“The Untouchable: Bartók and the Scatological"

Móricz, Klára (2006) “The Untouchable: Bartók and the Scatological". Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 47 (3-4). pp. 321-336. ISSN 0039-3266

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In his 2002 book about his father Peter Bartók told stories about the composer that had never seen print before. Most surprising perhaps for readers used to the image of the rigorous, disciplined, morally uncompromising Bartók were Peter Bartók's descriptions about the composer's childish, obscene jokes. Despite the abundance of documentary evidence, scholars kept an embarrassed silence about the scatological nature of Bartók's humor. Embarrassing though the topic might sound, its discussion can reveal important aspects of not only Bartók's personality but also his music. Scatological aspects of folk songs were analyzed in Gershom Legman's comprehensive two-volume study No Laughing Matter (1975). Studying scatology as it appears in literature and the fine arts also proved to be fruitful. In 1993 an entire issue of the Art Journal was dedicated to articles on what the editor of the volume Gabriel Weisberg called “scatological art.” In music scatology has only been discussed in relation to the biography Mozart, whose scatological humor some explained as a symptom of Tourette syndrome. To date nobody has addressed the significance of possible scatological references in the music itself. In the present paper I look at compositions by Shostakovich and Bartók in which recognition of scatological references can add additional layers of meaning to our interpretation. I argue that while in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth scatological music helps dehumanize characters of whom Shostakovich intends to dispose in the opera, in Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin musical devices used as scatological references can also signify the presence of uncorrupted, uncivilized nature.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene
M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene > M10 Theory and philosophy of music / zeneelmélet, muzikológia
Depositing User: Endre Sarvay
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 14:32
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2017 14:32

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