Its Roots and Offshoots
Publication Year: 2002
The contributors to American Klezmer include every kind of authority on the subject--from academics to leading musicians--and they offer a wide range of perspectives on the musical, social, and cultural history of klezmer in American life. The first half of this volume concentrates on the early history of klezmer, using folkloric sources, records of early musicians unions, and interviews with the last of the immigrant musicians. The second part of the collection examines the klezmer "revival" that began in the 1970s. Several of these essays were written by the leaders of this movement, or draw on interviews with them, and give firsthand accounts of how klezmer is transmitted and how its practitioners maintain a balance between preservation and innovation.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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What we now routinely call klezmer in the United States—“Do you playklezmer?” “There’s a new klezmer album out”—is a truly American con-struct in three ways: the word sidesteps aesthetic and political issues, itstandardizes a music system as a brand name, and it overrides history inthe cause of contemporary coherence. Record bin marketing and label-...
PART ONE: ROOTS
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One definition for roots in the Oxford English Dictionary is surprisinglyapt for klezmer: “the permanent underground stock of a plant fromCulture, too, has its permanent underground stock. Today’s Ameri-can klezmer music grows out of linguistic, social, and musical stockoriginally transplanted from Europe. The first part of this book exam-...
1. American Klezmer: A Brief History
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The term klezmer (or in Hebrew, kle zemer, “vessels of song”) has hadmany incarnations over the years, having been variously used to desig-nate biblical-era Temple musicians, medieval minstrels, and eastern Eu-ropean virtuosi. It was in twentieth-century America, however, that klez-mer underwent its most radical transformation, from a pejorative used...
2. Klezmer-loshn: The Language of Jewish Folk Musicians
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In 1888, Sholem Aleichem published Stempenyu, a novel about a Berdi-chev violinist of the same name.1 In chapter 3, Stempenyu and his klez-mer kapelye arrive at a wedding, where he notices an attractive youngwoman. The following conversation ensues (in Joachim Neugroschel’s“Who’s the chick next to the frau-to-be?” asked Stempeniu in musi-...
3. Di Rusishe Progresiv Muzikal Yunyon No. 1 fun Amerike: The First Klezmer Union in America
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In his 1902 play, The Kreutzer Sonata, Yiddish playwright Jacob Gordinpresents an intriguing scenario: two klezmorim, Efroym Fidler and sonGregor, emigrate to New York. The son goes on to become a successfulclassical musician and teacher, while the father struggles to make a liv-ing from music and complains bitterly of restrictions on his craft: “I, an...
4. The Klezmer in Jewish Philadelphia, 1915–70
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In the recently emerging literature on klezmer culture and history, littledocumentation of the background and repertoire of Jewish dance musi-cians in “provincial” American communities has been produced. Severalmajor factors have contributed to this neglect: the paucity of studies fo-cusing on Jewish communities outside of New York (a trend that is now...
5. “All My Life a Musician”: Ben Bazyler, a European Klezmer in America
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The klezmer tradition suffered major discontinuity after World War II,owing to the near destruction of eastern European Jewry in the Holo-caust and to the changes wrought by assimilation and acculturation onboth sides of the Atlantic, as well as to the increasing importance of Is-raeli culture in shaping Jewish cultural identity worldwide. As a result,...
6. Bulgărească/Bulgarish/Bulgar: The Transformation of a Klezmer Dance Genre
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Like Jews in many parts of the world, the Jews of eastern Europe hadfamilies whose hereditary occupation was the performance of music.However, unlike any Jewish group that has been documented in thetwentieth century, the hereditary Jewish musicians of eastern Europe,called klezmorim (singular, klezmer) performed an instrumental reper-...
PART TWO: OFFSHOOTS
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One definition in the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary tellsus that offshoot once meant “anything conceived of as springing or pro-In this section of the book, we take “anything” seriously as a cate-gory, since the surprising offshoots of klezmer roots that have sprung upin recent decades vary vigorously. To give a sense of that diversity, we...
7. Sounds of Sensibility
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Today’s klezmer scene, while it affirms a degree of musical continuitywith the past, is in fact the result of an experience of rupture. Review-ing The Klezmorim’s first album, East Side Wedding, which appeared in1977, Nat Hentoff commented, “For years now, I had thought the klez-morim to be nearly extinct. Oh, some old players must still be boldly...
8. KlezKamp and the Rise of Yiddish Cultural Literacy
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At the outset of the klezmer renewal in 1976, an arm of the AmericanJewish Congress, called the Martin Steinberg Center, received a federalgrant under President Carter’s CETA program to fund the study of Jew-ish culture. As musicians, filmmakers, writers, poets, painters, puppe-teers, and playwrights made their way to the old carriage house on East...
9. Newish, Not Jewish: A Tale of Two Bands
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Following a successful tour in Germany, Brave Old World accordionistand musical director Alan Bern returned home to find the following e-mail message regarding the band’s upcoming concert at a TorontoWe have heard that your repertoire has become too serious and artistic, andthere are deep concerns in our congregation that your music will not be what...
10. An Insider’s View: How We Traveled from Obscurity to the Klezmer Establishment in Twenty Years
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I first became actively aware of Jewish music around 1970. Majoring inAfrican American trumpet at the New England Conservatory of Music,I was part of a larger scene loosely centered around Ran Blake’s ThirdStream Music Department. We studied a mixture of classical and jazz,as well as lots of other stuff—pop, folk, and ethnic musics—while de-...
11. Why We Do This Anyway: Klezmer as Jewish Youth Subculture
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In this chapter, I expand on some of the points Frank London has made,in his overview of the revival, regarding the variety of motivations for“reviving” klezmer among performers and audiences. I also offer myown understanding of why we’re doing this to begin with. I look at thephenomenon of the klezmer revival from a sociological point of view, in...
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Adler, Israel. “A la recherche du chants perdus—La redécouverte des collectionsdu ‘Cabinet’ de musique juive de Moisei I. Beregovski.” In Ndroje balendro.Musiques, terrains et disciplines: Textes offerts a Simha Arom, 247–67.Akhmetova, Tat’iana Vasil’evna, comp. Russkii mat. Moscow: Kolokol-press,Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin...
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Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 2002