The following "Kodály" quotations were compiled by KSC board member Connie Foss More, from The Selected Writings of Zoltan Kodály, Boosey & Hawkes, 1974. They affirm the importance of the work of music educators. When you’ve had a frustrating or tiring day … read and enjoy!
p. 148: Let us take our children seriously! Everything else follows from this...only the best is good enough for a child. (1941)
p. 151: And I would advise my young colleagues, the composers of symphonies, to drop in sometimes at the kindergarten, too. It is there that it is decided whether there will be anybody to understand their works in twenty years' time. (1957)
p. 126: That the economic crisis is the cause of everything? Everything will be set right as soon as the economy is in order? I do not think so. Penury may hamper development but wealth does not always promote it either. Money does not produce ideas. Anyhow, there would be sufficient money here if only it were always spent on what is needed. However, the most valuable things cannot be bought with money. The greatest trouble is not the emptiness of the purse but the emptiness of the soul. And of this we have got more than our share. (1929)
p. 127: We put up the fancy spires first. When we saw that the whole edifice was shaky, we set to building the walls. We have still to make a cellar. This has been the situation, particularly in our musical culture. If in 1875 instead of establishing the Academy of Music, we had laid the foundations for the teaching of singing in schools, today's musical culture would be greater and more general. (1941; 1957)
p. 124: It is much more important who the singing master at Kisvarda (small village) is than who the director of the Opera House is, because a poor director will fail. (Often even a good one.) But a bad teacher may kill of the love of music for thirty years from thirty classes of pupils. (1929)
p. 197: The characteristics of a good musician can be summarized as follows:
1. A well-trained ear
2. A well-trained intelligence
3. A well-trained heart
4. A well-trained hand.
All four must develop together, in constant equilibrium. As soon as one lags behind or rushes ahead, there is something wrong. So far most of you have met only the requirement of the fourth point: the training of your fingers has left the rest far behind. You would have achieved the same results more quickly and easily, however, if your training in the other three had kept pace. (1954)
p. 145: To write a folksong is as much beyond the bounds of possibility as to write a proverb. Just as proverbs condense centuries of popular wisdom and observation, so, in traditional songs, the emotions of centuries are immortalized in a form polished to perfection. (1941)
p. 122: Let us stop the teachers' superstition according to which only some diluted art-substitute is suitable for teaching purposes. A child is the most susceptible and the most enthusiastic audience for pure art; for in every great artist the child is alive - and this is something felt by youth's congenial spirit. Conversely, only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children! Everything else is harmful. After all, food is more carefully chosen for an infant than for an adult. Musical nourishment which is "rich in vitamins" is essential for children. (1929)
p. 206: If one were to attempt to express the essence of this education in one word, it could only be -singing. ....Our age of mechanization leads along a road ending with man himself as a machine; only the spirit of singing can save us from this fate. .... It is our firm conviction that mankind will live the happier when it has learnt to live with music more worthily. Whoever works to promote this end, in one way or another, has not lived in vain. (1966)
p. 120: Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime. Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as the secret writing of a language with which he has no connection. The way should be paved for direct intuition. ..... Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime. This experience cannot be left to chance; it is the duty of the school to provide it. (1929)
p. 46: Children's singing games allow a more profound insight than anything else into the primeval age of folk music. Singing connected with movements and action is a much more ancient, and, at the same time, more complex phenomenon than is a simple song. .... In the same way as the child's development repeats in brief the evolution of mankind, his forms of music represent a history of music; indeed they afford a glimpse into the prehistoric period of music. From the reiteration of the smallest motif, comprising but a couple of notes, we can observe all grades of musical development up to the average stage of the European folksong... Here the child's music often touches that of adults. (1951)
p. 161-162: Nobody wants to stop at pentatony. But, indeed, the beginnings must be made there; on the one hand, in this way the child's biogenetical development is natural and, on the other, this is what is demanded by a rational pedagogical sequence. ......Pentatony is an introduction to world literature: it is the key to many foreign musical literatures, from the ancient Gregorian chant, through China to Debussy. (1947)
p. 221: Nowadays it is no longer necessary to explain why it is better to start teaching music to small children through pentatonic tunes: first, it is easier to sing in tune without having to use semitones (half-steps), second, the musical thinking and the ability to sound the notes can develop better using tunes which employ leaps rather than stepwise tunes based on the diatonic scale often used by teachers. (1947)
p. 204: We should read music in the same way that an educated adult will read a book: in silence, but imagining the sound. (1954)
p. 196: Today there is much talk of overburdening the students. It is true that the musician finds burdensome the learning of subjects whose direct use in his career he cannot see. If he realized, however, how much easier it is to learn every music subject, and how much time is won if he first trains himself to be a quick and sure reader, he would not rest day or night until he had achieved this. To teach a child an instrument without first giving him preparatory training and without developing singing, reading and dictating to the highest level along with the playing is to build upon sand. (1953).
p. 199: Real art is one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity. (1954)
* Thank you to the Kodály Society of Canada for these quotes