Class Notes: How History Influences Music

Frame from How History Influences Music videoClassical MPR graphic

August 19, 2014

Did you know music often reflects the time and place in which it was written? Historians often look to music to learn more about a society and its culture.

This new Class Notes video from Classical MPR looks at the example of Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Galánta because it offers us insight about a time and place that was forever altered by the march of history. What's more, this Class Notes video combines lessons from social studies and music.

Zoltán Kodály was born in 1882, a time of great industrial and cultural change. His father worked as a station manager for the railway, and the young Kodály lived on a train line between Vienna and Budapest — in a town called Galánta — where he was exposed to the rhythms of Hungarian folk music. The music and its attendant dancing made a deep impression on the young Kodály, whose family enjoyed music, particularly classical.

Kodály learned to play piano, violin and cello, and later trained as a composer. He wanted to preserve the music he heard as a child and, enabled by what was then new technology that allowed the recording of music, Kodály captured the sounds that so entranced him as a youngster. He then took that knowledge a step further by composing Dances of Galánta which blends traditional music with classical music.

Two world wars consumed much of Europe, and the culture of Kodály's youth changed significantly. The traditional folk music Kodály loved may well have been lost had it not been for the work of the composer.

Kodály himself got very involved in music education, encouraging that music be taught in a way that it makes students "thirsty" for music — "a thirst that will last a lifetime."

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Standards-based curriculum for this video:

How History Influences Music