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Re: What Is Jewish Music--and who decides

Skip Heller's comments in his Dec. 28th posting (subject:  Questioning the 
need for criterion)--I'm referring to the second portion, beginning w/ the 
words "What Is Jewish Music?"--are superbly, and very insightfully, put, I 
think; and in a previous communication, Skip had written, "The culture 
itself decides ... over time [whether an artist's expression is "Jewish 
enough" for the culture].  Not the academe"--which I wanted to second, and 
amplify, w/ a case in point.          Some time ago, I had occasion to read 
every copy I could find--I think I went through all of them--of JEWISH MUSIC 
NOTES, which was published by the Jewish Music Council (of the Jewish 
Welfare Board) from 1946 in various formats.  I read, so far as I know, 
every issue ever published (I believe til the 90s, certainly the 80s), and 
although the publication made a point of noting, and reviewing, new records 
of Jewish music, I could not find *a single mention*--not one--of the music 
and records of Shlomo Carlebach--w/out question the most prolific, and the 
most widely adopted, composer of Jewish music in this century--possibly (as 
Arthur Waskow noted after his death) since King David, and possibly, given 
the uncertain scholarship surrounding the latter--possibly *ever* --in all 
of Jewish history!  But as a composer of folk-style melodies played on a 
guitar and easily (and widely) sung, he came in under the radar of the 
Jewish musical elite (unquestionably, in their own way, devoted to Jewish 
music; some of them composers in their own right of [some] fine pieces)--his 
"heart songs," his "Jewish soul music," just didn't "count" as "real" Jewish 
music.  Meanwhile, notice _was_ being taken--and florid reviews offered--of 
recordings of art-music-style liturgical pieces, or entire services, that 
have probably rarely, or never, been heard or performed--and certainly never 
*prayed* to--since.  (And, imho, often rightfully so--their music is often 
characteristically remote and distant--utterly not what the times, and 
amcha, needed--though in some cases they were explicitly praised, and 
authoritatively pronounced, as "music for the ages," or some such.)          
                          Similarly, Macy Nulman's CONCISE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF 
JEWISH MUSIC, which is occasionally cited on this list and is otherwise a 
fine reference source, has *no entry*--it was published in the mid-70s, 
15-20 years after "Esau Einai" and "Od Yishama"!--for Carlebach--for which, 
I've since learned, the author was reproached at the time.  But, again, he 
_does_ have entries for composers--many of them un-heard, and un-heard-of, 
since--that were judged more respectably Jewish.  (W/ respect to liturgical 
music, a lot of this has to do w/ standards determined by Western art 
music--and in particular, and even more problematically, church music. Such 
is made quite explicit in many references in JEWISH MUSIC NOTES over the 
years--and that is why, e.g., Salomon Sulzer's music [19th-century Vienna, 
some of which became established Ashkenazic synagogue music] is considered 
such a gevalt.)                                                              
        If I listed some of the composers that _are_ noted, and praised, in 
JEWISH MUSIC NOTES and in Nulman's book, only academes and (some!) cantors 
would know their names--and amcha wouldn't recognize _any_ of their music.  
Or as Skip would say, "the culture itself decided"--and continues, and will 
continue, to.  -- Robert Cohen

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