Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity

Book Jacket for Klezmer AmericaI just got an email from Columbia University Press that I thought I'd pass along.
"Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity, by Jonathan Freedman. We've just posted an interview with Freedman on the Columbia University Press Blog. We hope the interview and the book will be of interest to you and your readers."
Here's the first paragraph of the book jacket notes:
Klezmer is a continually evolving musical tradition that grows out of Eastern European Jewish culture, and its changes reflect Jews' interaction with other groups as well as their shifting relations to their own history. But what happens when, in the klezmer spirit, the performances that go into the making of Jewishness come into contact with those that build different forms of cultural identity? Jonathan Freedman argues that key terms central to the Jewish experience in America, notions like "the immigrant," the "ethnic," and even the "model minority," have worked and continue to intertwine the Jewish-American with the experiences, histories, and imaginative productions of other groups: Latinos, Asians, African Americans, and gays and lesbians, among others.
I've actually been waiting for this book, literately, since I started this blog. I got provoked to start Teruah after hearing Dr. Freedman give a talk on Jewish Music at my synagogue. While Dr. Freedman was a knowledgeable and engaging speaker, I got annoyed at his persistent conflation of all forms of Jewish music in America as "Klezmer" and with his insistence on using Jewish music as a foil for Jewish culture in general. A bunch of Dr. Freedman's audience didn't know there was any Jewish music other than Klezmer, so I went and started a blog to show it.

Fair's fair, though. Dr. Freedman focused on Jewish music as a foil for culture because that was the focus of his research. The fact that it wasn't what I wanted to hear that night is my problem, not his. So I promised myself that when his book came out I'd go buy a copy. And I did. I just ordered mine from Amazon.

1 comment:

doris said...

i'd be most interested in your appraisal of the book
after you've read it...does the author toss klezmer's actual music overboard in his rush to equate all immigrant groups' strivings for cultural continuity, with secular young american jews' revival of yiddish and yiddish dance songs, as "yet another Jewish way to be american, complete with a traditional music mirror its american folk music counterpart" (Alicia Svigals,in Mark Slobin's AMERICAN KLEZMER, 2002:216)?
thanks, joe