society: the contradictory relation with the tradition of the interwar period, the submission to the Soviet model, the awakening of the national problem and, last but not least, the glorification of a national and ethnic specificity through the Protochronistic attitude.

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