Hudební Věda

Janáček's Theoretical Views on sčasování (Musical Events in Time) and Their Projections in His Compositional Practice

article summary

Karel Steinmetz

Janáček’s lifelong pursuits encompassed many areas including, apart from his artistic career (composing, conducting, etc.) and teaching at various types of schools, also ventures into the spheres of music theory, folklore studies, and literary work. As a musicologist, he focused notably on the subject of chords and the part of time in their combinations (theory of harmony), and on sčasování, a term Janáček associated primarily with rhythm, though his theoretical concept likewise involved, in addition to tone lengths, the aspect of their dynamism (which assigns to the concept of sčasování a broader meaning, as relating to various phenomena in the field of temporal articulation, and therefore also involving such elements as metre, tempo, agogics, etc.). Janáček’s endeavours in the field of music theory were linked with his teaching at the Brno school for organists and subsequently at the conservatory’s master school of composition. Problems with deciphering Janáček’s often highly individual writing and speaking style involving an abundant use of unorthox terminology, coupled with his peculiar ways of reasoning, which were not invariably methodologically clean and unambiguous, plus his original application in teaching of impulses drawn from psychology, physiology, acoustics and other disciplines, ultimately engendered a certain aversion towards Janáček the theorist. No wonder then that a good many of his views on time in music, rhythm, “sčasovací layers”, etc., were not widely accepted (being instead merely regarded as the composer’s peculiar reflections, often entirely disconnected from his compositional practice). It was not until five decades after his death that certain musicologists – Czech, and then international as well – came to point to the relevance of these theoretical approaches to time in music, including the category termed by Janáček sčasování, which are summed up in the present study. It is likewise outlined here how Janáček’s theoretical reflections influenced the compositional output of not just this “style-shaping master of 20th century music”, but also many other contemporary composers.

Keywords: Leoš Janáček the music theorist; Brno school for organists and conservatory; time in music; theory of sčasování; sčasovací layers; cumulative, resonant and consolidating sčasovky

Translated by Ivan Vomáčka