Archives for posts with tag: history

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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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:

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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…

Next Tuesday, we should all be displaying (especially me, I suspect) our best behavior, since we are welcoming another UC Berkeley Class, Jewish Studies 101, co-taught by Erich Gruen and Hannah Setlzer, who asked me to give a talk on the history of Jewish musical culture, with a particular reference to Italy in the early-modern period.

To make sure that we can still connect this class with the topic of our course, I offered to speak about “Jewish Culture and Jewish Cultural Products” (with a specific reference to music). I am somewhat confident that it will end up raising some relevant issues in regards to music in Israel (especially: is there a specificity to Jewish cultural production in a context of Jewish self-government?), even though for a day we will be (sonically) inhabiting the world of the Italian ghettos.

On Thursday, we resume our 20th-century focus, and discuss the impact of Jewish history (and Jewish musical history) on the work of select Israeli composers: Tsippi Fleisher,  Paul Ben-Haim (whose music we now know quite well), Noam Sheriff and Oded Zehavi.

Here’s the weekly listening assignment sheet:

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With all apologies to our colleagues in the History Department.

There are some strange resources online. I looked at this (a little simplistic, and only about the Jews, as if a Diasporic culture did not always constantly interact with major, and minor, events), then I looked at this (according to this “Torah timeline,” Adam and Eve were created in 3760 BCE), and also at this (a maniacally granular, decade-by-decade, month-by-month, “history of the Jewish people”). Wow.

Of course, you can read UC Berkeley’s John Efron, The Jews: A History (2009).

Or you can summarize several thousands of years in one image: the world, and its history, painted on a clover leaf, with Jerusalem at its core (1581).

Die gantze Welt in ein Kleberblat, welches in der Stadt Hannover, meines lieben Vaterlandes Wapen

Die gantze Welt in ein Kleberblat, welches in der Stadt Hannover, meines lieben Vaterlandes Wapen

Author: Bèunting, Heinrich
Publisher: [s.n.]
Date: 1581.

Scale: Scale not given.
Call Number: G3200 1581.B8

From The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (NBL Map Center) at the Boston Public Library (BPL).

More and more maps can be found online:

  • The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas (Middle East section)
  • Historical maps of the National Library of Israel: maps of the “Holy Land” and maps of Jerusalem.

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