The Past

Black and white portrait
In the Etnomusicological Group (of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) a research workshop was formed in the 60s around Benjamin Rajeczky (OCist). At that time Rajeczky had already carried on research into the history of melody for two decades, inspired by Zoltán Kodály and Bence Szabolcsi. In addition to several articles in this field he published two important large-scale works. One of them was a comprehensive study about the lament repertory of the Hungarian folk music published in the 5th volume of the series Collection of Hungarian Folk Music (Budapest, 1966), which discussed its ethnomusicological subject from historical point of view as well. The other work was an edition of the Hungarian hymn and sequence repertory, planned as the 1st volume of a series of similar editions, in which he tried to draw parallels between folk music and medieval monodic repertories (Rajeczky, B.: Melodiarium Hungariae Medii Aevi I. Hymni et Sequentiae. Budapest 1956).
Concordantly with Rajeczky's orientation the main tasks of the research group were to examine the role of the oral transmission in the written monodic repertories of the history of music and the other way round, to examine the possibilities of a historical approach to orally transmitted repertories (e.g. folk music). Beside Rajeczky's colleagues, Janka Szendrei and László Dobszay other musicologists also took part in the work of the formation (e.g. Kornél Bárdos, Margit Tóth, Veronika Vavrinecz and others).
The first important achievement of the team was the compile the Historical Song Collection and within this comparing the melodies recorded in Hungary in the 16th-17th centuries with their occurrences in the living folk tradition. The latter activity resulted in the book: Szendrei, J. - Dobszay, L. - Rajeczky, B.: XVI-XVII. századi dallamaink a népi emlékezetben I-II. [16th- and l7th-century Melodies in the Folk Memory. Vols. I-II.] Budapest, 1979. Another important project covered the transcription, analysis and musical categorization of the complete antiphon repertory of the Hungarian plainchant sources, resulting in a musically classified melody collection, and the preparation of an edition of this repertory. The publication of this volume was delayed for several reasons, until it finally appeared as the 5th volume of the series Monumenta Monodica Medii Aevi in 1998.
During the following period the scope of research was extended and included the following activities:
square intensive and comprehensive study of the music history of medieval Hungary, including the discovery, survey and analysis of sources, study of musical paleography, musical genres and repertories, research into the history of medieval polyphony etc. The results and experiences of this complex research were summarized in the 1st volume of the series The Music History of Hungary, edited by Rajeczky (Budapest, 1988).
square study of the history of plainchant in Central Europe moreover, the research into the genesis of gregorian music in general.
An important step toward the integration of the institutionalized musicological research in Hungary was when the Institute for Musicology and the so-called Ethnomusicological Group merged in the 1970s. It was a fact of great importance for the team itself as from that time on it became an independent organizational unit within the institute called the Study Group for the History of Melody. This study group formed the basis of the present Department of Early Music established in 1985 under László Dobszay (from 1993 to the present its head has been Janka Szendrei). The sphere of its activities was extended, including:
square the development and maintenance of the European Folksong Collection (containing more than 100 000 musically classified melodies);
square updating and increasing the Historical Song Collection mentioned above;
square the enlargement and maintenance of the Microfilm Collection;
square the transcription of the medieval Hungarian plainchant sources (see: Medieval Melody Catalogue);
square the study and publication of the medieval Central European office traditions (CAO-ECE).
square Closely connected with the research into plainchant history Benjamin Rajeczky, László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei founded the Schola Hungarica in 1969 for performing the scholarly examined melodic repertories and utilizing the experiences of research.
The close connection between the research into medieval music and ethnomusicology was maintained and in 1975 the two medievalists (László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei) were charged with the categorization of the folk song collection of the institute according to styles. After completing the work, they planned to publish it in a catalogue series. So far its first volume has been published (Dobszay, L. - Szendrei, J.: Catalogue of Hungarian Folksong Types - Arranged According their Styles I. Budapest, 1988.)
László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei initiated and have supervised the Musicalia Danubiana, a series of source editions of the Hungarian music history for many years.
In the 70s and 80s new colleagues joined the department (earlier Ilona Ferenczi, Ágnes Sas, later Gábor Kiss, Zsuzsa Czagány and Ágnes Papp, see: Our staff) widening the scope of the activities of the Department and enriching its collections (see: Activities, Collections).

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