i suppose the incredibly vast, rich, and valuable body of his work left behind - compositions, transcriptions, ethnomusicological findings, editions and arrangements of classics for pedagogical purposes, and thoughts on music in general - is plentiful evidence for the common observer to work from in the pursuit of knowing the man behind the music, knowing the music, knowing the process.
the only problem...
much of the activity which gave shape and depth to bartók's musical voice occurred first inside his own mind. often there would arise a challenge or specific technical problem, and it needed solving. this quest for solution would be the impetus to create a revolutionary musical practice, would be the birth of his original piano method. he wrote for the student, the enthusiast, the able-bodied performer and able-minded musician. he wrote to preserve the folk songs with which he fell in love on his travels of eastern Europe and northern Africa.
but from where else, with what other catalyst, did his compositorial inspiration take flight?
in speaking of his piano suite, op. 14 (1916), béla bartók sought after "bones and music", not with complex chordal textures used often in preceding musical traditions.
while the below recording was selected so that you could see the score, i would also recommend listening to the composer himself playing the piece - he was a tremendous pianist who played almost "plastic"-ally (according to a former student, storm bull).
I: Allegretto 0:00
II: Scherzo: 2:16
III: Allegro Molto: 4:16
IV: Sostenuto 6:38
also an amazing find in my most recent inquiry into the nature and music of this man was his string quartet no. 2 (1915).
helpful in my analysis of the piece, which i wasn't very sure of upon first listen, was the following write-up found beneath the video:
"As in other works from the era, especially the yet-to-come violin sonatas, Bartók here approaches a type of atonality, a "pseudo-atonality" that is partly a function of his radical, harmonically advanced polyphony, wherein melodies that have clear and easily comprehended shapes intertwine with each other in ways that produce great intervallic and harmonic tensions; yet these same processes also yield gem-like moments of diatonic triads, all the more beautiful for their rarity."
the "gem-like moments" in the first movement can be located @ 3:03 and @ 8:10. perhaps i shouldn't tell you where they are, but these moments are just some of the most beautiful things i've heard from béla bartók thusfar, as a combined unit of voices simultaneously sounding.
00:00 - I. Moderato
10:15 - II. Allegro molto capriccioso
17:45 - III. Lento
it does sound like chaos or some sort of randomness upon first listen, BUT, i realized that the "harmonically advanced polyphony" mentioned above is often actually the superimposition of disparate melodic lines at points which sometimes offset each other by various rhythmic values.
i was playing the second piece in the sixth book of his mikrokosmos series ("little world" - a set of six instructional books beginning with easy/beginner-level piano pieces working up to difficult sight-reading exercises/technical pieces for various pianistic skills) called "subject and reflection" last night. i realized that when played alone, the right hand was a completely tonal melody which sounded very much like the vocal part of a folk song. the left hand, also, was rhythmically-similar yet diatonically-dissimilar (of a different key or mode) to the right hand's line, and was reminiscent of the same folk tune...
below you will find a midi version of the piece. the sound quality isn't all that great, but i believe the notes will introduce your ear quite nicely to this particular section of bartók's sound world. the two hands, again, are playing two disparate melodies simultaneously.
this, to me, was a very exciting glimpse at some of the hidden workings of bartók's compositorial, musical mind.
my personal conclusion so far of bartók is one that echoes a few of the hungarian poets/composers of his time and of the generation following him~
attila józsef: "consonance is dissonance understood," | "music understood from nonmusic";
andrás fodor: "your music is an entire world, and i find my way home in it";
györgy somlyó: "stretch us, no matter how much the muscles may hurt."
his music is not immediately graspable to our ears, but that very inaccessibility is what commands the study of it. i wish to understand the genius, locate the inner workings and attempt to make sense of them, much like he would most likely have felt about the music of bach. many have compared the two in terms of sheer impact on the musical world.
i feel it as a duty to this human who worked so diligently and lovingly towards a better piano teaching method, a better way of understanding classic pieces, a revolutionary way of hearing/playing/learning music, and an inclusion of raw human song in the classical realm of written and performed music.
rhythm as poetry
by this band
is a completely monolithic achievement and,
steve albini hates them?
the sense of space,
utilizing intro and outro time for atmosphere exploration
the carefully-chosen harmonies which unite, acknowledge each other, and then part,
making way for continued movement
(like the ending of "turn it off" @ 34:48, holy SHIT!)
the design of each song's individual structure - systematic;
parts placed beside and on top each other in the only way which will make the machine work
the rhythmic shifts, sometimes indiscernible, never stagnate or block the flow of life energy,
always different shapes and colors emanating from this singular source
LISTEN SO LOUDLY THE KICK DRUM KICKS YOU
FLOAT OUT TO SEA ON THE GUITARS' WAVES
RIDE THE BASSLINE LIKE YOU ARE IN A TINY FLOATING CAR