'Multiplication by minus one': Musical Values in East–West Engagement
Author: Fosler-Lussier, Danielle
Source: Slavonica, Volume 10, Number 2, November 2004 , pp. 125-138(14)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:The cold war is typically regarded as enforcing cultural boundaries; however, it also drew artists and administrators into parallel circumstances and beliefs through processes of negation. One Hungarian music critic characterized the situation as 'multiplication by minus one', for just as the mathematical operation retains the quantity perfectly when changing the sign, so the Western values that were so vehemently opposed in Hungary were in some ways maintained through this very opposition.
This premise is considered here through an examination of postwar views of the music of the Hungarian composer Bela Bartók. The conscious rejection of Western values played a key role as Hungarian Communists formulated their own musical values; and engagement with Western standards of value helped to motivate both the ban on some of Bartók's music from 1948 to 1955 and its revival in 1955–56. Likewise, when in the 1970s the American composer George Rochberg wanted to turn away from avant-garde musical styles he associated with Western cold war thought, Bartók's music served as a central model for his postmodern aesthetics because it offered precisely those expressive tonal resources that had been rejected by elite serialist composers.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Ohio, Columbus
Publication date: 2004-11-01