Music: Patient Listener

For 16 months he has been in a tiny padded cell, this frail little man with glittering eyes and a gentle smile—five hours a day, four days a week. He is not crazy, just listening. The man is Hungary's eminent composer and music scholar, Bela Bartok (Piano Concertos, Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion Instruments, MikroKosmos). The cell is a phonograph-listening room at Columbia University. He is listening to some 2,500 double-sided aluminum phonograph discs on which is impressed the largest recorded collection of Yugoslav folk songs ever made.

They were made in...

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