by Larry Herz
He was born in 1882 - composed an overture for his school orchestra at age 15, and a mass for chorus and orchestra the following year. During college and graduate school, he became among the first collecting ethnomusicologists, until WW I got in the way.
He won fame for a work he called a psalm celebrating his nation. Made it big in Europe. Was shocked by how little and how poor the musical instruction in his country was. Developed principles for early music education which were named after him and spread widely. His name was resurrected in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where his system of hand signals for notes was needed for interplanetary communication.
He was so celebrated that when he refused to divorce his Jewish wife and the Gestapo arrested him, the public outcry forced them to release him. She died when he was 75. After a year, he remarried...his 19-year-old student. His career started out by demonstrating that there was a real national music that wasn’t the commercialized Gypsy music it was usually taken for; he wrote a distinctive body of instrumental and choral music; and he ended with a system of principles for musical and rhythmic instruction taught all over the western world. This genius is Zoltan Kodály.