The following is excerpted from my proposal for funds to travel to Slovakia for research:
From 1996-1998 I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Slovakia, namely in Žilina, Martin, and Bratislava. During my time there, I fell in love with the language, the people, and the culture. In a project such as I am proposing, having a grasp of the language and the culture will do much to open doors, create connections, and aid in the research. I would not go as far as to claim fluency in Slovak any more since I have not spoken in conversation in about 15 years, but my knowledge far outweighs that of most other people. I have arranged and conducted Czech and Slovak folk songs with various choirs in Tennessee and Washington.
My time in Slovakia was not as a musician and so my exposure to the music of Slovakia was limited. When I returned to the United States and to my university studies, I began preliminary research into the folk music tradition of Slovakia. Recently, as part of my doctoral studies, I have had the opportunity to begin researching the choral music of Slovakia. I am making contacts with university professors, composers, and conductors in Slovakia that are already aiding my research.
What I have found is that there are limited sources in the United States that write specifically about Slovakian music. The Czech composers of the Romantic era and into the twentieth century such as Dvořák, Smetana, and Janaček, overshadowed the work done by their neighbors to the east. There was not a great deal of compositional momentum in Slovakia during the 19th century in the first place.
The birth of choral music in Slovakia began in the early 20th century with the field research of Hungarian ethnomusicologist Béla Bartók whose work carried him up into the villages of Slovakia to record and collect folk tunes. This important work preserved the indigenous folk music before those that still knew the songs died out. These folk songs served as the catalyst for the choral music movement in Slovakia. At my recent doctoral recital, I conducted Bartók’s Four Slovak Folk Songs in their original language.
Other musicologists soon followed Bartók's lead. Vítězslav Novák, a professor, from Prague, traveled to Moravia and then to Slovakia and learned about the beauty of the Slovak folk melodies. Later, after the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, composers from Slovakia traveled to Prague to study with Novak. He encouraged them to learn and embrace the folk melodies of their people. These composers became the basis for the current choral climate in Slovakia.
I would like to be able to travel to Slovakia for two weeks. In Martin, Slovakia, the national archive for the arts, the Matica Slovenska, houses records donated from Bartók during his studies. These records are not available online or through any other means besides in person contact. I would like the opportunity to see and study these records and trace more exactly how they were instrumental in forming the current choral composers’ musical language. I would also like the opportunity to meet and interview current composers in Slovakia, trace their musical heritage, and gain more exposure to their music - especially those works that are not available in the US.
I am currently running a GoFundMe Campaign to try to raise the funds to travel to Slovakia. If you are in the position to be able to help, please consider doing so. Every little bit helps! You can donate by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/slovak-music-research
Thank you for your support!
Composer, Choral Conductor, DMA Student,