The Folk Music Collection of the HAS–RCH Institute for Musicology

Folk Music

Database site

The folk music archives of the Institute for Musicology (now affiliated to the Research Centre for the Humanities) was created during the past century as an auxiliary material for Hungarian folk music research. From 1953, it was maintained by the Folk Music Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and later, from 1974 when the unified Institute of Musicology was established, by the institute’s folklore departments which operated under different names. After the formation of the Folk Music Research Group, this collection gradually took over the role of the central archives of Hungarian folk music from the collection at the Museum of Ethnography. Until 1955, approximately 150 hours of Webster wire records were made; later magnetic tape recorders came into use. From the 1960s, due to the advanced technical equipment and know-how of the Academy research group, further institutions and individual collectors submitted their sound recordings for copying and preservation. Thus, these recordings also contributed to the research group’s main task, the elaboration of a system of tunes based on musical criteria. As part of this work, the entire collection of phonograph cylinders and gramophone records at the Museum of Ethnography was copied on magnetic tapes at the Institute. In 1970, the sound collection of the Academy already amounted to 1,700 magnetic tapes of folk music recordings, an amount increased to 2,900 in 1975, and 3,700 in 1980. In 1998, 6,100 magnetic tapes, 275 wire records, 120 DAT cassettes, 150 video cassettes, and 1,000 tape cassettes, altogether approximately 10,000 hours of sound recordings were preserved in the air-conditioned and properly humidified storage spaces of the Institute for Musicology. Currently, we have approximately 20,000 hours of audio recordings, of which about 14,500 hours are self-owned, also preserved on the original analog media. The additional 5,500 hours of material are copies of recordings from other collections, or taken over as deposits. The digital transition took place relatively early: from 1996, the recordings were saved to CDs, instead of copied to so-called AP discs. By now, we have digitized approximately 75% of our recordings.

Archiving also means adequately storing all the metadata which belong to each recording, and ensuring that they can be retrieved later. Consequently, it is a further major activity to record and digitize the descriptive data of the field trips and recordings. Digital data entry and computerized cataloging of the collections was set in motion in the early 1990s by László Dobszay, at the initiative of Ferenc Sebő. Their aim was to make this substantial part of cultural heritage widely accessible, and to make the data searchable according to multiple criteria. The unification of previously entered data began from the middle of the 1990s, based on István Pávai’s concept, which aimed at making the entire collection transparent, keeping all the auxiliary documentation and connecting it to the respective data through a database management software to be developed later, also ensuring online searchability. Mátyás Bolya adapted the data of our collection to the system of the Hungaricana portal, developed by the Arcanum company. As a result, a wide range of users can now find information and listen to recordings in the digital Folk Music Collection of the HAS–RCH Institute for Musicology.

The database contains

  • the magnetic tape recordings of the folk music collections, carried out between the 1950s and 1990s by the Folk Music Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (after 1974: Institute for Musicology),
  • the minutes documenting the collections,
  • the musical notations of the pieces on the recordings,
  • the covers of the archival LP-copies of the recordings; furthermore
  • the copies of phonograph and gramophone records of folk music at the Museum of Ethnography, made between 1896 and the 1950s,
  • Zoltán Kodály’s manuscript melody collection, compiled between 1905 and 1958 from both folk music collections and historical sources.

Contributors of the database:

  • The data were applied to the Hungaricana database system by Mátyás Bolya.
  • The charts of the source data for the processing were designed by Károly Csapó, István Németh, and István Pávai.
  • The sound recordings were digitized by Attila Buzás, Károly Csapó, Péter Glaser, Ádám Kard, István Németh, Krisztina Pálóczy, István Pávai, and Mihály Szöllősi.
  • The transcriptions, minutes and other documents were digitized by Mátyás Bolya, Gitta Demeter, Zoltán Ferkó, Réka Pávai, Kristóf Simon, Michiko Takahashi, and Gábor Tallér.
  • The participants of the data entry work were Orsolya András, Mátyás Bolya, Károly Csapó, Gitta Demeter, Gréta Káplár, Soma Kovács, Andrea Jákfalvy-Manno, István Németh, Pál Richter, Olga Szalay, Pál Sztanó, Dorottya Tari, Judit Tornyos, Veronika Vavrinecz, as well as students of the Folk Music Department of the Liszt Academy of Music.

© HAS – RCH Institute for Musicology, 2019.
Abbreviations and technical terms used in the database:
MH = phonograph cylinder in the possession of the Museum of Ethnography
Gr = gramophone record in the possession of the Museum of Ethnography
ZTI_Mg = reel-to-reel magnetic tape in the collection of the Institute for Musicology
ZTI_D = wire record in the collection of the Institute for Musicology
ZTI_AP = Academy Pyral, a microgroove record in the collection of the Institute for Musicology, suitable for an LP player
KR = Kodály System (appearing in the shelf marks of the musical notations in Kodály’s folk song collection)