Archives for category: strange things


A workshop on juggling identities, included in the #unfinal exam for the course “Music in Israel” taught by Francesco Spagnolo (UC Berkeley Fall 2014).

The metaphor of “juggling multiple cultural identities” used in class resonated so much with everyone that I felt I should include this workshop as part of the final exam. The idea is to learn to take metaphors very, very seriously.

More on the course at

More on Sara Felder at


Jerusalem of Gold
Presentation and Performance Outline
Adam Kuphaldt and William Li

Naomi Shemer was commissioned by Teddy Kollek, then mayor of Jerusalem, to write a songfor the 1967 Israel Song Contest in the noncompetitive portion. This event was sponsored by the national radio station, Kol Israel–the voice of Israel.
Gil Adema, producer of the event, searched through archives and found that there were less than a few dozen songs about Jerusalem, and so requested that she write about Jerusalem.
Naomi Shemer was hesitant at first, and after all, no one at that time would ever say Jerusalem was of gold; the city was divided by a buffer zone between Israelis and Jordanians filled with land mines and barbed fences, with soldiers guarding the border. She eventually agreed, realizing Jerusalem held a special place in her heart.
Shemer’s song was later found to have been plagiarized off a traditional Navarrese song called Pello Joxepe from the Basque country (in the western Pyrenees between France and Spain along the coast). The song was originally written by Juan Francisco Petriarena Xenpelar back in the nineteenth century, and the version Shemer copied was a cover by Paco Ibanez. Mr. Ibanez later said no harm was done.

Lyrics – Symbolism and Meaning
Though the song traditionally has a very Jewish-centric take, a deeper analysis reveals much more. In fact, the song links together Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The song gained popularity because it pervaded every facet of Jewish life. Militarily the song was the rallying cry for the Israeli Defense Force when they prepared for war. In regards to spirituality, the song has many religious references and metaphors.

Jerusalem of Gold, today
We were able to find some interesting ways the song is still performed, demonstrating its popularity even nearly fifty years since it debuted:
The Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps based in La Crosse, Wisconsin has Yerushalayim Shel Zahav as their corps song, and they play it before every competition.
Jewish musician Sam Glaser realizes that “many of the standards, the absolute birthright of Jewish kids, are being forgotten. Those songs–they include… “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav”– were the great common denominator songs of [his] childhood.”
During President Shimon Peres’ birthday celebration, with a lot of important people from the international community, Mizrahi singer Eyal Golan was asked to perform Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

About the performance
Adam and William are avid vocalists, drawing experience from 2-A.M.-in-the-morning-shower singing. That, of course, has not stopped them from taking stage at the Magnes. The arrangement is performed in the modified key of C minor. The lyrics are that of Ofra Haza’s original performance.

The Midterm Exam for Music in Israel that took place today followed a collaborative (and digital) template that I had not tried out before.

As our colleagues at UCLA Center for Digital Humanities state:

Digital Humanities scholarship is necessarily collaborative and interdisciplinary; it emphasizes design, multi-mediality, and the experiential by creatively expanding the networks of participation, the modes of access, and the mechanisms for the dissemination of scholarship.

Essentially, the exam involved the following components:

  • Self-selected working groups (max 5 students for each group), based on culinary preferences (and, therefore, taste, an essential aesthetic dimension)
  • Collaborative work spaces: a combination of Google Apps for education and the digital collaborative canvas created by
  • Collaborative interdisciplinary research on: history, visual culture, food, politics, sociology, anthropology, religion, gender, and, of course, music! 
  • The creation of historical profiles of real, or realistic, characters
  • The instant movement from content creation to publication of research results

The building blocks of the exam where outlined in a shared document, which is also published online:

View this document on Scribd

The results of the work conducted by the class is published online, in a rather colorful digital canvas. Clicking on the image below will lead to a digital canvas that summarizes both the background, the methodology, and the work done during the exam.

We Are What We Eat | Music in Israel Midterm Exam (2013)

The experiment seemed successful. I look forward to hearing back about it from students in the coming week or so. But I felt that everyone was thoroughly engaged, and passed the exam with flying colors.

A good week…


Dear Class,

As listed in our Course Syllabus, as well as announced and explained during lectures and discussion sections, next week we will be having a Midterm exam.

The exam will take place during lecture time (please be on time!), at 2121 Allston Way, on Thursday, October 31, 2013. 


As I explained in class, my approach to testing for this course is in line with the understanding that there are many concurring, and at times conflicting, ideas, perspectives, and “listening modes” involved in the topic we are all researching together (“Music in Israel”). The format of the Midterm will represent an attempt to be coherent with this approach: it will try to build on the idea that, as a class, we can also work collaboratively, and that the sum of our collective knowledge is greater that its parts (each of our own backgrounds, perspectives, individual understanding of course materials, etc.). Therefore, we will work towards making good use of the almost three days of brain power (52 participants, including instructors, times ca. 80 minutes of lecture time = ca. 70 hours) that are available to us during each of our lecture meetings, in order to re-think what has been covered by our course thus far. The key is not to have all materials memorized, but to be able to quickly access all relevant information, to “connect the dots,” and to be able to elaborate on it all, on the basis of the tools built in class and of each student’s individual work preparing for it. 

How to prepare

You are required to review all work for Music in Israel since the beginning of the Semester. Please focus on the following:

  • Class Syllabus
  • Weekly Assignment Sheets (Week 1 through Week 9), and the listening assignments listed (and explained) in each of them, as well as the related reading materials (all sheets, articles, CD booklets, and links are available on bSpace)
  • Course Blog and the resources listed on it 

What to bring (“packing list’)

  • Yourselves (attendance is mandatory!)
  • Personal computers (laptops, tablets, etc.), with access to AirBears and bDrive, as well as the electronic resources of the UC Berkeley Library (we will also have a few laptops/tablets available for you in case you cannot bring your own) 
  • Class materials (books, articles, mp3 files, etc.; all except for one book also available online)
  • Weekly Assignment Sheets/listening guides
  • Paper and pens/pencils or other materials to take/sketch notes
  • Musical instruments, puppets, etc.: anything that you feel may help you in successfully work on the Midterm exam 


During the week after the Midterm, Rachel and I will be collecting anonymous feedback on the course. As we move towards the last third of the Semester, we are particularly interested in better understanding how the tools, methodologies, and ideas introduced thus far work for the class, and individually for those of you who wish to provide some additional thoughts about them. 

An interesting class discussion on the initial failed attempts to create an Opera house in Palestine before 1948, and on the current status of the Israeli Opera, led to working on a phenomenology of musical production in Israel, today and throughout its history. Below is my “wordle” with the list (almost 30 “agents” of musical productions!) that emerged from class discussion.

Agents of Musical Production in Israel

  2. ARMY
  3. RADIO
  7. TV
  8. HOME

Interestingly enough, as we attempt to define our topic, “music in Israel,” and the related topics of Israel/Palestine/State of Israel/Land of Israel/Promised Land, we also gain a more distinct understanding of the related, and not necessarily antagonistic, notions of Diaspora…

I can’t even begin to explain why I like this so much. It is campy, derivative, and yet original and provocative.

Hint: follow the clues in the tags to this post to find the duo (Israeli “Greek” musicians) whose song the folks in the video are lip-syncing to…

This semester we will be exploring a set of complex cultural realities. As one of our textbooks states in its opening sentence:

The study of Israeli culture is one of the most challenging fields of inquiry among those relating to the investigation of nation-states that arose during the 20th century.

And yet, reality is always even more complex than how we posit it, even academically. This is why we will continue to read news from the Middle East every week.

Yesterday, the Israeli press reported on a “scandal” that happened in the Palestinian city of Hebron (Southern West Bank). Two Israeli soldiers on patrol joined a wedding party. In full military gear, they danced with the crown, to the sound of Gangnam Style. Here’s a link to the Jerusalem Post article, where I first read this news (which since last night has spread to news sources worldwide).

There’s a lot to deconstruct here, trust me…

Dear Class,

Next Wednesday, our Final Examination will be held at The Magnes from 11:30 until 2:30.

Attendance is mandatory. No exceptions.

As discussed in class, the Final for Music in Israel will follow the “unconference” format, which requires active participation from everyone.

Participants (that’s you!) will choose the content of the discussion by suggesting possible topics, creating a schedule, attending and participating in the discussion sessions, and helping with a plenary conclusive session.

In order to be prepared for the final you will need to take a look at the following links:

You can bring ANYTHING you wish to the Final. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, books, notes, post-it’s, puppets, musical instruments, other instruments… Really, anything that you think will help you.

The draft of the schedule is available at and you can already add your proposed topics to it.

You are expected to contribute to the discussion by:

  1. Proposing discussion topics (sessions) in the initial Session Marketplace and create a Schedule
  2. Attending a total of 3 sessions based on your interests (up to 4 different sessions will take place at the same time in the auditorium, conference room and seminar room of The Magnes)
  3. Participate in the discussions you are attending
  4. Contribute to the plenary concluding session

All topics are acceptable. Those pertaining to the course are preferred, since this is what brought all of us together, but you may also come up with different ideas and, if enough students want to participate, that’s good too.

Personally, I’m interested in sessions that complete what the course had to offer during the semester. It is a chance to provide your fellow students (and the instructor) with critical feedback, suggestions on how to improve the learning experience, ideas on new materials, your own views on a specific topic, etc.

The Final (or the “unfinal” as we have been referring to in class)  will only be as good as the content we inject into it.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email me, as usual.

See you in class,


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