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Music Is a Matter of Evolution

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Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer who lived from 1881 to 1945. He was a remarkable person, composer, husband, father and friend. Twentieth-century nationalism changed the way people looked at music. Composers of twentieth-century nationalism tried to keep the essence of the older traditional songs. Bartók tried to attempt to do this with the songs of his native country of Hungary. While creating his music, he became one of the most famous composers of his time.

Béla Bartók was born in Hungary in the late 1800s. He soon realized he had a passion for folklore, which was not typical music of Hungary; but music typical of Gypsies. The Hungarian music that is typical would be found only with the peasants. He went around to the villages of Hungary and tried to record and preserve the local songs that came from there. Bartók states, "Those days I spent in the villages among the peasants, were among the happiest of my life. In order to feel the vitality of this music one must, so to speak, have lived it. And this is possible only when one comes to know it by direct contact with the peasants." (Bartók) He is saying that to truly understand what the peasant music was like, one must be there to interact with them and learn their culture and music. In simple terms, you learn by doing. After interacting with the peasants, he said, "A natural phenomenon, just like the various forms of the animal or vegetable Kingdom. As a result, its individual organisms - the melodies themselves - are examples of the highest artistic perfection, on the other, the usual gypsy slop." (Bartok) It was interesting that he compared the melodies to the different animal kingdoms. They are all so different, yet much the same at the same time.

When Bartók was a toddler, he came down with smallpox, which gave him a rash that stayed with him until he was about five years old. Since he was isolated from other children, he was luckily stuck with his mother inside where he would listen to her play the piano. At such a young age, Bartók had an ear for music. He was able to pick it up very easily.

By the age of five, Bartók insisted that his mother Paula, give him piano lessons. Soon later, he was able to play 40 different songs on the piano. When he was eleven, he gave his first formal concert, including a piece he composed himself. When he was fifteen, he stopped getting lessons from László Erkel and started composing. He said that Brahms and Dohnányi were very influential on his composing, even though they were only a few years older than he.

Richard Strauss was also very influential on Bartok. In 1904, Bartok heard a young peasant woman sing folk songs to children she was taking care of. From that day on, Bartók decided to compose folk music. He wrote only one opera called "Bluebeards Castle" which he dedicated to his wife, Marta. He and his wife, Marta did concerts all over Hungary, until dark times came to



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