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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. 

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Dear Class,

As we discussed at the beginning of the Semester (and as indicated in our Class Syllabus), this Fall we are taking advantage of the fact that our class time coincides with a major Jewish Festival, Sukkot (Hebrew for “booths” or “tabernacles”). The festival lasts for seven days, followed, on the eight day, by shemini ‘atzeret (Hebrew for “eighth [day] of closing [assembly]) and simchat torah (Hebrew for “rejoicing of the Torah,” when the yearly cycle of reading the Hebrew Bible in the synagogue begins anew).

The Hebrew calendar is “lunisolar,”that is, based on the lunar cycle, but also integrated with the solar cycle. Therefore, Jewish holidays always fall during the same season each year, but not always on the same date of the Gregorian calendar. This year, the first day of Sukkot falls on Thursday, September 19, and shemini ‘atzeret falls on Thursday, September 26.

This presents us with the chance to make two field trips to local (Berkeley) synagogues on these dates (or on days immediately following them, if that is more convenient). Since at this point of the semester we are learning about the different Jewish musical traditions in the Diaspora, and about how sounds can define the identity of a group, everyone in the class is required to visit two different synagogues, and reflect on the similarities and the differences presented by each one. This will be a unique chance to experience and reflect upon one of the cultures we are studying in class by observing some of its manifestations in situ, and to further our understanding of fieldwork dynamics.

Below I am detailing how the field trips can take place. Please read the whole message, and register for the field trips. If the instructions are not clear, ask questions during lecture time on Tuesday (September 17). If the trips present a challenge of any sort, promptly inform me by email (ASAP).

All the best,

PS: Try clicking on the links above. If you are off Campus and you can read the corresponding entries in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, it means you’ve successfully configured your access to UCB’s electronic resources… Otherwise, read here. (If you are reading this post and do not have UC Berkeley or other academic credentials, the links may not work at all… Sorry about that!).

ASSIGNMENT / FIELD TRIPSVisit two (2) synagogues during the two weeks of the Sukkot Festival

1. Consult the list of Jewish congregations in Berkeley
The list is available online at this link. It includes addresses, contact information, and website links. Note that they are not listed in order of importance (but the first two are very close to Campus), and that not all of them will be holding services during the upcoming holiday.
2. Choose two (2) different synagogues
Individual visits can take place during class time (travel time is included in class time, so your actual visit may and up being as short as 30-45 minutes, depending on which synagogue you plan to visit), but also at the other times indicated in the Field Trip Registration Form (see below, No. 3). In other words, you can choose to conduct your field trips during class time, but also at another time (based on the registration form, see below No. 3), if that is more convenient for you. However, you must visit two (2) different synagogues on two separate field trips.
3. Register for each field trip
a) Add your name (First, Last) to the synagogue and time corresponding to your visit on the Field Trip Registration Form, a shared Google Spreadsheet linked here.
b) No more than twelve students can visit a synagogue at the same time (to limit your impact on the congregations you will be visiting).
c) You must use your login to bDrive to access the registration spreadsheet (more information here).
d) Registration closes at 3PM on Wednesday, September 18. Make sure you name is on the spreadsheet for both field trips by then!
4. Plan your visits (field trips)
a) Read the congregations’ websites (links provided in the list below and online, AND in the shared spreadsheet), and document yourself on the background and history of each of the two congregations you are planning to visit.
b) Plan your trip (all congregations are located within walking distance, and near public transportation), to make sure you maximize the time at your disposal.
c) In general, make sure you have as much information with you BEFORE your trip, so that DURING the trip you can focus on researching your surroundings.
5. During your visits: seven general rules of conduct
Remember that you will be visiting ritual spaces, and that you may not be aware of all the rules of conduct that govern them. Be as respectful as you can of your (unfamiliar?) surroundings.
a) Dress appropriately (use your judgment), and be quiet.
b) Silence your phones.
c) Stand when people stand, sit when they sit.
d) Ask for page in prayer book (don’t be shy about asking for assistance!).
e) Introduce yourself if anyone asks you why you are there. There is a long-standing history of visiting synagogues on the part of “strangers” (Jewish visitors from out of town, Jewish members of other congregations, and non-Jewish visitors), so your presence will not be out of the ordinary. But it will definitely be noticed.
f) Do not take notes, do not take photographs, do not make audio recordings, do not use any electronic devices while you are inside a synagogue
g) Do your best to minimize your luggage (backpacks, etc.), and try to not have any with you if possible (of course, some of you will be going back to class, so you may need your backpack with you).
6. During your visits: observe and listen to your surroundings (field work)
Be as aware of your surroundings as you can. Look for the following:
a) Architectural space: what does it look like, how is space distributed and occupied, etc.
b) Population: number of people attending, age, gender, dress code(s).
c) Use of space gender and age.
d) Languages (of the prayer books, of people conducting the prayers, etc.).
e) Sounds and music: any particular sounds? recognizable melodies? identifiable musical style or styles?
Also, refer to the four parameters listed in the Listening Assignment Sheet for Week 2 (soundscape; performance style, language, and context).
7. After your visits: take notes (field notes)
As soon as you are able to, write down your observations on the points listed above (No. 6), or on additional details and impressions you may have gathered from your visit. Try to be as systematic as you can in collecting your notes, so that you can compare them from one field trip to the next.
8. After your visits: class work
We will be comparing notes and impressions in class (weeks 4 and 5), and you will be asked to incorporate your observations in you weekly responses (note that on week 4 we discuss the many waves of immigration to Palestine in the early 20th century, each of which brought with them different musical traditions).
9. About instructors’ participation
Both Rachel Colwell (graduate student assistant) and Francesco Spagnolo (lecturer) will be also visiting two different synagogues at this time. But we will not register online, and we will only see those of you who are registered for the same field trips on such occasions. We plan to share our observations with the class as well.

Here you go!

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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,


As I announced in class last week, the conflict with another event that had been previously scheduled at The Magnes for tomorrow, Tuesday April 17, 2012, is providing us with the welcome opportunity to be the guests of our neighbors across the street, The Marsh Arts Center.

Class will meet there (2120 Allston Way), at the usual time. Please be punctual, so that we can all enjoy some of the student performances planned for this semester:

  • Hannah Glass will present her research on creating a new fusion genre based on the various musical cultures explored in class
  • Steven Yang (violin) and Michelle Lin (cello) will present their work on klezmer genres
  • Ran Zhang will present her work on cross-cultural performance practice, and play two Israeli songs on the gu zheng (the link only works with a UC Berkeley secure connection)

This all looks (and sounds) quite promising, and we are indeed very fortunate to be able to use a fully equipped art performance space this week.

See you tomorrow!

P.S. I will be posting specific listening assignments for this week’s lecture (Thursday) on bspace and the blog as usual. As you recall, there is no longer a need to submit written responses at this point. I graded all assignments last week. Instead, we will be discussing plans for the upcoming Final (refer to the syllabus for the date).

Here is a slideshow for today’s class presentation by two students in Music in Israel. I look forward to post more students’ work for this semester.

We’ve already encountered many American and European influences on Israeli popular music. This week, we dive into them by following two parallel threads.

On the one hand, we explore the rise of song contests, which since the 1960’s translated earlier (and still persistent) modes of communal singing (shirah be-tzibur) into organized events celebrating national identity, but also the connections between Israeli culture and its European counterparts. This is a topic that speaks to me on many levels, especially since it has to do with explicit musical links between Israel and Italy, which I have explored elsewhere (in an article poetically titled Crossing the Sea of Song).

Here are the week’s assignments:

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My favorite examples of the Italian-Israeli connections are probably the remakes of Azzurro and L’italiano into Israeli popular songs.

Here is Adriano Celentano singing Azzurro (1968)

A song by the legendary Italian lawyer-turned-singer-songwriter, Paolo Conte (the French love him almost as much as Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen…):

And here’s Arik Einstein’s remake, Amru lo, which is reminiscent of both versions listed above:

And here’s Italy’s “national-popular” song par excellence: Toto Cotugno’s L’italiano:

Remade in a Song of the Land of Israel with some mizrachi echoes:

And the two songs (in Italian and in Hebrew), brought together in a restaurant in Kfar Saba (a city in Israel’s Sharon Plain that maintains a municipal website in both Hebrew and Spanish, and that is Idan Reichel’s hometown, among other things) by an Israeli community chorus last year (have I ever mentioned that I think YouTube is truly changing our ways to study popular culture?):


On the other hand, we go deeper into the influence of rock music on Israeli popular music, and will be listening to early examples of songs written and performed by what our textbook defines the “elite of Israeli rock.” I’ve already posted on this topic before.

In any case, the assignments for the current week are here:

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After the proposals were submitted by the students in the class, I summarized their topics in seven distinct categories and created a graph that represented them.

Class Projects Topics Graph

Last week, we discussed sharing the actual proposals, so here you go:

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They present an impressive set of ideas, and truly give a sense of how the collective mind of the class is developing.

I have enjoyed reading the proposals submitted by the students of Music in Israel for their class projects (papers, presentations and performances). Then, I divided them into groups, and created a graph.

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

Class Projects Topics Graph

Please note that the category “other” is comprised of a variety of projects on topics that touch on general music-related issues (musical fusion, music and national identity, music and spirituality and/or religion). The category “dance” includes both papers (2) on Israeli folk dances (and their relationship to national identity), and a proposed session in which we will all learn some Israeli dance steps. I am delighted to see that the emphasis on the various cultural components of Israel (called “ethnic communities” above) has struck a chord in the class, and that students are taking the topic of “music, army and wars” as seriously as we all discussed it in class for the past two weeks. Oh, and I decided to divide up “rock” and “popular music” because the two groups seemed substantial enough to do so. The taxonomy of this graph reflects the need to create a summary of where things are at, rather than an objective depiction of the materials covered in class.

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