On Language

Audio not yet available
Email a Friend

One of the more provocative concepts introduced to me by a music teacher in my youth had to do with the Hungarian language and accent patterns in the music of Bartok. The teacher said something to the effect of "in HUNgarian all ACcents are on the FIRST SYLlable, and we must INterpret BEla BARtok's MUSic with that INformation in mind."

Not only has this silly demonstration stayed with me, it has got me thinking about other languages and their relationships to the music pouring out of the countries that speak them. Do the parallel stacked tertian harmonies of French composers have to do with the oft-rhyming feet of the spoken language? For that matter, do American and English contributions to the cannon reflect the tonal differences in pronunciation on either side of the Atlantic? How does a country's language influence its music? Do you think language is more or less influential than some sort of national character?