Saturday, 11 June 2011

Petö, Pető, Peto...

Shmetö, Shmető, Shmeto
Another brick in CE's Tower of Babel

I have been asked whether I have anything to say on 'the philosophy of Petö'. This is a most reasonable question, though one in which the effects of the lack of a proper 'literature' are compounded by divergent usages in different languages.

I replied that I would need to know about what the word Petö means in the context in which the question is asked, before I could even begin responding, The enquiry, by the way, has come from Germany.
  1. I have known about the German use of the word Petö (spelt with an Umlaut) to mean the two different kinds of Konduktive Förderung met in the German-speaking lands: (a) what conductors try to do in their new contexts to adapt their practice to unfaniliar requirements, opportunities and constraints and (b) what existing professionals trained through extension (add-on) courses at the Institute Keil or Pfennigparade do. (I also know of the distinction that one may also hear in German between Petö Pur and Petö Lite, though this is not necessarily the same as some conductors may give in to their circumstances and provide something that might be regarded as 'lite').
  2. In Hungarian, the word Pető (not with an Umlaut) often nowadays seems to be used eponymously, both in and out of Hungary, to refer to the Pető Institute and even ahistorically to its predecessor the State Institute. I do not know whether in Hungarian this word is also used to refer to the actual process or service, as it can be in German and English. 
  3. In English the word is 'Peto' (actually a longstanding and distinuguished English surname and pronounced accordingly) is usually written without either kind of diacritical mark, since many English-speakers give short shrift to foreign diacritical marks and may not know where to find them in their computers even if they do not. This use of the word appears relatively rare in the United Kingdom and tends to refer to the Pető Institute rather than to the actual process. My impression is that usage of this word in the United States is more common and more general. Americans rarely have cause to mention the Pető Institute, and the word tends there (as in Germany) to refer to the process, whatever that might be, i.e. it is used synonymously with the more general term 'Conducive Education, rather than referring to a particular place.
  4. And of course one may come across references to the actual name of of the historical originator of this approach, András Pető. This is (a) usually, for simple ritual and devotional purposes but (b), very rare this, it can as part of serious theoretical and historical discussion. The actual spelling used, in both (4a) and (4b) alike tends towards the above national patterns. 
I do not know what word-forms occur in other languages (except for the rather jolly spelling variant Petø, in Nowegian and Danish), nor whether they refer to a specific place or to a general process.
What do I know anyway?

Adopting the above ad hoc taxonomy, what could I say about 'the philosophy of Petö'? Not a lot.
  1. With the exception of Susie Mallett, conductors working in German-speaking countries (1a) have left little communicable trace of their philosophical positions and, though I have sen many things from Munich and Vienna over the years (1b), 'philosophy' does not feature large in these, not explicitly anyway (do please correct me if I am wrong). The same goes for what has been said about Pur and Lite (1c). A facinating research project would be to try to deconstruct what has been written and derive the implicit philosophical positions manifest there or – even better – do the same from observing and interrogating actual practice. That is not my job, however, though I ought to be surprised (oughtn't I?) that there appear not to have been even informal attempts to address this fundamental question along 'compare and contrast' lines...
  2. As for the philosophy of the Pető Institute, the present institution not the place, I cannot really answer that question either. Again, there is little literature available to me explicitly addressing this question, and what there is dates primarily from another era. But today, does the philosophy of the institution and, especially important for people outside Hungary, do the philosophical orientations taught to future conductors (implicitly through the Zeitgeist as well as explicitly through lectures and reading) differ from how things were before the fall of Communism? Or do fundamentals persist? If so what are they? And do these differ from the work and philosophy of András Pető – now there's a question. Again, a lot of empirical work would be needed to answer it! I can not do so.
  3. And what do Americans, parents largely, mean when they talk about getting 'Peto'? Yet again, someone will have to analyse documents (blog entries would be a rich resource here), ask people, go and see. I for one would be intrigued to have some hard information on this 'American Peto' and what are its underpinning ideas. Till then, I know nothing.
  4. I suppose that I could say something about the philosophy of András Pető the man. I would dearly love to be able to offer a comprehensive overview of this. Unfortunately, I really do not know very much about it. What little I do know, however, people seem find a little surprising, even interesting. In Germany this might be particularly so, since András Pető's philosophy appears to have owed more to Germany than to Hungary and, should they wish, German people could find out a little more for themselves, fairly easily. It is strange that, again with one exception, those involved in (1a), (1b) and (1c) above have done virtually nothing towards doing this, despite so many people's using András Pető's family name to identify whatever it is that they do.  
So, all this rather constrains my choice of how to respond.
In the meantime, I should be most grateful for any corrections or critical comments on what I have written here.

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Anonymous Andrew said...

I am told that there are some who might not be familiar with the Yiddish shm-reduplication used in the second title to this posting.

Wikipedia has rather nice little item on this, from which I extract the following definition:

'The construction is generally used to indicate irony, derision or skepticism with respect to comments about the discussed object'

Would that all Wikipedia items were so good! (Nudge, nudge).


Sunday, 12 June 2011 at 07:15:00 BST  

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