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September 29, 1963 - Image 9

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Sandor: Artistic Expression in Hungary

IT HAS BECOME a rather worn pre-
occupation in artistic and intellectual
circles on this continent and in Western
Europe to shake the head every so often
and empathize with fellow creative spir-
its in the Communist world who are con-
stantly being harassed and bullied by
the cultural hacks of political commissars.
To presuppose that all the worthwhile
creative talent of these countries is fight-
ing for life, liberty and the pursuit of les
beaux arts would be an erroneous view,
but one which sadly enough is consistent-
ly taken by the mass media in this coun-
try. No doubt it is another example of
cold war black and white psychology and
as such it is to be condemned.
Americans particularly have been en-
ticed by publications which carry articles
on "Soviet suppression of the arts." Gy-
orgy Sandor, the eminent pianist and a
member of the University's music facul-
ty, himself a native of Hungary, has said
that "the difference is not so much in the
quality as in the quantity of pressure"
in the creative climates of the Communist
and non-Communist worlds. Sandor left
-Hungary in 1938, but he has maintained
contact with performing musicians and
composers in Budapest. This informed
Hungarian-born musician has much to
add to a discussion which is too often un-
It is evident that in any highly orga-
nized modern state the individual must
to some degree conform in order to func-
tion. In Western society, the artist's suc-
cess depends in part on a certain con-
formity to the culture's standard and the
artist who does not bend to these prin-
ciples will be somewhat handicapped.
Katherine Kuhs, in her article on Soviet
art in the "Saturday Review" (Aug. 24,
1963), was aware of this problem. She
quotes A. A. Deineka, the Russian artist
and diplomat, who said he knows "a num-
ber of Western painters who must produce
abstract works because these are the only
ones they can sell. . . . I believe that no
real artist would paint with his feet or
spit on a canvas purely for the sake of
sensation." This acidic indictment does
have some validity in fact. But Sandor
makes an important distinction: One
cannot function at all as an artist in the
modern socialist state if the society's
demands are not involuntarily accepted.
IN AN INTERVIEW broadcast on the
University radio station WUOM, San-
dor spoke of the stifling of the artist,
which falsifies the creative effort. "The
world of art is supposed to be a perfect
world and the world in which we live is
imperfect, so if we want to express per-
fection or certain true and valid rules or
principles in art then they should not
necessarily conform to any temporary
rules in our everyday environment. Art in
the highest sense transcends the era in
which it was created and becomes ageless.
The reflection of the temporary may bring
it down to the level of sheer reportage.
So naturally, if one has to conform to and
reflect these imperfect conditions, it must
be a very unhealthy and unpleasant sit-
Modern Hungary's situation is a reflec-
tion of the policies of the Soviet Union. It
is here that the artist's place in the Marx-I
ist social fabric took shape. Theoretically,
the artist is a cultural worker who must,
spread the Marxist gospel and entertain
the masses-Mao Tse-Tung articulateda
this phlosophy at the Yenan Conferencej
on the Arts in 1942. "Music is for workers,l
peasants and soldiers. Musicians are nots
creatures apart, but must know sweat and1
toil," he said. This is accomplished
through the doctrine of socialist realism.
Themes of revolution and the glories ofj
socialist society must be carried off with
much emotional fervor and in a decidedlyi
optimistic tone.-

reflects the particularities of the Russian
people. The second element is ironic for it
is expressed in the musical vocabulary of
the nineteenth century Russian nation-
alist school. The American musicologist-
Joseph Machlis (b. 1906) shows that this
is not so paradoxical as it may seem.
First, since music must be comprehended
by the masses, the familiar nineteenth
century idiom must be employed. Sec-
ond, the present generation of musicians
was trained by the great Russian masters
of the last century, Rimsky-Korsakov and
Tchaikovsky among them. This explains
the typical elements of contemporary
Russian music--its brilliant and lyricism
and its use of exotic folk material. Mach-
lis has said that the key to understanding
the actual attitude of the Soviet composer
is that the emphasis upon art as socially
significant communication rather than
individual self-expression has its roots in
the intellectual climate of nineteenth cen-
tury Russia. Musorgskii (1839-1881)
wrote, "Art is a means of communication
with mankind," and Glinka (1804-1857),

ideology. According to''camas Aczel and
Tibor Meray, two expatriate Hungarian
literary figures, Hungarian artists in the
past have drawn from the West. During
the Stalinist era, between 1949 and 1953,
most Western books and films were ban-
ned. When De Sica's Italian film "Bicycle
Thief" was shown, the ending was chang-
ed so that the hero joined the Party.
Certain artists stayed in Hungary after
the war. A few were political opportunists;
others were not permitted to leave, or did
not wish to leave. Zoltan Kodaly, the
great composer, was in the latter group.
Sandor studied composition with Kodaly
and was at the same time a piano student
of Bela Bartok at Budapest's Liszt Ferenc
Academy between 1927 and 1933. Sandor
has never lived under a totalitarian re-
gime. He has been a naturalized U.S.
citizen since 1943. He is not willing to be
considered an "authority," Sandor never-
theless has travelled to Eastern Europe
a number of times since the last war. He
spoke extensively with Kodaly in 1961.
Unlike the performing musician who can

'owned' and used by the state. There is
no alternative," said Sandor.
MUSICIANS have an avid public. It has
only been recently that the masses of
Eastern Europe have been exposed to what
we call "art music." The culture Ameri-
cans associate with Europe was cultivated
by the aristocracy and then the bour-
geoisie, almost exclusively in the big
metropolitan centers. Now the general
public is being given the chance to hear
good music and it is responding enthus-
iastically. Art, Sandor has pointed out,
seems to mean much to these people.
They need the beauty of the perfect world
of art to "compensate" for their "diffi-
cult" existence, he says.
Sandor also noted that cultural ex-
change is a misleading guide to cultural
excellence. The Soviets, for example,
make certain that only their very best
artists appear in the West. The U.S. does
not always send its top talent. These So-
viet artists spend relatively little time
outside their country and are carefully
guided when on tour. When they return
home their feelings and observations are
carefully channeled. Moreover, the musi-
cians are thoroughly indoctrinated before
they ever leave the country. Sandor tells
the story of the Russian artist who got
caught in a mid-continent cold spell in
this country and swore that they never
had such cold in Russia. t
THE POLITICAL, social and creative
self-determination and freedom of ex-
pressrion that we jealously cherish are the
exception and not the rule in the history
off the West. There is indeed a long tradi-
tion in which powerful social institutions
controlled the arts toward their own ends.
The Greeks were- very impressed with
the human response to music. They ex-
pounded the doctrine of ethos in which
certain modes had specific character-in-
fluencing capacities. Accordingly, music-
poetry (the two were one in the same) was
one half of the traditional education of,
the young, but the child was exposed only
to that music which brought order and
harmony and a patriotic disposition into
the soul. Plato went farther in his theo-
retical writings than his contemporaries
did in practice. In The Republic, Pla-
to's rational, authoritarian society, music-
poetry is almost totally proscribed. Music
imitates the inferior world of reality
(Plato's World of Becoming) and thus
enervates the moral fiber of the listener.
Only that music which aspires to perfec-
tion and which reflects the ideal is al-
lowed. Only eulogies to great heroes are
tolerable. This philosophy bears a strik-
ing resemblance to the doctrine of social-
ist realism which demands the represen-
tation of reality in a romanticized, ideal-
ized manner.
But the Greeks not only dd have defi-
nite ideas on the role of the arts. The
early church had its own views. This
authoritarian body demanded that music
be unobtrusive, unclimactic and suitable
for expressing religious fervor. Music
without words could''not accomplish this
function, so instrumental music was ban-
ned. The least bit of sensual and emotion.
al content was strongly condemned by the
ascetic church fathers.
Or again, when the Calvinists gained
political control in their theocracies in
the sixteenth century, they were fright-
fully unsparing with music. Calvin for-
bade all but monophonic, metrical sing-
ing of Psalms without instruments, and
this at a time when music was far ad-
vanced in complexity over the austere
chants of earlier times.
So it is seen that the strict control of
the art of music has a long tradition from
both the Hellenic and Judeo-Christian
sources of our common Western heritage.
But Gyorgy Sandor points out that music
has disassociated itself from subservient
functionalism into an independent ab-
stract language and since this emancipa-
tion has thrived. The Communists, by
again wanting to clip ts wings, are truly
reactionary in spirit. But, a consideration
of music from the perspective of history

should make us more dispassionate in
viewing the creative person and his en-
vironments: to paraphrase Sandor, who
put it so well, "people who are great will
produce no matter where they live."

VOL. X, NO. 3

SEPTEMBER 29, 1963


Sandor at the Steinway

the father of Russian nationalist music,
said, "It is the people who create, we
composers only arrange."
When the Russians took control of
Eastern Europe they thoroughly Russi-
fied the effected states. The Polish ex-
patriate composer and conductor An-
drzej Panufnik writes of this Russianiza-
tion, and adds, "I was burdened with
many administrative functions. .'. . I was
so exploited politically that I had no time
for my creative work." With the Gomulka
"Revolution" in 1956, artists were more
free to express themselves and more open
to Western influence. One anecdote re-
called by Panufink concerned a young,
enthusiast who was asked at a perform-
ance of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto if
he really liked it. "No," he replied, "but
it's just so different!"
S ANDOR SAYS that in Hungary "the
musicians are better off than other
artists because music is an abstract lan-
guage" and does not lend itself as well as
the spoken or printed word, to expressing

often do more good for his art by travel-
ing widely and keeping the world of art
international, the composer has a need
for cultural roots from which to draw
sustenance. Kodaly has been in Hungary
continually and has no intention of ever
leaving. He was an internationally recog-
nized composer long before the present
regime, which is benefiting from the sim-
ple fact of his presence. The composer
has been left alone to do as he pleases
and is given a home, a country estate and
a car by the state. "These are things most
of us have but in Hungary only the elite
have access to these things."
This Hungarian artistic elite is made
up of highly trained professionals thor-
oughly dedicated to their art. These priv-
ileged few in a supposedly classless so-
ciety have much in common with their
Western contemporaries. They lead a
comfortable existence and are relatively
well informed. Of course, "it is not a mat-
ter of offering one's service to the state
as a 'returning of favors' after being
brought up by the state, for everyone is

POSITION of the Soviet composer
compounded of two elements. The
is related to demands of the state's
ogy, the second to the musical tradi-
in which these demands must be
ed out. The first is a contradiction in
for the supposed internationalism of
3ommunist movement has become in
very nationalistic with the rise of
a to a world power. Its development

"~Haven and HIU"

T IC A A SL3 3 'A L S .A II V &A A 1A ? tK SW

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