Kik vagyunk? Hamarosan…


A 2006. szeptembër 30-án Kecskemétën tartott előadás

Music is a spiritual food for the human soul.” Zoltán Kodály


Estonia is known with its choirs and All-Estonian Song Festivals. The quantity and quality of the choirs is one sample of good music education and musical literacy in comprehensive school. Traditional content of music education has been singing and musical literacy. Relative solmisation as a tool for musical literacy has been a part of music pedagogy in Estonia more than a half of the 20th century.

Three waves could be differed in the history of adaptation of this method. The first wave was influenced by Finnish music pedagogy (V.Siukonen, A.Törnudd). The second wave arose after ISME conference in Budapest in 1964. In 1970ies H.Kaljuste adapted several elements as well as repertoire of Z. Kodály and brought a principle of introduction of musical culture of other Finno-Ugrian cultures (mostly Mari’s). The adopted method was named JO-LE-MI. The third wave can be recognised at the turn of 21 century.

It is natural that the concept has changed along the changes in the society. But what makes the method universal that the method could survive different approaches and concepts in pedagogy? Why Estonian music pedagogy turns back to relative method after confusions in 1990ies when there was a number of other methods and approaches for music education?

This paper analyses the importance, history of adaptation and the changes of the method in Estonia over the past fifty years. The base of the analyses is the pedagogical media from 1950-2003, school-songbooks from 1950-2005, questionnaire provided in 2000 and the school-practice, experience of the author of this paper.Content analyses and image reading have been the method for data analyses.

The philosophical ideas – the social, pedagogical and musical aspects of the Kodály concept have been the base for the universality. For today the concept has integrated elements of several approaches and became an independent JO-LE-MI approach which has found his basic place in Estonian music education.

Keywords: music education, music literacy, relative solmisation, child-centered approach, Kodály concept


This paper analyses the history of adaptation and the changes of the method in Estonia. The base of the analyses is the pedagogical media from 1950-2003, school-songbooks from 1950-2005, questionnaire provided in 2000 and the school-practice, experience of the author of this paper.

About history

Estonia like Hungary has been for a long time under the influence of German educational ideas and music. Even the first curriculum in Independent Estonia in 1917 was compiled on the base of the German one (Eesti 1917).

Like Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century Estonia became a turning point in the research of genuine folklore. In 1904 the systematic and scientific gathering of the folksong started. At the beginning of 20th century similar historical background and music-political circumstances, especially in 1920s were good soil for the national music education in both countries. The question about aim, and the content of the school-music, the place of the traditional music was set up in 1925 in the Conference of Estonian Music teachers.

The researches for new ideas led us into North and West. In 1920-30ies the Estonian music teachers participated in pedagogical courses in Finland where the relative Tonika-do/Solfa approach was introduced.

A.Kiiss, E.Mesiäinen and later R.Päts at the front, spread the idea of relative method in spite of obstacles and strong opposition of the conservative music teachers. Step-names of the pitches (Y-TE-KO) & hand-signs by A.Kiiss were partly used. Anyway, some schools in the towns worked effectively using the elements of the concept in pre-war time.

So, we can say that the first wave of relative solmisation was influenced of Finnish music pedagogy, V.Siukonen, A.Törnudd etc (Selke 2003).

At the beginning of 60ies the rhythm-names/syllable (by R.Päts) were widely used. In 1962 was issued RPäts’s methodical handbook for music teachers „Music education in comprehensive school”. This book was intended to be an example of relative solmisation in the classroom. Unfortunately dominating educational standpoint was against new method, and therefore the material had to be reworked into introducing absolute pitches in this book (Päts 1999: 183).

A crucial point for Estonian music education was ISME conference in Budapest in 1964. Estonian delegation headed by R.Päts and young music teachers among them choir conductor Heino Kaljuste were amazed by the practical performances of children. H.Kaljuste has written in his biography: “What was heard and seen in Hungary took me to a strong belief and understanding, that if we want students to understand and to take part in musical literacy, the only way to accomplish it is through relative music-study”(Kaljuste Autobiograafia).

Personal contact between Z. Kodály and R. Päts in the conference and bright impressions from Hungarian music education gave an enormous stimulus for hereafter.

As a result the scale/step names were adopted mainly by H.Kaljuste and the method got a name JO-LE-MI. The old rhythm names and principles were replaced with new ones – similar to Hungarian. The symbolic colours for the scale/step names (red So, blue Mi, green Ra and yellow Le in Estonia; in Hungary green Do and lilac La) and other elements (hand signs) were adopted in the songbooks for comprehensive school. Such a colourful symbols gave a possibility for playful introduction of the steps in the preschool already.

Figure 1. Hungarian (left) and Estonian (right) songbooks for 1.grade (Adam 1993:42) (Päts, Kaljuste 1971: 83)

Exceptional was SO- clef in Estonia, which helped to find a place for SO and MI (Figure 1, right, below exercise on the staves).

Same songs (see Marching song, Figure 1) and even design of the books was taken over. Image analyses of the books show the similarities between Hungarian and Estonian songbooks (Figure 1, 2, 3): the watches were the same shape and same size (Figure 2).

To summarize it up – the second wave was inspired of Zoltan Kodály and Hungarian music education.

Figure 2. Hungarian (left) and Estonian (right) songbooks for 1.grade (Adam 1993:6) (Päts, Kaljuste 1971:8)

Furthermore, JO-LE-MI teacher-schooling in Tallinn Pedagogical Institute was set up. Solfegge in the Music High School by Conservatory (now by Estonian Music Academy) and in special music classes in several basic schools started using the relative solmisation JO-LE-MI.

Along the initiative of R.Päts and H.Kaljuste who became a successor of Päts in Tallinn Pedagogical Institute, from Hungary was brought lot of methodical material as well as recordings. 333 exercises (Kodály 1943), Ötfokú zene I-IV. (Kodály 1947-55), 15 Ketzsolamu Énekgyakorlat (1956), Bicina Hungarica etc. These books and music are still in use.

In the conference in Budapest R. Päts met Z. Kodály who gave as a present eight songbooks of his. These songbooks further became a source for new Estonian ones. Two different types of teaching material-songbooks were issued: from 1969 JO-LE-MI songbooks for special music classes (more than 2 hours per week music and solfeegge) compiled by H.Kaljuste; and from 1970 songbooks for comprehensive school (2 hours per week till 5th grade, later one hour per week) compiled by R.Päts and H.Kaljuste. Also special handbook for music teachers of primary classes was issued (Päts, Kaljuste 1969).

Talking about Kodály concept Estonians mainly take into consideration the technical aspect of the concept – relative solmisation, hand-signs and rhythm syllables. Relatively less have we talked about Kodály’s philosophical concept.

In some sense the idea of “musical mother tongue” is a kind of phenomenon of nationalism. Under Soviet regime this was strongly forbidden. Under the circumstances when Estonia was only republic in the union who had

  • it’s own songbooks,

  • had a privilege – 11(12) years music education in general school, instead of 7 years in most of other republics.

Under those circumstances the most remarkable and amazing was that a lot of runic songs the ancient layer of the folklore, started to find a place in the songbooks in 70ies.

Under the circumstances of soviet dashing patriotism and international education the music culture of small nations were still brushed aside, and even downgraded. It is amazing that through the Kodály’s songbooks we could be introduced to the musical culture of other Finno-Ugrian cultures. For example Mari’s folksong The Snail printed first in 1969 (Kaljuste 1971: 58; Päts 1971: 70) has become very popular canon and still has a place in the new songbooks (Urbel Pullerits 2001). Unfortunately, there have been no new ones added, even though the relationship with Mari’s became closer.

To illustrate the influence of Kodály’s songbooks it should be said that in some of the songbooks compiled by Kaljuste and Päts for primary classes (Kaljuste 1969: 2; Päts 1970) there were issued lot of Hungarian songs. This is as much as Russian-Soviet songs. We can find plenty of examples (mostly translated by Kaljuste) of Hungarian folk and children’s songs as well as songs of Z. Kodály, B. Bartok, L.Bardos and other Hungarian composers. So we can speak eager about the particular influence of Hungarian music than Soviet one!

Figure 3. Snail in Hungarian (above) and Estonian songbooks for 1.grade (Adam 1993:10) (Päts 1970)

The role of Heino Kaljuste in the adaptation process

H.Kaljuste well-known conductor of the children choir Ellerhein and lecturer of music pedagogy in the universities was also in charge of musical advisor by the Ministry of Education from 1970ies.

In order to be in touch with real situation in music education, to be faced with all the difficulties and problems experienced by the music teachers a feeling of responsibility guide him to work as a music teacher in the ordinary comprehensive school in 1980-88. H.Kaljuste was worried about the future of music education and choir movement (Kaljuste 1988b).

His work was positively reverberated in several methodical articles (Kaljuste 1981; 1988a; Otsides 1986) and in the handbook for music teachers, which has remained a manuscript since now. His ideas for renewing the school music program, inserting the world music found acknowledgement and output in the programs in 90ies after his death.

The main principles of the relative solmisation and musical mother tongue found the output in

his songbooks for 3rd. and 4th grades of comprehensive school, issued in the period of new russification in 1984-1986. Bearing the spirit of Kodály, national musical roots – the runic song, ornaments from national costumes illustrating the songbook became the source of the book (Kaljuste 1986).

The great homage to Z. Kodály were two articles “Zoltán Kodály and his area”(1982) and ”20 years of JO-LE-MI”(1984) in the magazine Education.

Another field of Kaljuste’s activities was introduction of the method in Estonia and in the republics of Soviet Union (Kaljuste 1973?). H.Kaljuste’s children-choir “Ellerhein has been for a long time avand garde in the Estonian children choir movement as well as in music education. The work in the choir is completely based on the Kodály method. Numerous performances and workshops for music teachers all over the world and articles in Russian media have introduced the concept and the richness of the possibilities of the method.

However the method (with all the elements and philosophy) was officially taken into use only in Estonia (partly in some other republics like Latvia, Lituania, Russia, and Georgia). This was not easy, because the pressure of soviet central authorities and spreading of D.Kabalevski’s music educational concept.

To summarize it up, it should be said that H.Kaljuste took the most suitable part of Kodály’s songbooks and creatively used and adopted this material in/for Estonian conditions:

  • adopted the names of steps of the relative scale and hand-signs

  • elaborated the enormous part of Estonian folksongs and chose folksongs for songbooks according to pedagogical aims

  • adopted and translated songs of different Hungarian composers and folksongs for Estonian songbooks

To summarize it up, it should be said that setting up the JO-LE-MI system was not difficult in mid-60ies. Kodály concept with the philosophical background, stressing the national musical folklore formed due to the political situation – melt in early 60ies which enables to turn towards pedagogical experiences and concepts abroad.

On the other hand, there was a former theoretical and practical base with pedagogical material from 30ies in Estonia. The source of both approaches was getting rid of German educational dominance and appreciating own/national musical traditions.

Thanks to Heino Kaljuste the Kodály concept flourished during 30 years and was continuously developed by him. Thanks to the Kodály approach – the rise of music reading ability, the technical and artistic level of the school choirs improved in a great extent during 70ies and 80ies. The best prove about this was that the number of singers in All-Estonian School Choir Festival rose to 20 thousand.

But it should be stressed that mainly/particularly the technical part, technical elements of the concept was in spotlight in the 70ies and 80ies. In the late 80ies the interest turned towards the philosophical aspect of the concept – national roots.

The years of the Independency in 1990s opened the world with it’s music-pedagogical versatility – alternative pedagogies, elements of Suzuki method, music therapy, and Orff-boom.

Under the conditions where pedagogical ideas stressed the free improvisation, creativity, self-expression, Kodály’s method seems to be too traditional because of routine training of the musical motives, melodic shapes of steps.

The research provided in 1999 shows, that about 34% of music teachers didn’t use relative solmisation at school. They estimated decreasing tendency to JO-LE-MI method (Pikkel 2000).

It seemed that there is no place for relative solmisation any more – in the new songbooks for 3-6 grades, there were no any relative approach (Eespere 1994, Kangro 1994), school music program gave for music teacher possibility to use or absolute or relative approach ad libitum (Üldhariduskooli 1991).

However, the end of the decade rose the third wave, which brought up the philosophical ideas of Kodály and the ways worked out by H. Kaljuste. The values of the concept coud be seen from the three aspects.

From the social point of view – the national movement brought spotlight/highlight national identity. More and more attention was put on the musical identity. On the other hand, as a member of EU, national variety and diversity, the traditional culture and folk music became valued.

  • folklore as a voluntary subject in school curriculum was set up

  • folklore activities had a wide range from dance and singing to making national music instruments and handcraft. For example in the songbook for 6th grade (Kangro 1996:47) there is an instruction for making the willow-whistle, national pasture instrument.

The content analyses show: from the pedagogical point of view the values are

  • simple folksongs and Jo-LE-MI enables differentiated tuition, gives children with lower musical ability courage, higher self-esteem and helps participate in common song and in choir

  • system develops musical mind

  • musical literacy is a base for sustainable choir-movement. The relatively high level of Estonian choirs in international music life, the living tradition of All-Estonian Song Festivals in spite of the quite complicated repertoire – these are also fruits of previous decades of school music.

And finally optimistically looking to the future, there are at least two generations of music teachers who carry on the main ideas of Kodály’s concept, fertilizing it with new elements from other approaches.

From the musical point of viewthe values could be seen in the 21st century songbooks

  • the rhythm of the mother tongue is base for vocal, rhythm and instrumental activities

  • the notation of the rhythm of the word lays on the spoken Estonian language,

  • the basis of the school singing teaching became practically the Estonian folksong heritage in primary classes

Live music – singing as a most traditional musical activity has kept his dominating role in the music classes. There is nothing more natural in music than the human voice – and that is exactly were Kodály’s concept begins.

In the article “Thoughts about music teaching in school” released in 1981, H.Kaljuste has made a short conclusion about Z.Kodàly concept – “Z.Kodàly’s music-study’s “backbone” is human voice and it’s exploration in singing-activities along with children’s conscious learning of music-reading basis” (Kaljuste 1981).

More than thirty thousand singers in the choir in All-Estonian Song Festival in 2004, outstanding choirs, new songbooks – these facts show evidently the standing values and the sustainable development of the concept. For today the concept has integrated elements of several approaches and became an independent JO-LE-MI approach which has found his basic place in Estonian music education.


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Allikas – Forrás:

XVI. Bárczi Füzet. I. Kodály Zoltán és a magyar nyelvi műveltség. II. Kodály Zoltán életművének időszërűsége. Bárczi Géza Kiejtési Alapítvány, 2008 (77–83. lk.)


(A mezők kitöltése kötelező. A villámlevélcím cím nem fog látszani a hozzászólás elküldése után.)