The Tárogató and Central Eastern Europe
In Musik im Umbruch. Hrsg. Bruno B. Reuer Verlag Südostdeutsches Kulturwerk, München, 1999, 341-352.
Das Tárogató ist zugleich ein nationales Symbol und ein nationalistisches Emblem. Es ist sowohl ein Volksmusikinstrument als auch ein Instrument der klassischen Musik in Ungarn, sowohl ein politisch unterstütztes als auch ein verbotenes Holzblasinstrument. Das ursprüngliche Tárogató (török síp – Türkenpfeife), eine Variante der asiatischen Oboe (zurna), verbindet die ungarische Musikinstrumentenkultur mit dem Nahen Qrten, dem Mittleren Osten, der Türkei und dem Balkan. Heute benutzen Pop- und Volksmusiker in Ungarn eine modifizierte Form der Türkenpfeife (mit geradem Korpus, konischer Bohrung und ohne Gabelung). Diese ist die „Verbindung" von Türkei und Balkan in unserer gegenwartigen Musikpraxis. Die heutige Form des Tárogató, das modifizierte Tárogató, ist ein aus Holz gefertigtes Sopransaxophon. Sein Klang entspricht dem Klangideal der Kurucen-(Freiheitskämpfer-)Romantik um die Jahrhundertwende. Es besitzt exzellente Klangmöglichkeiten, einschließlich einer melancholischen, dunklen und durchdringenden Tongebung. Dieses modifizierte Tárogató (Schunda, Stowasser) ist eines der Instrumente, die Ungarn, Rumänien, die Slowakei und Böhmen „verbinden”.
The Ancient tárogató
Fig.1 a) Renaissance oboe b) tarakawa c) piffaro
Fig.2 Western-tárogató: Virág' tárogató (Vasárnapi Újság 1859:560)
There are two types of foreign soprano double-reed instruments that seem to have appeared in Hungary between the 14th and l6th centuries. One could be a variant of the Western shawm or oboe. The Croatian sopila, the Wendish tarakawa, the German Schalmei and the Italian piffaro belong to this family of woodwinds (see Fig. 1). The Baroque oboe and of course the modern oboe are their improved variants. Their distinguishing characteristic is the conical bore, and these instruments do not have a pirouette (except for the Croatian sopila). The shawm reeds are made through the process of cane-splitting, folding, shaping and binding parts of the plant arundo donax,which were brought into Hungary by foreign court musicians from the West. Thus, the ancient instruments came to be called "Western tárogató" (Fig. 2).
The other type is a variant of the Persian-Arab-Turkish shawms, the zurna. This instrument was introduced to Hungary by wandering Turkish-Balkan Roma musicians. The main characteristics of these "Eastern tárogatós" are the cylindrical or approximately cylindrical bore at the upper part of the instrument, the flaring bell with tuning holes and the pirouette (see Fig. 3). The most important and interesting part of their structure is the rotateable fork made of wood located within the upper part of bore.
Fig.3 Eastern tárogatós and zurna a) Beliczay tárogató b) Bethlen' tárogató (Vasárnapi Újság 1859:560) c) Zurna
The zurna-reed differs from the Western shawm-reed in the sort of cane used and in the method of finishing. A thinned tube of the stem is drawn over a brass staple; the result is like a double fan (Fig. 4). Laurence Picken has written as follows concerning zurna-reeds:
The shawmist's reed, ... is a collapsed cylinder, but in addition to the need for the material to be sufficiently weak for the wall to collapse under gentle pressure, ... the shawmreed must also be susceptible of tangential and radial compression.... This property of tangential and radial compressibility is dependent on the micro-structure of the material. This last is either the aerial culm, or the subterranean (and often subaquatic) rhizome, of Phragmites australis Steud. subspecies altissimus (Picken 1975:357).
Moreover, we should mention in this connection the Egyptian zamr-reeds (which are made similarly to zurna-reeds from a Nilotic grass called hagnâ curvitas) and the Macedonian zurla-reeds. Concerning the latter, Peter Brömse has written (1937:64): "Das Doppelrohrblatt (pisak, türk.: sibzi) wird aus einem besonderen Schilf, das angeblich am besten im Ohridsee wächst, verfertigt." Related to its origins, this type of tárogató can be called the "Eastern tárogató". However, our forefathers found an even better name for it, namely the "Turkish pipe".
Fig.4 Zurna reed
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to answer the question of whether the ancient Magyars had un original, uniquely Hungarian soprano double-reed instrument at the time of migration, that is, between the 10th and 14th centuries and before the introduction of Western and Eastern shawms. The use of the name tárogató was confusing in the early Middle Ages (as it had a general meaning of "winds"), and we can find neither archeological remains nor historical documents referring to this instrument. Moreover, our sources reveal that the word "pipe" in these texts could have meant "labial pipe" as well as "reed pipe".
Whether the origin of the word "tárogató" can be traced to the onomatopoetic "tara-tara" or to the meaning of "to open wide; to keep calling", the ancient Hungarian tárogató could well have had a penetrating, loud sound. Still, we cannot possibly know whether the ancient Hungarian tárogató was a simple wood trumpet (covered with bark or leather) or perhaps an animal horn with different mouthpieces; these are both only hypotheses (Haraszti 1918:65).
By the Turkish occupation of the 16th to 17th centuries, the Turkish pipe had became one of the most significant woodwinds in Hungary. It may have been made popular partly by wandering Balkan Roma musicians as well as by the spread of Turkish musical praxis in Hungary, especially in Transylvania. After the expulsion of the Ottomans, the Magyars wanted to differentiate their own musical praxis from those of the Austrians and the Germans, including their military music. For this reason, during the era of the Rákóczi war of independence (1704-11), the tárogató was very popular. In civilian life Roma musicians played the instrument together with drums, and Hungarian peasants blew tárogatós in the army of Prince Ferenc Rákóczi the Second (Sárosi 1978:37). After the defeat of the Rákóczi movement, it was forbidden to play the tárogató, and the instrument became a symbol of freedom in Hungary (Fig. 5). It was important as a military instrument, with its strong, loud, harsh and shrieking sound. Brömse commented as follows regarding the Macedonian zurla (Brömse 1937:65): "Einen Unterschied der Lautstärke gibt es infolge der Ansatztechnik nicht. Alles wird im dröhnendsten Fortissimo geblasen."
It is interesting to note in the military performance praxis of the tárogató that the three upper holes of the zurna-type pipe could he closed by rotating the fork. This enabled the cavalry player to play with only one hand and guide his horse with the other, an important ability during conflicts.
To demonstrate the paradoxical nature of the history of the tárogató, let us suppose that the balalajka would become the Hungarian national musical instrument in an effort to compensate for the influence of American mass media.
Another answer to the paradox of this national instrument is the tárogató music played by Roma musicians. A simple fact highlights the popularity of the flexible, high-spirited interpretations of Roma musicians, which is that we Hungarians are an Oriental folk. Turkish Byzantine influences can he found in our language and culture from the earliest times. Therefore, if we speak of social-psychological reasons for the instrument's popularity, the Hungarian people have found their roots in the tárogató and cimbalom. But we are not so certain that these represent original, ancient instruments in Hungary.
Fig.5 Tárogató piper (Oelinger 1790)
In fact, the article in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (Weissmann 1984:530) has challenged the hypothesis of László Lajtha (1923): "The Magyar tárogató can be traced in an unbroken line from the earliest times until the 18th century." But it must be noted that there was actually a long period of interruption (lasting four to five centuries) in this "unbroken" line.
At present, the zurna-type Eastern tárogatós can only be found in museums in Hungary, having disappeared from our current folk music life. They were played in the 19th century, and after a public notice made by Count István Fáy (1853:126), the "latent" instruments went to museums. The most important ancient zurna-like tárogatós are those of Beliczay and Bethlen, which have been named after their owners.
The Beliczay tárogató is a bit conical, while the Bethlen instrument is cylindrical (Fig.3). Both have rotateable wooden forks, which is a special acoustical "invention" that enlarges the conical quality. The main acoustical problem of the cylindrical bore is that the tight aperture of the mouthpiece must join with the wide bore. The joint cannot be a direct one, for then it would require great effort to play the instrument. The wood fork is a highly ingenious solution to this problem, being placed into the bore on the upper part of instrument. The fork allows the air to stream through the upper holes, and the bore is tightened at the upper end. Moreover, as in Egyptian music played on zamrs (pl. mizmar), the player can tune the upper pitches by means of rotating the fork (Braune 1993:517). (The one-handed playing manner has already been mentioned.) Another solution, seen only in Hungary, is a gradually widening, long staple between the reed and the bore. This type of tárogató with a cylindrical upper part is unsuitable for playing on horseback. For example, the Virág tárogató (Fig. 2) has such a long staple, measuring a quarter of the entire length of the instrument. Another instrument from Rimaszombat shows us this structure (though the staple has been lost) (Sudár & Csörsz Rumen 1996:104).
If the acoustical features of the conical parts are not stronger than the acoustical features of the cylindrical parts, then overblowing the octave in tune is impossible on these instruments. In ancient Turkish musical practice, overblowing was not used, so the problem of an acoustical effective conicity in the Eastern tárogatós was not solved. (The maximum range of the little Turkish zurnas is a ninth. In the present practice the range of large zurnas (baba zurna) is b to c2 and c-sharp to a1 [Picken 1975:493].)
The Modified tárogató
It was not accidental that on the first modified tárogató, a conical bore was used. In 1861 an oboist by the name of A. Suck and a musical instrument maker called Scripszky designed a simple oboe with a range of two octaves. (If we were to truly reform the ancient tárogaró, we would end up with the classical oboe or the piccolo heckelphone in their most authentic forms.)
Because playing the clarinet is easier than playing the double-reed tárogató – the former uses a simpler blowing technique and more active breathing and has a large dynamic range and pitch range the clarinet gradually took the place of the tárogató in Roma bands during the 19th century. The same process is occurring in the Balkan countries nowadays, where musicians try to produce the traditional sound ideal of zurna on the clarinet and use circular breathing, for example. The ancient zurla can sometimes be heard in Macedonia and Bosnia, the sournas in Greece, the surla in Romania and the surle in Albania. Mainly it is Roma musicians who play these instruments.
In Hungary, the bands that play contemporary folk music (especially Balkan music) and pop-folk musicians often use Turkish pipes, albeit their simplified versions with conical bore and oboe-like reeds. Their pitch range is broader than the earlier version. An acoustic analysis of the sound of a Turkish pipe shows us an oboelike spectrum (Fig. 6).
From 1894 to 1896 Schunda V. József built a 65- to 70-cm-long, conical instrument made from palisander wood with a clarinet-like mouthpiece, that is, a soprano saxophone with contemporary German oboe keywork (Fig. 7). Schunda called his modified tárogató an "improved" tárogató and designed it for the millennial festivities in Hungary – the thousandth anniversary of Magyar settlement. Musicologists received the instrument critically, but political officials, and in fact all elements of Hungarian cultural life, made a great "hullabaloo" over this instrument. (I should also mention that the name "schundaphone" would have been more accurate for the instrument, since only the bore of this modified tárogató is related to the ancient tárogató.)
At the time of the Hungarian millennium celebrations, it would have been impossible to call a new reed instrument something other than tárogató. In looking back, we only have to recall the 40-year-long musical movement around the ancient tárogató, the political atmosphere of the millennial festivities, and especially late Kuruc romanticism in Hungarian music. The modified tárogató suited the requirements of Kuruc romanticism perfectly. Schunda tried out different oboe-like instruments in the course of developing his modified instrument, one of which is now in Brussels in the Museum of Musical Instruments (Gábry 1971:64). Only orchestral oboists and some Roma musicians could play this type of tárogató. The clarinet was the most popular woodwind instrument at the end of the last century in Hungary. We can thus understand the application of the clarinet mouthpiece on the modified instrument. Moreover, it can be supposed that Schunda and János Stowasser wanted to build a German-style wooden saxophone for the musicians of central Europe. (Differences in the timbres of the ancient tárogató and the modified tárogató can be seen in Fig. 6.)
Fig.6 Waterfall spectrums of a Kuruc (military) signal: a) Turkish pipe b) modified tárogató (Stowasser Bb)
The "schundaphone" tárogató gained success quickly thanks to its perfect acoustic features (for example, good responsiveness), to its name and its publicity. The tárogató faculty was introduced at the Nemzeti Zenede (National School of Music). We have little information about the instrument's distribution or how many were sold by its makers. However, it can be pointed out that many types under different maker names were produced. The best sign of popularity of an instrument is whether they were copied. Among copies, the model #19865 Stowasser tárogató in Bb was the most popular (Fig. 8).
Fig.7 Schunda tárogató (patent from 1897) Fig.8 Stowasser tárogató (model #19865)
There were also simpler instruments with fewer keys, for example, the Wágner tárogatós (produced by A. K. Wágner). Tárogató tutors appeared as well.
Above all, this new instrument was a symbol of Hungarian aristocracy, the favorite woodwind of Governor Miklós Horthy. An old Hungarian tradition of nobility returned: a "real" Hungarian gentleman celebrated with tárogató music. Perhaps this was the main reason that Bartók and Kodály did not compose for this instrument; also, Kodály found its timbre "chocolate-like".
The company Stowasser had offices in Graslitz (today Krašlice), Budapest, Temesvár (today Timişoara), and in Torino. The modified tárogató was adopted as the taragot or torogoată in the Banat area of Romania and Serbia during the early 20th century and spread to other parts of the region. These instruments were produced in Temesvár. Taragot folk music is still very popular in Romania, particularly in Transylvania. The musicians play both tárogatós, though fewer use the ancient surlas and more play on the modified instruments. Today Stowasser copies are made mainly in Romania. Dimitru Farkaš is the most famous taragot musician in the world, having made many recordings. His virtuoso performances are a model for Romanian tárogató players.
This current phenomenon is interesting because after World War II until the 1980s, the modified tárogató had been practically silenced by those governing official musical life in Hungary. It was proclaimed by communist regimes to be a nationalistic musical instrument for irredentists. This was obviously not the fault of the tárogató but rather that of politicians from World War I until now. Under Rákosi's regime it was forbidden to play it publicly, radio recordings disappeared, the instrument making companies were nationalized, etc. Thus, it was not accidental that the instrument's rebellious character survived in the folk music of Hungary.
Acoustic Features of the Modified tárogató
I have been performing research work on the acoustic properties of the modified tárogató since 1987 (Pap 1990, 1994). These results and the opinions of American acousticians (A. H. Benade of Cleveland and D. H. Keefe of Washington) show us that the Schunda-Stowasser tárogató holds its own in an international comparison (Benade 1976:439–47; Keefe 1983). Some of its features, for example the tuning holes on the bell, are an acoustic curiosity. Actually, other woodwinds could benefit from taking over the good acoustic properties of these instruments. A. H. Benade noted the following in 1987:
One important contributor to the responsiveness and stability of the tárogató (as compared with its close cousin, the soprano saxophone) is the set of small holes that are drilled in a pattern around the bottom end of the bell joint.... Under these conditions, the bottom notes of the tárogató do not try to sneak up an octave at the end of a diminuendo, in the manner that is one of the curses of the saxophone, especially the soprano (Benade 1987).
The Modified tárogató Today
Today the tárogató is played mainly by folk musicians. This move from official folk music, contemporary light music and classical music to living folk music was achieved thanks to the Rákosi's era prohibition against its public performance and the lack of official sponsorship, during Kádár's regime. I myself have heard old men playing Hungarian folk songs and popular songs on the modified tárogató.
Nowadays this instrument can also be heard in Slovakia. Slovakian and above all Hungarian people play folk music and popular songs on it. According to Gergely Agócs's data collection (Sudár & Csörsz Rumen 1996:98), at present tárogatós are the status symbol of Roma musicians and shepherds from Balassagyarmat (northern Hungary) to Rimaszombat (Rimavská Sobota, today Slovakia, in the earlier Hungarian Highlands). In Csávoly, today Slovakia, József Agócs ("Golyó") makes Stowasser copies in Bb from walnut wood. He hammers out the keys from metal spoons with great patience. He plays the tárogató, and his son, Sándor Agócs (14 years old and musically illiterate), is a musician as well. By analyzing his playing manner, we find the traditional folk musical style of modified tárogató and clarinet performance: intensive vibrato, rich, penetrating sound and nasal timbre. The ornaments are simplified in the style of contemporary Roma clarinet and tárogató players. [Sándor Burka was the only Roma modified tárogató player who made LP recordings in Hungary during the years of Kádár's regime. His style had a great influence on the tárogató musicians of Hungary.]
A professional clarinetist would play the tárogató without vibrato. To such a player, performance with vibrato means the folk musical style of the modified tárogató. His artistic style and the rustic style of the folk musician supplement each other well.
Today about 80 to 100 people play the tárogató in Hungary. A further rise in popularity is retarded by prejudices arising from false assumptions. Examples include the assumption that since the instrument is used by certain extreme right-wing political groups at their political meetings, it is politically "tainted", and by the expectation that it develop its own contemporary musical practice, for which however some features of the instrument must be altered. It must also be noted that, for some ethnic minorities in Hungary, the modified tárogató has represented a tool of animosity. They thus cannot identify themselves with the idea of upholding Hungarian tárogató music.
The instruments are also too expensive at the present, and the supply is insufficient. Nowadays the company Hammerschmidt builds some Stowasser tárogatós in Bb in Burgau. The patent was bought from the Stowasser family, which has lived in Graz since the nationalization of their firm.
* * *
The zurna was introduced to south-eastern and central Europe by the Balkan and Turkish Romas. Their performance practice can be characterized as related to the Turkish musical tradition, along with the music of the area concerned. The closest existing relatives of the Eastern tárogató are the Croatian sopila and the Macedonian Bosnian zurla. The zurla (and perhaps the cimbalom -dulcimer) expresses best the duality – with some Eastern predominance – of the peoples living in this region. The authentic folk music played on zurlas enriches the culture of Europe and highlights our differences and our commonalities. The study and research of sopila, zurla and surle music and instrument-making is important for us Hungarians because through these activities, we come closer to an understanding of our ancient music and its development. Currently there are plans to play ancient tárogatós (Eastern types) with zurna and zurla reeds and to make recordings by professional zurna and zurla players, which will be analyzed. The idea for this experiment developed from the strenuous playing of a Beliczay copy with oboe reeds some years ago. Rainer Weber, doyen of European restaurateurs of musical instruments, helped us to find a good solution for the problem of playing with a zurna reed.
I believe that the complexity of Hungarian history and culture are reflected in the history and present life of the tárogató, especially in the midway position of Hungary between East and West. The tárogató, the zurla, sournas, sopila, surla and surle are all rich in overtones. There is no need for political overtones!
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