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Re: Boehm & Albert systems

-- Budowitz Home Page:

Just wanted to put in my 2 Groschen about the clarinet in klezmer music:
The idea that the Czarist armies made the instruments available to Jews
needs to be put in context. The fact is that the largest supplier of
clarinets since 1876 was Julius Heinrich Zimmermann (1851-1923), who set up
branch offices in St. Petersburg, Leipzig, London, Moscow and Riga. He was
the single most important supplier of instruments to the court of the Czar,
the Russian army and the nobility.

The Zimmermann instruments were produced in Markneukirchen in Saxonia. The
instruments were widespread and taken on into the Russian army not through
some magical osmosis resulting from Napolean invasions, but most likely
because under the reign of King Wilhelm, military bands grew to a total of
about 1000 groups. Those bands used mainly the Parisian courtois brass
instruments, which were of superior quality but also extremely expensive.
Russians followed suit.

The 6-key clarinet was the instrument most often used around 1800, and still
around 1900 this same instrument was offered by Zimmerman as a beginner's
instrument for 14 marks, which was very cheap (the most expensive instrument
offered by Zimmermann in 1900 was made of the new material, caoutchouc, for
150 marks). Böhm clarinets were not even listed at this time (though Böhm
saxophones were). If you played a clarinet in eastern Europe toward the end
of the 19th century, chances are your instrument was a Zimmermann (you can
still find them at flea markets here, though there are even more old Czech
instruments in my neighborhood now).

In summary, The instrument spread through the demands of the Wilhelminian
military bands, copied by the Russian armies using the same supplier
(Zimmermann) who set up shop in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1876. There was
a wide selection offered (8 different types) in A, Bb, C, D and Eb with an
equally wide price range. The standard tuning for all the instruments was
435, called the "tiefer Normalstimmung" (deep standard tuning). Looking at
the photograph of a Ukrainian Jewish kapelye taken on the Anski 1914
expedition, the clarinetist seems (I may be wrong, its hard to see) to be
using a 13-key grenadillo wood instrument. This same instrument cost 30
Marks in 1899, and is listed by Zimmermann as an "amateur and school
orchestra" instrument.

Zimmermann also offered normal system and new Böhm flutes from
Buffet-Crampon, but developed their own and sold those as well. They were
still conical at that time. Rest assured, not many Jews played Böhm flutes.
they cost 160-275 marks, as compared to the price of the normal flutes,
which ran from 60-120 marks. Mainly due to their price, the Böhm flutes took
a long time to become accepted, even into the orchestra.

As to the use of the clarinet in Klezmer music:
For those desiring an analysis of the methods used by Ottens/Rubin in trying
to secure an anachronistic placement of the clarinet in klezmer music, I
offer the following passage from my accordion article:

In their book on klezmer music, Ottens/Rubin state the following
(translation Horowitz):

³...There are no more masters around who convey this music, and no audience
for musicians to charm with subtle phrases and epic soli...The
?neo-traditionalists¹ among the revivalists propogate a newly fabricated
standardized style, which is put together out of only a few ?traditional¹
elements...The inclusion of the accordion as an historical instrument of the
East European Klezmer tradition belongs to this ?newly fabricated
tradition;¹ in fact it was first used by klezmer ensembles in the 1930s. The
resulting traditions which have come out of these standardizations and
mythifications have transformed music into a symbol, and with it a romantic
replacement for Judaism, the reality and history of which the revival
generation willingly closes its eyes to.²(Ottens/Rubin, Klezmer-Musik,
Bärenreiter-Verlag/dtv, Kassel/Munich, p. 298.) The original language quote
is placed at the end of this text.

Utilizing the above semantics of marginalization, it would be no problem to
exclude the woodwinds from the classical world because they did not appear
in the string quartet. But the Ottens/Rubin ideology of exclusion follows a
tradition of its own, as Ulrich Schmuelling, comparing German and Soviet
attitudes, writes, ³ In Germany... there was a certain  period of time when
there was a planned and desired break from the traditional folk music, and
since that point one differentiates between the artistically less valuable
folk music and the artistically higher and important concert music...and
because of this there are different groups who oppose each other with
confrontation, discussion and disagreement. And so, in Germany, so much
energy has been spent differentiating between folk music and concert

Yet, in this case we are not even dealing with the separation of the general
classes of ³folk² and ³art² music, but rather an even more parochial act of
canine territorial urination: the polarization of the subclasses of
³genuine² vs. ³fake² klezmer music. So, it would seem that, in the role of a
solo or duo, the accordion cannot enjoy promotion into the category of a
true ³klezmer² instrument like the violin, which was commonly featured as a
solo or duo instrument with the tsimbl (dulcimer) since the earliest
available sources, not to mention on the European recordings which have
served as one of the main sources for the ³traditional² style of klezmer
playing. To continue ad absurdum: precisely the solo violin, Ottens/Rubin
tell us, was pushed out of the klezmer ensemble by the louder clarinet,

³Changes in instrumentation belong to the most fundamental alterations in
klezmer music brought about in the first decades of the 20th Century in
America. For instance, already by the beginning of the 1920s, if not
earlier, the violin, which was the favored melody instrument up until that
point, was driven out by the clarinet.² The original language quote is
placed at the end of this text.

In light of the above two quotes by Ottens/Rubin, two random conclusions are
reached; the first conclusion implicitly states that only instruments which
are featured in (larger) klezmer ensembles can be considered valid ³klezmer²
instruments. The second states: 20th Century klezmer instrumentation changes
are fundamental, except when the accordion is involved (nowhere in the
following chapters of the book is the accordion dealt with as integral to
klezmer music). According to the logic used to arrive at these conclusions,
it would then stand to reason that the violin, which began as a solo klezmer
instrument and did not survive in the larger klezmer ensembles, could not be
considered a klezmer instrument; whereas the accordion, which began as a
solo instrument and actually did survive in the larger ensembles (see
below), must logically be considered a ³klezmer instrument.² But exactly the
opposite is the conclusion we are left with by the terms of Ottens/Rubin, as
the accordion is suspiciously absent altogether from what they consider to
fall under the ³changes in klezmer music²

But let¹s take the case of this infant nemesis, the clarinet. Faking history
is always a misguided act of licentiousness, but in the case of the
clarinet, it is as indiscriminate as it is wholly unnecessary; the clarinet
no longer needs to have an aura constructed around it. It is already an
established icon of klezmer music and has been since the groundwork was laid
by the advertising surrounding its early recording artists. In analysing the
methods of contemporary retroactive validation, the following quote of
Ottens/Rubin reveals a hidden ideology, the constituent parts of which are
marked with numbers to assist reference, below:

³(1)The clarinet - its inventor is attributed to the Nürnberg instrument
maker, Johann Christoph Denner ca. 1690 (2) found its way into the Letsonim
ensemble relatively late. (3)As performers of the instrument which today is
considered the embodiment of klezmer music, (4) five Jews are listed around
1800 from Märkisch-Friedland with side jobs as merchants, whose main
occupations were musicians, (5) among them a clarinetist.²30

Herein we find a lesson for accordionists on how to fake a history for
itself, in order to render it, once and for all, a bonafide klezmer
instrument. In analyzing the above ³fakelore,² this is what we find:

1) First, the authors prepare the reader with the date of the earliest maker
of the instrument (here, 1690. Denner¹s instruments actually had little in
common with the instrument which became common in klezmer ensembles more
than 200 years later). This would be analogous to using the sheng, the
portativ organ, or Michael Praetorius¹ 1619  exposé on free reeds as proof
of the ³early accordion.²

2) Next, the term ³Letsonim² is used - an antiquated term last found to have
been used in Frankfurt, 1716, to designate wedding jesters, some of whom
played instruments. It is being used here to give the passage an archaic
ring. Tellingly, however, there were no Jewish clarinet players during the
period in which the term ³Letsonim² was used.

3) Now, the authors establish the instrument retroactively as ³the
embodiment of klezmer music,²

4) Next, through clever syntactic placment (found also in the original
German) a clause is constructed which makes it sound as though five Jews
played the clarinet (actually there were 2 violins, a hackbrett [dulcimer]
and cello).

5) Finally, in the addended clause, we see that one of them played the
clarinet. No subsequent attempts are made by the authors to present examples
of historical continuity or to explain what happened to the instrument in
the decades to follow. Nor is an explanation offered as to why we are
suddenly using an area north of Dresden, which clearly falls outside of the
Pale of Settlement, which the authors themselves repeatedly propose as the
definitive klezmer region.

What the reader is not provided, is the fact that the instrument does not
become popular in the klezmer ensemble until the 2nd half of the 19th
Century. Nor that the earliest European recordings of klezmer clarinet we
have are from 1911, and in the U.S, from 1915.

One more note: The ambiguity of the term Letsonim is discussed at length by
Rivkind (thanks to Helen Winkler, who is helping to get this work
translated) and is in not simply an earlier term for klezmorim.

Fun Facts for accordionists:

Grigori Matusewitch played concertina for the Czar's family at the end of
the 19th century. His repertoire included Klezmer music.

There are more recordings of klezmer accordion solos than any other
instrument except the clarinet in the 78 rpm period.

A. Greenberg recorded the Jewish Breiges Tanz in 1906 on accordion for the
United Hebrew Disc and Cylinder Record Company. In 1907 he again recorded
the Kamarinskaja and Breigas Tanz, this time on organ. Both his recordings
predate the first klezmer clarinet recordings. Whatever is not known about
Greenberg¹s personal history is made up for by what we don¹t know about his

Original language quotes of Ottens/Rubin:

 ³... Es sind keine Meister mehr da, die diese Musik vermitteln, und kein
Publikum, das sich an den subtilen Wendungen und epenhaften Soli der Musiker
entzücken kann... Die ?Neo-Traditionalisten¹ unter den Revivalisten
propagieren einen neuerfundenen Einheitsstil, der sich nunmehr aus wenigen
?traditionellen¹ Elementen zusammensetzt... Zu den ?neuerfundenen
Traditionen¹ gehört auch die Vereinnahmung des Akkordeons als historisches
Instrument der osteuropäischen Klezmer-Tradition; tatsächlich wurde es erst
in den dreißiger Jahren von den Klezmer-Kapellen verwendet. Die aus diesen
Standardisierungen und Mythologisierungen enstandenen Traditionen haben die
Musik bereits in ein Symbol - und damit in einen romantisierten Ersatz - für
einen Judaismus verwandelt, vor dessen Geschichte, aber auch gegenwärtiger
Realität die Revival-Generation gern die Augen verschließt.²

³Zu den grundlegenden Veränderungen, die die Klezmer-musik in den ersten
Dezennien dieses Jahrhunderts in den Vereinigten Staaten durchlief, gehörte
auch ein Wechsel des Instrumentariums. So hatte beispielsweise schon Anfang
der zwanziger Jahre, wenn nicht früher, die Klarinette die bis dahin als
Melodieinstrument bevorzugte Geige verdrängt.²

Enjoy, Josh Horowitz

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

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