You are on page 1of 21

Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 125 (2000)

Royal Musical Association

Eros in the Metropolis: Bartok's The Miraculous Mandarin


pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin has become notorious for its overt eroticism. It forms the climax to a succession of pieces with erotic inspirations, including those inspired by Stefi Geyer and the frankly sexual texts he set in the songs of 1915-16.1 The central issue in The Miraculous Mandarin is the role of eroticism in modern urban culture. Exploitation, violence, seduction and murder are all embedded in a tale whose main characters - a young woman, three thugs, a mysterious Oriental - symbolize destructive and redemptive aspects of Eros. The work's significance is twofold. First, it engages with cultural issues which were viewed as crucial by many intellectuals of that time and milieu and, second, the musical processes which Bartok employs to illustrate or express these issues relate to ideas explored in some of his most important essays. In the winter and early spring of 1918 the second series of lectures and seminars of the Budapest 'Free School for the Human Sciences' included in its list of events a paper entitled 'Folk Music and Modern Music' to be delivered by Bartok. The School, which had run its first lecture series in the spring of 1917, was the brain-child of members of the so-called Sunday Circle, a group of intellectuals who met in Budapest during the First World War. Amongst its leading figures were Gyorgy Lukacs, Bela Balazs and Karl Mannheim. Leon Botstein has suggested that Bartok's lecture was probably an early version of the essay published in 1921 under the title 'The Relation of Folk Song to the Development of the Art Music of our Time'.2 In this fairly substantial piece Bartok raises, amongst other topics, three issues, the first two of

1 See John C Crawford and Dorothy L Crawford, Expressionism in Twentieth-Century Music (Bloomington, 1994), 176-91, for discussion of these works, which the authors view as products of Bartok's 'recurrent episodes of psychological and sexual turmoil' (p 176). On the importance of Endre Ady's erotic work for Bartok seejudit Fngyesi, Bela Bartok and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest (Berkeley, 1998), esp. pp. 168-95 2 Leon Botstein, 'Out of Hungary Bartok, Modernism, and the Cultural Poliucs of TwentiethCentury Music', Bartok and his World, ed. Peter Laki (Princeton, 1995), 3-63 (p. 62, n 126) Lee Congdon, however, says that there is 'no reliable evidence to suggest that . . Bartok presented this', The Young Lukacs (Chapel Hill, 1983), 126.



which will be central concerns of this article, and the third a point which will be raised in its conclusion: (1) The question of origin Bartok writes: 'the problem of the origin of the primitive music (Urrmisik) of a people is as insoluble as that of the origin of root languages or of the human race itself. He then points to the pentatonic inflexions of Hungarian peasant music, a characteristic 'reminding one of the Asiatic origin of the Hungarian race'.3 (2) The position of the creative subject with relation to Nature and Culture Bartok writes: 'Peasant music . . . must be regarded as a natural phenomenon; the forms in which it manifests itself are due to the instinctive transforming power of a community entirely devoid of erudition. It is just as much a natural phenomenon as, for instance, the various manifestations of Nature - fauna and flora. Correspondingly it has in its individual parts an absolute artistic perfection'. He continues a litde further on: 'artistic perfection can only be achieved by one of two extremes: on the one hand by peasant folk in the mass, entirely devoid of the culture of the towndweller, on the other by the creauve power of an individual genius. The creative impulse of anyone who has the misfortune to be born somewhere between these two extremes leads only to barren, pointless and misshapen works.'4 (3) The character of the music of his contemporaries, Stravinsky and Schoenberg Bartok writes on Stravinsky's The Rite ofSpring, 'the work, in spite of its extraordinary verve and power, fails to be completely satisfying. Under the influence of the short-winded structure of the Russian peasant melodies, Stravinsky did not escape the danger of yielding to a broken mosaic-like construction which is sometimes disturbing and of which the effect is enhanced by his peculiar technique, monotonous as it becomes by repetition'. Schoenberg, he writes, 'is free from all peasant influence and his complete alienation to Nature, which of course I do not regard as a blemish, is no doubt the reason why many find his work so difficult to understand'.5 This article will show how these three issues relate to The Miraculous Mandarin, which Bartok began to compose in 1918 and had, by the publication of the essay in 1921, progressed substantially despite the terrible conditions created by war and poverty.6 Many of the issues raised by Bartok's pantomime were favourite topics of debate for the Sunday Circle and my interpretation of this work will draw upon writings influential for, and those written by, leading members of this group. Bartok was not a regular contributor to their discussions, but had at various times taught Lukacs music and during part of the period of his work on The Miraculous Mandarin stayed at his home. Furthermore, he had a close collaborative relationship with Balazs, audior of Bluebeard's Castle
3 Bela Bartok, 'The Relation of Folk Song to the Development of the Art Music of our Time', Bela Bartok Essays, ed Benjamin Suchoff (Lincoln, NE, 1976), 320-30 (p 321) 4 rbuL, 321-2 5 Ibid, 325-6 "~ 6 For a chronology of the composition of the work see Ferenc Boms, 'The Miraculous Mandarin The Birth and Vicissitudes of a Masterpiece', The Stage Works of Bela Bartok, ed. Nicholas John (London, 1991), 81-5; and John Vinton, "The Case of The Miraculous Mandarin', Musical Quarterly, 20 (1964), 1-17



and the scenario of the ballet The Wooden Prince (which Bartok once played to the group at the piano). In the work of Balazs eroticism opens up the possibility (which Lukacs argued was ultimately illusory) of individual redemption, communion with others, and the transcendence of the dualism of soul and body. The hopes placed on eroticism were a response to the group's overriding concern for the theme of the alienation of the individual in modern culture and their concomitant search for cultural renewal. Mannheim, who delivered the keynote speech to the 1918 School of Human Science lecture series, wrote: 'we are many and we live apart, divorced from one another, longing for one another, but unable to draw near to one another. But it is not only the other who is out of reach, but we ourselves as well.'7 Mannheim held a typical desire to find a new affirmative synthesis, based on the rejection of nineteenthcentury positivism and materialism and a return to metaphysical idealism. A crucial stimulus for this project was the work of Georg Simmel, who was an important inspiration for many of the Sunday Circle. Balazs and Lukacs attended Simmel's Berlin seminars on the philosophy of culture and were invited to Simmel's home.8 Lukacs and Mannheim both wrote reviews of Simmel's work in 1918, but while they respected Simmel's exposure of the 'tragedy' of modern culture they were both disappointed by his failure to propose a positive alternative or solution. Nevertheless, Simmel is a vital background to their thinking. Mannheim included Bartok as one of the names which he believed could 'serve as rallying cries' for the new generation of moderns who sought a solution to this situation. In late life Lukacs wrote:
For Bartok the central question of renewal, of the world, of music, hinges on the insoluble conflict between the authentic life of the people and the distorting, dehumanizing effects of capitalist pseudo-culture; in his art it is the irreconcilable contradiction between the natural life of the peasant and the alienation of modern man that becomes the point of departure for the solutions to die problems of modern life 9

The Miraculous Mandarin, in its explosive approach to the issues of original creativity and the condition of the subject in urban culture, offers a powerful musical exploration of these issues.

Bartok describes the opening of The Miraculous Mandarin in a letter of September 1918 to his wife:
It will be hellish music if I succeed. The prelude before the curtain goes up is going to be very short and will sound like horrible pandemonium, din,
From Mannheim's lecture 'Soul and Culture', trans. Congdon, The Young Lukacs, 123 This introductory material draws upon Mary Gluck, Georg Lukacs and his Generation 1900-1918 (Cambridge, MA, 1985), and Congdon, The Young Lukacs. Bartok's relationship with Balazs and Lukacs is explored in Fngyesi, Bela Bartok and Turn-of-the Century Budapest. Further context is given in Mary Gluck, 'The Intellectual and Cultural Background of Bartok's Work', Bartok and Kodaly Revisited, ed Gyorgy Ranki (Budapest, 1987), 9-23 9 Gyorgy Lukacs, 'Bartok Bela', Nagyvtldg, 15 (September 1970), 1290, trans Ivan Sanders, 'Three Literary Bartok Portraits', Bartok and Kodaly Revisited, ed. Ranki, 45-54 (p 47).
8 7



racket, and hooting: the audience will be introduced to the apache's den from the hurly-burly of the metropolis.10 The opening bars are shown in Example 1. It is possible to hear this music as a perversion or inversion of musical portrayals of Nature's Example 1. Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin, opening.
Allegro (J = 120) 1,2 a2


3Obs. 3Cls. (Bt)

ij ff

1.2 _ 3Bsns iff 4Hns(F) 3 Tpls (C) 3 Trombs. Tba Timp

Tamb. pice







semprt simde

Va Vc. D.B

trans. Boms, ' The Miraculous Mandarin', 83



Example 1 continued
I I r-

Obs. Cls. (Bt)




\,l 5



Tamb. pice.





i r


Obs. Cls. (Bt)




Tamb. pice.





awakening or creation (compare for example the opening of Schoenberg's Gurreheder or the dawn sequence in Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, which introduce locations for erotic tales very distant from the modern metropolis). In Bartok the scurrying violin figure, outlining an augmented octave, is a twisting, distorted, restless version of forest murmurs or bathing waters; the woodwind blare out tritones as a violent urban alternative of the dawn chorus; even the 6/8 time signature recalls the trappings of musical pastoralism. The most famous nineteenth-century example of such creation openings is of course the Prelude to Wagner's Das Rheingold, which Bartok appears to rewrite in the opening of The Wooden Prince (1917).n David E. Schneider has called this topos a symbol of 'metaphorical birth'.12 The opening of The Miraculous Mandarin must therefore suggest the obliteration of such natural origins. The music leads us to a squalid dwelling where three robbers, or apaches, are holding by force a girl who must lure men up the stairs so that they can be mugged. As the 'pandemonium' of outdoor street life subsides the men command the girl to stand at the window and seduce suitable passers-by. This she must do three times, for the first victim is a shabby old rake and the second a penniless youth. Bartok's musical settings of the girl's forced attempts at seduction are striking, especially when compared with the character of the opening of the work. As Example 2 shows, all three seductions are set over low pedal tritones, which we may hear as the insistent hum of the city that never sleeps. It may also be a reminder that the music of the metropolis is a distortion of the world of nature, whose traditional musical topos would archetypally be based on the octave and fifth produced by the overtone series. With this tritone and the dissonance of the prelude's 'hellish music' still ringing in the ears, the girl's first two attempts at seduction open tentatively with repeated rising perfect fifths. In his essay 'The Problem of the New Music', published in 1920, Bartok wrote: An isolated triad of the diatonic scale, a third, a perfect fifth or octave amidst atonal chords - certainly limited to quite special places which are suitable for the purpose - do not give the impression of tonality; furthermore, these means, already withered by long use and misuse, acquire from such a totally13 new surrounding a lively, quite special effect arising just from the contrast.

11 See Ferenc Boms, 'Bartok and Wagner', Bartok Studies, ed David Crow (Detroit, 1976), 84-93 (p. 89), who calls the opening of The Wooden Pnncea 'twentieth-century reformulation' of the Rheingold Prelude Gyorgy Kroo notes that the dawn awakening was not in Balazs's original scenario, 'Ballet The Wooden Pnnce', The Bartok Companion, ed Malcolm Gillies (London, 1993), 360-71 (p. 362). 12 David E. Schneider, 'Bartok and Stravinsky Respect, Compeution, Influence, and the Hungarian Reacuon to Modernism in the 1920s', Bartok and his World, ed. Laki, 172-99 (p 187) Schneider reveals the endunng importance of this topos for Bartotin an analysis of the opening of the-first movement of the First Piano Concerto Fngyesi similarly analyses the same passage as 'creation music' in Bela Bartok and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest, 123-34 13 Bela Bartok, "The Problem of the New Music' (1920), Bela Bartok Essays, ed Suchoff, 455-9 (p 456).



The 'special effect' in this instance suggests, with the accompanying tritone drone as an urban version of lingering 'forest murmurs', that in order to allure passing men the girl must try to rediscover something 'natural', indeed, must return to an 'original' mode of expression. From this 'origin', the perfect fifth,-she attempts to evolve beautiful, seductive melody. The fifths are first slow and repeated, but gradually the melody becomes more complex, florid and continuous, while constantly returning to its source as a point of reference. It is a restaging of the birdi of music.

Example 2. Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin, (a) first seduction; (b) second seduction; (c) third seduction.


i nt i \i K 1 1 mj

a tempo

poco rit.



Example 2 continued

(c) piu mosso

Str., Hns

The question of the origin of music was very important in the postDarwin period. In The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

(1871) Darwin wrote: 'the sensations and ideas excited in us by music . . . appear from their very vagueness, yet depth, like mental reversions to the emotions and thoughts of a long-past age'; and he expands on
this in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) by saying:

'Music has a wonderful power . . . of recalling in a vague and indefinite



manner, those strong emotions which were felt during long-past ages when, as is probable, our early progenitors courted each other by the aid of vocal tones.'14 In his early essay 'Psychological and Ethnological Studies on Music' (1882) Simmel takes these statements of Darwin as a point of departure for a discussion of music's origin and power. Although he disagrees with Darwin's view that music evolved from ancient mating calls, he acknowledges that 'music imitates the tones which spring forth from the soul when elicited by a strong emotion', and that as a result it can be highly seductive - amusingly, he writes, to provide an example, that 'Australian men are led to the most sensual actions by the songs of their women.'15 Simmel's engagement with Darwin is just one contribution to the debate on the issue of origins which, as Judit Frigyesi has shown, was particularly acute amongst Austro-Hungarian intellectuals at the turn of the century. Bartok, as for the 'moderns' who inspired him (Nietzsche, Lukacs, Ady), 'had to descend to "the origin"'.16 In Bartok's musical realization the girl attempts to create her own mating call, for this is how she will entice the men from the street below. It seems that music is born out of the need to attract a potential sexual partner. However, although she is successful in attracting men, her attempts at melodic creation are far from fluent. The melodic design, especially in the first attempt, is characterized by initial hesitancy which, although it leads to more extensively elaborate shapes, ultimately ends in shrill repetitions. Clearly this is in no small part a reflection of the fact that she is seducing men against her will, under the threat of violence from the robbers (a point which will be discussed later). Recall, however, Bartok's views on artistic creation cited earlier, where he states that the 'creative impulse' of those who are neither 'peasant folk . . . devoid of the culture of the towndweller' nor 'individual genius[es]' can lead only to 'barren, pointless and misshapen works'. Indeed, the emphasis on the perfect fifth as the origin of the girl's seduction music might be seen as confirming that this is a deluded attempt to ensure a genuinely 'natural' creativity, for in 1920 Bartok stated that 'older Hungarian peasant music devoid of Western or city influence is far more valuable. . . . It has an especially refreshing effect on the Western European ear, because of the complete lack of a melody line pointing to the tonic-dominant combination.'17 By this reckoning, the girl's fifth-generated melodies are destined to lack freshness and vitality. Under the coercion of the three robbers her seductive song is made to order, manufactured rather than


Quoted in Music in European Thought 1850-1912, ed Bojan Bujic (Cambridge, 1988), 318,

320 Georg Simmel, 'Psychological and Ethnological Studies on Music' (1882), The Conflict in Modern Culture and Other Essays, trans, and introduced by K. Peter Etzkorn (New York, 1968), 90-140 (pp 111, 113). 16 Frigyesi, Beta Bartok and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest, 96 17 Bela Bartok, 'Hungarian Peasant Music' (1920), Bela Bartok Essays, ed. Suchoff, 304-15 (p. 304)



natural. 18 In a letter of 1927 Bartok wrote of The Miraculous Mandarin that, 'in contrast to the current objective, motoric trend, this music actually sets out to express spiritual processes'. 19 In his later essay 'Mechanical Music' (1937) we read: Regarding artificially produced music, it is my conviction that the single tones, dynamics, rhythm, tone colour, and all the other nuances of natural music are so complicated that... no process can produce anything akin to it, just as it is not possible to produce a human being artificially. The outcome of any mechanization of that kind, no matter how interesting, is but a surrogate in comparison with live music. . . . Mechanical music is a manufacturing industry; live music is an individual handicraft.20 Significantly, however, the girl's seduction music each time becomes more adept, more alluring, and less dependent on the (false) origin of the perfect fifth. In the second seduction scene she becomes more human and less of an automaton because she begins to feel desire for her second victim (the shy youth). 21 Her melody becomes more 'natural', more a product of her inner subjective expression. The girl's third, most elaborate and most natural seductive music (which is the least dependent on the opening perfect fifth) brings to the drama the enigmatic figure of the Mandarin himself, the embodiment of natural desire alienated by the modern metropolis and also, because of his Asiatic character, symbol of the return of the origin. The three seduction scenes together make the central issue of the tale clear - the conflict between natural, subjective expression and the mechanical, impersonal production of urban culture which leads to disorientation and dissociation. The work therefore engages with a major topic in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century modernism. In his essay 'Metropolitan Perceptions and the Emergence of Modernism' Raymond Williams traces a 'transition from earlier forms of isolation and alienation to their specific location in the city', where the predicament of the lonely individual in the 'crowd of strangers' is explored. This investigation could have a social or psychological emphasis, but characteristically the two would be combined, or confused.22 In the arts there was, of course, a wide-ranging exploration of this 'modern' condition. The 'metropolitan drama' (Groszstadtdrama) emerged, for example with the work of Schnitzler - a 'genre which introduced a new dramatic character, modern man, the product of
18 According to Edmund Gurney, another who took Darwin as his starting-point, 'melody aims at individual beauty, and every successful melody is a new free form which must be created, not manufactured'; The Power ofSound (1880; repr. New York, 1966), 248 On Gurney and his relation to Darwin's work see Malcolm Budd, Music and the Emotions The Philosophical Theories (London, 1985), ch 4. 'Sexual Emotion in Ideal Motion', 52-75 19 Cited in Kroo, 'Ballet: The Wooden Prince', 367 20 Bela Bartok, 'Mechanical Music' (1937), Bela Bartok Essays, ed. Suchoff, 289-98 (p 297) 21 Crawford a n d Crawford a r e o n t o this when they state that the melody's 'exotic turns a n d trills describe h e r desire for [the y o u d i ] ' , b u t seem o n less secure g r o u n d when they assert that ' h e r forced seductions b e c o m e m o r e expansive as h e r technique improves with growing confid e n c e ' ; Expressionism in Twentieth-Century Music, 198 22 Raymond Williams, 'Metropolitan Perceptions and the Emergence of Modernism', The Politics of Modernism (London, 1996), 37-48 (pp. 40-1)



multifarious sensual and intellectual impulses of urban life around 1900'.23 Simmel writes in his essay 'Die Groszstadte und das Geisteleben' (The Metropolis and the Life of the Spirit', 1903) that 'the psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli',24 and for him this is reflected in modernity itself: 'the essence of modernity as such is psychologism, die experiencing and interpretation of the world in terms of the reactions of our inner life'.25 James Donald argues that Simmel's terms are redolent of the cinematic - 'the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions'.26 The 1920s produced a string of film projects which 'observe' the city (Laszlo MoholyNagy's Dynamics of the Metropolis, 1921-2; Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1926; Walter Ruttman's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, 1927), and modernity has been distinguished as privileging 'sight' or 'spectacle', a feature manifest, for example, in several of its characteristic figures - the observing sociologist, the secret life of the urban voyeur and the bright open spaces in the visions of the urban planner.27 Steven Connor, however, suggests that 'the teeming, protean life of the city also seemed to require the positing of a mode of mental life which was auditory rather than visual' - 'modern man is surrounded by man-made noise', and the sound that creates this cacophony is 'unruly, escaping scopic power'.28 The 'Futurist Manifesto' of" Filippo Marinetti (1909) celebrated the 'polyphony' of urban civilization, an enthusiasm exemplified by the musical 'bruitism' of Luigi Russolo's Dawn over the City (1913) .29 By contrast, the opening of Bartok's The Miraculous
23 Barbara Lesak, ' P h o t o g r a p h y , C i n e m a t o g r a p h y a n d t h e T h e a t r e A History of a Relations h i p ' , Fin de stick and its Legacy, e d MikulaS T e i c h a n d Roy P o r t e r ( C a m b r i d g e , 1990), 132-46

(PP Hl-2)
24 G e o r g Simmel, ' T h e Metropolis a n d Mental Life' (1903), TheSoaology of GeorgSimmel, trans a n d e d Kurt H . Wolff (New York, 1964), 4 0 9 - 2 4 ( p p 4 0 9 - 1 0 ) . Wolff's translation of t h e title of Simmel's essay seems less satisfactory t h a n o n e which emphasizes t h e conflict b e t w e e n city a n d 'spiritual' life, particularly w h e n discussing Simmel in relation to t h e c o n c e r n s of t h e Sunday Circle, for w h o m t h e 'spirit' was so i m p o r t a n t Wolff's title will b e r e t a i n e d for t h e p u r p o s e s of locating passages taken from his translation 25 G e o r g Simmel, Philosophische Kultur (1923), trans, from David P. Fnsby, 'Simmel a n d t h e Study of Modernity', Georg Simmel and Contemporary Sociology, e d Michael Kaern, B e r n a r d S Phillips a n d R o b e r t S C o h e n ( D o r d r e c h t , 1990), 5 7 - 7 4 ( p 59) As Edward T i m m s h a s observed, whereas t h e realist novel of t h e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y p o r t r a y e d 'social milieux which were fixed, stable', in m o d e r n i s m t h e city was ' t r a n s p o s e d t o a n existential p l a n e T h e m e t r o p o l i s ultimately b e c o m e s a m e t a p h o r - a dynamic configuration of t h e conflicting h o p e s a n d fears of t h e twentieth century'; 'Unreal City Theme and Variations', Unreal City. Urban Experience in Modern European Literature and Art, ed Edward Timms and David Kelley (Manchester, 1985), 1-12 (p 4). See also Christopher Butler, Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 (Oxford, 1994), c h . 4, ' T h e City', 133-208 26 J a m e s D o n a l d , ' T h e City, t h e C i n e m a M o d e r n Spaces', Visual Culture, e d C h n s J e n k s

(London, 1995), 77-95 (p 84).

27 See C h n s J e n k s , ' T h e C e n t r a h t y of t h e Eye in Western Culture An I n t r o d u c t i o n ' , Visual Culture, ed. J e n k s , 1-25. 28 Steven C o n n o r , "The M o d e r n A u d i t o r y I', Rewriting the Self' Histories from the Renaissance to the Present, e d . Roy P o r t e r ( L o n d o n , 1 9 9 7 ) , 2 0 3 - 2 3 ( p 2 0 9 ) . 29 S e e Fritz W e b e r , ' H e r o e s , M e a d o w s a n d M a c h i n e r y : Fin-de-siecle Music', Findesiecle, e d . T e i c h

and Porter, 216-34 (p 224).



Mandarin suggests that the experience of the sounds of the city threatens the survival of the self: the girl's striving to create her own original voice as the initial pandemonium retreats to the background is a bid at coherent subjective expression in the face of sensory disorientation, which according to Ernst Mach's influential Die Analyse der Empfindungen (The Analysis of Sensations, 1885) undermines the possibility of a stable, unified self.30 Simmel identified several defensive strategies adopted by citizens in an attempt to 'preserve subjective life against the overwhelming power of metropolitan life' - indifference, anonymity in relationships, and matter-of-fact precision and objectivity in the organization of daily life.31 Simmel also noted a defiant 'rise of personal subjectivity' manifesting itself in 'mannerism, caprice, preciousness', the urge to stand out and be different from the crowd. This 'individualization' seemed to promise the citizen 'freedom' to choose from a range of pastimes and stimulations but served only to reinforce loneliness, isolation and the role of the subject as a 'mere cog', in the objective culture of the modern metropolis.32 The girl in The Miraculous Mandarin is the tragic victim of this urban predicament. Her enforced solicitation of potential sexual partners as anonymous customers heightens the sense of loss of what is supposed to be naturally, individually attractive. In her attempt to stand out from the crowd - the only way she can catch the attentions of the passer-by in the street - the girl tries to create ex nihilo, from first principles, to rediscover her natural (hence sexually alluring) expressive self. Bartok is pointing not only to the symptomatic search for origin, but also to the 'fetishization of the new'.33 The girl is re-enacting the creation from a tabula rasa which characterized, for example, Wagner's most thoroughly 'modern' hero, Siegfried, or the pastoral vision of the third movement of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, which the composer 'consciously structured to give, paradoxically, the impression of natural, "naive" musical expression that is freely improvised'.34 Adorno argued, however, that a vision of 'nature' as something which is timeless or beyond history is a myth, and a return to 'nature which does not acknowledge that it is itself an historical construct' is 'an attempt to evade history', a reactionary move to 'conceal the real relations of power within modern society'. Adorno was 'suspicious of all appeals to "nature" and the "natural" and of any recourse to notions of "pure being" beyond history' as a 'retreat into myth', masking alienation in

30 See Edward Timms, 'Musil's Vienna and Kafka's Prague: The Quest for a Spiritual City', Unreal City, 247-63 (p 255) On Robert Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man without Qualities) see also Malcolm Bowie, 'A Message from Kakania: Freud, Music, Criticism', Modernism and the European Unconscious, ed Peter Collier and Judy Davies (Cambridge, 1990), 3-17 31 Simmel, 'The Metropolis and Mental Life', 410-11. 32 Ibid, 413, 420-2 31 See Patrick Brandinger, 'Mass Media and Culture in Fin-de-siecle Europe', Fin de siecle, ed Teich and Porter, 98109, who sees this - the concern for the fashionable - as one connection between avant-garde and mass culture ~ 34 John Deathridge, 'Wagner and the Post-Modern', Cambridge Opera Journal, 4 (1992), 143-61 (P 154)



a false totality.35 For the renewal-seeking Sunday Circle Group, under the shadow of the influential yet bleak picture painted by Simmel, the temptations of such a Utopian regression would have been all too clear: Simmel wrote in his important essay 'On the Concept of the Tragedy of Culture' (1911): it is the paradox of culture that subjective life which we feel in its continuous stream and which drives itself towards inner perfection cannot itself reach the perfection of culture. It can become truly cultivated only through forms which have become completely alien and crystallised into self-sufficient independence.36 Bartok's 'special effect' of the deliberately anachronistic perfect fifths and the re-enactment of the creation of melodic form out of this 'natural' origin reveals the urgency of the problem of the lost lyrical T and the 'rupture between self and forms' which lie at the root of the alienation and fragmentation of modern society.37 Simmel's essay 'The Conflict in Modern Culture' (1918) presents the nub of the problem: Whenever life progresses beyond the animal level to that of spirit, and spirit progresses to the level of culture, an internal contradiction appears. The whole history of culture is the working out of this contradiction. We speak of culture wherever life produces certain forms in which it expresses and realises itself. . . . These forms encompass the flow of life and provide it with content and form, freedom and order. But although these forms arise out of the life process, because of their unique constellation they do not share the restless rhythm, its ascent and descent, its constant renewal, its incessant divisions and reunification . . . they acquire fixed identities, a logic and lawfulness of their own; this new rigidity inevitably places them at a distance from the spiritual dynamic which created them.38 As Max Paddison says, 'Adorno saw Bartok's music as an attempt to span the gulf between on the one hand, the ahistorical, epic natural community of the pre-industrial world . . . and on the other hand, the highly industrialized societies of the modern world.' 39 The Miraculous Mandarin dramatizes the Adornian 'dialectic' or 'driving force' of musical material, the goal of which is the 'articulation of the expressive Subject, or Geist, as objectified in musical structures'. 40 I shall return to this issue at the close of this article.
35 F o r A d o r n o , of course, 'history' is similarly a construct. This s u m m a r y of A d o r n o ' s views is culled a n d condensed from Max Paddison, Adorno's Aesthetics of Music (Cambridge, 1993), 3 0 - 7 36 Georg Simmel, ' O n t h e Concept of t h e Tragedy of Culture' (1911), The Conflict m Modern Culture and Other Essays, 27-46 (p 30) 37 See T h e o d o r W A d o r n o , ' O n Lyric Poetry in Society' (1957), Notes to Literature, I, ed Rolf T i e d e m a n n , trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen (New York, 1991), 37-54 ( p . 41) See also Dai Griffiths, 'So W h o a r e You 3 : W e b e r n ' s O p . 3 N o 1', Analytical Strategies and Musical Interpretation, ed. Craig Ayrey a n d Mark Everist (Cambridge, 1996), 301-14. 38 Georg Simmel, "The Conflict in M o d e r n Culture' (1918), The Conflict in Modern Culture and Other Essays, 11-26 (p 11). 39 Paddison, Adorno's Aesthetics of Music, 38. O n A d o r n o a n d Simmel see Gillian Rose, The Melancholy Science. An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno ( L o n d o n , 1978), 3 2 - 5 See also Robert W Fitkin, Adorno on Music ( L o n d o n , 1998), 2 0 - 4 40 Max Paddison, Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture: Essays on Critical Theory and Music

(London, 1996), 64.




Bence Szabolcsi points up the differing types of eroticism reflected in the characters of the girl and the Mandarin. First, the girl is the embodiment of 'oppressed and venal love'; second, the Mandarin is identified with an 'elemental impulse of vitality'.41 With the entry of the Mandarin after the girl's third seduction ploy these two contrasting images of eroticism meet. The rest of the action works through the implications of this meeting and the redemptive possibilities offered by eroticism in the tragic world of the city. It is a solution closely related to the message of Lang's Metropolis: in a city where people are dehumanized by machines and subjugated into repetitive, meaningless work the love story of Freder and Maria offers, in a 'revealing mixture of sexual desire, sentimental love and Christianity', the possibility of 'positive values'.42 As that spokesman for expressionism, Hermann Bahr, wrote:
Reduced to a pure means, man has become the tool of his own work, which has been senseless since it began to serve nothing but the machine. And that robbed man of his soul. Now he wants it back. That's what is at stake.43

Simmel states that 'genuine erotic life . . . flows naturally in individual channels', but that 'erotic life, as soon as it is expressed in cultural contexts, necessarily acquires some form'. Such forms are, for example, marriage and prostitution.44 The 'oppressed, venal love' of the girl is, of course, the position of the prostitute. As such, she represents sex caught in the world of commerce, where the sexual act is an impersonal, 'fleeting transaction'. Simmel writes in his 'The Philosophy of Money' (1907):
Money best serves, both objectively and symbolically, that purchasable satisfaction which rejects any relationship that continues beyond the momentary sexual impulse. . . . Of all human relationships prostitution is perhaps the most striking instance of mutual degradation to a mere means.45

In the metropolis, which Simmel called the 'seat of the money economy',46 a 'distance' is opened up between 'monetary transaction' and the 'transaction of desire' which ensures that the prostitute has 'no moral tie with her client'. Prostitution 'provides "ideal types" of the sexual transaction, of sex removed from the realm of personal relation and made into a form of "alienated labour"'. Indeed, 'for sex to be a genuine "consumer product" prostitution must be replaced by a doll',
Bence Szabolcsi, 'Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin', Bartok Studies, ed Crow, 22-38 (p 3 0 ) . Michael Minden, "The City in Early Cinema Metropolis, Berlin a n d October', Unreal City, ed Timms, 193213 ( p p . 199200) O n sexuality in Lang's film see Andreas Huyssen, ' T h e Vamp a n d the Machine: Technology a n d Sexuality in Fritz Lang's Metropolis', New German Critique, 2 4 - 5 (1981-2), 2 2 1 - 3 7 43 Q u o t e d in Renato Poggholi, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Gerald Fitzgerald (Cambridge, MA, 1968), 141 44 Simmel, ' T h e Conflict in M o d e r n Culture', 22.45 Georg Simmel, "The Philosophy of Money' (1907), trans. Roger Scruton, Sexual Desire A Philosophical Investigation ( L o n d o n , 1994), 157. 46 Simmel, ' T h e Metropolis a n d Mental Life', 411.
42 41



Example 3. Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin, Mandarin's theme.


I I n I


a soulless automaton.47 This is what the girl seems perilously close to becoming in her initial attempt at seduction. But, as we have noted, with the arrival of her second 'client', the shy youth, she begins to feel desire and her dance for him becomes more passionate as their relationship becomes more human. It is at this point that the authority of violence held by the three robbers is reinforced, for clearly they could not allow this situation to develop. Each time they force the girl to 'sell' her sex Bartok returns to heavily accented 6/8 material clearly derived from the prelude's hellish music of the metropolis.48 She must dance to their tune, as they conduct soulless, mechanical music with their sticks. The robbers hammer out the rhythm of the oppression of city life in an attempt to beat any remnants of individual, subjective life out of the girl.49 The Mandarin's entrance to this world of automata and malcontents is announced by the theme shown in Example 3. The scenario describes him as 'eine unheimliche Gestalt'. The contrast with the melodic shapes of the girl's seduction music at first hearing seems very marked, but an examination of the structure of the theme reveals an interesting parallel. It is a melody which gradually creates its own shapes out of a repeated minor-third Urmotiv. By contrast with the girl's attempts to create from the false origin of the perfect fifth, this is a fruitful, vital, indeed apparently potentially endless process. (It is reminiscent of an Eastern maqam process where repetitions of ornamented
S c r u t o n , Sexual Desire, 158-9. This is a n e x a m p l e of what Scruton calls t h e 'prostitution of c o m m a n d ' , a 'depersonalizing strategy' practised by a n 'enslaver'; Sexual Desire, 158
48 47

49 The robbers are thus like hidden conductors of what Paul Beklcer called a 'mechanistic orchestra', in which he discerned the 'replacement of the expressive power of music by its motor power . the change from inner feeling as the leading constructive force to external gesture', Paul Bekker, The Orchestra (1936, repr New York, 1963), 306 For Elias Canetu 'there is no more obvious expression of power than the performance of a conductor' the 'rhythmic or throbbing crowd' must all dance to the same rhythm, for the 'regulauon of time [is] essenual to political structure', and for the citizens 'the rhythm of their lives is beaten out within the pack' (Crowds and Power, trans Carol Stewart, London, 1962, 31, 394, 397, 399)



Example 4. Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin: the Mandarin 'almost collapses'.

melodic units are linked to create open-ended forms.)50 At first the Mandarin maintains a still, impassive stare, apparently unmoved by the girl's flirtations. After her 'wild erotic dance' the girl 'sinks to embrace him', at which he 'begins to tremble in feverish excitement'. The girl finds the Mandarin's reaction repulsive and after a desperate chase the robbers leap out and assault him. Having robbed him, they decide he must be killed. In an obvious structural parallel to the three seduction scenes, they unsuccessfully attempt suffocation, stabbing and hanging. After the stabbing the Mandarin almost collapses, but his desire is renewed. Before the Mandarin's leap towards the girl Bartok inserts a curious reminiscence of the music which had been the basis of the girl's seduction attempts, with the characteristic low pedal tritone and gradually forming woodwind melody (see Example 4). Here, though, there is an element of 'inversion' as the high woodwind of the girl's melodies is now replaced by bassoon and bass clarinet. The initial held notes form a fourth, the inversion of the girl's fifth, and from this the bass clarinet traces a descending perfect fifth, above which, in approximate mirror image, the bassoon spans the alternative, the tritone. The meaning of this return to a version of seduction music is at first rather obscure. Is it confirmation that the girl's seduction has been successful, or has it (because of its lower register and the inversion of her shapes) become the desiring Mandarin's own seduction music, as now it is the girl who is resisting him? The secret may be found in the music which Bartok writes for the final action. After the failure of the robbers' attempt to hang him, the Mandarin lies on the floor, still longing for the girl. A wordless chorus enters with the Urmotiv minor third and the violas initiate the longest demonstration yet of the process of melodic creation. The beginning of this is shown in Example 5. Crucially, this is clearly related to earlier examples of generative melodic processes, but the source is not in this instance the anachronistic perfect fifth. In this final, extended expression of erotic desire the truth is revealed: in her seduction music the girl was trying to find the right expression, but sought it in a false origin, an idea of nature that was corrupt. Thus the
50 See Zofia Lissa, 'The Temporal Nature of a Music Work', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 26 (1968), 527-38.



Example 5.

Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin, Fig. 101.


work has arrived at a moment of 'recognition', of Aristotelian anagnorisis in which the movement from ignorance to knowledge is also an encounter with the miraculous.51 At his entrance the Mandarin is unheimlich, and his music (Example 3) has a mechanical character despite the evolutionary process in the melody. (He is thus both frightening and laughable, as an example of the Bergsonian comic produced by the 'mechanical encrusted upon the living'.)52 The pentatonic basis of his melody also initially highlights his oriental character. However, the similarities between the melodic processes in Examples 2(a)-(c) (associated with the girl) and Examples 4 and 5 (associated with the Mandarin) reveal the hidden 'familiarity' of the Freudian unheimlich.53 The Mandarin is recognized as the return of the vital and natural which is repressed or alienated by urban culture. With this, the girl overcomes her initial abhorrence. Desire arises from the knowledge that new forms of expression can be created through intercourse with an 'Other' whose magical, transforming powers are appreciated as the distance between her and the Mandarin closes to reunification.54 In their embrace the Mandarin's 'longing is stilled, his wounds begin to bleed, he becomes weaker and dies'.
See Terence Cave, Recognitions- A Study m Poetics (Oxford, 1988), 1-2 H e n r i Bergson, 'Le n r e ' (1900), trans. Wyhe Sypher, Comedy (New York, 1956), 9 2 Cave writes. 'Anagnorisis is always t h e recovery of a buried past which is problematic, threatening, often equivocal in character as fact o r fiction.. . . F u r t h e r m o r e , it represents t h e repetition or recovery of s o m e t h i n g o n c e known a n d familiar as implausible, unexpected o r astonishing Recognition has many of t h e characteristics of t h e unheimlich, a n d stories of t h e u n c a n n y frequently stage recognition scenes.' Recognitions, 2 4 0 - 1 54 J u l i e Brown, 'Bartok, t h e Gypsies, a n d H y b n d i t y in Music', Western Music and its Others Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in MUSK, e d . G e o r g i n a B o r n a n d David H e s m o n d h a l g h
52 53 51

(forthcoming), discusses Bartok's distinction between two 'internal ethnic Others' - the gypsy and the peasant. She notes how, in the essay 'On Hungarian Music' (1911), Bartok characterized the gypsy as a threatening, contaminating Oriental at home, and later, in 'Hungarian Folk Music' (1921), as the epitome of greed and commercial vulgarity (Bartok's distaste for this, she argues, may be the result of his association with the short-lived Communist government of Bela Kun (March-July 1919) and with Lukacs.) The peasant, by contrast, takes on the powers and character of the 'noble savage'. I am grateful to Dr Brown for supplying me with a copy of her article



In this reading the ending of the work offers an affirmative message. By contrast, Ferenc Bonis finds a 'clash of Wagnerian redemption and Stravinsky's idea of barbaric sacrifice' so that 'no final synthesis is possible: uncorrupted nature cannot be reconciled with the civilization of the rotten metropolis'. 55 Gyorgy Kroo, who asserts that 'even in the urban hustle and bustle of The Miraculous Mandarin [Bartok] retained the kernel of the Liebestod concept', 56 holds a pessimistic view of the conclusion: the mandarin's triumph is only symbolic: he raises the girl to his own level of existence by making her aware of herself as a human being and aware of the existence of true love. For this victory, of course, the mandarin has to die, and the girl is left standing beside his body, shocked and lost in wonder, unable now to progress to a better life, unable alone to oppose the evil surrounding her.57 In this view, any transfiguration of the girl is ultimately of no positive benefit to her situation. Szabolcsi, who similarly places the work in the tradition of the Wagnerian love-death, also finds 'no trace of Tristan ecstasy, no escape, no nirvana' in Bartok's work.58 Schopenhauerian pessimism, so influential at the fin de siecle, is discernible in Simmel's diagnosis of the tragedy of modern culture (he wrote Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in 1907 and his opposition of life and form closely parallels Schopenhauer's dualism of Will and Representation). 59 Lukacs, Balazs and others in the Sunday Circle admired the diagnosis but sought a message of cultural renewal which Simmel does not offer. Turning, finally, to the author of the original literary version of The Miraculous Mandarin, Menyhert Lengyel, we can perhaps see how Bartok's enthusiasm for this work is based upon the opportunity it gives to propose an optimistic, regenerative alternative. As Vera Lampert explains, The Miraculous Mandarin is one of a number of Lengyel's works which explore the possibility of the emancipation or redemption of a female character from her predicament in modern society. At the climax of the work the girl is the one who recognizes that the mandarin is indestructible because of his great passion, and she acts on her own to quench his desire. Her victorious smile after the Mandarin's death can be interpreted as the triumph of the feminine but also as the sign of her transformation from a defenceless creature into the mandarin's equal and her awakening to a new life.60

Bonis, ' The Miraculous Mandarin', 9 3 K r o o , ' B a l l e t The Wooden Pnnce', 368 . K r o o , ' P a n t o m i m e ' The Miraculous Mandarin', The Bartok Companion, e d Gillies, 3 7 2 - 8 4 (p 3 7 3 ) . 58 Szabolcsi, 'Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin', 31 59 See Stjepan G Mestrovic, 'Simmel's Sociology in Relation to Schopenhauer's Philosophy', Georg Simmel and Contemporary Sociology, e<\ Kaerri et ~dL~18198. " " 60 Vera L a m p e r t , ' The Miraculous Mandarin: Melchior Lengyel, his P a n t o m i m e , a n d his C o n n e c tions t o Bela Bartok', Bartok and his World, e d . Laki, 149-71 ( p . 157)
56 ol




So the girl, in this view, experiences some kind of transfiguration which can be enjoyed in the world, rather than in death. As a 'new life' she is strong and vital, and in her union with the Mandarin lies the promise of a new 'hybrid', symbolic of Bartok's 'desire', as Julie Brown puts it, 'to create, through hybridisation with (the desired) "natural" or "fresh" folk sources, a new Hungarian art music'.61 The paradox is that although this is suggestive of a Darwinian survival of the fittest within an evolutionary process, this new form is created from the return or recovery of something long lost.62 This is a 'message' with resonances beyond this single work, for the melodic regenerations at the heart of the musical representation of this erotic encounter seem to represent a hard-won compositional position that is important for our understanding of Bartok's place with respect to his great contemporaries, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, at least in the early 1920s. Example 6 presents thematic elements from the first movement of Bartok's First Violin Sonata, written in 1921 during a pause in work on The Miraculous Mandarin. As Paul Wilson says, these themes take 'the form of a single note, sustained and then increasingly embellished as the particular section of the exposition proceeds': the theme, or subject, is in its inception 'already developmental'.63 The close similarity of this to processes already described in The Miraculous Mandarin should be clear. The emphasis, especially in the opening movement of the first sonata, is on continuously evolving melodic subjects which appear to create the formal structure out of their developing character. (Bartok's sketches for the opening thematic paragraph, and other sections of the movement, in the 'Black Pocket-Book' follow immediately after several pages of sketches for The Miraculous Mandarin, including the melody of Example 5.)M Adorno praised this work - the violin sonatas are the works of Bartok's that have commonly been called his most Schoenbergian - for its uncompromising confrontation of the 'improvisational forms' typical of folklore with a sonata form which 'threatens to rigidify them'.65 The Miraculous Mandarin teaches us that


Brown, 'Bartok, the Gypsies, and Hybridity in Music' Brown is here drawing upon Robert

J C. Young, Colonial Desire: Hybndity m Theory, Culture and Race (New York a n d L o n d o n , 1995). 62 Even t h e d e a t h of t h e M a n d a r i n may b e g r a n t e d a t r a n s f o r m i n g o r r e d e e m i n g function Balazs a n d Simmel b o t h wrote essays o n d e a t h - Balazs's 'Death a n d Aesthetics' (1907) was d e d i c a t e d to Simmel, who wrote his "The Metaphysics of D e a t h ' in 1910 - b u t t h e most affirmaUve ideas o n d e a t h are in Lukacs's The Theory of the Novel (1916) Lukacs writes of t h e 'beautiful d e a t h ' w h e r e , in 'crucial m o m e n t s of bliss', t h e subject 'glimpses a n d grasps t h e essence' see T h o m a s H a r r i s o n , 1910. The Emancipation of Dissonance (Berkeley, 1996), 8 8 - 9 8 for discussion of Simmel's, Balazs's a n d Lukacs's writings o n d e a t h 63 Paul Wilson, 'Violin Sonatas', The Bartok Companion, 2 4 3 - 5 6 ( p p 2 4 6 - 7 ) . 64 Bartok, Black Pocket-Booh Sketches 1907-1922, facsimile e d n with i n t r o d u c u o n by Laszlo Somfai (Budapest, 1987) T h e o p e n i n g of t h e sonata is s k e t c h e d o n f 24 V a n d follows on from the original e n d i n g of The Miraculous Mandarin. T h e sketch for E x a m p l e 5 is o n f 21 V As Somfai notes in his i n t r o d u c t i o n , Bartok used the pocket-book i n t e r m i t t e n t l y over a n u m b e r of years a n d t h e sketches in it a r e n o t dated. For t r a n s c n p u o n s of t h e sketches for the Violin Sonata see Somfai, 'Bartok vazlatok (II): Temafeljegyzesek az I. h e g e d u z o n g o r a s z o n a t a h o z ' , Zenetudomdnyi Dolgozalok 1985 (Budapest, 1985), 2 1 - 3 6
65 Theodor W. Adorno, 'Bartok's Third String Quartet', trans. Susan Gillespie, Bartok and his World, ed. Laki, 278-81 (p. 279).



Example 6. Themes from Bartok Violin Sonata no. 1,firstmovement.

a renewal of subjective expression, symbolized by the generation of extensive melodic themes, is based upon a release of the power of eroticism from the repressions of modern life. Bartok's necessarily difficult 'solution' to the modern tragedy of subjective alienation is founded upon a vital struggle to re-engage with the imitation of natura naturans, the process of nature.66 The opening of The Miraculous Mandarin is an urban parallel to the noises of nature found in Bartok's 'night music', a machine perversion of natura naturata. The girl's phantasmagorically 'natural' perfect fifths may be similarly characterized. In the central meeting with the Mandarin the work evokes what Maria Anna Harley had called Bartok's 'narrative isotopy' of natura naturans an encounter with Nature which seeks to lead from 'alienation to reconciliation', from 'limitation to wholeness'.67 In this sense the Mandarin must indeed be 'miraculous', not merely some magical, mechanical illusion.68 The Miraculous Mandarin and the First Violin Sonata, above all other works of Bartok's, question Hans Keller's assertion that Bartok, in his aggressive search for truth rather than beauty, was involved in a

As Scott B u r n h a m r e m i n d s us (Beethoven Hero, Princeton, 1995, 1 1 8 - 1 9 ) , t h e music o f Bartok's beloved Beethoven was c o m m o n l y ' h e a r d to e m b o d y ' this^process 67 Maria A n n a Harley, Natura naturans, Natura naturata and Baxlok's N a t u r e Music I d i o m ' , Studio musicologua Academiae Scientiarum Hungancae, 3 6 (1995), 3 2 9 - 4 9 . 68 On alienation and Adorno's 'phantasmagoria' - 'an intensification of illusion' which 'seeks to hide the construction of art so that it appears to be natural, and hence ahistoncal', see Alistair Williams, NewMttsic and the Claims of Modernity (Aldershot, 1997),.22-42 (esp pp 27-8).



'desexualized fight' manifest in a crisis of melody.69 Furthermore, we can now more clearly understand Bartok's dissatisfaction with Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and its 'broken, mosaic-like construction' as he called it, generated from the 'short-winded' Russian folk material, for Bartok is, by contrast, searching for an extensive melodic process. More complex, less easily accepted, is Bartok's assertion in the same essay that Schoenberg is completely 'alienated to nature'. Of course he is prompted to make this comment because of Schoenberg's eschewal of all folk materials, but if Keller sees Schoenberg's task as the 'resexualization of music'70 and, for example, Brown can interpret the songs of Das Buck der hdngenden Garten as a work of both apocalyptic collapse and the regeneration of 'musical prose',71 then the similarity of Schoenberg's project to Bartok's exploration of eroticism in the modern Babylonian metropolis emerges quite strongly. In both, the creative power of nature explosively returns to break down the rigid restrictions of objectified modern forms in culture, thus releasing a renewed subjective erotic expression.
University of Surrey ABSTRACT Bartok's essay 'The Relation of Folk Song to the Development of the Art Music of our Time', published in 1921, was written as he was working on the score of The Miraculous Mandarin. Three main issues in the essay, the question of origin, the position of the creative subject with relation to 'Nature' and 'Culture', and the character of the music of Stravinsky and Schoenberg, are given fresh contexts by the musical work's emphasis on the character and function of differing types of eroticism. The possibility of cultural renewal based on the recovery of erotic self-expression in the face of the oppressive, objective condiuons of the modern metropolis emerges as a central concern. This links Bartok's work to that of the Sunday Circle group of intellectuals, including Karl Mannheim, Gyorgy Lukacs and Bela Balazs, who sought an affirmative alternative to Georg Simmel's pessimistic view of the 'tragedy of modern culture'.

69 H a n s Keller, ' T h e Musical Character', Benjamin Britten- A Commentary on his Works from a Group of Specialists, ed. Donald Mitchell and Hans Keller (London, 1952), 319-51 (pp. 335-8) In 'Noisy Music and Musical Noise', Music Rexnew, 13 (1952), 138-40, Keller, poinungtothe 'machine music' of Bartok and others, outlines that music has become noisier because of (1) the change from the pursuit of beauty to that of truth, (2) 'our culture's increasing reliance on sado-masochistic energies at the expense of more purely sexual energies' and (3) the 'tendency, at the endof a civilisation, to revert to primeval beginnings and rejuvenate future developments'. 70 Keller, "The Musical Character', 339. 71 Julie Brown, 'Schoenberg's Musical Prose as Allegory', Music Analysts, 14 (1995), 161-92 The expressionist Gottfried Benn called the modern city the 'bearer of the myth that began in Babylon', and the Tower of Babel is a potent symbol, for example, in Lang's Metropolis: see Edward Timms, 'Expressionists and Georgians Demonic City and Enchanted Village', Unreal City, ed. Timms, 111-27 (p 118); and Minden, "The City in Early Cinema', 194 On Simmel and Stefan George see Roy Pascal, From Naturalism to Expressionism: German Literature and Society 1880-1918 (London, 1973), 154-9