Hungarian Folk Songs. Complete Collection by Béla Bartók
Second revised digital edition


The first edition came into being within the framework of the fourth partial task of the project Béla Bartók Complete Critical Edition won and led by the Bartók Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences supported by the National Office for Research and Technology (NKTH). For this project closed by the end of October 2007, the Folk Music Archives of the Institute for Musicology HAS engaged to make available in a digital format on the web the so-called Bartók System containing more than 13,000 melodies, i.e. the most important document of the scientific research history of Hungarian ethnomusicology. We thought already by then that the edition of the Bartók System would serve as a model for the database system with integrated multimedia containing the entire folk music collection. By uploading and linking up of additional information, the already made partial databases (mostly based on simple data tables) were supposed to provide the search function within the entire archival data base so that individual presentation of the various parts of the collection would also become possible. The folk music classification systems of Bartók and Kodály will be released now as the next station, as the result of these efforts.

The revision of the online edition of the Bartók System became necessary also due to the large-scale developments occurring during the last decades in all areas of information technology. Our previous system became obsolete both in its structure and in its user interface, it no longer met present-day requirements, and over the time the operation of the original system has become unreliable due to the changing IT environment. The content of our revised second edition basically corresponds to that of the first edition (see the introduction to the first edition below), its documentary substance has been only expanded with the material of the second volume of the critical edition in traditional book format, published in 2007 (Béla Bartók: Hungarian Folk Songs. Complete Collection). The data base and the correctness of the descriptive data had been verified, and our intention was to make the user interface clearer, simpler, and more appealing as well.

In the present form of the online edition one can have a look at the record cards that constitute the classification system, the graphical variants of certain data (typically the transcriptions preserved next to the museum cylinders), the transcriptions of the melodies to be found in the volumes that have been already published, and the rhythm tables that served as the basis for the classification. One can listen to every sound recording of the collection and can read comments, critical remarks, and occasionally background information about the individual record cards and data, respectively. One can effectuate searching operations based on the various data connected to the collection (name of the locality, date of the collection, informant, collector), the particular characteristics of the melodies (their position within the Bartók System, text incipits, line-ending cadences). The search is facilitated by a brief clear-cut explanation. For the history of the Bartók System and for the presentation of the classification, the relevant chapters written by Sándor Kovács were taken over from the first volume of the critical edition (Béla Bartók: Hungarian Folk Songs. Complete Collection. Volume I, 1991).

Introduction of the first edition (2007)

Following the initiative of Ferenc Sebő the computerized registry of the folk music collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Institute for Musicology began in the early nineties under the guidance of László Dobszay. The electronic data-processing of the closed and the so-called historical systems separated from the rest of the material took place within the frames of this work. From the mid-‘90s István Pávai suggested the unification of the earlier data input methods and their conversion to an up-to-date database. These steps were taken soon. With the help of a competition in 1999 we created an interactive and dynamic Internet website-system that provides a database in which the main types of old Hungarian folksongs are searchable by their musical attributes and acquisitional and geographical details. The capacity of data-processing systems and the possibilities of computerized immediate display of different media has grown remarkably in the last decade. This extensive technical development makes it possible that earlier independent databases of part-repertories be joined, and data be supplied with the playing of the media attached to them.

The software development that began in the first years of the new century on the basis of István Pávai’s plans served this purpose. As a result we now have a database management system at our disposal. The system was developed especially for folklore archives (Folklore Archiving System), and the uploading of different part-units and part-databases has started. Since the Bartók-system's was the most detailed upload that was conducted in the ‘90s and we succeeded in digitizing the record cards, the Folk Music Archive had the chance to first publish the Bartók-system online from its collection. We managed to do this within the frames of an NRTO (National Research and Technological Office) competition (Complete Critical Edition of the Musical Works of Béla Bartók) which was won by the Bartók Archives.

As is known, the publication of the Hungarian folksongs organized by musical criteria by Bartók between 1934-1940 upon the commission from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in a traditional book-format critical edition was started in the early ‘90s by the Akadémiai Kiadó [Béla Bartók, Hungarian Folk Songs. Complete Collection, Vol. I. (edited by Sándor Kovács, Ferenc Sebő), Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1993] The first volume of the planned nine of the series was published in 1991 (English version in 1993), the second in 2007 (only in Hungarian). The online publication does not aim to be a substitute to the critical edition of a traditional type. However, it will help basic research necessary for the publication of the next volumes, by speeding up preliminary work, making orientation in the large amount of data easier, and ensuring fast access to expansive information. While a book-format edition presents the written documents that fix the system thus it can be compared to other critical score editions philologically, the online publication based on the most up-to-date computerized technologies shows an example of integrated multimedia method of publishing a folk music collection which is new even in international comparison.

For the present edition we traversed the complete data file of the Bartók-system, selected the record cards that were difficult to decipher and digitized them. We also examined those record cards of the Bartók-system that had no systematic number and after developing the appropriate groups we attached a virtual reference number under the letter "F" (Appendix - Appendix) so the database management system can handle it. Thus the complete material of the system can be represented on the computer similarly to the A, B, and C classes by these systematic numbers. The inventory numbers assigned on the reverse side of the record cards are only suitable for identifying the existence of data but cannot be used to determine the cards' physical sequence because of their inconsistency. Therefore record cards without a systematic number were basically invisible for the computer database on system level, and in the lack of a reference number entered by the user could only be found accidentally. We are continuously expanding the display of the transcription variants (including the transcriptions beside the museum phonograph cylinders and the transcriptions identifiable in the collecting notebooks) of the data of the Bartók-system and the two volumes of the critical edition. In the interest of the detailed introduction of the Bartók-system we also digitalized the rhythm charts and later we will join the rhythmic formulas to the thesaurus segment presenting the tune system. Because of the possibility of simultaneous and instant access to the records and transcriptions, the playback of the phonograph recordings, the filtering of cylinder-number errors and the presenting of the essential differences between the audible and visible became an absolute necessity.