Mieczyslaw Kolinski | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Mieczyslaw Kolinski

Mieczyslaw Kolinski. Ethnomusicologist, composer, b Warsaw 5 Sep 1901, naturalized Canadian 1974, d Toronto 7 May 1981; PH D (Berlin) 1930.

Kolinski, Mieczyslaw

Mieczyslaw Kolinski. Ethnomusicologist, composer, b Warsaw 5 Sep 1901, naturalized Canadian 1974, d Toronto 7 May 1981; PH D (Berlin) 1930. He studied piano and composition 1923-6 with Leonid Kreutzer and Paul Juon at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin and musicology at Berlin U with Erich von Hornbostel, Hermann Abert, Arnold Schering, and Curt Sachs. As assistant to Hornbostel 1926-33 at the Berlin Staatliches Phonogramm-Archiv, he made several field trips to the Bavarian Alps and the Sudeten. During the mid-1930s he transcribed collections of Surinamese, Dahoman, Togonese, Ashanti, Haitian, and Kwakiutl Indian music for Northwestern U and Columbia U. He lived 1938-51 in Brussels and 1951-66 in New York, where he was a music therapist at Goldwater Memorial and St Albans Naval hospitals, an editor for Hargail Music Press, and a co-founder, and president 1958-9, of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He taught ethnomusicology 1966-76 at the University of Toronto.

One of Kolinski's main interests was the scientific basis of harmony and melody. His Konsonanz als Grundlage einer neuen Akkordlehre (Prague 1936), anticipated Hindemith's theories and many of his later publications return to these topics. These interests also informed Kolinski's particular contributions to ethnomusicology. He developed analytical methods which can be applied cross-culturally and provided insights into perceptual problems and acoustical phenomena (see Writings). As a composer he did not use any single method consistently. His style has elements of modernism without attaching itself to any school or method. His compositions range from concise and simple bagatelles to large works of (in the composer's own words) 'transparent complexity'.

In 1976, on his retirement from the University of Toronto, Kolinski received the title scholar emeritus, the first such honour awarded by the university. His pupils include Beverley Diamond, Peter Goddard, Alison Mackay, Jay Rahn, Doug Riley, George Sawa, Bang-song Song, and Lu-lien Wang. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Music (Toronto 1982), a volume of essays in honour of Kolinski edited by Robert Falck and Timothy Rice, includes an appreciation and list of Kolinski's writings and compositions by John Beckwith. Kolinski's status as an associate composer is maintained at the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Dance Fantasy (based on Man and His Shadows). 1969. Str orch. Ms


'Suriname music,' Suriname Folk-Lore, ed Melville and Frances Herskovits (New York 1936)

'The evaluation of tempo,' Ethnomusicology, vol 3, May 1959

'A new equidistant 12-tone temperament,' J of the American Musicological Soc, vol 12, Summer-Fall 1959

'The origin of the Indian 22-tone system,' Studies in Ethnomusicology, vol 1, 1961

'Classification of tonal structures, illustrated by a comparative chart of American Indian, African Negro, Afro-American and English-American structures,' Studies in Ethnomusicology,S vol 1, 1961

'Consonance and dissonance,' Ethnomusicology, vol 6, May 1962

'The general direction of melodic movement,' Ethnomusicology, vol 9, Sep 1965

'The structure of melodic movement: a new method of analysis (revised),' Studies in Ethnomusicology, vol 2, 1965

'Recent trends in ethnomusicology,' Ethnomusicology, vol 11, Jan 1967

'An Apache rabbit dance song cycle as sung by the Iroquois,' Ethnomusicology, vol 16, Sep 1972

'A cross-cultural approach to metro-rhythmic patterns,' Ethnomusicology, vol 17, Sep 1973

'A study of melodic analysis, as applied to a collection of medieval tunes,' unpublished manuscript, 1974

'A co-ordinated denomination and notation of pitch,' CAUSM J, vol 6, Spring 1976

'Final reply to Herndon,' Ethnomusicology, vol 21, Jan 1977

'The structure of music: diversification versus constraint,' Ethnomusicology, vol 23, May 1978

'The universe of chords: complete chord classification, based on the cycle of fifths,' unpublished manuscript, 1978

Many review articles contributed to Ethnomusicology, Journal of the IFMC, Yearbook of the IFMC, Musical Quarterly

Transcription and analysis of 117 French-Canadian folksongs and versions, 1972, deposited at the Canadian Museum of Civilization


Lyric Sextet (Rilke, Hesse, W. von Scholz, E. Lasker-Schüler, J. Bierbaum). 1929. Sop, fl, string quartet. Ber 1978

Little Suite. 1933. Vn, piano. Harris 1974

3 Three-Part Inventions (vocalise). 1950. Sop, viola, violoncello. Ber 1958

Dahomey Suite. 1951 (fl or recorder, piano), rev 1953 (fl, string orch), rev 1959 (oboe, piano). Har 1952 (fl or recorder, piano). 1959. Folk 3855 (Wann oboe, Kolinski piano)

Six French Folksongs. 1969. Sop, fl, piano. Ber 1975. Folk FTS-31314 (S. Shulman)

Seven French-Canadian Folk Songs. 1978. High (medium) voice, piano. Ms. RCI 515 (B.Laplante)

Merry-Go-Round. 1970. Acc. Wat 1970

Encounterpoint. 1973. Arr 1974. Org, string quartet; arr fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano. Ms

Concertino (vocalise). 1974. Sop, clarinet, piano. Ber 1978

Settings and arr for recorder of folksongs and carols, duets and trios for recorder, many published by Har and Wat. For soprano, fl, piano: 45 settings of German, Dutch, Slovak, US, Canadian, Yiddish, Sephardic, Hebrew folksongs; all 1977, 1978; all manuscript; some recorded in 1978 on Folk FTS-31314 (Shulman fl)


4 Suites. 1929, 1934, 1936, 1946. Ber 1976

Sonata. 1947, rev 1967. Har 1972 (later version)

Music for Dance Rhythms. 1958. Ms. 1959. Folk FC-7673 (Kolinski)

Many other works, including piano duets, some published by Fischer, Har, Boston, MCA, and Schirmer Inc.


Numerous songs and song settings, including US, French, German, Yiddish, and Sephardic folksongs, in manuscript

Further Reading