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This week is devoted to distinguished guests, and to perfecting our listening skills across musical cultures and political divides.

On Tuesday, we will be working with Prof. Benjamin Brinner, Chair of the Department of Music at UC Berkeley, whose book, Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters is part of our reading assignments. On Thursday, Bustan Quartet will be joining us for a conversation-demonstration. Their combined efforts will help us focusing on the issue of competence that musical encounters require from both performers and their audiences.

Benjamin Brinner is a professor at U.C. Berkeley, where he is currently chair of the Department of Music. His research has focused on issues of musical cognition, particularly memory, competence, and interaction among musicians. His books include Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Competence and Interaction (Chicago, 1995) and his new work, Playing Across A Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters (Oxford, 2009), based on one and a half decades of research on the ethnic music scene in Israel.

A master of both Eastern and Western music, oud and violinist, Taiseer Elias is one of the foremost Middle Eastern musicians of our time. Founder and conductor of the first Orchestra of Classical Arabic Music in Israel, and currently the musical director and conductor of the Arab-Jewish orchestra and the Music Center in Jerusalem, Elias has recorded with a number of ensembles including White Bird, Bustan Abraham, Ziryab Trio (of which he is the musical director) and others. In addition, Prof. Elias is the head of Eastern Music Department at the Rubin Academy of Music; a Professor in the Musicology Department at Bar Ilan University; and director of Arab music education in the Education Ministry in Israel.

A graduate of the prestigious Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem and New England Conservatory, Amir Milstein, flutist, established his career in the world-music scene, founding acclaimed ensembles such as Bustan and Tucan Trio with which he has recorded and performed worldwide. Milstein’s musical background represents a variety of styles and cultures including classical, jazz, Mediterranean and Latin music; he has participated in distinguished international concert venues and festivals, both as a player and as a composer.

Born in France, Emmanuel Mann has become one of Israel’s top bass players. He was a member of Israel’s first ethnic group, Habrera Hativ’it, and later co-founded Bustan Abraham. Mann has performed at the Israel Festival, the Budapest Spring Festival, the Hong Kong Asian Arts Festival, le Theatre De La Ville, the Lille Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Womad Festival, the Krakov Jewish Music Festival, Sao Paulo SESC, World Expo- Seville, the Akbank Jazz Festival Istanbul, the Kennedy Center, Symphony Space, Town Hall, the Beacon Theater and the Jewish Repertory Theater. He has led workshops at the Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as the Julliard School in New York City.

One of the best and most sought after percussionists in the world, and a star on the international scene, Zohar Fresco’s unique amazing finger style expresses itself on a vast array of Oriental as well as Western percussion instruments. Fresco is a virtuoso of many percussion instruments, and his performances with the darbuka and the frame drums (such as Bendir, Riqq, and Tar) have left audiences all over the world awestruck. After years of playing these instruments, he has developed original techniques that include influences of Arabic, Indian, Persian, and Turkish music, as well as Jazz. Fresco was an original member of Bustan Abraham, Ziryab Trio and of Arabandi. Fresco taught at the Rubin Academy of Music where he was head of the Oriental percussion department.

Your readings include two chapter from Benjamin Brinner’s book, and a very different take on Arab-Palestinian music in Israel, by David A. McDonald (Indiana University). Your listening assignments include a track from the 1997 CD, Pictures Through the Painted Window by Bustan Avraham (the band from which Bustan Quartet originates), “Here He Comes (Muwashah)” (see Oxford music here and here for more details on this type of Arab song), and two versions of the classic Israeli Hebrew song, ‘Erev shel shoshanim, by the Dudaim (1958), and by ‘Aley hazayit ((Jewish Jerusalemite Shoham Einav singing with a band led by Muslim Jerusalemite drummer Jamal Sa’id, with French Israeli bassist Jeane Claude Jones). But, most importantly, focus on listening to the musicians that compose Bustan Quartet in class.

In class, we will focus on our live listening experience, and on the dynamics of the musical encounters discussed and performed by our guests.

The listening assignment sheet is here:

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