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Gypsy Music in European Culture

From the Late Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Centuries

Anna G. Piotrowska

Publication Year: 2013

Translated from the Polish, Anna G. Piotrowska's Gypsy Music in European Culture details the profound impact that Gypsy music has had on European culture from a broadly historical perspective. The author begins by identifying two models of discourse on Gypsy music: those of assimilation, as in the national music of Hungary and Spain, and nonassimilating types, which often fall into racial stereotypes and associations with the exotic. Using these broad typologies as a jumping-off point, she then details the stimulating influence that Gypsy music had on a variety of European musical forms, including opera, vaudeville, ballet, and vocal and instrumental compositions. The author analyzes the use of Gypsy themes and idioms in the music of recognized giants such as Bizet, Strauss, and Paderewski, detailing the composers' use of scale, form, motivic presentations, and rhythmic tendencies, and also discusses the impact of Gypsy music on emerging national musical forms.

This is the first comprehensive treatment of Gypsy musical forms and their impact on European musical taste and styles from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and will be welcomed by scholars and students in ethnomusicology, anthropology, cultural studies, and the history of music.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-12

The figure of the Gypsy musician—from the end of the eighteenth century onward—has aroused notable interest, similar to that drawn by the myth of Orpheus since the Renaissance. Within the framework of constructing an image of idealized Gypsy music both in literature and within musical works, the Gypsy musician has been considered the embodiment of the inspired creator, possessing...

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Part I — Two Models of Discourse on Gypsy Music

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pp. 13-16

The music played by Gypsies was perceived within Europe, on the one hand, through the prism of the Gypsy question—a question burdened with the pejorative overtones of general attitudes toward Gypsies—and, on the other, according to the musical practices connected with Gypsies seen within the broader cultural conditions of modern Europe. Academic consideration of...

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1 | Hungarian National Music

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pp. 17-53

Musicologists, ethnologists, historians, and anthropologists often express a version of the following statement: “There is hardly a country where Gypsy musicians played such an important role in the development of a national musical style . . . as was the case in Hungary” (Erdely 1983, 550). This notion was—chiefly—linked to a sense among Gypsy musicians of the Gypsy people’s high...

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2 | Spanish National Music

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pp. 54-85

The music of the Spanish Gypsies, known as Gitanos, arose as a result of the intermixing of several cultures carrying specific historical experiences: Andalusian culture displaying its Arabic influence, Jewish culture, and the culture of the Andalusian Gypsies themselves. The music of the Andalusian Gypsies started with the arrival of the first Romanies in Spanish territories at the beginning...

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3 | Gypsy Music and Exoticism

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pp. 86-99

Exoticism in music typically falls into two categories: “distant” exoticism, or music mainly of the East but also including Africa, the Americas, and other locales beyond Europe; and “near” exoticism, or music produced in the European purview but that is, for various, often geopolitical reasons, marginalized. The first of these categories is closely connected with discussions of the Orient...

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4 | Gypsy Music and Race

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pp. 100-108

The word race entered European Romance languages in the thirteenth century as a result of the Arab-Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula. During the Spanish Reconquista, from the eighth to the fifteenth century, the term did not carry racist overtones in Spanish texts (Roth 1995, 229). The concept began to slowly penetrate other European languages around the sixteenth century, and...

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Part II — Gypsy Music in the Works of Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Composers

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pp. 109-114

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, composers—as representatives of Europe’s intellectual elite—actively shaped the topos of Gypsy music in European culture. They did so chiefly through their music but also through their published works. These works helped shape the dominant discourse on Gypsies and Gypsy culture within the European tradition, while also reproducing...

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5 | The Gypsy Idiom in Operas

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pp. 115-135

In Georges Bizet’s (1838–1875) opera Carmen, Spain is treated as occupying the edge of Europe. The Gypsies who appear in this 1875 work would fit the stereotypical conceptions and reflect the hidden desires of bourgeoisie drawn to Gypsy music. At the same time, Carmen, in a far from sophisticated way, refers to nationalist discourse through the introduction of Spanish and Gypsy...

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6 | Gypsy Themes in Operettas and Vaudevilles

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pp. 136-156

Johann Strauss II (1825–1899), the master of the waltz and the Viennese operetta, also helped contribute to stereotypes of the Gypsy and Gypsy music within European culture.
In Act II of his most popular operetta, Die Fledermaus (The Bat), of 1874, the composer introduced a czardas, performed by Rosalinda, pretending to be a Hungarian princess, with the performance serving to substantiate her...

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7 | Gypsy Motifs in Ballet

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pp. 157-173

As it did in other artistic forms, the exotic discourse on Gypsy culture predominated in European ballet, especially in its visual elements. In Russian ballets particularly, Gypsies would appear at markets and fairs as onlookers, reflecting their age-old national presence.
The Gypsy type emerged in European ballet in the eighteenth century. One instance was Christoph Willibald Gluck’s three-act ballet-pantomime...

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8 | Gypsy Themes in Vocal Works

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pp. 174-199

As a genre representative for the Romantic era, song naturally absorbed popular motifs. And because Gypsy motifs were seen as being tied to romantic ideals, these motifs entered artistic songs predominantly through the literary texts of poets. This tendency prevailed for composers through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Romantic German poets who dealt with Gypsy...

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9 | Gypsy Motifs in Instrumental Works

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pp. 200-222

Across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, one area in which Gypsy motifs were generally absent was longer-form concert works, a gap that may be attributed to composers’ inadequate knowledge of Romany music. Exceptions include Henryk Wieniawski’s use of a Gypsy-sounding name (à la Zingara) to subtitle the third and final part of his II Violin Concerto in D minor (op. 22; first...

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pp. 223-226

Over centuries, fascination with Gypsy culture would manifest itself in Europe multifariously: both in everyday life, such as in sayings adopted by many languages, and in academic research and influences within the fine arts. Music has often been foremost in these discussions as a means of understanding Romany society, and Romany music would be interpreted and reinterpreted...


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pp. 227-248


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pp. 249-264

E-ISBN-13: 9781555538385
E-ISBN-10: 155553838X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555538361

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013