Showing posts with label book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sharks Have No Bones!, or The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement

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When I was a kid I loved books of trivia. Hundreds of pages of random facts (sharks have no bones! ) that sparked my curiosity and gave me a random sampling of information (often horribly wrong) to base my forays into the library or encyclopedia and lunchtime discussions with friends. To a budding info-junkie, those raw facts were pretty addicting.

As a kid, I might have loved Stephen L. Pease' book "The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement". With a studious tone and a "Ripley's Believe it or Not" enthusiasm Pease spends 500 pages chronicling amazing accomplishments by Jews. Did you know that
  • Jews invented both holography (Gabor) and the ball point pen (Biro)!
  • Between 2002 and 2008 fourteen Jews played major league baseball!
  • After 1853 all De Beers' diamonds were sold to a London syndicate of 10 Jewish buyers!
You do now. You can thank me and Pease later.

This book's strength, and it's weakness is Pease voracious appetite and unrelenting boosterism. Like a true trivia book, there is no sense in the book of how any of the facts relate to each other and to Jewish history and no sense what facts were left out (it is only 500 pages, after all). It's all just a large pile of evidence for how cool Jews are. And, based on Pease's evidence, we are pretty cool.

This is a music blog, so of course I immediately turned to the music section. In this section I found a page and half jammed full of references to Jewish contributions classical music (there are LOTS) and three quarters of a page acknowledging that we've pretty much played no role in country music. As counted by awards, and paragraphs, we were pretty influential in rock and roll, musical theater, and jazz. And we have Babs. Pease awarded Jewish musicians one multi-page biography and that bio honor went Barbara Streisand. And, of course, no recognition at all of Jewish music. No klezmer, cantorial, or Yiddish musical theater. Debbie Friedman or Shlomo Carlebach never existed.

As a kid I might have loved the quirky randomness of the book. But as an adult I find it a joyless slush. There may be folks out there for whom the book, as Rabbi Harold Kushner says in his hyperbolic puff, "strengthens [their] pride in being Jewish."

It might.

But it also diminishes my sense of what being Jewish is. What ever being Jewish is, it is not to be found in this book. Knowing that sharks have no bones (and that they have several sets of replaceable teeth) really doesn't tell you anything about sharks. Knowing that, in 2008, 8 of the top 16 major department stores were either owned or started by Jews tells us even less about ourselves.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

PJ Library and My Newish Jewish Discovery

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Book jacket for 'Mendels Accordion'I'm doubly delinquent. I've got a kids Jewish music CD, Craig Taubman's "My Newish Jewish Discovery" I've been meaning to write about for almost a year now. And, on top of it, a music source, the PJ Library, that's definitely worth sharing.

The source first. The PJ Library is an offering of the Harold Grispoon Foundation, "a leader in creating and supporting innovative opportunities for Jewish engagement across North America." It's an outreach program that provides free high quality Jewish books and music to kids in specific regions of the United States. My part of the North Coast (aka Michigan) is covered and we've been getting the books for two years now. The books are a mixed lot. Some we've loved, some we've never read again, and some we've just said, huh? But my kids are hooked. They're voracious readers (should that be 'read-to-ers') and love getting a Jewish book in the mail every month. We've a whole shelf of them now and a couple have become favorites. The books all come with educational pamphlets which, honestly, we lost almost immediately. I'm sure we would have benefited from them. Oh well. Anyway, if you have kids or know some, you should check the library out.

Craig Taubman's 'My Newish Jewish Discovery'
Honestly, while the PJ Library says it distributes books and music, it's mostly books. I think we've gotten one disc a year. My kids didn't think much of the first one, a disc from Canadian Jewish kids musicians Judy and David. The second one, Craig Taubman's my "Newish Jewish Discovery," has mostly been in heavy rotation. I say mostly because my elder wiggler knows exactly the two songs she doesn't like and always yells "Skip Skip" from the backseat when they're queued up. Personally, I also don't like two tracks, but, of course, they're not the same two. It's her disc, so I let her win. I'm a good papa.
Here's the official blurb...
"We made this recording to celebrate the joy of Jewish music, culture and
community values with you. My Newish Jewish Discovery will teach you, stretch
your imagination and fill your heart with song. We hope that when you listen,
you will think about the words you hear, act on the ideas you have and begin to
make a difference in the community around you. We could not package the My
Newish Jewish Discovery Children's Museum, but we wanted you to have a piece of
us for your own discovery."
Lots of well written, up-tempo, clappy clappy, rock and rolly feel good music aimed at the elementary school set. My personal favorites are the Yiddish accented "Fixing Up The World" and the Captain Kangaroo does Mickey Katz sounding "My Mother Called Me a Name." My kids love the goofy jam rock Hebrew lesson "Shigaon" and the tongue twisting "Four Corners." Hey. It mentions Michigan, and let me tell you, nothing Jewish ever mentions Michigan. Click on the song links to hear samples and then check out the disc's CD Baby page for the rest of the samples.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cantor Leib Glantz: The Man Who Spoke To God

Book Cover of 'The Man Who Spoke to God'"In theory, the cantor improves and beautifies the prayer service, organizes the service, raises it to a level of Hit’la’ha’vut (enthusiasm), and to an enlightened musical level. Therefore, an analysis of cantorial must begin with the personal human attributes of the cantor."

This is my week for cantors. First, I reviewed Cantor Erik Contzius album. And now I run across the new book "Cantor Leib Glantz: The Man Who Spoke To God" by Jerry Glantz, the son of Cantor Glantz. The quote above is the start of Cantor Glantz essay titled "The Essence of Cha'za'nut." The essay, an apt inclusion in a book that is as much a personal biography as a collection of work, is one of many reprinted in the book. The book is accompanied by two CDs with 30 recordings of Cantor Glantz. I don't have the book yet, but it's now on my wish list.

Here are a couple of samples. I enjoyed listening to them and then going back to listen to Cantor Contzius samples in my previous post. It's a wonderful contrast. Where Contzius comes out of the Reform cantorial tradition, with pipe organ and full choir, and sings with an inclusive warmth. Cantor Glantz comes from the Orthodox operatic cantorial tradition, where the cantor packed 'em in the pews acting as rock-star showman and humble servant in equal measures. The difference in the vocal styles is striking. Go back and listen to Cantor Contzius for a minute or two and then listen to these two recordings of Cantor Glantz.

She'ma Yis'ra'el - Hear O Israel!

Le'chu Ne'ra'ne'na - Let Us Sing to the Lord

Great stuff, and such a difference in style.

For more info on the book including more essay and musical samples, check out "The Man Who Spoke To God" website. Here's the rest of the "The Essence of Cha'za'nut." essay sample.

"Cha’za’nut is not just a musical profession. It is not just a trade. It is wisdom (Choch’ma). Wisdom in all its aspects: Wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The integral mission assigned to the cantor consists of demands that are not necessarily musical. A cantor is undoubtedly a singer. However, a singer is definitely not a cantor, even when he performs cantorial in a synagogue. A classical soloist, highly respected by great conductors, can be a wonderful soloist, but he is not a cantor. The greatest Italian opera singer, in order to excel, is not required to be knowledgeable about the Italian people, their history, their customs and their culture. The cantor, on the other hand, must be a complete Jew in spirit and soul. He must be a scholar of Jewish history, ancient Jewish literature, the written and oral To’rah, the Ha’la’cha (interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures) and the Mid’ra’shim (Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures). He must be familiar with the literature of the middle ages including its Pay’ta’nim (poets) and Pi’yu’tim (liturgical poems). He should be familiar with modern Hebrew literature. This Jewish consciousness is the primary basis for the wisdom of Cha’za’nut, and serves as the principle attribute of the cantor’s mission.

A second attribute, one that is no less important, is the cantor’s standard of morality. Many singers and artists conduct their lives in what is often called “bohemian” lifestyle. They frequently indulge in alcohol and unrestrained social behavior. This kind of lifestyle does not disqualify the secular artist. Cantors, as leaders of their communities, are measured according to their morality. Their behavior must be a model for the public. A cantor is not just another member of the community, but an example of which to follow. His singing must originate from holiness and purity.

A third important aspect of the Cha’zan is his credo (A’ni Ma’a’min). He must be loyal to his people and to their holy values. His religious faith must be unabridged, as he must believe in the words he is uttering, as he is required to be an interpreter of those texts.

Excerpt from: The Essence of Cha’za’nut, by Leib Glantz, 1958."

Amen to that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sound of Sacred Time

Earlier this week I posted about Cantor Andrew Bernard's article on the Kaddish. His bio had an intriguing note about his book, The Sound of Sacred Time: A basic music theory textbook to teach the Jewish prayer modes. I emailed him about and found that the book is self-published (contact him (704) 366-1948 x3042 or email me and I'll give you his email address.) Here is his table of contents and the first bit of a sample chapter. It looks very interesting.
Table of Contents

Magein Avot chapter sectionIf your interested, email me and I can send you the .pdf files of the table of contents and sample chapter sections.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity

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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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Israeli 'Hot Hits' Songbooks and Poster from 1969 and 1971

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51 Hot Hits Book JacketSo, I'm not sure why I'm posting about the Israeli '50 Hot Hits' 2 book and poster set instead of just plunking down my credit card and gloating. I guess the pictures are just too good not to share.

Anyway, if you scoot over to eBay really quick you might score yourself the following:

1. 2 Jewish Hebrew Song books + poster 1969 ( 101 songs) by Nurit Hirsh and Ehud Manor

Nurit Hirsh is one of Israel's leading composers. A graduate of the Music academy in Tel Aviv. Ms Hirsh composed hundreds of songs that have become standards in Israel music including the Eurovision winner Abanibi.

Ehud Manor composed many well-known songs including Ein Li Eretz Acheret (I Have No Other Country), Brit Olam (World Covenant), BaShanah HaBaah (In The Next Year), Zo Yalduti HaShniya (This Is My Second Childhood), and Achi HaTza'ir Yehuda (My Younger Brother Yehuda). He wrote over 1,250 Hebrew compositions and translated more than 600 works into Hebrew including such Broadway hits as Cabaret and Les Misérables.

2. Hot Hits - 51 songs Edited by Ran Kedar / 1971
Here are some of the more interesting photos...

51 Hot Hits Book Jacket

If any Teruah reader wins the eBay auction, please send me a note. I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clarinet Secrets - book and podcast, includes Klezmer

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whew, it's been a long weekend. Sorry for the lack of posts. My wife and I took the wigglers to visit a cousin out of state and I made and kept one of my infrequent "no-laptop-on-vacation" promises. But I'm back and my fingers are itching for some blogging, so....

Clarinet Secrets Book JacketMost of my posts and resources links are directed more at music fans than at musicians. The book and podcast Clarinet Secrets, though, has a delightfully 'wanna-be' feeling that makes it worth sharing. (You know what I mean, "You can play clarinet", "You can make your own bite valve hydration system", "You can make parsley soda"*) While Clarinet Secrets podcast has lots of serious content, it also has episodes titled "Learn how to install your own neck-strap ring for under 1 dollar," Imitating Nature," and "The Chin Exercise." I played clarinet a bit when I was a kid. No one ever taught me "The Chin Exercise." I feel cheated.

The Clarinet Secrets podcast
is hosted by "
clarinet pedagogue Michele Gingras from Miami University (OH)" to accompany / promote her book recently published by Scarecrow Press. My giggles over chin exercises not withstanding, Gingras' book is subtitled "52 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Clarinetists" and is pretty serious. This isn't another Mel Bay Clarinet Primer.

The podcast and book have sections on Klezmer, including presentation
repertoire, techniques, and ornamentation. I'm looking forward to listening to them.

* For lots more delightful "You can do its", visit If you think I've got too much time on my hands, I ain't got nothing on the folks who write for Instructables. They actually build that stuff.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A little more bookishness

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A couple of months ago Ari Davidow posted about some new books on Jewish music on his KlezmerShack blog. I went back to those posts when I was feeling bookish the other day. Here they are:

Cover Art for Shalom Comrade"The extended booklet text to the CD Shalom Comrade!: Yiddish Music in the Soviet Union 1928-1961 ... by Rita Ottens and [Joel Rubin] is finally available ...[It] includes a lengthier essay in English and Russian, a shorter version of same in German, plus complete song texts in Yiddish and transliterated Yiddish with English translations." You can download the booklet from You can pick up the recording through your favorite music retailer (such as Amazon.)

Book Jacket for 'Leibu Levin, Word and Melody"Leibu Levin. Word and Melody", published by I.L. Peretz Publications. "Leibu Levin (1914–1983), called Yiddish Schubert, the late Czernowitz born Yiddish actor, singer and composer, was a real troubadour of Yiddish literature. Levin's compositions have been sung also by other Yiddish singers, but until now, there was no anthology of his work. The anthology contains 49 songs to poems by 21 Yiddish poets (I. Manger, H. Leivick, H. N. Bialik, M.-L. Halpern, Sh. Halkin and others), photos and drawings. Ruth Levin, the composer's daughter and renowned singer, provides a preface and an epilogue. The volume includes piano arrangements by Hanan Winternitz." The Anthology can be ordered from OR-TAV Music Publications.

Book Jacket for 'Discovering Jewish Music' Discovering Jewish Music is now out in paperback. "Most of us have experienced "Jewish music," whether it's through synagogue attendance, a bar mitzvah celebration, a klezmer concert, or the playing of "Hava Nagila" at a baseball
game. The many different kinds of Jewish music are reflected by the multitude of Jewish communities throughout the world, each having its own unique set of experiences and values. This book puts the music into a context of Jewish history, philosophy, and sociology. Edelman begins 3,000 years ago, with a discussion of music in the Bible, and then examines the nature of folk and liturgical music in the three major Diaspora communities that evolved over centuries, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. From there she explores music of the 20th century, including the explosion of popular music in North America and Israel and its impact on Jews and their musical identities." This is the first book on Jewish music I read and remains one of my favorites. It's compact, insightful, and available through your favorite bookshop.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Feeling Bookish

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A Right To Sing the Blues Book JacketIt's about 6am North Coast time, and once I'm done writing this post I'll be heading upstairs to wake up my gang. Today's my elder girl's first day of Kindergarten. We're all so wound up about it that I'm amazed that any of us got any sleep last night. This will probably be the one day all year that I can get her out of bed without a fuss.

So, it was with thoughts of schooling and starting new projects that I hit the internet last night looking to build up my Jewish Music reading list. While bumping around I found two great resources. The first resource is the Jewish Music Web Center's Booklist. While it doesn't try to be exhaustive, it has a great list of books that cover a wide range of Jewish music topics ranging from 'The Music of Israel: From the Biblical Era to Modern Times' to 'Rock 'n Roll Jews' to 'Ernest Bloch, Voice in the Wilderness: A Biographical Study' Some look pretty academic and some pretty popular press (sadly, I'm scientist by training and get more excited by the academic texts. sheesh.) The Booklist is just that, it doesn't link to sources for the books, but many can be found through your favorite local and online new and used booksellers. Prompted by the list, and after reading a great discussion on Velvateen Rabbi, I picked up a remaindered copy of Jeffery Summit's "The Lords Song in a Strange Land" for under $5 from Half.Com. I also nabbed Nahma Sandrow's "Vagabond Stars" (about Yiddish Theater) and Jeffery Melnik's "A Right to Sing the Blues".

Vagabond Stars Book JacketThe second resource I found is the website for Broder's Rare and Used Books in Waterbury Connecticut. I've said before that I was an English major in college. Small, antiquarian booksellers are about my favorite people in the world. No one, just no one, loves books more than these folks. No can ferret out stranger or more wonderful texts than these folks. And Broder's list has over 100 Jewish music books including from "10 CANCIONES PARA PIANO CANTO, VIOLIN Y JALIL -10 LIDER FAR PANO, GEZANG, FIDL UN KHALIL - YIDDISH AND SPANISH. Wajner, Leon. New, Estudios d.e.m.o.s., 1959", both volumes of Velvel Pasternak's "SONGS OF THE CHASSIDIM" and "MUSIC IN ANCIENT ISRAEL/PALESTINE: ARCHAEOLOGICAL, WRITTEN, AND COMPARATIVE SOURCES. Braun, Joachim, Douglas, Stott W." And the prices are very reasonable. I picked up a copy of "MODERN JEWS AND THEIR MUSICAL AGENDAS. VOL. IX OF STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY JEWRY. Mendelsohn, Ezra (editor) Collection of essays dealing with the music and Jews and the role of music in Jewish assimilation into modern European society, Israeli identity, a separate Sephardic identity, to further Zionism and other essays" for under $20.

This should keep me in happy reading land for a while.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Metal Jew and A Secret History of Jewish Punk

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I ran across the blog "Metal Jew" this morning. The author Keith Kahn-Harris describes himself as a "Semi-ambivalent Jew, ambivalent Metaller. Occasionally ambivalent sociologist, researcher and educator. Non-ambivalent husband and father." That description resonates for me, though, of course, the details are wrong (I'm a human-computer interaction scientist and not ambivalent about being Jewish). Definately non-ambivalent father and husband. The "Metal Jew" blog has been active since May of '06 and Keith's book "Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge" was published in December '06. Mazel Tov, Keith.

Another place where Keith and I diverge is that I was never an "ambivalent Meteller." I was an ambivalent punk. Black trenchcoat and beret. Dead Kennedys, the Adolescents, 7 Seconds, the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. I even had a mohawk hair cut once (I looked like an idiot). This was the 80's. The Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were only slightly scarier than Thatcher and Regan. We watched movies like "The Day After," "War Games," "Suburbia," and "Red Dawn" and were sure that nuclear war was right around the corner. We also read the Diary of Anne Frank and watched the Marathon Man. The cold war had the shadow of the Holocaust all over it and we knew it. Punks were fascinated with Nazi symbology, either applying it to our current governments policies or (for the "skinhead/Nazi Punk" minority) getting nostalgic for it's clarity.

Keith reminded me of all this by blogging about the new book "The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk" Here's the blurb from the book's website:

Based on recent interviews with more than 125 people — among them Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein (Blondie), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Hilly Kristal (CBGBs owner), and John Zorn — this book focuses on punk’s beginnings in New York City to show that punk was the most Jewish of rock movements, in both makeup and attitude. As it originated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1970s,
punk rock was the apotheosis of a Jewish cultural tradition that found its ultimate expression in the generation born after the Holocaust.
As a kid who hung out in punk clubs in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, I have to say that I never found punk a particularly Jewish experience and never identified with it at that level. Other than the Nazi/Holocaust references, punk music was only Jew friendly in that it lacked Heavy Metal's preoccupation with Christian imagery.

So, I don't know if I agree with the author's view, but I can't wait to read the book and find out.