We have been studying Bartok's choral works for children's and women's voices. This simple song has been running through my head for a few weeks now. Based on folk song, the words describe a very universal feeling - the loss of love.
It opens with, "Don't go, do not go away, do not leave me here. My soul will be sorrowful. With a sorrowful soul, a sorrowful heart, I shall be alone, how will I live without you?"
The turn comes at the end and with a bit of cheer, "I will never forget you, You will come back to me once more, and stay with me forever." It's the sort of happiness that one feels after they have been hit with a wave of emotion and can only find peace because they have experienced the loss in the first place.
When we talked about it in class we imagined a young girl full of sorrow on losing her first love. Perhaps the turn at the end means she is a bit delusional and truly believes her love will come back but I'd like to think she has lost her first love and even though she is sad, she is happy that she experienced it. Her lost love has given her memories that will never leave.
This is of course only one interpretation. We can imagine countless scenarios where we have experienced loss. We are always the more grateful for having experienced true joy in our lives even if it was followed by grief, despair, anger, frustration, or hurt. Even through all of these emotions, there is a serenity that happens when we acknowledge our loss. We are required to grieve, to reflect, and ultimately grow as a person. It's part of human existence that we cannot go back and change our experience, we can only soldier on and hopefully make changes in the future.
Bartok collected many of these folk songs with Kodaly. I have been reading and reflecting on Kodaly's philosophy of teaching and his ideas on the songs we should use. Kodaly believed that music examples for education purposes should always be of the highest art. We should never study music for the sake of studying alone. Even at a very beginning stage of music making, we should have children learn music that has withstood the test of time. His examples include Palestrina, Mozart, and Bach. These should be taught alongside music of their mother-tongue. This will provide them all of the necessary tools to become great appreciators of art as they grow into adulthood for they will be both culturally and musically aware.
Ne menj el... it's a profound song. If you search for it on YouTube most of the choirs performing it are young women. It is important to share meaningful songs with our youth. Bartok was very clever in creating music that could combine both an accessible musical part and a deep text to explore. Lucky is the young choir to sing something of such beauty.