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Nationalist Music

What is Nationalism?

During the Romantic Period, a wave of Nationalism swept through Europe. Nationalism means being patriotic and proud of your country's culture and heritage. There were lots of revolutions in which people hoped to create better types of government and a new sense of patriotism or nationalism began to spread in culture and in the arts. Artists painted landscapes and patriotic themes. Composers took inspiration from local folk music and brought it to the concert halls. Operas and plays were based on folk tales and legends. In the Modern Period nationalism spread to Russia and the United States.

Famous nationalist composers include

  • Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak from Czechoslovakia (then called Moravia or Bohemia) 

  • Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly from Hungary 

  • Jan Sibelius from Finland 

  • Edvard Grieg from Norway 

  • "The Russian Five" - César Cui, Aleksandr Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

  • Aaron Copland from the United States

Folk Music

Folk music is music from a country or culture that is played or sung by ordinary people. Usually it is not written down and it is passed on by listening to other people singing or playing it and then copying them. Folk music is "orally transmitted" which means by word of mouth rather than by written notes. Every country has its own folk music which is based on the language and traditions of that country. Folk music played an important part in nationalist music. 

Listen to Leonard Bernstein, a famous conductor and composer, explain what folk music is and how it has made its way into the concert hall or art music.

Folk Music
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