Keynote speech given at the 2005 IKS Symposum
Zoltan Kodály wrote his article called “The 100 Year Plan” in a music teachers’ periodical in 1947. Ever since its first appearance many different references have been made in many places questioning its strange title. What purpose did Kodály have in mind when he wrote these thoughts nearly 60 years ago?
The first words of his article are:
“The aim: Hungarian musical culture.
The means: making the reading and writing of music general, through the schools. At the same time the awakening of a Hungarian musical approach in the training of both artist and audience. The raising of Hungarian public taste in music and a continual progress towards what is better and more Hungarian.
To make the masterpieces of world literature public property, to convey them to people of every kind of rank. The total of all these will yield the Hungarian musical culture which is glimmering before us in the distant future.”
After this opening Kodály writes a short review of what had happened in the 50 years before. In the second half of the review he sets out the tasks; the changing of general attitudes and the importance of the use of the pentatonic scale as a focal point.
In the final paragraph he makes a reference to 1868 when Statute XXXVIII (38) was brought into force whereby singing lessons were made compulsory by law in every school curriculum.
The closing paragraph of the article:
“We cannot prophesy, but if the principle of expert tuition comes to be realised in practice by 1968, that is to say a hundred years after the birth of the primary education act, it may well be hoped that by the time we reach the year 2000 every child that has attended the primary school will be able to read music fluently. Not a tremendous achievement. This, however, will rightly bear the name Hungarian musical culture.”
It is evident to all of us that the thoughts Kodály put to paper in 1947 in connection to music education is relevant not only to Hungarians.
We have to admit and accept that the plan anticipated for the next 100 years has not yet been realised. Sadly, in 2005 not every 14-year-old Hungarian child can read music fluently although Kodály had done all that was possible to achieve this goal.
It has been proved that his concept and philosophy is a fine music-teaching tool. The effectiveness of Kodály’s philosophy has been backed by scientifically proven facts and results. The past fifty years have also proved that the “concept” can be realised not only in Hungary but also anywhere in the world from Australia to Japan to the United States of America.
What is the problem?
Why was this aim not possible to fulfil?
Was this only a dream?
László Dobszay was looking for the answers to the same questions in 1990 in his article entitled “the Actuality of the 100 Year Plan”.
László Dobszay is a professor and musicoligist at the Music Academy in Budapest, a practising musician and the founder of the Schola Hungarica vocal ensemble.
As a solfege teacher he wrote in the 1960’s a series of solfege (exercise) books that are still the finest today. They are called “the World of Sound” and follow Kodály’s pedagogical philosophy to the smallest detail.
I would like to quote a few thoughts from these writings of 15 years ago.
“…Kodály found the way to teaching through his own experiences of value alone, through being affected by the intellectual values found in folksongs, the masterpieces and music in general, (what ‘deserves to be called music’), and the love deriving from it. Love is just diffusivum sui (something that strives after its own diffusion) and only this quality can inspire any genuine teacher and teaching.”
“…Kodály represents an age old European tradition in this respect, which may be one of the reasons why his message seemed to be so new. The meaning of ‘humanism’ is, however, very clear in this tradition. It signifies something other than charity work, sympathy or nobility of thinking. It stands for an attitude that asserts the rights and demands of humanity. Humanity includes all those values that make man human, raise him above the level of other living creatures and safeguard the integrity of the spirit and the coordination of the spiritual and physical life. This humanity is centred around four values: truth, goddness, beauty and holyness. They embrace a cultivated mind, the properly oriented and disciplined will, the well-ordered emotional sphere and the reverential openness of man towards a being higher than himself.”
“…the role Kodály entrusted to music cannot be exclusively justified by its refreshing qualities and communal character, nor with the value of musical heritage alone. No genuine spiritual life can be conceived without music or, as Isodorus’ book, this encyclopeadia of the Middle Ages, stated: Without music no discipline can be perfect. Without music man remains uncouth and unrefined.. In contrast, music makes him more generous, polite, joyful, amiable, more apt to create loving relationships, or as the medieval pupil learnt: ‘reddit hominem liberalem, curialem, laetum, jocundum et amabilem’. No one would deny that this holds true for good music representing spiritual values. To reverse this statement: bad music destroys man’s spiritual integrity, renderes his inner being friable and disrupt the structure of humanity. This pedagogical hierarchy has an effect on music education as well. Though the infiltration of dilettantism wounds the very heart of music teaching, the final objective is not the transmission of the knowledge of the musical profession. It is the integration of the intellectual force of music, or more precisely, as Kodály put it, of the masterworks, into the human spirit.”
“…the Kodályian educational model could not score outstanding results in its days of glory because it remained isolated within school, culture and society alike. To be more precise, a certain presentiment of belonging came to be expressed by a spontaneous respect of many and for other the Kodályian achievement could have been a model and an inspiration in their own field. But the conscious recognition and the thorough intellectual and practical elaboration that could have raised the Kodályian inspiration to a cultural movement were missing.”
“…the state takes eo ipso a stand in matters of culture and the values represented by it whenever it functions normally. A national curriculum or examination system makes sense only if there exist a standard which is the expression of values considered to be positive. The contribution granted by the state for the maintenance costs of a museum is an expression of the appreciation of Rembrandt’s paintings, for example. The issue at stake that must be continually clarified, both in principle and in everyday affairs, is to what extent and in which area it is fair that the state should support cultural-humanistic values.”
We have to admit that the past 15 years has not brought about any changes either.
With the speeding up of economic and technical advancements at the forefront, culture is continually forced to be the last to be considered.
Social recognition and the aim for a higher quality of life are all measured by purely materialistic means. Education is like a servant of culture and less and less significance in countries with a wealthy society.
A new set of values has developed at the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st. Instant result have become the units of measure so that long term investment and nurturing of the arts has become unprofitable and superfluous. In the view of the people who have control over these matters, music education is becoming dispensable.
These people (who themselves as children, have clearly missed out on the magical effect of music) do not recognise the effect of music education towards the development of healthy, even-tempered, well-balanced harmonious human beings.
This tendency is unfortunately a world phenomenon. We can draw some interesting comparisons between peoples general daily timetable of 100 years ago and today. In the old days most people worked all day and for most people that was physical work.
With technical advances modern workplaces have allowed people a lot more free time. To fill this leisure time, a new continually expanding industry developed: called the “entertainment industry”.
The feeling of well-being and of achievement resulting from successful work satisfaction was replaced by a “live it up” attitude. This new lifestyle has received a continues to receive a great deal of support from different forms such as media attention, films, TV programmes, video games etc. Unfortunately much of these are full of aggression and negative forces. The bulk of our teenagers are daily consumers of this new “culture”.
The “so called” music that accompanies these films, TV programmes and video games is typically very brassy, full of weak harmonies and unimaginative melody and all played at a thumping volume with overpowering drum beat and bass lines.
It is almost impossible to find public places, shops, shopping centres and even transport that are not contaminated by this form of music.
What can schools do to counterbalance this? Can they do anything at all?
One of my favourite professors at the Music Academy, Lajos Bárdos, told us as students to observe people after a concert and how they never quarrel at the cloakroom, at the bus stop or in the street.
We now have to redefine the term used 40 years ago “after a concert” to after “serious music concert”. In the old days we only called these events “concerts” (Today all events where instruments appear are called concerts).
In a single sentence of Professor Bárdos an entire philosophy of upbringing had been summed up: “people who have been brought up in a suitable musical doctrine do not violate the rules of harmonious social living”.
Let us compare a 45 minute long music lesson of 30 – 40 years ago with one of today’s 45-minute lessons. The experience gained during a music lesson then, made a much longer impression, remembered longer by the student, had other strong positive effects and had a lasting impression till the following lesson.
The experience, or adventure, of a music lesson of today, – leaving aside the school building – immediately seems substandard by comparison.
The youth of today are part of a “mob culture” and equipped with state of the art equipment and listening to the most modern products of music. These “innocent”, not yet matured, easily lead consumers are the largest commercial marketplaces. They not only want to fulfil the trendy musical ‘culture of the day’ but they mimic the example of their peers with their dressing, behaviour and even their speaking.
The music teachers are providing a low quality service when they try to compete with this thankless challenge. Lets just think about what tools are available for the teachers to counter these modern trends so that they can seduce the teenage students with a Mozart melody.
In many cases they can only rely on their influence as a teacher as the family background provides little or no support.
The numbers of students who bring from their families the love of high quality and important music are minimal. The minority for whom the enjoyment of reading a good novel is more important than the watching of some inferior TV programme, and those who have the need for culture, or a cultural life.
We have to admit that the task of the music teachers’ appears to get increasingly difficult in everyday life.
It is not the Kodály concept that has got tired; it is not the Kodály method that has become drained. On the contrary! This is the very thing that could be the cure for this dying society whose soul is becoming extinct.
The number of music and singing lessons should be doubled, not reduced in the schools. We know that the correctly applied Kodály principles reap higher achievement results in other subjects too and that we could have a healthier society.
Intensive occupation with good music most certainly provides an antidote against inferior and cheap imitation music. It provides protection against the pollution of decent taste and the morally corrupting musical terror surrounding everyone today.
The experience and joy of music making together, singing together, safeguards against the infection of indifference. It develops attentiveness in young children towards each other, the responsibility to look out for each other and the perception and feeling of solidarity.
Kodály had formulated the importance of this more than 75 years ago: “Is there anything more demonstrative of social solidarity than a choir? Many people unite to do something that cannot be done by a single person alone however talented he or she may be.”
The world is in constant momentum. Huge distances are easily reached, faraway destinations can be reached within hours. With the lifting of border controls people have become mobile. Millions of people travel daily covering vast distances. Having reached their goal, many of these people return to their original starting point, while others look for a new home and embark o¬n a search in the world for a new home. These people settle in new countries and try to assimilate to their new surroundings.
We often see that assimilation is not so easy. The vast number of people find it very difficult to combat their feeling of loss of belonging, the trauma of replanting their roots and this becomes the basis of much conflict. Should they give up their ancestral traditions, should they adopt the customs and behavioural habits of their newly found hosts or should they stick strictly to their own heritage and foundation and traditions going back many thousands of years? These questions have become very prominent in the past few decades but unfortunately we are still unable to give a reassuring answer to them.
The results of the arrival of the previously mentioned technical wizardry, the discovery of scientific wonder-machines has a bewildering affect on the average person. It becomes progressively more difficult to handle the increasing new knowledge and technical information available daily and ones loss of identity and insecurity becomes increasingly prominent. Many people turn to psychologists, psychoanalysts to find the answers to the loss of their identity.
We can confidently say that this is the sign of our time in the so-called well off and comfortable society.
Can these spiritual problems be prevented; can any type of school education give any help towards this?
The answer is certain: the school cannot do this alone; preparing our children to handle and deal with the difficulties of the future can only be achieved by parental co-ordination and family involvement.
A good family background gives stability and well-balanced behaviour, it helps to answer questions of morality and to find ones’ way in the labyrinth and hierarchy of values (not prices). The family is the smallest and the strongest cell in the body of a nation. This is where a child learns and learns to live the meaning of belonging, the meaning of paying attention to each other, and the responsibility of looking out for each other. This is where they breathe in the traditions and customs of their past. If they arrive at the school bringing these foundations with them, then it is much easier for the teacher to continue to broaden this culture.
The music teachers’ place is a special one in the 21st century.
It is our experience these days – and in this I am sure we all agree -, that we receive less support in our work to achieve our goals than we used to.
I often wonder whether if those people who inflict pain and grief upon their fellow human beings have ever experienced or heard the music of Bach or Mozart? Could or would it have influenced their personalities if they had been touched by Gabriel Faure’s song of After the Dream, or the closing scene of Puccini’s” La Boheme”?
We all know that the best method of teaching, the best thought out syllabus and the best teaching books are useless in the absence of a good teacher.
Only those music teachers who have been blessed with musical talent and are well prepared for their lessons, are able to inspire children’s interest. only those teachers, whose personality reflects rays of sunshine are able to induce the musical emotions and open the children’s souls, to embrace music. only those teachers with these attributes and untiring enthusiasm are able to carry Kodály’s concepts into practice.
The ‘common denominator’ between those people, who have discovered the magic of music, is the individual magic that each one of them contributes to this magic and the radiating energy that passes between each one of these magical people.
The responsibility of the music teachers-training establishments is a great one: selecting, educating, and preparing the teachers for the future for this thankless but at the same time wonderful task.
As Kodály wrote 50 years ago:
“A man who has talent is required to cultivate it to the highest degree, so as to be of the greatest possible use to his fellow-creatures. Every human being is worth as much as he can turn to the advantage of mankind and to the service of his country. Real art is one of the most powerful forces for the uplifting of mankind and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of mankind”.