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Bartók's Quartet No. 4 for Strings

April 5, 2022

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Bartók's Quartet No. 4 for Strings. Featuring a performance by The Amphion String Quartet (Katie Hyun, David Southorn, violin; Wei-Yang Andy Lin, viola; Mihai Marica, cello).

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music Podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand ChamberMusicSociety.org. We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry.

Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Today's podcast features Bartók's String Quartet Number Four, performed by the Amphion String Quartet. Hello. And let's welcome back, as you just did, The Amphion Quartet. We've done so many of these together now, right? Mostly in previous years, obviously, but it's great.

Today is Bartók's fourth string quartet, and I have to read something to you. I hope you don't predict it. But this only will be amusing if you were here the last two weeks. So you know where it's going to go. This this is Aaron Copeland talking about Bartók. "By now I have met many hundreds of composers, but I should not think of one of them has been able to approach Bartók in sensitivity and musical sincerity."

Isn't it amazing how often this comes up? Musical sincerity. So hard to know what anybody means by it. But there. Bartók does connect to Ravel and Fauré and Britten coming up. And everyone of that time, really, because they were all looking for new musical vocabulary, which is not what composers always do. I mean, it does happen quite frequently, but that wasn't true in the 18th century.

People were creating new things, but they weren't looking for them. They weren't searching for a new identity, a way not to be, for example, German sounding, a way not to have to use tonality. "What else can I use? I don't want to write in major or minor. I don't want to write like Schoenberg either. What do I do?"

That's Bartók's problem. He wanted to not sound German. He wanted to use the whole chromatic spectrum, all the notes in some interesting way. But he didn't want to imitate a German, or he didn't even like that world of Schoenberg's. And of course, what he discovered was the folk music of Hungary and, which is his country, and also Bulgaria and Romania.

And using the folk music, he developed his own language. But he wasn't just using folk music. That's really important. He was also trying to expand the way that music could utter anything. And so he was looking and listening to everything. And why don't we hear a little bit of music and then I'm going to say something about the history of Bartók's looking for new music.

Why don't we start right at the beginning and play up until... Right up to 14. This fourth song right before 14. (music) Alright, there are some new chords. Now, those chords, there are really two principle chords that you've been hearing. They're both clusters. And a cluster means chords by seconds. So if you think of a scale (music) normally we've been talking about how French composers took the thirds and kept going into ninths.

But here, if you take seconds instead of thirds, so one, two, three, four, five, six, seven like that, which is not what you heard exactly. Now, believe it or not, Bartók did not think of going (music) or... or... on his own. He actually wrote a letter and asked permission from someone. Did you know that? It's a great story. It's true story.

Bartók was staying in a hotel in London where he was touring as a pianist. It wasn't really even a hotel. It was a house, that's typical of England at that time, a house with several floors and musicians would rent it when they gave concerts. There are places like that all over Europe. I know many people who've met each other that way over the years.

And Bartók was staying there and he came downstairs and there was one piano in the house. It was in the little living room area. So whoever got there first could play the piano at that time, and somebody was already there when he came down to use the piano, and that person was using his entire arm and going like this on the keys. And then he would take his fist and go like this on the keys.

And he was playing interesting rhythms, even though I know it won't do anything to this piano. Think about it. Why would this (music) would be worse than this? (music) for the piano? It's not worse. In fact, I just, as parenthetically, do you know what the Steinway factory does before they send out a piano? They take this machine that has a key, a hammer, not inside the piano.

Outside the piano. It's like fingers for every single key. And they smash it and smash it and smash it and smash it. And when it holds up to that, then they send it over to your house. There's nothing wrong with doing that. And when a little kid is visiting and starts smashing your piano, it's okay. It could be Bartók.

So the person he heard doing this was Henry Cowell, the American composer who had studied composition with Charles Seeger, who was one of the first, the first musicologist in America. And he was Pete Seeger's dad. Married to Ruth Crawford Seeger, who is not Pete Seeger's mother, his stepmother. Anyway, he was there. He's from Cal, was from Menlo.

Never heard of it, but it's somewhere out there in California. But anyway, he was staying in a hotel and he was practicing clusters, smashing the piano like this. And Bartók was fascinated by this. And they talked for a while and he invited, this was later, he wrote a letter and he invited Cowell to Paris, where he played his clusters for Bartók and his friends.

The crowd that heard it included Ravel, interestingly. Ravel and de Falla. And they heard this pounding and Bartók wrote a letter to him saying, "Is it okay with you if I use these things in my music?" And Cal thought, "I just was bashing a piano. It's not mine." Even though he was an American, he didn't ask for any money, nothing.

Now, there are two kinds of clusters there that get exposed. And they are commonly called, when we talk about Bartók, X and Y because the X are half steps. That's as close as you can get. If your child or your grandchild or your nephew or somebody you know is going like that, (music) that's really good because you can't do that with your hand.

You have to hit the... it's tricky. You have to use your fingers. This is whole tones. (music) That's why. In other words, X and Y. This is Z. Which we'll get to in a moment. That's not only true for this piece, but for much of Bartók's music there's a lingo attached to talking about it. X for half step clusters, Y for whole tone clusters and Z for this other configuration, which sounds like this too. Not that one. Things like that.

So right at the beginning of this piece, what you heard was Bartók dividing the space in half. The X and the Y. The first thing you hear in the cello, and he's also developing a motif. Can we just hear the sixth at the opening? I feel like I'm exploding every so often, but believe me, I'm trying not to.

If you can play this, the open sixths. (music) Yes. Now that, these sixths, if you take that and turn it around a sixth is a minor third. And if you turn each of those sixths around, you get a minor third. So what Bartók starts with is this open feeling and he kind of compresses it down and then it becomes a cluster.

It almost sounds like the opposite of an explosion. And then it's tight. Can you play leading into five, please? (singing) From the E-flat in the cello? Great. Perfect. Okay. So, what you have there, this will, if you get this, it'll set up the whole piece for you. You have the same motif... Derek is coming to fix my microphone.

Is that true? Okay. (music) In the cello. In the viola. Second violin. First violin. It's kind of obvious. That's the same motif in a way, I can't say in different keys, because there's no key, but it's transposed. It's the same thing at different levels. (singing) It's almost as if you were in different keys, but you're not. They're piling on top of each other.

And those, they get faster. They pile on in what's called a stretto, which is an old word in music, just, it's an Italian word that means getting narrow. So if you have ten people walking down the street, if the street gets narrow, they have to walk on top of each other. That's where the word stretto comes from. And that's exactly what he's doing.

He does it with the intervals, he does it with the time, and then it's quite crushed together. So then they played a few clusters and there were two clusters. The half step cluster (music) whoops. That's X. That's still X. Still X. And then you finally get a combination of X and Y. Let's see if we can hear these well.

(music) They're quite different. This one is crunchy. This I got from Carlo. He uses crunchy and smooth for everything. He was here last week. (music) Crunchy and smoother. Now these are whole tones which could give rise to Debussy-like chords, which they do sometimes, and whole tone scales, which remind you of both Debussy and Ravel. But this is the tense part.

So then what Bartók does with those two X and Y is the motifs, the themes are all built on either half steps or whole steps. The relationships between the instruments, even when they're playing tunes, they're either a whole step apart when they start or a half step apart, or they're split in counterpoint, a whole step and half... and it keeps happening over and over.

Now, if you take two whole step clusters and put them together, play them together, you get a half step cluster. That's not higher math, but it works. And so very often he divides, let's try a spot where he does that. Right at 25 with the chord before it, with a little pianissimo chord, before 25. (music) You want to keep going? Right before 25 into 25.

Sorry. Yeah. (music)

Okay great, great, great. Now what you heard there relates completely to what we're talking about. You have the whole tones. (music) Somebody is hearing aid is playing this, which is from Pierro Lunaire. Okay. So then there's whole tone clusters and then whole tone clusters here. So together you're getting X out of two groups of Y. Now this is a very simple thing.

It's not what the whole piece is about, but it is there continually throughout the piece, the two sets of whole tones causing clusters. It's the way the energy is divided. Then you heard this in the first violin. (music) This was just one violin playing this. So you have you have the tune here. (music) This little motif, which is all half steps, but it's a rhythm. (singing) guitar but pattern that you hear quite a lot.

And then this second violin is playing it a whole step lower and going in the opposite direction. (music) The cello and the viola are playing an inversion, but they're all whole tones apart. If I put that together... (music) First violin, second violin, viola, cellos down an octave. And let's hear it just right there so we can concentrate on these little half step motif being played in inversion, meaning opposite directions, starting whole tones apart. (music)

Let's do it right on (singing). If you can start right on that. (music)

Great. Now, it's not all about whole steps and half steps. There are two very important other aspects of the vocabulary. One is obviously rhythm, and the rhythms are drawn from a lot of Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian folk music, but they're extended in his own world because the rhythms of the folk music are not that complex. So he takes the phrases and some of the rhythmic patterns, and he makes them much more complex and personal.

There's a lot of counterpoint. We've already heard some. And he himself, Bartók, summed up his language as being learned from Debussy, Beethoven and Bach with a grounding in Hungarian folk music. That's the inspiration. In fact, here's a quote from Bartók, "Debussy's great service to music was to reawaken among all musicians an awareness of harmony and its possibilities, and in that he was just as important as Beethoven, who revealed to us the possibilities of progressive form, or as Bach, who showed us the transcendent significance of counterpoint.

Now, what I am always asking myself is this; is it possible to make a synthesis of these three great masters, a living synthesis that will be valid for our time? That's what he's attempting to do. Now, what did he learn from Debussy harmonically? The idea that anything is possible. That was Debussy's idea. Any chord could happen, could be built on whole tones.

One chord can move in a strange place, and it doesn't have to be built on theory. It doesn't have to be built on a language that exists already, on preconceived ideas. It's all about sound. That's what he got from Debussy. From Beethoven, he calls progressive form. And what he means is that the form, it's the progress of the form.

It's organic. It unfolds, propelling itself forward bit by bit. Each motif sort of is organic in that like a plant or like a human being or an animal. All the cells grow and they make an organism. It's not an artificial process. It has to feel like it's actually growing. So that's what he meant by Beethoven's progressive form.

And then for Bach, he's talking about counterpoint. He didn't just say counterpoint because lots of people wrote counterpoint. He said the transcendent significance of counterpoint. For Bach, that's easy to understand. Bach's counterpoint, and this is true of, I think, any great music, it means something. It's not just there. It's not just an exercise. The counterpoint, what does it mean?

This is always dangerous territory, but I enjoy it. It means something in that the patterns and the ways things react to each other reflect either something biological perhaps, or in the natural world or philosophical. They reflect something. That's what meaning is. So counterpoint for Bach was about divinity, but therefore it was about the natural world in the universe.

It was about diversity and unity, that everything is unified in a composition and all the voices are doing something related to each other based on the same idea, like DNA causing an organism to unfold. And the different strands of counterpoint are connected by this unified theory. So it does mean something. Now, Bach knew that.

Bach knew that his subjects that he followed and the way counterpoint unfolded was about something. And for him, it was about the divine and about the world. And it was not just something he kept to himself. It's very well known, there's a lot written about it. People defended him arguing about this. So when Bartók says, "The transcendent significance of counterpoint," he's talking about something meaningful.

And for him, the way something was meaningful, is it connected to identity, which makes sense. And his identity was Hungarian and therefore the folk music and the music around him, Bulgarian and Romanian rhythms, etc. This sense of identity building technique from it made meaning for him. So, the other thing though are modes. Now, this is important.

I'm going to give you a little mode lesson before we get back to the piece. Major and minor are modes, but what Bartók wanted to do was use the modes of folk music. And then he decided to invent modes and then he decided to figure out a way to compete with Schoenberg without doing what Schoenberg did using modes.

And I'll explain that to you. Schoenberg took all the 12 notes that we have on the keyboard, which are the 12 notes of Western music. (music) That was actually 13 because I repeated one. (music) And Schoenberg would use them all. For example, here is a 12 tone row by Schoenberg. It's not a piece, it's just material. (music) Alright? That's something he used to build a piece on.

And it has in it these two hexachords, two groups of six. Each has a whole tone scale and a note that sticks out. First one goes... (music) Whole time scale and that note. And the second hexaichord does that too. It almost sounds like music if you did it, because the fact is these two hexachords have the same problem.

They have an intruder. So it's interesting. So Bartók didn't want to write like that, but he liked the idea that Schoenberg opened up the chromatic spectrum. He uses all the notes all the time. He wasn't limiting himself to major and minor or the Dorian mode, which was very popular. And of course, lots of French composers, Foray and Ravel used modes.

As you heard last week. So a mode simply is an arrangement of notes that is, we're using it to mean something that's organized and recognizable that is not major or minor. So, for example, here's major. (music) Here's a minor scale. There are other minor scales. But here's another mode. It's the Phrygian mode. Here's the Dorian mode. Now, in order to make this really clear, I took a tune everyone knows, and I rewrote just the tune in several modes so you can hear what the mode does to a tune.

Here's the tune. (music: For He's a Jolly Good Fellow) Now, if I put it in the Phrygian mode, instead of this scale that we had, it doesn't start on the tonic. (singing). So in Phrygian, it would sound like this (music) and if I put simple harmonies to it, it would be... (music) It's a whole different world, right? So you can see it's interesting. Here is the Lydian mode, which is just like a major scale, but you raise the fourth note. There's the fourth note.

I'm emphasizing it both visually and aurally. (music) Okay, there was a little match. So, you might know it from West Side Story. Okay, Officer Krupke. And why is it there? Because hooligans, the only thing they've got is a raised fourth. Now, I mean, in other words, if you take a major key, it's kind of happy. But if you raise the fourth, it's annoying.

It's a little bit mischievous. It's mischievous, it's a little humorous. So here is the same thing in the Lydian mode. (music) Now if I use chords for that, it sort of sounds a little bit like next week's composer. (music) That's Lydian. See, it's only by removing one flat. So there are 12 notes, but they really matter. So here is the octatonic mode.

It's a mode we talked about because Ravel used it a lot in Gaspard de la Nuit. Here it is just the tune and the octatonic mode is also called the symmetrical mode. That's a mode where it's alternating half steps and whole steps. It sounds like this. (music) And if I put the simplest chords, I can into it, it would be... (music) So what you get from this, I hope, is that these different modes suggested to Bartók that he could use all these modes.

And there are many, many, many more. He could use Romanian modes, Bulgarian modes, Hungarian modes, because folk musicians didn't go to a conservatory. So they didn't have anything written down. They didn't have rules, they didn't have lessons. They just learned from person to person. So very often modes were highly different from place to place because nobody knew even what a mode was.

You just knew the song, you knew the tune. If you listen to, and of course you can find it very easily on the Internet. If you listen to recordings of folk music made by Bartók and Kodály when Bartók in his composing friend and musicologist friend Kodály went on tour of Hungary and Romania and Bulgaria, just recording folk people singing, and they knew they better do it soon because there wouldn't be anybody left like that.

And it probably isn't in the world now. It's hard. There are some. It's very hard to find a person untouched by modern anything and where they know folk songs that go back very far that are uncorrupted and that are left as they must have been. It's very hard to find people like that. If you know, someone let me know.

And Bartók and Kodály went around recording it. They did not use iPhones. What they had to do, and they didn't even have tape recorders. It was before that. They used these wire recorders that weighed 50 pounds and they were going into the mountains. There was no electricity. So they recorded these things by carrying their own generator. Sometimes by hand, because they couldn't drive.

They would drive up to a certain point and then they would have these gigantic boxes that weighed a lot, and they would have to get quite a few people to move them somewhere, crank up the generator and get someone to sing really quickly into this thing. And I mention all this not only because it's a great image, but very often the singing was terrible.

They weren't professional singers. They weren't known for doing this. He would just find someone in a field and say, "Do you know any songs?" "Sure, I can sing a song." You know, they would sing something and listen to these recordings. They're incredibly out of tune. And Bartók, though, I have to say, this is very interesting, his feeling was that they were not out of tune.

He notated every little bit of out of tuneness and considered it to be authentic. Why not? What else are you going to do? We had a similar thing in America with Lomax and, actually, Ruth Coffey Seeger was very influenced by this. Alan Lomax and those people who went around recording folk music, and a lot of those people also sang quarter tones and stuff.

And the notation is very strange. So Bartók had these strange melodies. Sometimes they were stranger than they probably were meant to be, and he used those modes and the rhythms, and he used his technique of Debussy inspired harmonic freedom, Beethoven inspired progressive, organic form driving forward, and Bach inspired meaningful counterpoint, and he created his own language. Now, let's get back to the piece.

Before we play more of this movement, this whole piece, the fourth quartet, is a palindrome in that the first and the fourth movement share some material, quite a lot, and have a similar tempo and feel. The fourth movement even has lots of quotes from the first movement, although it has new music. Did I say fourth,? Fifth. Fifth movement. Did I say fifth?

Now I did. Okay. The first and the fifth movement. Sorry. There are five movements. The first and the fifth are what I just described. The second and the fourth are related. The second is all... What is the second all? Muted. Maybe we'll get to that in a second. Get ready to do that. And the fourth is all pizzicato.

So they're extreme and they're related and they share material. And the one in the middle is like the still point that T.S. Eliot talks about. The still point there, the dances, except it's not that much of a dance. It's more of a still point. So let's hear a little bit of these other movements for a moment. The second movement is very ex at the beginning.

In other words, it's very half step-y and it's all muted. Let's hear a little bit of that. (music) Great, great, great. And then another spot to listen to. Let's go to just before 75. This starts with a familiar cluster that Henry Cal could have made a lot of money on, but didn't. (music) Okay. Now, what you're hearing right there relates to everything I've been saying after the cluster, which has... (music) It's all half steps.

Then you hear this in the viola (music) and the cello above it. And that is another cluster when you put it together. And then you hear this. And that is a whole step collapsing in and another one collapsing in. And so you're getting whole steps, but you're also getting half steps. So again, all the music is concentrated very tightly at this point in a new texture with a new energy on full steps and half steps. This is beginning to look like my room. Now, in the parallel spot in the fourth movement...

So we can go right to 45. (music) Okay. Now, that pulling of the string like that is called by musicians all over the world, the Bartók snap or the Bartók pizz and that's simply something that he took from folk players. I mean, people teach themself to play an instrument. Maybe he heard one person who went like that and it became part of the music.

We don't know how many people actually played like that, but there it is. Pulling the string hard away, it's kind of violent. But also you heard this strumming. (music) This is whole tones and this is whole tones. Put them together half steps. So this is from the point of view of the technique we're talking about, it's Y plus Y equals X. (music) And then this and this is just like what we heard before. Right? When it was in muted.

But now it's (singing) Let's play this one one more time. It's exactly like the other one. (music) Okay. Now the opening of the fifth movement is something we need to hear. And then we'll get back to the first and we're going to go in detail again. The opening of this movement has in it Z. We've had X and Y and Z is this thing. (music)

You can think of it several ways. Two fourths as if they were in two keys, but... (music) And it also is two tritones. In other words, we've got four notes so we can hear them as two different sets. This one and this one. He uses this set a lot. And the reason is if you double it to another place and, sorry. (music)

If you put them all together and you get three of those, you have the octatonic scale. So he's building towards a way of getting at the architectonic scale from a very dissonant, crunchy, folksy thing. What makes it folksy is its like two open fifth drones. Could you just play some open fifths on the cello maybe? You have a spot where there are lots of open fifths. Maybe you can search for it.

Yeah, with pizzicato. I mean, I didn't ask you to look at that, but if you can find that. Well, here. For example, in this second movement at bar 34. And let's do viola and cello right at 34. This isn't so hard, but I am springing it on him. (music) Yeah. Now let's do it slowly. (music) Yeah.

What's happening there is the cello is playing open strings. All fifths. Not playing the top one. And the viola is playing open strings a half step higher except they're not open strings because they're a half step apart. (music) But they're like open strings. They're on an instrument that doesn't exist, but it's giving us Z. That's the Z set. X, Y, and Z.

So here's the opening of the last movement, which is full of the Z chord, which is very folksy and very... It's both dissonant, but it sounds like kind of a wild peasant dance. (music) Okay. Now what you're hearing there, that tune (music) is a typical Bartók, it's like a corruption of a very simple mode. The most common mode in folk music all over the world is the pentatonic mode. (music)

The black keys on the piano happen to be pentatonic mode, which is why when you study piano, if you're a little kid, you might play pentatonic pieces just on black keys. You can't go wrong. It's a great way to learn to improvise because it makes you feel free and everything sounds good. There's music from every country, folk music, that uses the pentatonic mode because it's so easy to improvise it and it's highly developed.

Irish music and Chinese music are two examples of highly developed and therefore American music where the Irish came here. So I sometimes call it the Sino Appalachian mode. It hasn't caught on. It hasn't caught on. And then you get this dissonance in the cello. And what that is is it's X played with two open strings. You want to give us one of those? (music)

Yeah, there it is. Excuse me, it's Z. It's the Z set again of this, of the two fifths, but compressed. (music) So this, if I put the G to G sharp, it's pentatonic. But if you do this, it's a different world, especially if you do this under it. (music) So that's some of the basic mode lessons. Now, let's go back to the first movement and get to know it a little better.

One of the most fun parts of Bartók's technique, and one of the most exciting, has to do with not the rhythm of moment to moment, but the structural rhythm. Rhythm of moment to moment, it will be like (singing). That's fine, but you find that a lot of places. Again, just like pentatonic scale, can be found all over the world.

Asymmetrical rhythms of three plus two, for example, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, two or one, two, three, four, five. They're all over the world also. In India, in Carnatic syllables, it's (singing) or the other way around. (singing) They have lots of things like that.

Elevens, which are found in a lot of contemporary music are (singing) It's the same thing that Bartók uses but it comes from India. So what he did, though, structurally, is something he took from Beethoven, which is rhythmic structure of the piece. And I'll give you a really good example, a couple of examples, because this is one of the most fun things that he does.

Let's take a look at after 80 cello and viola, that thing that we tried. So do you want to do the the version that we talked about? (music) See, all by itself, that's interesting. Which is he takes the opening theme (singing) It's getting shorter and shorter and quieter and quieter and then suddenly it explodes. But actually we left out a lot of music. Because what Bartók does rhythmically is several layers.

He takes that idea that you just heard (singing) He's playing with how long and short it is. But actually this is what is going on. There's something that we left out. (music)

So we left out those violent attacks. There are a lot of them. So this back and forth, I think of it as very cinematic. A way to think about it that's visual is in, this is a typical movie thing that I'm not sure if it was invented by Alfred Hitchcock, but it may have been, which is to have two things that are cut back and forth in a rhythm that creates tremendous excitement or suspense or fear.

So you can even do this, and film students often do this exercise of taking two pictures, an innocent looking face and a terrifying looking face and editing them back and forth in such a rhythm is that you feel like something terrible is going to happen. But actually they're still photographs. But that editing skill of timing the editing back and forth, A and B images is really central to good film work, which is how do you edit things together?

I mean, I know I've done some film scores, not too many, but many, many years ago I did one that had a short fight in it between two characters in a bar. And the director showed me this thing when he first filmed it, and it was terrible looking. These guys were moving very slowly and they looked choreographed and it didn't look real.

And it was very long and boring. And I said, "Well, what am I supposed to do with that?" And he said, "No, I just wanted you to see it before I edit that." And he said, "I'm just going to go back and forth between their two faces and certain parts of the picture, and it's going to get faster and faster." And the whole thing, the entire fight was actually done in the editing room.

They never really did anything and I was amazed by that. So I did the same thing musically, but I was thinking of Bartók, which is to try to copy that exact back and forth and speed to take this this guy's music and this person's music and go back and forth like the film. And it's incredibly exciting like what you just heard.

There are more examples in Bartók of this kind of back and forth editing. All right, let's try right before, 134 we had... Let's do the version with the... starting with the G sharp. Okay? So listen carefully. This is going to be a double exposure, so to speak, a double lesson in Bartók's back and forth editing process. (music)

Okay, so that's some of the quiet, slightly suspenseful little thing. Now listen to this music. (music)

Okay, both of those passages that you just heard sound fine the way they are. One is suspenseful and quiet and it gets longer and longer. Two notes. Three notes, four notes. And the other one is violent and angry. But actually neither of those exists alone. They're edited together by Bartók like this. This is how it sounds in the piece. (music)

Isn't that amazing? That's how to listen to this because the more aware you are that the more exciting it is. And it is exciting though. It's like that's what you're hearing. You're hearing things that may have been conceived of separately, edited together. In film, it's often after the fact that the editor thinks of this.

A film- I'm working on one now. So I'm thinking about it a little bit, but it really fits with this. A one hour film might have 15, 16, 20, 40 hours, who knows, of film footage. And it gets edited and edited and edited. But even a two minute scene might come from an hour's worth of material. We don't know.

I don't see any sketches available of this, but it's possible that Bartók wrote these two sections separately. The one, the driving (singing) and the (singing) And then he decided, "This is better if I put it together." Now, Beethoven does do things like this. It doesn't sound quite the same because it's not quite so obvious.

But there is one piece by Beethoven in a grand scale where he does exactly this, but the sections are long and they intersperse each other. It's two pieces of music, really, interlaced, and that is the (German) movement. Do you guys want to play that? It's a string quartet. I'll talk more about that another time. But let's put it this way it's a movement in which Beethoven writes very peaceful, slow, introspective, spiritual sounding music.

It's interspersed with sections that are uplifting and what he calls, its renewed energy, its health. Restored health is basically what its subtitle is. And this spirituality and this coming back to life and health are intercut like this only more slowly. You could actually get two movements out of that movement by Beethoven. It's extraordinary. I think it probably is the first example in music where it's really two pieces of music have been edited together to create one amazing piece of music.

Has anyone ever played those separately? I don't think so. That would be really weird, wouldn't it? Yeah. You don't look too eager to try it, but yeah. It would be very, very difficult. Now, almost everything else that you're going to hear in this first movement is in some way what I've talked about. It's X, the half steps, Y the whole steps, Z, that cell. It is contrapuntal very often, inversions going in opposite directions, driving a wild counterpoint that is quite serious.

Then it has the splicing back and forth many, many times of two different ideas. One is usually quiet and introverted, but it's growing and the other one is violent. Now, maybe there's a metaphor here that's, I mean, maybe it's political. In his life, that would have been easy. Hungary in his lifetime saw a lot. And he also lived through World War One and didn't see the, and lived through World War Two.

Basically everything in his life was, he had to leave Hungary. Everything was torment and war. It was close to starvation when he died. So it's possible to hear the quiet music as something internal and personal and the violent music as the state or the enemy or something outside. It could actually be very real.

On the other hand, even if it's not that we feel it in many personal ways. So the metaphor shouldn't have any one definition because music suffers from that. It's better if it's open. So it could be personal, it could be political, it could be at the level of global war. It could be just between people. It could be a nightmare.

But whatever it is, there is something violent and aggressive that seems to be continually tearing at something that tries to be peaceful. Which do you think wins? Well, it tends to be pretty violent, understandably. I think there might be a musical reference at the very- could you just play the last two measures or just the pesante. Of this movement. (music) Yeah.

Of course, he's not writing in major or minor so the mode here is Phrygian. But it also is changed because this note is natural and then it's flat and the chords are dissonant and they're also major minor. They could be jazzy, but there's this endings, you know (music) Does that remind you of anything? There's some Brahms and there's some Schubert that ends with (music) (singing)

And with Brahms, it's a reference to the Schubert that's this lowered second. It's possible that Bartók was thinking of that because he was always thinking of the history of music when he wrote. He was very involved in it. He was a great musician on many levels, a fabulous pianist who also, as his student said, he knew the entire repertoire by heart, except his own music.

Which he had to read because he couldn't remember which version he ended up with. Now, before we hear this movement straight through, I have a couple of more instructive Bartók-ian things to do for you. Just in terms of rhythm. Five eight (singing) One, two, three, four or five or one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four or five.

Either way. That pattern, if you take a melody and spin it in that pattern, it becomes something new. So I've taken a melody you know and I put it in five eight, and I've accompanied with some Bartók chords. See if we can recognize it. (music: Take Me Out to The Ball Game) Got it? Okay. (music) So, you hear it's there. It's just that the rhythm is off. One more time slowly.

So the accents are falling in different places, which is what happens when you change meter. (music) So it's a lot easier when you know what's going on, right? Okay. Now, modally, here's another example. This is a very elaborate composition lessson in Bartók, I took a tune everybody knows, just about everybody, and I left it, at first, in its original mode, in the right hand.

In the left hand, I used a different mode. Now, why would I do that? Because I'm now going to answer a question I stated earlier on, and I never answered it. How did Bartók write chromatic music and not imitate Schoenberg? Modes are not going to give you the whole chromatic spectrum. He invented a concept called polymodal chromaticism.

You have to remember that. It's really important. That polymodal chromaticism. It comes up in conversation. At least in my house I bring it up occasionally. Polymodal Chromaticism simply means you take various modes from different cultures, perhaps are from one culture, but you string a few modes together, but you put them together so that you get all the chromatic notes.

You can't do that with just any modes. It's not so simple. The easiest way to get there is to take the Phrygian mode (music) and you have to, in order to do this, put both modes on the same beginning note. Now if we take the Lydian mode (music) we get all the notes. They're all there. So by using two different modes, starting on the same pitch, you get all 12 notes.

But it's not the Schoenberg or the German approach, it's Hungarian. And that's what he does. So, here, I left the original mode for the tune. I accompanied it in a different mode to give more notes, and then I corrupted, which he also would do. I eventually corrupted the melody into another mode because Bartók didn't actually have a system.

He didn't like systems. He didn't like the fact that Schoenberg kind of had a system. He liked consistency and method, but not system. So, he used lots of modes. He he knew that any mode was available, any mode could be corrupted, the modes could exist simultaneously. The rhythms could work against the patterns that there would be counterpoints that he used, certain chords that he liked, but there was no actual system.

This was a vocabulary that he used. So here is a tune you all know, which I'm going to apply all of those things to it. (music: Mary Had A Little Lamb) Now it gets corrupted. So it takes it to another level and this kind of folk melody, Mary Had a Little Lamb, I hope you got that. You never know because you can get carried away with the rest of it and forget what it is.

But Mary Had a Little Lamb isn't that different than some of the kinds of folk tunes Bartók used. He used little nursery rhymes, things that kids sang at school, and then he used his technique like that to create these things. Sometimes he would set them very purely, but eventually he didn't. He stopped doing that and he went for composition.

I'll do one more and then we'll hear the whole piece. Now this one is more elaborate. This one, I use techniques from this quartet specifically and the language of this quartet that you're about to hear, combined with not a children's tune, but a tune, a popular melody from the, I guess it was 1960 something. But everything I'm doing comes out of this quartet. (music)

So, did you follow that? Okay, that's the Beatles. It's Been a Hard Day's Night. Okay. Now, if you didn't follow it, it's important to hear it. Otherwise, it's no fun. So here's the tune. (music) So what's accompanying that is Z and X and Y and counterpoint. Imitation all over the place. And counterpoint here, for example. (music) So now I'll play it again, and I think it'll be easier to follow.

It's Been a Hard Day's Night, which, believe me, it was to put this together. (music) Okay. Thank you. I have to say, it's a little secret is that even though I have to write these things for my (inaudible) show, I actually often write them in order to prepare for a lecture. That's how it started, because if I want to understand a composer by doing something like this, I get it all straightened out.

So I actually wrote that one in order to make sure that I covered everything in this quartet, which I think we have. Are we ready to hear the first movement? Are you guys ready to play the first one? All right, Bartók Quartet number four, movement one. (music)

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