Brauner, Harry

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BRAUNER, HARRY (1908–1988), Romanian ethnomusicologist and brother of surrealist painter Victor Brauner. Disciple and long time assistant of Constantin Brăiloiu, he was a hardworking member of the sociological teams that made pioneering monographical and interdisciplinary studies on rural Romania. From 1928 to 1939 he was a very active collaborator of the Arhiva de Folklore (Folk Music Archive) of the Societatea Compozitorilor (Composers' Society), which he then headed as deputy director (1944–1948). From 1939 he was an honorary member of The English Folk Dance and Music Society (London), and for almost two years (1948–1950) taught folk music studies at the Conservatory of Music in Bucharest. Until 1950 Brauner excelled mainly as folk music collector, and, after the late 1960s, as promoter of Romanian folk music that he considered to be genuine and traditional within nationalist frameworks. His mid-career was crowned by taking over managerial responsibility for the two national folk music archives that were scattered and somehow abandoned after World War ii and he succeeded in founding the Institute of Folklore (1949), an institution of powerful, nationwide and even international academic prominence. Brauner headed this institution for just one year, after which he was involved in a political and antisemitic plot (known as "Pătrăşcanu's trial"). After spending twelve years in jail and two years in an imposed dwelling in a countryside settlement, he was no longer accepted in the academic institution he had founded (which became more and more ideologized, nationalistic, ethnocentric, and propagandistic). He started to publish original children's songs and newspaper articles, served as consultant for the national records company (Electrecord), and briefly acted as founder and leader of a laboratory for ethnomusicology at the Conservatory of Music in Bucharest (1971–1974). His journalistic articles from the 1970s were collected in the volume Să auzi iarba cum creşte ("Listening to the Growing Grass"; 1979), and a collection of monovocal songs composed during his imprisonment appeared twice, posthumously (1998, 2000). His complex personality was emphasized by several academic biographical essays as well as by a memorial book published by Irina Nicolau and Carmen Huluţă in 1999. Brauner's wife, artist Lena Constante, outlived him and continued to work for preserving, improving and enhancing Brauner's memory and intellectual legacy.

Harry Brauner was a tragic character. Although he lectured brilliantly at several international folk music festivals in the 1930s (London, Istanbul), he failed to have an international career and was eventually prevented from enjoying national prominence.

[Marin Marian (2nd ed.)]