Art Is a Process of Evolution, Not Revolution

Words of wisdom from Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, the founder of ethnomusicology: "In art there are only fast or slow developments. Essentially it is a matter of evolution, not revolution."

Béla Bartók (1881–1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and collector of Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk music. He is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and was also one of the founders of the field of ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicologists examine the many musics of the world within the contexts of culture, society, cognition, biology, and other dimensions.


The following words of wisdom communicate the studious Bartók's belief that music (and other forms of art) never reboots itself, even if that's what it appears to be:

"In art there are only fast or slow developments. Essentially it is a matter of evolution, not revolution."

This is a variation of the thought that there can be no such thing as a truly original piece of art. Everything is derivative of something else; the present can't help but be influenced by the past. For Bartók, who is perhaps most famous for his convergent work on music and anthropology, the patterns in art over time suggest that each radical spike and every brusque diversion is simply part of a process that began years and years ago.

Do you agree?

Related Video: Below, composer and conductor Leon Botstein examines music through a lens of peace and war:

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