Music of Worship and Celebration among the Abayudaya
(Jewish People) of Uganda
Jeffrey A. Summit, Tufts University
The Abayudaya, a community of approximately 600 Bantu people living in villages surrounding Mbale in Eastern Uganda, live as practicing Jews. Many members scrupulously follow Jewish ritual, observe the laws of the Sabbath, celebrate Jewish holidays, keep kosher and pray in Hebrew. This community self-converted to Judaism in 1919 and originally constructed their Jewish practice and liturgy in contra-distinction to Christian missionary activity and British political rule. Presently, their contact with North American Jewry is increasing and the Abayudaya are incorporating Ashkenazi chant and melodies and contemporary American Jewish music into their liturgy. At the same time, many members of their community compose liturgical and celebratory music in styles influenced by Christian churches in Uganda and Kenya and styles of East African popular music. In this paper, I examine the Abayudaya's strategic process of choosing and composing liturgical music as they standardize their own liturgical practice and position themselves in relation to Jewish communities in North America and Israel.
Maintaining Jewish Communities Through Music
Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Harvard University
While Jewish communities are founded and maintained through shared aspects of descent and belief, their musical practices are in fact quite heterogeneous. This paper, drawing mainly on a case study of the Syrian-Jewish pizmon tradition, focuses on important ways in which a distinctive musical style can serve to sustain a Jewish community over time.
From Catering Hall to Concert Hall and Back: Philadelphia's
Jewish Musicians, 1915-1960
Hankus Netsky, New England Conservatory
This essay addresses the idea of the Jewish wedding music scene as a kind of home base for Jewish musicians in twentieth-century Philadelphia. I will follow the offspring of three musical families with "klezmer" roots, as they build their careers in classical, popular, and other performance styles, and show how their attitudes toward the traditional Jewish wedding music scene figure into their varied musical and social aspirations. To what extent was their knowledge of the "klezmer" repertoire a basic fact of musical identity for these musicians? How did they regard the colorful and chaotic folk tradition of their musical ancestors? How did the special "brotherhood" that existed between wedding musicians and the kinetic energy of the European-style communal celebration influence the later careers of these individuals, and to what extent did they see the necessity to return, even if only occasionally, to their klezmer roots? I believe that, by exploring such questions, one can gain a wealth of insight into an important aspect of our musical heritage
All in the Family: Early Jewish - American Popular
Mark Slobin, Wesleyan University
We often think of the period from 1910 to 1940 as an age of increasing acculturation and even tentative assimilation of the massive wave of Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States. Deborah Dash Moore titled her book about the 1920s and 30s "at home in America" to reinforce this view. Henry Sapoznik's vision of the history of klezmer sees it moving more and more into the American orbit, with musicians changing shers and freylekhs into swingtime. Over and over we hear the story of Irving Berlin walking out of his lower east side habitat by finding the door to the 14th Street offices of the music industry. Again and again, George Gershwin turns his back on Yiddish theater to face Broadway, even as Al Jolson, in the film called "The Jazz Singer," forsakes the cantorate for vaudeville stardom, something he and many others did in real life. While I have no real quarrel with this narrative, the paper prefers to showcase music and entertainment products that were interested in putting the brakes on the Jews' headlong acceleration into assimilation. I'll start back with some early Yiddish theater songs, then move to the 1920s and 1930s, including some clips from the golden age of Yiddish cinema.
The Modern Odyssey of the Judeo-Spanish Folksong
Edwin Seroussi, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
The traditional song of the Sephardi Jews, i.e. the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal who settled around the Mediterranean since the late 15th century, attracts today wide attention throughout the world. Distributed in commercial recordings usually under the label of "World Music", the geographical and historical provenance of these Sephardi songs (or Ladino songs, after the popular name of the Judeo-Spanish dialect) are the object of the most disparate assumptions. One reason for such assumptions is the frequent and erratic migrations of songs and musicians from this tradition over relatively short periods of time since the late 19th century. This presentation treats the sources and the ideological foundations of the imagined geographies and historical narratives attributed to the repertoire of Judeo-Spanish folksongs that circulates nowadays as a commodity within the world music industry. To demonstrate some of the theoretical issues raised by the paper, an "archeology" of selected songs will be offered.
Creativity in Captivity: Viktor Ullmann's Der Kaiser
Rachel Bergman, Yale University
Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), a Jewish, Austro-Hungarian composer who was killed in the Holocaust, spent the final and perhaps most productive years of his life in Theresienstadt (or "Terezin"), a "model" concentration camp just north of Prague that allowed, and eventually encouraged, musical activity. Ullmann's music from this period reflects his greater preoccupation with death and with his Jewish identity, as seen most clearly in, though not limited to, his choice of texts. Ullmann's chamber opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder der Tod dankt ab (The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Abdicates) is arguably his most momentous Theresienstadt work. The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the opera's creation are reflected on many levels, from the unusual orchestration (including banjo and harpsichord) to the use of musical quotations (including a distorted, minor key version of the Nazi anthem Deutschland, Deutschland über alles). Most poignant, perhaps, is the highly allegorical story, written by librettist and fellow inmate Peter Kien, depicting a world where life and death no longer have any meaning. This work is a testament to the power of art to serve as spiritual resistance against the dehumanizing conditions of a concentration camp.
Sephardic Liturgical Music: Diversity and Uniqueness
Mark Kligman, Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion
Sephardic liturgical music is a true reflection of the cultural diversity of Sephardic Jews. By focusing on the liturgical traditions of European and Middle Eastern Jewish communities demonstrates the similarities and differences of Sephardic practices. The Spanish and Portuguese tradition is Western in its approach to liturgical music with melodies that are stylisticaly Western. The Moroccan, or North African Tradition, contains some Western musical elements but mixed with the Andalusian Spanish style producing ornate melodic patterns. The Middle Eastern Jewish tradition, known as "Yerushalmi Sephardim," displays considerably more Arab influence. The Turkish or Ottoman Jewish tradition reflects a different but related musical tradition that contains elements of Arab, Spanish and Balkan styles. This presentation will focus on liturgical music in three areas: cantillation, liturgical song and piyyutim. Audio examples from various traditions will be played to demonstrate the diverse musical styles.
The Styles of East-Ashkenazi Jewish Liturgical
Music: Between Written and Oral
Judit Frigyesi, Bar Ilan University
Western art music is primarily thought of as a repertory of "pieces," whose sources are written documents. When dealing with such a repertory it seems possible, although not always meaningful to separate the music from its life, that is, its transmission and performance practice. On the basis of the score we can safely talk about rhythm, scales, melodic patterns, and the like, characterizing these parameters in a more or less exact manner. While the same musical parameters exist in the oral tradition, here exact characterizations are not possible. When analyzing an oral music culture, one has to use words like "typical," "possible," "likely," and "unusual". What defines musical style? Are the collection of scales and rhythmic motives the determining aspects of style or rather the life of the musical material, that is: the rules that govern to what extent and how scales and rhythmic motives are changed with each performance? Should we draw the dividing line in the Ashkenazi tradition according to the concrete elements of music or according to the community's manner of using them? How can we divide the enormously varied musical tradition of the Ashkenazim: should it be along geographical areas, along differences between religious groups (such as the various sects of the Hasidim, Orthodox, reform), along liturgical and secular functions, or along the practices of music? To answer these questions is especially difficult because Ashkenazi music stands between oral and written tradition. Versions of the orally transmitted pieces have been notated, and as a result, in many communities the tradition has taken on the character of a fixed musical repertory, while oral transmission remained the norm in others. This paper will summarize the conceptual problems and propose a possible division of styles within Ashkenazi liturgical music.
Bringing the Bride to Tears
Craig Harwood, Yale University
Of all the rituals connected with the eastern European Jewish wedding, the one that perhaps seems the furthest removed from our contemporary sensibilities is the kale baveynen: the custom of bringing the bride to tears. This ceremony took place shortly before the walk to the chuppah, with the bride seated in the manner of a queen and surrounded by the women of the community. The badchen, or wedding poet, would recite an improvised poem in rhymed couplets, which the musicians would punctuate with an emotional melody, all intended to make the bride cry. Following its original role as part of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the kale baveynen emerged in a number of other contexts. Namely, it appeared in the early 20th century Yiddish theater, particularly in America where recently immigrated Jews expected every theatrical production to include a wedding scene. It is also represented in the performances of artists such as clarinetist Dave Tarras, who removed the kale baveynen from the wedding scene altogether by recording artistic instrumental interpretations of the ceremonial music, now devoid of the rhymed verses of the badchen. Still, very little is known about the kale baveynen: how the music is organized, what defines it as a uniquely Jewish genre, and how it developed to suit its changing cultural role. This paper will explore some of the elements that define the genre, and how it transformed and mutated to conform to the changing sensibilities of the increasingly Americanized Jewish culture.
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