Archives for posts with tag: film

Orchestra of Exiles (2012) is a film by Josh Aronson that revisits the efforts of violinist Bronislaw Huberman in establishing the Palestine Orchestra, an institution that eventually gave birth to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. We have studied this fascinating story earlier in the semester, and it is only fitting that The Magnes will be screening the film tomorrow, on our last day of classes. More information here.

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Music In Israeli Film: Waltz With Bashir (2008)  

Presentation by Claudia Camacho

Directed by Ari Folman

  • Born in Haifa, Israel 1962
  • Studied at Tel Aviv University in the Department of Film and Television
  • His parents were from the Lodz ghetto in Poland and Auschwitz Holocaust survivors
  • Served in the 1982 Israel-Lebanon War, basis of the movie

Music By Max Richter

  • German-British composer born in 1966
  • “Blends classical, electronic, and rock influences”
  • All these genres found in Waltz With Bashir
  • Ari Folman was listening to Max Richter on repeat when writing the script for Waltz

Waltz With Bashir

  • Summary: Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary film about the director’s experience in the 1982 Israel-Lebanon War. Ari attempts to regain his war memories after a friend tells him about a recurring dream he’s been having.

History behind Waltz With Bashir

  • In 1982 Israel invaded South Lebanon after Israel’s Northern border had been bombed for years from the Lebanese territory
  • Initial plan: To occupy a 40km zone between Lebanon and Israel to cleanse the missile range used by Palestinians
  • Secret Plan: Arik Sharon (Israeli Minister of Defense) wanted to occupy Lebanon as far as Beirut and appoint his Christian Phalangist ally Bashir Gemayel, President of Lebanon to create eliminate threat from the North
  • A week after being elected, Bashir was assassinated. The assassination thought to have caused the massacre by the Phalangists at Shabra and Shatila of Palestinian civilians.
  • It took 3 days for the IDF soldiers to figure out the massacres were happening and do something. By then it was too late, an estimated 3,000 people were massacred.

“I Bombed Beirut” by Zeev Tene

  • “If we go on behaving with our neighbors like we behave with them, there will be in them some hatred built that will be impossible to control.”
  • “I hate Germans.”
  • His song is politically charged and begs the question how could our government of all governments have been involved in a massacre like this.
  • The song puts the Israeli forces in the place of the Nazi’s.

JSB/RPG

  • Concerto No. 5 in F Minor for Harpsichord and Strings by Johann Sebastian Bach
  • “The film is about the nature of reality and memory…about recovering facts and trying to work out what is imagined and what’s real” –Max Richter on Waltz with Bashir
  • Playing during absurd events of war in which it is not entirely sure whether they are imagined or real.

The Haunted Ocean

  • Composed by Max Richter, provides the theme for the movie
  • “Is meant to evoke a sort of unresolved, weightless, lost melancholia” along with feelings of guilt and shame for being involved (by proxy) in this act of genocide
  • Plays whenever Folman is trying to remember the day of the massacre
  • The scenes where the Haunted Ocean plays are really important because there is no dialogue. The music’s job is to express what words cannot.

I chose the movie because it touched on the theme of memory and past and what is usable and what is not. For Ari Folman and many soldiers at Beirut, the memory of the massacre was not a usable memory. The old collective memory of the Holocaust and the new personal memory of the massacre could not exist in the same mind.

San Francisco, in Israeli songs in Hebrew, is presented as a distant and pleasant place, which causes the songwriter to reflect on his/her land (or love) of origin. The similarity of facing West (the Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, respectively), indeed seems to prompt some unexpected connections, which are also reflected in the Jewish musical history that unites Israel to the Bay Area.

There are all kinds of wine houses, taverns and dives
In San Francisco, San Malo and Marseille….
There are blondes and brunettes that will eat you alive!
All waiting for some “beau” to sweep them away…
But as for me, despite it all, I swear sincerely,
I am chained down to some dilapidated dame..
If my harmonica sings out a weepy blues,
And if I hate myself, it’s not the wine or booze,
It’s that female, damn it, she’s the one to blame!

What’s come over me? The devil knows!
I am feeling confused and dazed…
Is it the night? Or is it this song
That has left me bewitched and amazed?
A harmonica spreads its wings in flight!
Singing a song of laughter and woes
oh good lord, will you explain the night?
Or is it only the devil that knows?

(Edna Goren and Kobi Recht, Zemer mapuchit, or “The Song of the Harmonica,” 1968; lyrics by Nathan Alterman and music by Sasha Argov, 1956; Hebrew lyrics found here, and English translation, by Achinoam Nini/Noa, available here).

Sitting in San Francisco by the Water
Carried away by the blues and greens
It’s beautiful in San Francisco by the Water
Then why do I feel so removed

Watching the ducks, roaming amongst the boats
and the Golden Gate Bridge, beautiful like in a movie
It’s a shame you’re not here
With me to see it
You’d say you’d never leave

I watch Doctor J, tear down the nets
and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, touches the sky
It’s a shame you’re not here
With me to see it
It’s so beautiful in San Francisco by the Water

Suddenly I want to go back home
Return to the swamp
To sit in Kasit with Moshe and Chatske
Give me Mount Tibor
Give me the Kinneret
I love and keep falling in love with my little Israel Warm and Charming

(Arik Einstein, san fransisqo ‘al ha-mayim – San Francisco on the Water, from the album Hamush bemishkafaim – Armed With Glasses, 1980; lyrics found here).

This week, with the assistance of a guest presenter, we will explore a host of musical relations between Israel and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dorothy Richman (BA Political and Social Thought, University of Virginia; Rabbinic Ordination, Jewish Theological Seminary) was a rabbi in San Francisco at congregations Shaar Zahav and Beth Sholom, and worked for several years at Berkeley Hillel (more here).

In her presentation, Dorothy Richman will discuss the life and contributions of Shlomo Carlebach, and the intersection of Bay Area and Israeli life and culture. As a point of departure, she reflects on a Hebrew poem by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), Israel’s leading poet. (The English translation that appears below was done by Avshalom Guissin, and can be found here; a UC Press edition of translations of Amichai’s poems, by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, is linked here).

North of San Francisco*

Here the soft hills touch the sea,
like eternity touching on eternity.
And the cows that graze on them
ignore us, like angels.
Even the scent of ripe cantaloupe in the cellar
is a prophecy of calm.

The darkness does not fight the light
but passes it forward
to another light and the only pain
is the pain of not staying.

In my land called holy
eternity isn’t allowed to be eternity:
they divided it into small religions
and demarcated it in deified departments
and shattered it into shards of history
sharp and mortally wounding.
And they turned its calm reaches
into a closeness that twitches with present pain.

On Bolinas beach at the bottom of the wooden stairs
I saw bare buttocked girls
bowing down in the sand
intoxicated with the kingdom of everlasting kingdoms,
and their souls within like doors
closing and opening,
closing and opening,
to the rhythm of the breaking waves.

* From: Yehuda Amichai, Me-Adam Bata, Ve-El Adam Tashuv (Schocken Publishing, Tel Aviv, 1985), pp. 99–100.

The history of the musical relations between Israel and the Bay Area go back to the 1930’s, when San Francisco’s became the first Jewish community in the Diaspora to raise funds for the founding of the Palestine Orchestra (which, as we have learned in a previous week, was the ancestor of modern day’s Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra). 

The Magnes will screen the film, Orchestra of Exiles (2012), about the creation of the Palestine Orchestra by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, on December 5th (more information here).

The fundraising for the Palestine Orchestra, and the later commissioning of music to Israeli composers such as Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984) and Marc Lavry (1903-1967), was the work of Reuben R. Rinder (1887-1966), who between 1913 and 1962 served as the Cantor of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. 

Reuben H. Rinder (1887-1966)

The Western Jewish Americana archives of The Magnes, accessible at The Bancroft Library, include the Reuben Rinder’s papers, a selection of which is available in an online narrative format (created by your instructor…). You can (actually, you are required, according to our Syllabus) check it out here.

Several decades later, the musical ties between the Bay Area and Israel were renewed, when a San-Francisco-summer-of-love Jewish phenomenon, the music of the House of Love and Prayer (a Jewish center founded in San Francisco in 1967, also documented in the Western Jewish Americana archives of The Magnes at The Bancroft Library (link here), was transplanted to Israel along with its creator, Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994).

Interestingly enough, Congregation Emanu-El and the House of Love and Prayer were located a few blocks from one another. See Google Maps directions for this 5-minute walk through San Francisco’s Jewish musical history.

Carlebach (who was born in Berlin), had studied in New York, and had moved to the Bay Area in 1966, as an emissary of the Habad movement, along with Zalman Schacheter, as detailed in this week’s reading assignment, eventually moved to Israel, after one of his songs won the Hassidic Song Festival, one of the many song contests created in Israel after the festival hazemer hayisraeli that we discussed last week.

Here’s a clip from an Israeli television broadcast of Carlebach (1973).

A more recent, and less explored connection between our Bay and the Israeli musical scene, is in the open-source-inspired creation of the website, An Invitation to Piyyut (as we’ve learned, a piyyut is a Hebrew poem included in synagogue liturgy).

This extraordinary resource (which is connected to a real-life cultural initiative, Kehillot Sharot, or “singing communities” (active across Israel in transmitting traditional liturgical-musical lore to new generations, defying the boundaries between religion, art, culture, gender, and religious affiliations) charts century-old Hebrew poems in their musical versions across the Jewish Diaspora through texts and melodies. These resources are fully searchable, and also organized according to several principles, such as author, religious occasion (liturgical and para-liturgical events, life cycle ceremonies), and Jewish culture of origin. For example, if you follow this link, you will land on a page listing 21 different poems for the upcoming festival of Hanukkah, in countless musical versions spanning the entire Jewish Diaspora.

The website exists though the efforts of Israeli musician and music promoter Yair Harel (and the formidable support of the Avi Chai Foundation. You can see Yair in action while presenting his project in a very US-minded, Bay-Area-familiar, setting, here:

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!

This is the Land (1935, 50′), by Baruch Agadati (1895-1976; a quasi-legendary character, a dancer-choreographer-artist-film-maker, whom among other things is credited for introducing the Hora to the Palestinian Jewish Yishuv) is considered the first Hebrew language sound film, and was entirely produced in Palestine.

The soundtrack was composed by Yaakov Levanon. Around 25:00 there are various scenes with different types of music, underscoring the variety of musical cultures brought by Jewish immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century.

Today we began to assess our topic by looking at how Hollywood has portrayed Israel, and its music. We took a god look at Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960):

And we examined its main (often involuntarily hilarious, but always revealing) musical traits/moments:

Exodus (USA 1960): List of relevant musical scenes

Then we discussed how the movie obliterated one of the most musical scenes in the original novel, by Leon Uris (1958), since it also involves sex, and gives a rather different view of the “Jewish musical soul” of the early citizens of Israel. For everyone’s convenience, here are Uris’ pages:

View this document on Scribd

These pages, and the juicy “cultural confusion” that they inevitably generate, served as a good introduction to our (VERY QUICK) overview of the ca. 2000 years of Jewish Diaspora that preceded modern Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel.

map of jewish diaspora

The Jewish Diaspora: Migrations and Expulsions (source LDS)

map03-jewish expulsions 1000-1500

Jewish Expulsions, 1000-1500 (source, Encyclopaedia Judaica)

Finally, we analyzed an inspiring TedTalk by documentarian Julia Bacha, which helped us in articulating one of the key topics for this semester: the “power of attention.” We specifically discussed how difficult it may become to listen when all around us there are many disturbing, distracting, confusing, conflicting, and altogether unintelligible sounds…

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of the year already…

This week, we wrap up the semester with a surprise guest, some concluding presentations by students, and an Israeli Folk Dance Workshop taught by students.

On Tuesday, we will hear several presentations focusing on popular music, from rock to songs that reflect the history of Israel’s military conflicts. We will also spend some time preparing for the upcoming final examination (aka, the “unfinal”).

On Thursday, our “Skype guest” will be dr. Edwin Seroussi, professor of musicology and director of the Jewish Music Research Center at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a leading authority on Jewish music and on music in Israel, and the co-author of one of the textbooks we read this semester. He was also a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley in 2010, when he taught a course on the Intersection of Judaism and Islam in Music.  Edwin’s appearance in class is an excellent way to summarize what we have learned thus far, and to chart how the conversation could develop further. (Hint: also, an excellent way to prepare for the unfinal).

Our concluding act will be a student-led workshop devoted to Israeli folk dances (riqudey ‘am), one of the keystones of national culture in Israel. Since during the semester we’ve often been practicing the rather unforgiving (but oh, so rewarding) task of listening to songs’ music and not to their lyrics, it only seems fit to introduce dance without music. See how folk dances are portrayed in historical film footage taken in the street of Haifa in the 1950’s (from the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive of The Hebrew University).

[youtube http://youtu.be/dlm5N57u4fY]

P.S.: Edwin Seroussi is not the surprise guest (or, at least, not the only one) this week…

The Jewish film that history overlooked – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

In July 1947, journalist and author Meyer Levin followed from afar the affair of the Exodus, the ship that illegally ferried Jewish refugees to pre-state Israel. Levin, an American Jew who was one of the first journalists to set foot in Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, was living in New York at the time. He was glued to the reports about the ship and its 4,500 passengers. These people, after the months-long exhausting journey that followed years of indescribable suffering, were not allowed to enter British Mandatory Palestine and were forcibly returned to Germany.

Levin decided to create a film documenting the journeys of displaced Jews. Levin had never directed a film, but that didn’t stop him. He set out for Europe and created a cinematic document of historical importance and impressive quality. The filming of “The Illegals,” which Levin wrote, directed and produced, began toward the end of 1947.

The rest of the article here.

‘The Illegals’ (1948), How Displaced Jews Get to Palestine, a review of Levin’s film that appeared in the New York Times on July 15, 1948, can be found here. (Link courtesy of my friend and colleague, Assaf Shelleg, University of Virginia).

Everything we know about history we learn it from Hollywood movies…

Let’s try to listen to Exodus (1960), a film by Otto Preminger that followed the publication of Leon Uris’ novel by two years. The novel was published on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel. Below I’ve highlighted some of the main music-related scenes. (If you click on the image below and follow the link to Flickr, you will also see how the image is annotated with all kinds of links…).

Exodus (USA 1960): List of relevant musical scenes

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