Klezmer and Folk Song

Monday’s discussion about Klezmer was incredibly fulfilling for me as your teacher. Music without words is often the most frightening to discuss for non-music specialists, yet, it is often the most tied up in expressions of identity, especially national and religious identity. We will have a brief follow-up demonstration on a few instruments just so you can see the physical demands of adapting these instruments to this repertoire.

As you know, this Thursday I have assigned this essay by Judah Cohen (Indiana University) from a collection on musical childhoods. This is a relatively new area of ethnomusicological study, and I greatly look forward to hearing your perspective on his ideas.

Good luck studying for the quiz!


Cantillation and Nigunim

A .zip of the listening for last week is available here.

And for those of you with a passion for Jewish cantillation and wishing to see what the class missed through the last-minute substitute readings, here are there originally assigned readings.

Niggunim and Klezmer

For Thursday, I am asking you to read this by ethnomusicologist Ellen Koskoff. It is an excerpt from her ethnography of musical life in Lubavitcher-Chabad communities in the United States. As you read this, keep in mind that Koskoff is writing from what she considers an outsider perspective –– although she was raised Jewish, she was never a member of this particular group. She argues in particular for the importance of niggunim. I hope that you arrive in class ready to talk about this very different version of musical ecstasy.

Looking ahead to Monday, I am asking you to read Mark Slobin’s “Klezmer Music: An American Ethnic Genre” from Yearbook for Traditional Music (1984). You should be able to find this article through JSTOR.

End of Unit 2

A .zip of the listening for last week (the end of unit 2, beginning of unit 3) is finally available here. Enjoy!


It turns out that studying cantillation is a very old-fashioned enterprise in ethnomusicology and hebrew linguistics. What this means is that it is very difficult to find good articles. I found the good articles, but then the cloud that is the ILLiad system ate them before I downloaded them. Our options were to either a) reorder class and push off cantillation to next week in place of klezmer, or b) read something else that will still teach us some good stuff. I opted for b. Thus, instead of reading two articles allowing for a comparison between two different cantillation traditions, we only have one, and a different one at that. Thus, for Monday’s class, I would like you to read this article as well as the sections of “Liturgical and Paraliturgical” in the Jewish Music entry in Grove Music Online by Eliyahu Schleifer (the author of one of our lost articles). You can either access the interactive version of this through the library’s electronic resources, or you can look at a flattened PDF. NB: You do not need to read the entire article, just the introduction and the sections by Schleifer.

End of Mod 1 Business

As a class, we ended the first module with a bang. I am well aware that the tension in class has as much to do with strong, impassioned personalities as it does a recurring dichotomy: sacred content / musical aestheticization. This issue will continue to recur. I only ask that we all maintain respect for each other in class.

The listening zip has been uploaded. Included are the individual segments of “Madih in-Nabi” (in a separate folder) as well as a composite track to give you a sense of the how they play together as a unified whole.

The reading for the first meeting after Fall Break is “The Humanity Game: Art, Islam, and the War on Terror” (available through Project MUSE) by Jessica Winegar. I have also updated the syllabus on the NewDLE to reflect the proper page numbers for the unit on Judaism.

Music of the Egyptian Streets

In case you don’t listen to NPR, there was a segment on Tuesday’s All Things Considered about the music of the Egyptian streets. Although the title, “Authentic Egyptian Music is From the Streets,” is definitely controversial, I think the segment might interest some students in our class.