Notes 60.1 (2003) 141-144
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The Book of Klezmer: The History, the Music, the Folklore from the 14th Century to the 21st. By Yale Strom. Chicago: A Capella Books, 2002. [xvi, 381 p. ISBN 1-55652-445-5. $28.] Music examples, illustrations, glossary, bibliography, discography, index.
American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots. Edited by Mark Slobin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. [vi, 245 p. ISBN 0-520-22717-4. $49.95 (hbk.); ISBN 0-520-22718-2. [End Page 141] $19.95 (pbk.).] Music examples, sources, index.
In the 1990s, while klezmer music asserted its place in the world music canon with an outpouring of bands, recordings, even hype, writing about the music was uneven and scanty. Resources included Mark Slobin's translation of Soviet ethnomusicologist Moshe Beregovski's prewar essays and transcriptions (Moshe Beregovski, Old Jewish Folk Music: The Collections and Writings of Moshe Beregovski, ed. and trans. Mark Slobin [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982]), a handful of scholarly articles including Walter Feldman's authoritative study of the American bulgar and its roots (Walter Feldman, "Bulgåreascå/ Bulgarish/Bulgar: The Transformation of a Klezmer Dance Genre," Ethnomusicology 38 : 1-35), Ari Davidow's Klezmer Shack Web site (www.klezmershack.com, accessed 22 May 2003), and hundreds of largely uncritical (and often uninformed) music reviews and articles. The appearance of Henry Sapoznik's history of klezmer in 1999 was a welcome event (Henry Sapoznik, Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World [New York: Schirmer Books, 1999]); it represented the beginning of a growing klezmer literature. The two recent contributions under consideration here are American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots, edited by Mark Slobin, and The Book of Klezmer: the History, the Music, the Folklore by Yale Strom.
A focus on the European roots and the survival of klezmer and Yiddish culture, rather than its development in the United States, distinguishes The Book of Klezmer. Strom's fifty trips to Eastern Europe, beginning in 1981 after his discovery of klezmer, inform his work. He writes, "The American musicians who rediscovered klezmer in the mid-to-late 1970s set the example ... But none of them had gone outside the country to build their repertoires and educate themselves about klezmer's relevance to Jewish culture ... I wanted to connect with the source" (p. xv). Strom's travels have informed other work, most notably his 1994 documentary on Leopold Kozlowski, a Jewish musician who survived the Holocaust and is still living in Poland (Yale Strom, The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski: His Life and Music [New York: distrib. New Yorker Films, 1994]). The Book of Klezmer contains four chapters. The first outlines the origins and history of European Jewish music, musicians, and their regulation from the beginning of the diaspora to the eighteenth century. The second and most extensive chapter extends the chronology until the Holocaust, weaving klezmorim and other Jewish musicians into the broader history of Ashkenazic Jews in Europe. In chapter 3, Strom turns his attention to klezmer in the United States between 1880 and 1960. Finally, in "Fun Zev biz Zorn: Di Bale-Kulturniks (From Zev to Zorn: The Masters of Culture)," Strom provides a wide-ranging discussion of the revitalization and survival of klezmer in the United States, Europe, and Israel, concluding with a discussion of the future of klezmer.
Strom displays a clear love for his subject, maintains an engaging tone, and draws on a wealth of material. He shares some of these materials in three extensive indexes and dozens of historic and contemporary photographs. In the first appendix, Strom gleans and translates references to klezmer music and musicians from hundreds of Holocaust memorial books, which survivors wrote to honor others from their towns who were murdered, and which often provide insights into Jewish life before the war (p. 267). For those unable to read Yiddish or to visit the major collections, this is a valuable resource. Appendix 2 provides a glossaryofklezmer-loshn,theargotof klezmer musicians, compiled from seven...