Music should belong to everyone 120 Kodály Quotes (Herbóly Kocsár)
120 quotes from the writings and speeches of Zoltán Kodály
Compiled by Ildikó Herboly Kocsár (with new translations by Marta Vandulek)
Published in December 2002 by the International Kodály Society to mark the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of the birth of the birth of Kodály.
Celia Waterhouse (January 2003)
The International Kodály Society has fulfilled a long-overdue need in publishing this small and affordable book of Kodály quotations, some never previously translated into English. It is an essential for Kodály followers, rendering a selection of the master’s words accessible to an audience far greater than has hitherto been possible. None the less Ildikó Herboly stresses at the outset that this cannot substitute for reading the originals.
The quotations fall broadly under some dozen or so main topics listed in the Foreword, such as the primary importance of singing, the role of the teacher, and the use of relative solmisation as the most effective tool.
There are the familiar quotes we know from the prefaces to the 333 Reading Exercises and other graded exercises: “…clumsiness in rhythm and general uncertainty are the chief causes of poor reading. Thus rhythm should always be our first consideration” (in teaching reading) (48); “It is important to practise two-part singing from the very beginning” (57). There are the cornerstones of Kodály wisdom we have integrated into our thinking: …”a good folk song is a perfect masterpiece in itself” (23); “Singing, untrammelled by an instrument, is the profound schooling of musical abilities” (53); “By the time the child can find his way about the (pentatonic) system unerringly, the introduction of semitones does not present any difficulty” (27). There are the gems it would serve us well to have always at our fingertips: “The smaller the child, the more easily it learns, the less it forgets” (8); “It is no use organising youth concerts if the young people are not taught to listen.” (64); “Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime” (15).
The selections give an enlightening insight into Kodály’s uncompromising views on music and music education. It is easy to remember the “essential truth” of only those bits of Kodály philosophy we can take on board without personal challenge, and forget the bits we don’t feel comfortable with. But the book presents them all. Kodály’s views on programme music, recorded music, musicology, music critics, and what constitutes good and bad music, can seem starkly shocking to our new-century politically correct sensibilities, or even out of touch with the real world. But perhaps these very quotes offer us even more opportunity to re-evaluate our own views and practice.
I must confess to having initially been a little disappointed at the occasionally stilted English language and expression. I had to delve deep to discover that some of the quotes were Kodály’s own speeches originally delivered in English, and some were translated from his writings as far back as 1966. It would help the reader make allowances for the language if this were more prominently explained. Notwithstanding, this is a reference book I would strongly recommend to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Kodály’s essential messages, which are still highly relevant to music teachers today.