Musical nationalism as a separate movement emerged in the mid-19th century. Most frequently the movement is linked to Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Scandinavian countries, and it is represented in the works of Smetana, Dvorak, Grieg, Sibelius, Glinka and The Five, including Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.(Harvard Dictionary of Music) For the most part, the movement coincided with political changes in Europe of that time and the birth of new nations.
Sometimes, unfortunately, national pride instigated by folklore and music that carries a note of nationalism, led nations on the wrong path. Richard Wagner, one of the greatest German composers, used folklore and history in his work a lot. Among his many admirers was Adolf Hitler. “Richard Wagner was Hitlers favorite composer. During World War I, it is reported, he carried Wagners music from Tristan in his knapsack. Often Hitler had Wagners music performed at party rallies and functions.”(fcit.usf.edu) Hitler’s admiration with Wagner was strengthened with composer’s political views and anti-Semitic writings during his life.
When it comes to pointing at what element of music describes the best particular cultures, I believe it is the combination of factors. Folk melodies when quoted in classical music pieces have a strong effect. Some cultures rely heavily on specific instruments to express the tradition. Rhythm and harmony are important too. However, I believe that people feel most national pride when listening to folklore music if the music is strong, heroic and grandeur. It is not a coincidence that most national anthems are written in a way that appeals to feelings of belonging and unity. It is not a surprise that Nazi Germany adopted Wagner and his heroic and deeply Teutonic music.
Folklore is not limited by boundaries between countries and nations. It travels along with people when they migrate. In that regard, United States, are a great example of how folklore have transcended over thousands