Mail Archive sponsored by Chazzanut Online


<-- Chronological -->
<-- Thread -->

"Songs to the Invisible God" review...


I am crafting a response to a slipshod review in Rootsworld of Ruth Wieder 
Magan's "Songs to the Invisible God". This is a draft; comments welcome. I 
would much have preferred to see a review that just said, "I really 
disliked this recording" and explained why, rather than one that munged the 
background so badly and then willy-nilly ascribed feelings to 
traditionalists and others.

Read the original at:


Dear friends:

I write in response to Aaron Howard's review of Ruth Wieder Magan's "Songs 
to the Invisible God". Mr. Howard is free to hold whatever opinions he 
likes about the recording, but he owes it to his readers and to the artist 
to get the basics right.

He writes, "Jewish chant? There never was such an animal." This will be 
a  surprise to Jewish congregations that have chanted from the Torah (the 
Five Books of Moses) and the Haftorah (the Prophets) every week for 
thousands of year. Not to mention the special chant systems, or trop, 
systems in use for sacred texts on holidays such as Purim, or Yom Kippur.

Later, "There is almost no tradition of a single voice being used to induce 
a meditative state in the listener." (Note to Jewish Music List-niks: I 
could use some help here. Are niggunim ever chanted solo? Or other examples 
that contradict this statement?)

And the topper, "So then why does Magan shape the text, particularly her 
three time repetition of the Hebrew word 'lachen' (which can be translated 
as 'therefore') as she does on this recording? Improvisation is most 
apparent when it fails and it seems to do so as the singer chooses this one 
word as the highlight of the performance when it is clearly not the 
highlight of the text.

Not if one doesn't bring a heightened awareness of Jewish text to the 
table. Those who have grounding in Hebrew or the Jewish religious texts and 
those who have an understanding of 'Haben Yakir Li' as a mainstay of 
Yemenite religious expression will have difficulties with Magan's 

This are two amazing paragraphs. First, Magan is repeating the Hebrew word 
"rachem", not "lachem." "Lachem" does not appear in the text. Second, she 
is not improvising the repetition, since it is present in the original 
composition as sung by Rabbi Yitzhak Algazi. I would leave it to the 
reknowned composer and rabbinical scholar Rabbi Algazi rather than Mr. 
Howard to decide whether that word is or is not worthy of repetition. And 
last, Rabbi Algazi was from Izmir and the Turkish tradition, rather than 

All told, time to start over and try again.


Joel Bresler

Joel Bresler
250 E. Emerson Rd.
Lexington, MA 02420 USA

Home:           781-862-2432
Home Office:    781-862-4104
FAX:            781-862-0498
Email:          jbresler (at) ma(dot)ultranet(dot)com

---------------------- jewish-music (at) shamash(dot)org ---------------------+

<-- Chronological --> <-- Thread -->