A CD, “Muzsikas – The Bartok Album”, is one I listen to over and over again, and by which am completely captivated. There are samplings of ethnographic recordings made in the early part of the 19th Century. There are fragments of songs, sung by village women and men, and herdsmen playing the long flute. This music originates from the Transylvanian area. Much of the music is in minor keys, mournful and lamenting in tone, but also frequently exuberant and celebratory.
The contemporary Hungarian singer, Marta Sebestyen, sings several songs. Of these, “Porondos viz martjan (On the river bank)” she richly ornaments the melody, so that the effect is of a perception of sunlight twinkling from the rippled surface of a river as percieved on prolonged meditation. It is a simple song of regret.
A lily on the sandy riverbank, A lily on the sandy riverbank, Fully grown, fully grown.
It wishes to wither away It wishes to dry away It must be taken from here And planted somewhere new.
It must be placed somewhere new, For it to take root To my good fortune And the rage of others.
Envious people Those wishing me ill Why do you not leave me In solitary peace.
My lonely self My wretched life, But you, O Lord You did leave me alone.
The many who envy me Are now filled with joy Rattling lily Its leaves now dry.
In listening to this song, I realize, how ideas expressed in the spoken word, and metaphors used, when appended to harmonies result in poetry handed down through generations of people, who in repeatedly singing these establish a habit of memory and a rich cultural heritage. I am so grateful for the many persons interested in the history of music of indigenous people all over the world for recording and transcribing all kinds of wonderful sounds and songs, and keeping alive traditions rich and diverse. Wow…. now back to listening to “Muzsikas”…