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A Fusion of Traditions: Liturgical Music in the Copenhagen Synagogue. Jane Mink Rossen and Uri Sharvit. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2006. 156 pp. + supplemental CD. ISBN 978-8-7767-4038-2
Jewish liturgical music presents a wonderful example of the way that local traditions emerge out of historical and political processes. Its content and style are often deliberately traditionalist, aiming to connect contemporary listeners to a history stretching back to the days of the prophets. That history is a complex one, however, involving thousands of years of migration, factionalism, and local variation, each of which have left their traces in the ethnic and cultural composition of any Jewish community. A Jewish service, especially a holiday service, contains a number of distinct musical events, and each of these requires a choice among the musical traditions associated with the different elements of the local community. In the music of its liturgy, therefore, every congregation literally sings out the unique fusion of traditions that make up its distinctive history. Read the rest of this entry »
The Organ and Its Music in German-Jewish Culture. Tina Frühauf. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 296 pp. ISBN 978-0-1953-3706-8
Recent studies in Jewish art music have contributed significantly to an emerging continuum of Jewish identities in Western music, from the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music, to Ernest Bloch’s “Jewish cycle,” to Leonard Bernstein’s symphonies. Dealing with the migration of liturgical and paraliturgical Jewish musics into Western art music, these studies try to assimilate “Jewish music” into the expanding canon of Western music while struggling with both the historical lagging of Jewish musical literacy and the pitfalls of essentialism. In the process, scholars find themselves harassed by the many sonic stereotypes that connote with “Jewish music” and are in urgent need of dispelling. Tina Frühauf’s book highlights such a stereotype, but in an inversion: the introduction of the organ, regarded emblematically as Christian (3), into the synagogue and the way it stimulated liturgical, paraliturgical, and art music—even as it “remained an oddity for Jews and non-Jews alike” (viii).
Perspectives on Jewish Music, a collection of five essays addressing music in contemporary Jewish culture and personal Jewish history, is edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann, a cantor, string player, and author. In his introduction, Friedmann describes music as a tool of cultural preservation and emphasizes the role of music performance in defining Jewish personal and group identities throughout the Diaspora. Because of the many different contexts and conditions of Jewish life in the twentieth century, music has played a variety of roles and reflects a broad diversity of influences. This multiplicity of Jewish musical experiences is reflected in the disparate subjects of the book’s chapters.