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Christopher Nicklin

Dr. Monchick 601 Tuesday


The article In Search of Czechness in Music was written by Michael Beckerman.

He has worked as a professor at UC Santa Barbara and is currently a professor at New

York University. His main area of expertise is in eastern European music. Dr. Beckerman

is a Laurite in the Czech music council.

In this article, Dr. Beckerman states his thesis right after his introduction. It is

my belief that certain qualities of the Czech national tradtion can best be explored under

the auspices of a search for the elusive quality that Einstein stopped short of articulating-

what Janacek called Czechness,(63 Beckerman). Even though that was the thesis his

goal is to give a model of what the Czech style is. He wants to do it in the ways that

Taruskin did it for Russian music, whom he also quotes in this article. In order to arrive

to his goal destination he decides to go into an in depth study of Smetana and of the

people that are associated with him. Throughout the article he talks about a lot of little

musical or historical details that make the music have Czechness. Some of which are the

facts that it is very programmatic and it uses a lot of folk melodies. There is also a big

emphasis on dance in Czech music. He also brings in the technical aspects. For example:

first beat accents, syncopated rhythms, avoidance of counterpoint, and Lydian dominate

modes (65). However, he brings an important point that lots of different types of music

have these things and yet these different types of music do not sound Czech. Through out

the article he brings in more important points. For example, German music is more

developed than Czech, which does not mean that it is better. He also notes the use of
bagpipes as a major influence on the music. All of this brings him to the conclusion that

none of these things are strictly Czech but with in a whole the help influence the style. It

is more about all of this relating to the history that was going on and how all of this

influence the Czech composers of the time, because they were tight knit. It is my personal

opinion that because they were so tight knit and close that they created a style because of


Over the entire article was good. It felt like a discussion forum while reading this

article. It was a little informal because of this. It made me wonder whether this article

was meant for the academic crowd or if it was meant for more common reader. However,

have said this it did not bother me. He asked a lot of questions in the article. This also

contributed to the informality but I thought it still worked. The questions acted like his

train of thought and helped guide the reader through what he is going through in search

for answers on a very difficult subject. The article was exceptionally well organized. This

was probably the strongest point of the paper. It always went from subject to subject in a

discursive way. He almost guided the reader and made sure the main points were at the

beginnings of his paragraphs. Dr. Beckerman brought a lot of clarity on an unclear topic.

One of the biggest weaknesses of this article is the fact that the subject is so

esoteric to actually prove. Style is something of taste and it is hard to define when there

can always be exceptions. He even alluded to the fact that this music is something

palpable yet when closely looked at cannot be seen. In other words the music cannot be

easily defined. What Dr. Beckerman did do is give more of a historical context and

brought all the common elements of Czech music together in one article. All these things

are out in the public and seem relatively well known. In my perspective he did not add
anything particularly new to the world of music on what is Czech music. However, what

he did do that was great was clarify the information that was already there about Czech

music and with all those details helped clarify what influences music to have a Czechness


Michael, Beckerman. 1986. In Search of Czechness in Music19th-Century Music Vol.

10. 61-73 (Berkeley, University of California Press.)
Brings in stories of the smetna conference pg 63
Brings in taruskin to prove that this question has been answered in Russian music.

63 has thesis and most important stuff

asks a lot of questions

speaks like a discussion forum where he is tring to find a answer by speaking his thought
aloud but not holding them back.
speaks in a dialogue type of fashion.

Very organized


Hussite melodies are one aspect

All the composers were tight knit. And lots of the music is historically based on two
world wars and Czech independence.
The composers were progressive always looking to new musical styles.
Folk music plays a huge role and that is why they are considered conservative, by using
folk models.
Why choosing these folk songs it also determins a lot of the rhythm.
Bagpipes influence the music of the country and when the instrument is not there
sometimes passages are written with them in mind.

Czech music tends toward simplicity and directness 71

The amount of development is less than German

It is something palpable yet when closely looked at cannot be felt.

Very clear on an unclear subject.