chapter  10
Béla Bartók and the Rise of Comparative Ethnomusicology: Nationalism, Race Purity, and the Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Cuban Popular Music, Race, Authenticity, and the World-Music Landscape
ByKatie Trumpener
Pages 32

Born in the Banat in 1881, Bela Bartok spent his formative years in various provinces of the Kingdom of Hungary, in multiethnic and multilingual towns which now belong to Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia. Bartok interest in folk music also begins at a moment when all of Europe is openly preoccupied with questions of race and eugenics. When a crumbling Austro-Hungarian empire, obsessed with the threat of nationalism, has begun to think about its own constituent ethnic groups in consciously terms. In Bartok's 1942 "Race Purity in Music," written six years later, we see the other side of this lack of interest in the dynamics of change: a stance of singular detachment at the prospect of absolutely cataclysmic transformation. Bartok's ethnomusicological career as a whole nonetheless remained framed, in problematic ways, by early twentieth-century understandings of race. From 1904 onward, Bartok continually execrates the Gypsy influence on Hungarian musical life on similar grounds.