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Author(s): Alexander, Philip
Date: 2016
Abstract: This research offers an original contribution to the study of contemporary klezmer music by analysing it in relation to a particular urban environment. With its origins in a largely destroyed Eastern European Jewish culture, contemporary klezmer is both historically-grounded and paradoxically rootless, cut loose from geographical specificity by the internationalism of its recent revival. Seeking to counteract the music’s modern placeless-ness, this dissertation analyses the musical and spatial means by which klezmer has been re-rooted in the distinctive material and symbolic conditions of today’s Berlin. The theoretical framework takes in questions of cultural identity, music and place, authenticities of tradition and instrumental practice, to show how this transnational and syncretic music – with few historical ties to Berlin – can be understood in relation to the city’s particular post-reunification bricolage aesthetic and subversively creative everyday tactics. Beginning by mapping the criss-crossing networks of musicians and their multiple artistic perspectives, the dissertation proceeds through an exploration of the official and unofficial spaces within which these fluid musical practices operate, leading onto ways that the city of Berlin is made manifest in the music itself – how the city is interpellated sonically and textually. Processes of musical transmission and education are analysed through the filters of tradition and pedagogical ideologies, from which my own instrument, the piano accordion, is used as a lens through which to uncover the balance between personal expression and historically-informed performance. The final chapter looks at the relationship between history, Jewish identity and music in the city. It explores the resonances between the contested discourse of memorial and present-day cultural and musical production, discovering how at times sound and music can act as a living sonic embodiment that speaks against the silence of historical memory
Author(s): Loentz, Elizabeth
Date: 2006
Abstract: Minority and immigrant Germans' embrace of the derogatory term Kanake as a self-ascription and of the low-status ethnolect Kanak Sprak has been compared to US rappers' combative use of "niggah" and Black English. This essay, however, compares the revaluation of the term Kanake, a non-assimilatory Kanak identity, and the ethnolect Kanak Sprak to some early 20th century German Jews' revaluation and embrace of Eastern European Jewish culture and Yiddish. It demonstrates also how non-minority and non-Jewish Germans have used Yiddish and Kanak Sprak in literature, theater, film, and popular culture to re-inscribe ethnic difference, especially at times when minorities and Jews were becoming indistinguishable from non-minority Germans (emancipation edicts or nationality law reform). Because Kanak Sprak is inseparable from HipHop culture, the second half of the essay examines the many parallels between the importation and naturalization of German HipHop and German Klezmer. Both were imported from the United States in the early 1980s; and following the fall of the Berlin Wall and German re-unification, both have played a role in German Vergangenheitsbewältigung [mastering the past]. While HipHop and Klezmer have become the soundtrack of German anti-racism, anti-Nazism, and multiculturalism; some observers are critical of non-minority and non-Jewish Germans' appropriation or instrumentalization of ethnic music, and have cited instances of antisemitism and racism in German Klezmer and HipHop.
Author(s): Tkachenko, Paul
Date: 2013
Abstract: The Real Deal is a term often used by musicians to describe people they perceive to be more authentic than them. Over the past seven or eight years, I have performed music from Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and beyond under the umbrella of World Music in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world: London. As I negotiated my way onto this scene and played with some of the finest musicians, I became increasingly aware of those I felt to be the Real Deal. I also began to feel that, in certain circumstances, I may also have appeared to be the Real Deal to others. Many of the musicians on this scene had begun their foray into these diverse styles with klezmer and it is this style that I explore most with relation to the Real Deal. As klezmer is a Jewish music style not played, or even enjoyed, by all Jews, this makes notions of the Real Deal much more ambiguous.

This thesis examines the movable perception that is the Real Deal and the complex interplay that results between musicians. Through discussions with twenty musicians with whom I have played regularly, I discussed the Real Deal and how it affects the way we work. Although half of the musicians self-identified as being Jewish and the other half did not, this became only one factor in the complex negotiations involved in professional music making. The often amusing anecdotes of mistaken identity that we shared raised fundamental questions about our stage performances.

I examine the complex issues surrounding klezmer as a style of music and the unique scene that has developed from the American revival in London. I consider the role of the Jewish Music Institute and how it serves the Jewish community and professional musicians in London and beyond. Finally, I assess how my discussions with musicians and the Jewish Music Institute have not only changed and shaped this evolving scene, but forced me to question my own attitudes and practice.
Date: 2013
Author(s): Gruber, Ruth Ellen
Date: 2009
Abstract: This essay explores two “real imaginary” worlds in Europe -- the “virtually Jewish” and the “imaginary wild west.” The author describes some of the ways that European non-Jews adopt, enact and transform elements of Jewish culture, using Jewish culture at times to create, mold, or find, their own identities. She also describes a surprising and remarkably multi-faceted Far West subculture in Europe that, stoked, marketed and even created by popular culture, forms a connected collection of “Wild Western spaces.” There are major differences between the “virtually Jewish” phenomenon and the “virtually western” European response to the American Frontier saga. One has to do with a real, traumatic issue: coming to terms with the Holocaust and its legacy of guilt and loss. The other is the embrace and elaboration of a collective fantasy and its translation into personal experience. But in certain ways they can be viewed as analogous phenomena. Both have to do with identity, and the ways in which people use other cultures to shape their own identities. In addition, in both “virtually Jewish” and “imaginary western” realms, the issue of “authenticity” is involved, as well as the distinction between creative cultural appropriation and mere imitation. Both entail the creation of “new authenticities” -- things, places and experiences that in themselves are real, with all the trappings of reality, but that are quite different from the “realities” on which they are modeled or that they are attempting to evoke. The process has led to the formation of models, stereotypes, modes of behavior and even traditions.
Author(s): Gruber, Ruth Ellen
Date: 2002
Abstract: More than half a century after the Holocaust, in countries where Jews make up just a tiny fraction of the population, products of Jewish culture (or what is perceived as Jewish culture) have become very viable components of the popular public domain. But how can there be a visible and growing Jewish presence in Europe, without the significant presence of Jews? Ruth Ellen Gruber explores this phenomenon, traveling through Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and elsewhere to observe firsthand the many facets of a remarkable trend. Across the continent, Jewish festivals, performances, publications, and study programs abound. Jewish museums have opened by the dozen, and synagogues and Jewish quarters are being restored, often as tourist attractions. In Europe, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, klezmer music concerts, exhibitions, and cafes with Jewish themes are drawing enthusiastic--and often overwhelmingly non-Jewish--crowds.

In what ways, Gruber asks, do non-Jews embrace and enact Jewish culture, and for what reasons? For some, the process is a way of filling in communist-era blanks. For others, it is a means of coming to terms with the Nazi legacy or a key to building (or rebuilding) a democratic and tolerant state. Clearly, the phenomenon has as many motivations as manifestations. Gruber investigates the issues surrounding this "virtual Jewish world" in three specific areas: the reclaiming of the built heritage, including synagogues, cemeteries, and former ghettos and Jewish quarters; the representation of Jewish culture through tourism and museums; and the role of klezmer and Yiddish music as typical "Jewish cultural products." Although she features the relationship of non-Jews to the Jewish phenomenon, Gruber also considers its effect on local Jews and Jewish communities and the revival of Jewish life in Europe