Scanning a Subculture: Introduction to Klezmerology

By Slobin, Mark | Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Scanning a Subculture: Introduction to Klezmerology


Slobin, Mark, Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought


For five days right across christmas, 450 people, from toddlers to seniors, crowd a ramshackle Catskills hotel for Klezkamp, which celebrates its bar mitzvah year in 1997. From morning till the wee hours, these hardy souls take Yiddish culture courses and fill the halls and bedrooms with klezmer master classes and late night jam sessions. There are bands often-year-olds being coached in the dance tunes of past generations. Some two dozen Europeans have flown over to soak up traditions that used to flourish rather closer to their homes than Parksville, New York.

Klezkamp is the very visible tip of a klezmer iceberg. Over the last twenty years, the Jewish, and then the non-Jewish, world has noticed the rapid emergence of klezmer life. From a tentative start aimed at recreating musical texts that had fallen out of favor, young musicians created a "scene" that quickly matured into a sensibility about Jewish music and Jewish history. In the 1990s, the action expanded explosively into new conceptual and geographical territories, creating what I am brashly calling a subculture for want of a better word. In the amorphous, protean world of Jews and Jewophiles, klezmer occupies not just a niche, but a huge, shapeless sector inhabited by everyone from campus bands to Itzhak Perlman, from Berlin neophytes to street-smart Manhattanites. "Klezmer" is at your wedding, on public television, and on festival stages from Cracow to California, with bands cropping up across the Euro-American world broadly considered, including Australia and the Volga city of Samara. Yet there has been no time in this almost feverish expansion to stop for breath, to take stock of where klezmer has been and where it's heading.

In October of 1996, Wesleyan University sponsored the first-ever Klezmer Research Conference, a high-level gathering of performer/researchers and professors, I co-hosted with Hankus Netsky, a foundational figure in the klezmer movement and currently a Ph.D. student at Wesleyan. It was the first time major players-literally and conceptually-in klezmer culture got together for the sole purpose of talking about research and thinking collectively about future directions. For some, the chance to take a break from the rigors of the road and chat with their colleagues was much appreciated. The Editor of Judaism kindly offered to present selected conference papers in the following pages, a sampling of what happened at Wesleyan, preceded by an historical overview by Hankus Netsky.

The papers, given here close to their orally-presented versions, make clear just how wide we can open the umbrella term "klezmer." Robert Rothstein and Jim Loeffler take us on the search for a historic klezmer world. By concentrating on professional musicians' argot and even their New York labor union, these writers make it possible for us to imagine an actual klezmer culture of both Europe and America that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Joel Rubin's recent research on the context of klezmer tunes in Israel underscores the complexity of a Jewish music culture that is both geographically and conceptually diffuse, with an age-old emphasis on local adaptation. Having come this far, the reader should be ready to appreciate the analysis of today's American klezmer culture by two prime proponents and participants, Frank London and Alicia Svigals, known for their work in a prominent band, The Klezmatics.

Missing from the conference, and hence from our survey here, is a representative or account of the swelling ranks of non-Jewish European klezmer musicians. By all accounts, Berlin is the city where one might have the most concentrated klezmer experience on a given weekend. Australia, Italy, and Sweden would have to be included. And it would be nice to hear the voices of eastern European Jewish musicians who, for a variety of reasons, have been coming to klezmer culture as part of a search for identity and hard currency in post-communist times. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Scanning a Subculture: Introduction to Klezmerology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.