Music is as essential to life as the air we breathe.
Many people don't even notice it until it becomes very scarce.
A unique shift in attitudes took place in the Hungarian folk revival f rom t he 1970s within the framework of the dance house movement that started at the time. Playing authentic folk music with instruments on the brink of oblivion formed an integral part of this process. For example, Europe’s most intactly preserved archaic peasant string piece is played in the Transylvanian region called Mezőség on a three-stringed viola (kontra) and on a three- or one-stringed bass or violoncello with homemade bows. The trough-shaped gardon carved out of a single piece of wood is the indispensable rhythm instrument in the music of the East Transylvanian Csík and Gyimes. The instruments of the tambura family (prime-, bass prime-, viola-, cello- and bass tambura) were mainly used in the Southern Transdanubia and Bácska, while the hurdy-gurdy was in use for the longest in the South Great Plains. The zither is a popular instrument all over the Carpathian Basin and was mostly made by the peasant musicians themselves. The wooden recorders of varying sizes and with different tuning (Transdanubian long recorder, Paloc flota, Moldavian kaval, six-holed Transylvanian recorder), as well as the bagpipes were handmade by dextrous shepherds. The earthen whistles, also called ‘pear music’ or ocarina, were sold at fairs.
However, as the old instruments found in villages were not suitable for stage performances, folk instrument-making workshops soon started to spring up. Most of the masters who made the instruments were active musicians themselves, and they have become able to make today’s high quality instruments based on their own experience, studying the history of instruments and instrument making, and combining this know-ledge with modern techniques.
The modernisation of wind instruments is perhaps the most exciting process that can be followed all the way up until today. The tunability, the reliability of the whistles, the preparation of the leather used for the bags, the specially bored holes and the chanters of the different types of bagpipes used in the Carpathian Basin (Hungarian duda, Slovakian dudy, Serbo-Croatian gajda, Croatian dude) are a result of multifaceted innovations. The appearance of a bagpipe has not changed from what it was one hundred years ago but each and every part of the instrument was modernised at one point by the highly trained bagpipe-makers. In the case of hurdy-gurdies, the use of high quality wood increased the sound volume of the instrument, while reliable playability was ensured by the wheel being made of a special plastic called danamid. By doubling the melody-playing strings and making the keyboard tunable, the hurdy-gurdy became suitable for chamber and larger orchestras. These days it is a basic requirement of recorder-makers to produce correctly tuned and sized recorders. The modernisation of zithers is a currently ongoing process resulting in more aesthetic and more reliable master instruments. In the recent past, two new items were added to the National Register of Intellectual Cultural Heritage: the so-called dance house method, defined as a uniquely Hungarian way of teaching folk music and folk dance, and the Hungarian ’duda’ tradition. This success is largely owed to the unique and world-standard Hungarian instrument making, the results of which are the instruments exhibited here.