October 26, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—David E. Schneider, an associate professor of music at Amherst College, is the author of Bartók, Hungary, and the Renewal of Tradition: Case Studies in the Intersection of Modernity and Nationality ($49.95, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2006), a book that dispels myths about the relationship between nationalism and modernism in early 20th-century music by re-examining the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s debt to Hungarian and Central European musical traditions.
Bartók’s ability to synthesize Western art music with the folk music of Eastern Europe is well known, but Schneider demonstrates that Hungary’s leading modernist composer was also strongly influenced by the art music tradition. Drawing from a wide array of primary sources, including contemporary reviews and little-known Hungarian documents, Schneider presents a new approach to Bartók that acknowledges the composer’s debt to 19th-century Hungarian composers as well as to influential contemporaries such as Igor Stravinsky. Schneider reads the composer’s artistic output, from his 1903 graduation from the Music Academy to his 1940 departure for the United States, as a continuation and a profound transformation of the very national tradition Bartók publicly rejected. By clarifying why Bartók felt compelled to obscure his ties to the past and illuminating what that past was, Schneider dispels myths about Bartók’s relationship to 19th-century traditions and also provides a perspective on the relationship between nationalism and modernism.
A member of the Amherst faculty since 1997, Schneider has served as chair of the music department since 2005. Schneider has Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in historical musicology from the University of California at Berkeley and an A.B. in music from Harvard College. The author of many essays and articles on modern music and Bartók, Schneider has also been a professional clarinetist since 1986.