American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots

American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots

American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots

American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots

Synopsis

"Those who still maintain that the subject of klezmer music and klezmorim is too slight to merit serious scholarly inquiry should take a good look at this fine collection of essays. This book debunks certain misconceptions about klezmer. One is the long-held belief that practitioners of klezmer were quaint but musical illiterates. The other is that this is an effort to take a musical art form off the shelf to be preserved as a museum piece with little contemporary life of its own. I am also delighted by those sections that deal with the Yiddish verbal expression of the klezmer idiom. Klezmer is not just an avenue of maintaining cultural roots without the necessity of learning a language, as portions of this this book so well illustrate."--Theodore Bikel, recording artist and actor

Excerpt

What we now routinely call klezmer in the United States—“Do you play klezmer?” “There's a new klezmer album out”—is a truly American construct in three ways: the word sidesteps aesthetic and political issues, it standardizes a music system as a brand name, and it overrides history in the cause of contemporary coherence. Record bin marketing and labeling has come to klezmer only very recently; the term was not used in earlier social and commercial contexts. History lurks behind much of contemporary klezmer, even while the past is recreated in the service of present-day interests. the word klezmer comes from Yiddish and denoted a professional instrumentalist who earned a living playing for celebrations in the far-flung communities of a multimillion Jewish population that existed in eastern Europe until 1939. Klezmer music is a term coined in English around 1980 in the United States to define a bounded repertoire and playing style, mostly based on the 78 rpm recordings of earlier decades. Like many American terms, this adjectival use expanded widely to cover more and more domains, and then broke through to become a convenient, all-encompassing abstract noun.

The aim of this volume is not to offer a history or a thorough survey of klezmer in America, but to suggest the full range and scope of modern klezmer studies by allowing a variety of voices to be heard. the editor has not smoothed out the length or tone of the contributions. the papers echo the backgrounds and standpoints of their authors. Many . . .

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