Archives for posts with tag: army

I always enjoy reading the proposals submitted by the students of Music in Israel for their class projects (papers, presentations and performances, as outlined in the Class Syllabus). Then, I begin thinking, and learning, from them. I divide them into groups, and created graphs to describe their formats and contents.

It should suggest where things are at, now that we have reached the middle of the Semester.

Format-wise, students were somewhat “conservative.” Most students opted for the traditional “paper” (or essay) format. Some went for collaborative class presentations. And a few (but still a considerable number) chose to produce and present a performance to the class.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Formats

In terms of the topic that students chose to work on, regardless of the format of their projects, I was able to isolate four major groups: ethnographic and ethnomusicological themes, the study of art music, the study of popular music, and the relationship between music and history.

Music in Israel | Fall 2013 | Student Project Topics

Ethnographic projects cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the emergence of Judeo-Spanish song and Klezmer music between ethnography and commercial revival, to the sacred/secular divide in Israeli (musical) culture, issues of gender, various types of fieldwork (including the “ethnography of the Self”…), the study of traditional musical instruments, of the relationship between music and food, the role of Arabic maqam in Jewish music, music education, music in the Kibbutz, and the role of music in various Jewish “ethnic communities,” from Russia and Romania to Central Asia.

Students working on popular music will be covering a variety of themes, including Jazz, world Jewish and Israeli “pop,” ethnic rock, punk rock, Hip hop, and religious rock, the impact of American music on Israel’s popular music, the work of specific artists or ensembles (including Naomi Shemer, Shlomo Carlebach, and the Idan Reichel Project), and the impact of conflict and the role of the Israeli Defence Forces in shaping popular musical culture.

Art music is well represented as well, with topics ranging from the Israeli piano and vocal repertoires, to the impact of America’s Jewish composers on Israeli music, to the important issue of “style” (Mediterraneims, Orientalism, etc.) in Israel’s musical aesthetics.

The relationship between music and history will be mainly investigated in two directions: the role of film (and especially film music) in narrating history and representing culture, and the musical representations of the Holocaust.

Perhaps we are half way done, but it looks like a busy end of semester is coming up!

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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…

A new publication on Israel’s Army Radio just came out that reflects some of the topics discussed in class was just announced in the Israel Studies Bulletin Board:

Soffer, Oren. “The Anomaly of Galei Tzahal: Israel’s Army Radio as a Cultural Vanguard and Force for Pluralism.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32.2 (2012): 225-243.

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01439685.2012.669886 (full access via UCB connection)

Abstract

Israel’s Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) has been broadcasting for sixty years. Unlike military stations around the world, Galei Tzahal has always transmitted from the centre of the country, with programming aimed at the civilian population. This article examines how Galei Tzahal became a leading force in Israeli broadcasting and news coverage. Among other points, the article explores how military broadcasts, which are ostensibly foreign to the democratic experience, have become a symbol of pluralism, journalistic freedom, and the social and cultural avant-garde in Israel.

Author biography

Oren Soffer is a Senior Lecturer and the Head of Communication Studies at The Open University of Israel. He is currently a visiting scholar at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. He is author of There Is No Place for Pilpul! Hatzefira Journal and the Modernization of Sociopolitical Discourse (Jerusalem, Mossad Bialik Press, 2007) and Mass Communication in Israel (Raanana, The Open University of Israel, 2011). His articles have been published in journals such as Communication Theory (2010; 2005); Journal of Israeli History (2010); Journalism (2009); Media History (2009); and Media Culture & Society (2008).

Available online: 20 Apr 2012

Link.

Music about the (First) Lebanon War (1982).

1. Shte etzba’ot mi-tzidon (Two Steps Away From Sidon), an introspective song sung by an Israeli soldier, interpreted by the Yemenite-Israeli singer-actor-film maker, Boaz Ofri, from the soundtrack of a 1986 Israeli film.

2. A very different perspective on the Lebanon war, also from the point of view of artists who served in the Israeli army, from the soundtrack of Waltz with Bashir (vals ‘im bashir, 2008), a film by Ari Folman.

3. The source of the soundtrack, I Bombed Korea, as performed by the northern California rock band, Cake (from their 1994 debut album, Motorcade of Generosity).

This week we dive into the musical products – and reflections – of the cultural diversity generated by the rise of the Zionist movement and the creation of the State of Israel. A cultural diversity met, and accompanied all along, by war.

Army ensembles (lehaqot tzvayiot) have been a forum for the creation of globalized cultural identities. It may seem paradoxical, but it really isn’t, that music and theater ensembles sponsored by the Israeli Defense Forces (known in Hebrew by the acronym of Tzahal), espoused an anti-war culture on the wake of the youth movements in the United States and Europe since the 1960’s. Yet, these are music ensembles with such “sexy” names as “Fighting Pioneer Youth Ensemble” (Lehaqat NaChaL), or the “Ensemble of the Northern Command”…

See for example Shir la-shalom (A Song to Peace) by the Fighting Pioneer Youth:

And its source of inspiration, from the musical, Hair:

At first sight, a veeeeery WaltDisney-esque Song of the Grape Pickers, 1955. The analogy with Snow White’s Hi-Ho holds only insofar as one begins taking into account the real agricultural achievements of the State of Israel, and, even more importantly from our perspective, the role of the early pioneers (chalutzim) and their lives in the Jewish agricultural communes (kibbutzim) in shaping national culture in Israel. Music, and song, and dance, played a central role in all this. We’ll have a week to discuss it. And a whole semester to look at the way in which music relates to, describes, and challenges, the evolving notions of “Land of Israel” (eretz yisrael).

The mother of all Israeli songs (SLI, or “Songs of the Land of Israel), with hauntingly beautiful lyrics (by Naomi Shemer) and an interesting story, to be explored in detail later (the melody is apparently not original; the song itself came to define the Six Day War of 1967, among other things). A very important aspect of this song is that it does embody, in its own 1960’s folk-music way, the multi-millenary Jewish longing for Zion (Jerusalem). In this course, we are devoting a week to this topic, as expressed through poetry and song throughout the Jewish Diaspora for centuries.

The Nachal army ensemble, 1967: a deconstructionist’s dream. Also, a nod at the role of the army in shaping national and musical culture. (A lot) More on this to come.

Idan Reichel, the star of many Jewish organization-sponsored events in North America and beyond; and a true game-changer in the “world music” circuit. This song, which quotes Psalm 130 (mi-ma’amaqim, also known in its Latin incipit, De profundis, or “from the depths, I called you, god”), mixes world music styles, ethnic (mostly, African) sounds and languages, with a Biblical theme.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), conducted by Zubin Mehta, performs Israel’s National Anthem (Hatikvah, “The hope”) on top of Masada, the site of a famous and tragic battle between the Jews and the Roman army in ancient Palestine, in a concert held in 1988. The IPO is but one examples of the building of musical institutions (orchestras, academies, broadcasting stations, festivals, competitions, etc.) since before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, and of their role in shaping national culture. It also has an interesting connection to the San Francisco Bay Area, since the first fundraising event to establish the IPO (then called the Palestine Orchestra) was held in San Francisco in the 1930’s. (BTW, we are devoting one week of class to the many, and interesting, musical connections between Israel and the Bay Area, also with the help of an esteemed guest, Cantor Roslyn Barak, learning about her experiences  living in Israel, performing with the Israel National Opera, the Jerusalem Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic). I chose this video excerpt for a few notable (and slightly wicked) reasons. Note how the audience sings along, and how everyone stands, including the orchestra – except for those who cannot. The violin (solo played by Ori Kam), is in itself a fundamental Jewish musical icon. However, the distortions to the sound caused by the digital transfer from a VHS tape give this recording an involuntary Jimi Hendrix quality that I could not resist to point out.

Fiddler on the Roof, in Hebrew, staged by the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. From Yiddish, to English, to Hebrew… What are “Jewish languages,” and what is their relationship with music (and sound)?

Essential. Palestinian and/or Arab-Israeli (bring on the hyphens…) rap band, DAM, singing in Hebrew and Arabic about their relationship to the Land (of Israel?). During the class, we are going to explore the role of sounds and music in defining and opposing ethnic, cultural, political, and military conflicts. We are also fortunate to be assisted in this by Professor Ben Brinner (author of Playing Across a Divide) and members of the band, Bustan, who will join the class in March.

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