The World Centre for Jewish Music in Palestine, 1936-1940: Jewish Musical Life on the Eve of World War II

By Philip V. Bohlman | Go to book overview

7
Musical Life in Palestine
during the 1930s

JEWISH musical life in Palestine had developed rapidly during the early decades of the twentieth century, with each new wave of immigrants bringing with it new musical ideas and practices. During the 1930s, the period of the so-called aliyah germanit, musical life intensified quickly, as new music schools and ensembles were established, and the institutional life of music diversified as radio studios and cafés with jazz and popular music sprang up. The difficulties faced by immigrant musicians notwithstanding, it was a heady time for the new musicians, and it seemed to many at mid-decade that just about anything was possible in this pioneering musical life (see e.g. the fictional portrait of a German string quartet in Tel Aviv in Shacham 1990).

It is hardly surprising, then, that a multitude of reactions from composers and musicians already in Palestine greeted the WCJMP as it established its organizational base and initiated its programmes. Some musicians were sceptical, others were wary of losing some of their own ground, and many were enthusiastic. The WCJMP was not the first attempt to organize musical activities on a large scale, and the memory of past failures lingered, especially in the minds of those who had lived in the country for many years. There was also concern that Salli Levi and others actively participating in the WCJMP lacked musical credentials, that they were 'dilettantes, who just had to fail' ( Gradenwitz 1991). Levi was, after all, an amateur who made his living as a dental surgeon. Swet was a journalist and a popularizer with a Sunday- afternoon radio broadcast. Those greeting the WCJMP most effusively were by and large musicians who had recently immigrated or who were hoping to leave Europe. In a sense, these musicians had the most to gain from the WCJMP's success; they were also the most familiar with the Central European musical life with its extensive institutionalization of both professional and amateur music-making, which had consciously served as a model for the WCJMP.

The letters in this chapter represent some of the varied responses to the World Centre from those living in the British Mandate. For the most

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The World Centre for Jewish Music in Palestine, 1936-1940: Jewish Musical Life on the Eve of World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • Contents xvii
  • List of Illustrations xxiv
  • List of Abbreviations xxv
  • Glossary xxvi
  • Note on the Translations xxix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - European Roots 23
  • 1 - Organizing the Wcjmp in the Diaspora 25
  • 2 - Organizing the Wcjmp Abroad 54
  • 3: Social Conditions for Jewish Musicians in Germany and Europe 78
  • Part II - The Search for Fertile Soil in a New Homeland 113
  • 4 - History of the Wcjmp 115
  • 5 - Financial Endeavours of the Wcjmp 136
  • 6 - Musica Hebraica 158
  • Part III - Toward a New Musical Culture in Palestine and Israel 173
  • 7 - Musical Life in Palestine During the 1930s 175
  • 8 - Aesthetics of Jewish Music 204
  • Epilogue the Music History of the Wcjmp: 'Clues to a Puzzle, a Meaning to the Meaningless' 237
  • Appendix 261
  • Bibliography 275
  • Index 287
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