Cheremis Musical Styles

Cheremis Musical Styles

Cheremis Musical Styles

Cheremis Musical Styles

Excerpt

The twenty-four Cheremis melodies recorded by Yrjö Wichmann's Hungarian wife furnished the bait at which Béla Bartók was the first to nibble. In his famous book on Hungarian folk music, Bartók raised the question whether the pentatonic scale found in both Cheremis and Hungarian melodies could possibly be of common origin. When, in the 1920's, a great many more Cheremis songs were published -- by Western music historians of the stature of Robert Lach, and by a number of native collectors among whom V. M. Vasil'ev was the most distinguished -- it fell to Bartók's collaborator, Zoltán Kodály, to explore the problem in all its rich implications. The conclusions he reached by 1937 after a series of studies enabled him to state: ". . . what has hitherto come to light from [Cheremis] music shows such surprising and profound identities with a layer of Hungarian folk music that one can today no longer doubt their ancient connection -- the more so since it is precisely this layer of the Hungarian repertory which is most unfamiliar in Europe and among neighboring peoples. . . . This layer is characterized by the pentatonic scale and a melody pattern with transposition down a fifth." By 1956, Kodály could cite twenty-two detailed parallels, a number which is especially impressive when viewed against the relative scarcity of materials.

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