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Analysis Essay No. 2 (Bartok)
MUS 578 Holm Hudson

Form Diagram:

Theme: A B A’ Coda

Measure: 1 12 23 31 40-43

Scale: Oct. (2,3) Oct. (2,3) Eb Hungarian Minor Oct. (2,3) Oct. (2,3)

From the Island of Bali is a short piano piece written by Bartók, Béla and is

part of his collection of short piano etudes called Mikrokosmos. It sections are A B A’

followed by a brief coda. Its construction most closely resembles a rounded binary

form due to the fact that the return of the material from A in the recapitulation (A’)

has only a partial and transformed repeat of the A section, and does not consist of

the A section in its entirety.

Meter and Tempo play a large role in defining the sections. The A section

(mm 1-11) is in 6/8 and has a tempo marking of Andante with a metronome

marking of the eighth note at 134 BPM. The B section (mm 12-30) provides contrast

with a tempo marking of 96 BPM at the quarter note and is composed in 4/4 marked

Risoluto instead of 6/8. The A’ section (mm 31-39) returns to the original meter of

6/8, and the original tempo of Andante. The piece is concluded with a three measure

coda (mm40-43) that is written in the same tempo as the A’ prime section; however,

the coda has a natural ritard due to the longer note values of dotted quarters and

dotted half notes.

Dynamics, expression markings, and texture are also elements that

contribute to the definition of the form, and provide contrast between the sections.
The first measure is marked Piano and has a Dolce expression marking. The texture

in the A section is defined by a dialogue between the two hands. The octatonic (2,3)

scale is divided between the hands with 3,2,9,8 in the left hand, and e,0,5,6 in the

right hand. They motives between the hands are also often intervallically

symmetrical. The first motive in the left hand has a descending intervals of a minor

2nd, perfect 4th, and a minor 2nd, followed by ascending intervals of minor 2nd, perfect

4th, and a minor 2nd. The pattern is repeated in the right hand with the same

intervals, but starting with the ascending intervals and ending with the descending

(ascending minor 2nd, perfect 4th, and minor 2nd followed by descending minor 2nd,

perfect 4th, and minor 2nd). The B section strongly contrasts the character of the A

section. The written dynamic is Forte and the texture is monophonic with passages

that are in unison at the octave. Measures 12-22 of the B section are also written

entirely in the Octatonic (2,3) scale, with the exception of a single A double flat in

measure 15, which provides a greater sense of tension and dissonance. Measures

23-30 of the B section are the only departure from the strict use of the octatonic

(2,3). I have analyzed the scale implemented at measures 23-30 as an E-flat

Hungarian minor scale (aka as the gipsy scale). It is also possible that this could be

analyzed as a modified octatonic scale that uses 2,3,9,t instead of 2,3,9,e. The use of

texture in the B section follows a symmetrical pattern comprised of two

monophonic/unison passages (measures 12-16 and measures 23-30), which are

placed on either side of a canonic passage (measures 16-22). The A’ section returns

to the tempo and texture of the A section and the Piano and Dolce markings are

reiterated. The octatonic (2,3) scale is re-implemented once again. The motive that
permeates the A’ section is derived from the A section, but treats the series of notes

as a cycle, and begins at a different point in the cycle. The order in the A section is

3,2,9,8,2 as opposed to the order in the A’ section which is 9,8,9,2,3,2 beginning on

the third note in the cycle (9) instead of the first (3).

If all of the notes in measures 1-4 are placed into a single chord

(0,2,3,5,6,8,9,e) they are equal intervallic distance from C#. Measures 40-43 are

comprised of all of the same notes, but due to the fact that they are voice differently,

they are equal intervallic distance from G. The relationship of these two pitch

centers is the interval of a tri-tone. The significance of the tri-tone, or at least one

significant aspect of the tri-tone in the context of this piece is its symmetry.

Symmetry plays a major role in the construction of this piece and can be found in

many elements of its composition, including the use of the symmetrical octatonic

scale, and invertible counterpoint.