Peasants with a good ear and liking for music generally played instruments, and often made them themselves. Music and singing were already part of Hungarian village life in the Middle Ages. Sigismund, a Polish prince, spent a long time in Hungary around , and on some occasion listened to the singing of men and women, and at another time to gipsies playing on the zither at their lodging. Since the way of life of the medieval nobility and of the peasantry did not differ greatly from one another, it is likely that many of the instruments were also the same.
BalassaOrtutay: Hungarian Ethnography and Folklore / Hungarian Folk Music and Folk Instruments
The traditional metre or prosody of any popular poetry is difficult to transpose into any other system of versification. If, as in our case, the traditions and conventions are so widely divergent for linguistic and cultural reasons as they are in Hungarian and English folk poetry, the task is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, I felt the task was worth the attempt. I have therefore accepted the challenge and tried to preserve as much as I could of the peculiar rhythms of my originals.
If only because the original rhythm is no less part and parcel of the total effect than other ingredients of poetry, such as syntax, diction, rhyme, etc. Translation into prose, so often preferred in works of this kind, would have been, in my view, an even less acceptable solution. The attempt to be faithful to the rhythmic form, I am aware, has no merit in itself; still, in order to be able to judge its success or otherwise, or even to be able to read or scan the lines as they are intended to be, the reader needs to be familiar with at least the basic principles of rhythm in Hungarian traditional verse.
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These principles are summed up and exemplified below. Hungarian national versification is based on linguistic word stress, which invariably falls in speech on the first syllable. A line usually consists of 2, 3, and 4 such bars, and each bar in turn may consist of the same or a varying number of syllables; if the bars are unequal in syllabic length, they are said by one theory at least to be equalized in time. This yields an extremely varied repertoire of rhythmic line patterns, some of which are more common or favoured than others. Piping, drumming, playing on the reed-strings.
To help the reader establish the rhythm of the poems to follow, each different line structure will be provided with stress marks to show the beginning of each bar. In this simplified notation for convenience we shall dispense with double bars and the marking of light or subsidiary stresses. Somogy County.
The most primitive forms of such pipes or whistles were made of reed, and several varieties of them are known in the Hungarian linguistic region. One is made of a single reed, approximately 25 cm long.
At one end it is stopped, and the reed-stops are placed at the other. Several holes, generally six, are bored along the side and the melody is played on these. Double reed pipes are also made, and people who intended to play the bagpipes later learned to play with the help of these. The reed pipe or whistle is mentioned in nursery rhymes. The counting-out rhyme below demonstrates the widespread existence of such musical instruments:. Herdsmen were especially good at making these.
Different sounds were produced by moving the lips and by blowing the right amount of air. It follows from all this that the sound and the register of every pipe is different. Pipes were replaced by flutes, the name of which, furulya, is a loan-word very likely from the language of Wallachian herdsmen.
In general, two forms are known. One is long, with five holes, approaching one metre in length. The other is the short version, its length varying between 30 and 60 cm, and having six holes bored in its side. Generally, the players themselves make their own instruments out of maple or elder wood. Before the First World War, the Rumanians of Transylvania and the Slovaks of Upper Hungary made flutes for sale and travelled with them from village to village or to fairs.
The flute is an instrument played by men or boys.
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It was used during the last century primarily by herdsmen, who played it when alone, for their own enjoyment. Because flutes are all tuned differently, their joint use in a band is impossible. Herdsmen, incidentally, especially in Transdanubia, often ornament their flutes with etched or embossed ornaments. These signals, however, are musical in character.
The horns of the gray Hungarian cattle were especially suitable for this purpose because of their length. Smaller horns were lengthened with copper plates. Horns gave an extremely high range, so that it is also possible to sound the keynote on them. It follows that the four notes of the natural scale can also be sounded on them.
The signals for the most part imitate sounds such as the calls of pigs, horses, and cattle. One of the most widely spread wind instruments among the Hungarians was the bagpipe duda , which consisted of a large leather bellows and the pipes that were mounted on it. The word duda is of Slavic origin, but it cannot be determined where the Hungarians took it from, because both the name and the instrument can be found among all the surrounding Slavic peoples.
Earlier they also called it gajda, especially in the eastern part of the linguistic region. This is a loan word, presumably of Slavic origin, that could have been spread by Wallachian herdsmen. The proliferation of the word is demonstrated by recordings of the family name Gajdos as early as the first years of the 15th century. One component of the bagpipe is the bellows, the function of which is to supply the two pipes evenly with air.
They made it mostly from lambskin, less frequently from goat- or dogskin. Only the front part of the flayed skin is made use of and the stumps of the front legs. Thus, together with the neck, three openings are created on the skin. They then make the bagpipe parts. First comes the blower through which the air is let into the bellows, then the deep toned bourdon pipe is fastened on, which has only one hole. In the Great Plain, we even find bagpipes shaped like heads of men or young women. We know nothing of the tuning and pitch of bagpipes in the past, though we have adequate information from the 20th century.
Their keynote lies between F and B. The scale of the melody pipe is mostly in the Mixolydian mode. If its first hole is opened up, then even deeper sounds than the keynote can be raised half a note.
However, this is done only rarely, or rather just as an embellishment. Generally all together about eight notes can be sounded on a bagpipe. From the 16th century the bagpipes became widespread. The players of bagpipes were greatly appreciated. This instrument had faded from the courts of the nobility by the 18th century and had found its place only in peasant bands. In the first half of the 19th century it was mostly used alone.
People danced to a bagpipe at occasional and improvised dance gatherings, but the zither and especially the gipsy bands replaced it. Herdsmen played the bagpipe the longest, and were also the best bagpipers. A good bagpiper was known far and wide, and even dance songs sung by herdsmen were written about him. Some learned to play with such virtuosity that legends were written about them. There were also stories about others who hung their bagpipes on the main beam, and the instrument continued to play beautiful melodies by itself, and when four young men got tired of dancing they tried to take it outside into the yard, but could not move it.
However, even famous bagpipers eventually got tired, and broke into the following song:. Among the string instruments, several were used only in distant areas, such as the lute koboz in Moldavia, where it was preserved by contact with Rumanian gypsies.
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