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Rumskinsky: Di Goldene Kale (critical edition). Michael Ochs, eds. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2017.

Reviewed by Hankus Netsky


“The American Yiddish theater, as it was known at the beginning of this century on through to the 30s, is today almost non-existent. Aside from Joseph Achron, it never had any contact with first-rate composers. Because it built on “debris” rather than the pearls of the Jewish folk song and because it hardly ever outgrew its almost primitive technique, listening today to the body of music it has produced is an embarrassing and painful experience.”1

Jewish music scholar Albert Weisser was indeed correct about one thing in his assessment of the demise of the American Yiddish theater; it was virtually non-existent by 1956 when he published the article quoted above. His appraisal of its quality was, on the other hand, based entirely on what, in retrospect, can only be considered a toxic form of intellectual snobbism. Indeed, almost from the day of its arrival on American shores, Yiddish popular musical culture, while warmly embraced by millions of Jewish immigrants, was shunned by the mainstream Jewish musical, religious, and academic establishment, doomed to the status of a banned pesticide whose use should be quickly eradicated by any means necessary. The result was a virtual moratorium on historical documentation, academic scholarship, or the publication of any kind of serious English-language volume dealing with Yiddish theater music—a freeze that only ended in 1982 when the University of Illinois Press published Mark Slobin’s landmark volume, Tenement Songs: The Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants.

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Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music and Postwar German Culture. Tina Frühauf and Lily Hirsch, eds. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780199367481.

Reviewed by Karen Uslin


In 1945, upon seeing the ruins of his childhood home in Białystok, Polish Jewish author and artist Israel Beker held a piece of the family’s salt cellar in his hand and exclaimed: “If this salt cellar is in my hand, it proves that they existed once—because it seemed to me that they never existed—no father, no mother, no brothers or sisters—no home—no neighborhood—all disappeared—and if so—then possibly I don’t exist at all.” (p. 121) But Becker and his family did exist, and the Jewish cultural brokers and artists of Germany also continued to exist after World War II. In Dislocated Memories: Jews, Music, and Postwar German Culture (OUP 2014), editors Tina Frühauf and Lily E. Hirsch bring together a collection of essays that address music’s role in cultural, political, and social change in post-World War II Germany, while also considering the questions of what the terms “Jewish” and “German” entail in the contexts of both musical culture and transnationalism. The authors address the legacy of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in the cultural arts of a people who have been displaced and must move forward after unspeakable trauma.

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