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Cantos judeo-españoles: Simbología poética y visión del mundo [‘Judeo-Spanish Songs: Poetic Symbolism and Worldview’]. Silvia Hamui Sutton. With a prólogo by Vanessa Paloma. Santa Fe, NM: Gaon Books, 2008. 297 pp. ISBN 978-0-9820657-0-9 (hardcover) and 978-0-9820657-1-6 (softcover).
Reviewed by Israel J. Katz
When I was invited to review this book, I was under the impression that it was written by an ethnomusicologist, given that it was advertised by its publisher under the categories Judaica, Ethnomusicology, and Spanish Traditions, and by a bookseller under Ethnomusicology, Sephardic songs, and Jewish music. To my surprise, I learned that its Mexican-born author obtained her university degrees in the fields of Latin-American Literature (Licenciatura from the Universidad Iberoamericana) and Comparative Literature (earning both her masters degree and doctorate from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Even the title of her masters thesis, “Los símbolos de la naturaleza en los cantos judeo-españoles: una visión de la lírica popular hispánica [‘The symbols of nature in Judeo-Spanish song; a view of the Hispanic popular lyric’],” completed in 2003, and that of her doctoral dissertation, “Simbología poética y visión del mundo en los cantos judeo-españoles [‘Poetic symbolism and worldview in Judeo-Spanish song’],” submitted in 2006, clearly indicate that both deal solely with the lyrical/ poetic content of the songs she examined. And, whereas both furnished the material for the monograph under review, one can only surmise that the confusion caused by referring to the book under review as an ethnomusicological work arose from commencing its title with Cantos Judeo-españoles. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Empezar Quiero Contar’: Canciones de Sefarad. 2000. Pneuma PN-370. CD & booklet, 31 pages. Liner notes by Judith R. Cohen.
Sefarad en Diáspora. 2006. Pneuma PN-780. CD & booklet, 23 pages. Liner notes by Judith R. Cohen.
From the perspective of someone who derives little aesthetic pleasure from folksongs, but recognizes that bringing Jewish history to life in the classroom sometimes entails glancing up from conventional, printed texts, these recent CDs by ethnomusicologist and performer Judith R. Cohen are worthy of serious consideration. The use of traditional music in the classroom can help maintain attention spans. But music can also be a learning tool, and, as Cohen often demonstrates, some essential aspects of Jewish civilization can only be adequately contemplated by using our aural faculty.
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.