The traditional musicological perspective on Chopin's slow, minor-key mazurkas and mazurka sections—that he modeled these episodes on the kujawiak, a Polish folk dance from Kujawy region — is plagued by contradictory statements. Re-evaluation of source material reveals that the kujawiak, as it is understood in relation to Chopin's mazurkas, is largely a creation of Polish nationalism after Chopin's time. In Chopin's own time, the term kujawiak is used only sporadically and appears to be interchangeable with mazur; by the end of the nineteenth century, however, the kujawiak becomes an important marker of Polishness for which authors offer specific but widely diverging musical characterizations. It is around this time that writers also begin to emphasize the kujawiak's impact on Chopin's mazurkas, forging a persistent link between this imagined “national dance” and his compositions. In place of these vague and conflicting constructs, it is proposed that Chopin used the slow mazurka—the kind widely but anachronistically called the kujawiak—to summon nostalgia for the spatially and temporally distant (and mythical) Poland, through musical styles and gestures that include reminiscence and allusion; auditory distancing; disruptions of form and genre; and surface distortions. Nostalgia as a cultural and medical concept also provides a prism through which his contemporaries perceived Chopin's illness, his experience in exile, and his music.
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