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E-Journal of the American Hungarian Educators Association
The Kodály and Rajkó Methods: Voices, Instruments, Ethnicity, and the Globalization of Hungarian Music Education in the Twentieth Century
Music is one of the fields in which Hungary has distinguished itself around the world, and music education is an arena in which Hungarian methods have had a profound impact. The basic principles of Hungarian music-pedagogical methods, developed by Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) and his disciples and thus known as the Kodály method, are systematic instruction in sight-singing using “movable-do” solfège and rhythmic syllables, with the ideal of developing music literacy in all children through high-quality music, mainly classical and folk repertoire for choirs. Another type of well-known Hungarian music, so-called “Gypsy music,” is specifically denied legitimacy both in Kodály’s writings and those of some of his students, for two reasons: much of it is primarily instrumental instead of vocal, and it is considered “bad.” Yet Romani (Gypsy) musicians from Hungary have also become famous internationally, some from quite a young age. The Rajkó Ensemble, established in 1952 as the Gypsy Orchestra of the Young Communists’ League, brought Hungarian and Hungarian-Gypsy music to over a hundred countries over the years. Interviews with Rajkó members, some conducted by the author and some previously published, reveal those musicians struggling to claim the legitimacy not only of their music but of their music pedagogy, implicitly comparing the Rajkó method to the Kodály method. After a brief discussion of the Kodály method and its history, this essay gives some examples of how that method has dealt with talented Romani youth in Hungary; compares the Kodály method to methods of teaching instrumental music in Roma communities and in the Rajkó Ensemble; and considers how American ideals of multicultural education challenge some of Kodály’s tenets.
Keywords: music pedagogy in Hungary, Zoltán Kodály, Rajkó Ensemble, Romani (Gypsy) musicians
Hooker, Lynn M. “The Kodály and Rajkó Methods: Voices, Instruments, Ethnicity, and the Globalization of Hungarian Music Education in the Twentieth Century.” AHEA: E-Journal of the American Hungarian Educators Association, Volume 6 (2013): http://ahea.net/e-journal/volume-6-2013/14
Lynn M. Hooker is Associate Professor of Hungarian Studies and Adjunct Associate Professor of Music (Musicology) and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, where she teaches courses on Béla Bartók, Hungarian and Roma (Gypsy) history and culture, and the folk music, art music, and popular music of Central and Eastern Europe. She received her PhD in the History and Theory of Music from the University of Chicago in 2001. Her book Redefining Hungarian Music from Liszt to Bartók was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Her current research explores the roles of Romani musicians in Hungary as artists, workers, and citizens since the nineteenth century.