Bicinia Hungarica: A theoretical analysis and pedagogical implications for use in a Kodály-inspired American curriculum

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Beginning in the 1940s, Hungarian composer and music educator Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) helped to establish a national value for music education and musical literacy throughout his country. This was accomplished through an eclectic approach to music education that incorporated tools and methodology drawn from centuries of music education all over the world. Among Kodály’s major contributions was the creation and inclusion of pedagogically-conceived compositions as part of a national curriculum. These materials were based on native Hungarian folk music and were written to be accessible by musicians at every stage of musical, physiological, and emotional development. Bicinia Hungarica is a collection of 183 two-part, progressive a cappella folk song settings that include elements of polyphonic style.

Since the 1960s, Americans have studied Kodály’s philosophy in Hungary, inspiring many teachers to adapt his philosophy in the United States. Research has been done regarding the adaptation of the philosophy and pedagogical sequence, but few scholars outside of Hungary have examined the pedagogical works composed by Kodály. The current study (1) determines the musical elements present in Bicinia Hungarica and (2) provides suggestions for educators who wish to use the materials for teaching. Analysis of musical elements is based on rhythmic, melodic, formal, and polyphonic features that are present in bicinium. A summary of each bicinium is provided, as well as a summary of pertinent compositional features. Recognized composers of American bicinia, Denise Bacon and Mary Goetze, were consulted for teaching suggestions pertaining to their own bicinia.

Bicinia, Kodály, Pedagogy, Music theory, Polyphony, Choral repertoire, Goetze, Mary, Bacon, Denise