Judaism and Popular Music

Now that we have moved on to our unit on Afro-Caribbean religious practices and music, I wanted to post a few links to the music for the end of the unit as well as direct you to other scholars who have worked through some of the issues we have covered in class.

First, the listening: here is a .zip of the listening for klezmer, and here is a .zip of some Jewish folk music.

Josh Kun (USC) has written extensively on the negotiations of Jewish humor and music in mid-20th Century. If this interests you, I recommend his essay on Mickey Katz in Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). He also co-wrote And You Shall Know Us By Our Trail of Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told By the Records We Have Loved and Lost with Roger Bennett (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008).

There is an extensive ethnomusicological literature on Jewish music in different parts of the world. In addition to Ellen Koskoff (Eastman School of Music), Mark Slobin (Wesleyan University), and Judah Cohen (Indiana University), there is Rabbi Jeffrey Summit (Tufts University), Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago), and Kay Kaufman Shelamay (Harvard University) among many others.

Many of you expressed some excitement about klezmer and Yiddish music. If you choose this topic for your term paper, you may want to consult a recent article by Abigail Wood that addresses the influence of Hasidic music in Yiddish musical traditions (Ethnomusicology 2007.2).

Of course, the world of musicology has an extensive literature on Jewish music as well. Raymond Knapp (UCLA) has a great discussion of Fiddler on the Roof in The American Music and the Formation of National Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005). Howard Pollock has written extensively on George Gershwin. If you are interested in Leonard Bernstein, there was a special issue of The Journal of the Society for American Music in 2009.

And if cantillation was your most favorite subject ever, let me know. I have many more resources…


About kgoldschmitt
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at New College of Florida, music scholar for hire.

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