Kolberg's opinions on changes in the choice of instruments in 19th century folk music

Zbigniew Jerzy Przerembski
2014 Musicology Today  
In the second half of the 19th century, when Oskar Kolberg conducted his folkloristic and ethnographic work, folk song and music were still alive and, to a great extent, functioned in their natural culture context. However, already at that time, and especially in the last decades of the century, gradual changes were taking place within folk tradition. Those changes were brought about by industrialization and factors in the development of urban civilization, which varied in intensity depending
more » ... tensity depending on the region. Folk music was also influenced by those changes and they themselves were further fuelled by the final (third) Partition of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia, declared in 1795 and lasting till the end of World War I. Oskar Kolberg noticed and described changes in the musical landscape of villages and little towns of the former Polish Republic in the 19th century, as well as in the choice of instruments. To be quite precise, musical instruments are not featured as a separate subject of his research, but various references, though scattered, are quite numerous, and are presented against a social, cultural and musical background, which provides an opportunity to draw certain conclusions concerning folk music instrumental practice. However, changes in the makeup of folk music ensembles resulted in the disappearance of traditional instruments, which were being replaced by the newer, factory-produced ones. This process worried Kolberg and he noticed its symptoms also in a wider, European context, where bagpipes or dulcimers were being supplanted not only by "itinerant orchestras" but also by barrel organs or even violins. Writing about our country, Poland, he combined a positive opinion on the subject of improvised and expressive performance of folk violinists with a negative one on clarinet players and mechanical instruments. Summing up, the musical landscape of Polish villages and both small and larger towns was definitely influenced in the 19th century by the symptoms of phenomena which much later acquired a wider dimension and were defined as globalization and commercialization. Sensing them, Oskar Kolberg viewed the well-being of the traditional culture heritage with apprehension.
doi:10.2478/muso-2014-0013 fatcat:skxzpjzcqvcplg6effwbynnade