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Sounds of Sensibility

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

Appeared in "Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought"; Issue No. 185. Vol. 47, no. 1 (Winter 1998), special issues on klezmer music, pp. 49-788.

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I would like to thank John Czaplicka, Max Gimblett, Harvey Goldberg, Marian Jacobson, Mark Kligman, Elliott Oring, and Mark Slobin for their careful reading and thoughtful comments on this paper.

1. Nat Hentoff, "Indigenous Music," The Nation (14 January 1978): 28-29. Excerpts from this review appeared on the jacket of The Klezmorim's second album, Streets of Gold (Arhoolie Records, Arhoolie 3011, El Cerrito, CA, 1978). Hentoff was no stranger to music revivals. He had commented on the earlier American folk song revival. See his prescient essay, "The Future of the Folk Renascence," in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival, edited by David A. DeTurk and A. Poulin, Jr. (New York: Dell, 1967), pp. 326-331.

2. s.v. Liberman, "Klez folk online," Ari Davidow's KlezShack, Last updated July 25, 1997.

3. Raymond Williams, "Structures of Feeling," in his Marxism and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 132-133.

4. Haym Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy," Tradition 28, 4 (1994): 90.

5. For a rich discussion of klezmer music in Central and Eastern Europe today, see Ruth Ellen Gruber, Filling the Jewish Space in Europe, International Perspectives 35 (New York: American Committee, 1996).

6. Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, revised edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 15.

7. Seth Rogovoy, "Andy Statman's Hasidic Jazz," Boston Phoenix (21 March 1997), n.html; Gruber, Filling the Jewish Space in Europe, p. 32.

8. "FAQ4s," Vurma homepage, Last updated May 30, 1997.

9. Flying Fish Records, FF 258 (Chicago, 1981).

10. Joel Lewis, "Heavy Shtetl: The New In-Your-Face Jewish Music," Moment (August 1995): 46.

11. Seth Rogovoy, "The Klezmatics: Outing Klezmer," Boston Phoenix (16 May 1997), t.html. Last updated June 9, 1997.

12. The program airs on Sundays, 6:00 a.m. to 10 a.m., Eastern Time, on WBZC-FM Boston (88.9 Mhz FM) and is hosted by Jacob Freedman. Klezmer Music Radio,

13. Chris King, "Klezmatics to appear at Washington U.," .9609 .html. Last updated August 23, 1997. Unless otherwise indicated all characterizations quoted in this paragraph are from the band list on Ari Davidow's KlezShack web page, l. Last updated July 25, 1997.

14. See the entries for Cayuga Klezmer Revival in the band list on Ari Davidow's KlezShack web page and on Mika's Klezmer pages, Last updated August 21, 1997.

15. Mickey Katz, Papa, Play For Me: The Hilarious, Heartwarming Autobiography of Comedian and Bandleader Mickey Katz, as told to Hannibal Coons (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977), pp. 164-165.

16. Walter Z. Feldman makes this point in his important essay, "Bulgareasca/Bulgarish/Bulgar: The Transformation of a Klezmer Dance Genre," Ethnomusicology 38, 1 (1994): 5-6.

17. Robert Cantwell, "When We Were Good: Class and Culture in the Folk Revival," in Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, edited by Neil Rosenberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), p. 36. For the earlier history of the revivals of the postwar period, see David E. Whisnant, All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983).

18. Quoted by Seth Rogovoy, "The Klezmer Revival: Old World Meets New," Berkshire Eagle (31 July 1997), ml. Last updated August 5, 1997.

19. Henry Sapoznik, The Compleat [sic] Klezmer, with Pete Sokolov (Cedarhurst, NY: Tara Publications, 1987), p. 5.

20. Sapoznik, Compleat Klezmer, p. 14.

21. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Theorizing Heritage," Ethnomusicology 39, 3 (1995): 367-380.

22. Hentoff, "Indigenous Music," 29.

23. I curated the Jewish program, which included haredi instrumentalists from Israel, but neither American Jewish wedding musicians nor the new klezmers. See Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Confusing Pleasures," in her Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

24. Seth Rogovoy, "Making Old-World Music New," Berkshire Eagle (22 August 1996), 22.html. Last updated June 9, 1997.

25. Rogovoy, "Making Old-World Music New."

26. See Rosenberg, Transforming Traditions, p. 17.

27. s.v. revival and revitalize, Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1976).

28. Xenophile, XENO 4050 (Green Linnet Records, Danbury, Connecticut, 1997). Note the instruction, "File under: World/Klezmer."

29. Following its premiere in 1995 at the Hartford Stage, Connecticut, this production of A Dybbuk was performed at the Public Theater in New York in 1997. Frank London has also said of the Klezmatics, "We come from this ecstatic standpoint on Jewishness, gender and sexual politics." Quoted in Rogovoy, "The Klezmer Revival."

30. s.v. inspiration, Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary.

31. See Paul Mendes-Flohr, "Fin de Sicle Orientalism, the Ostjuden, and the Aesthetics of Jewish Self- Affirmation," Divided Passions: Jewish Intellectuals and the Experience of Modernity (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), pp. 77-132.

32. Seth Rogovoy, "Andy Statman's Hasidic Jazz."

33. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 71.

34. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 72.

35. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 72.

36. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 74.

37. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 73.

38. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 73.

39. Budowitz home page,

40. Budowitz home page.

41. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 81.

42. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 90.

43. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," pp. 103, 86.

44. E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common (New York: The New Press, 1991), pp. 1-15; Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (New York: New York University Press, 1978).

45. See Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Problems in the Early Historiography of Jewish Folkloristics," in Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division D, Volume 2: Art, Folklore and Music, edited by David Assaf (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990), pp. 21-32.

46. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 82.

47. Arhoolie Records, Arhoolie 3006 (El Cerrito, Calif., 1977).

48. Flying Fish, FF 258 (Chicago, 1981).

49. Quoted by Chris King, "Klezmatics to appear at Washington U.," and by Rogovoy, "The Klezmatics: Outing Klezmer."

50. Quoted by Chris King, "Klezmatics to appear at Washington U.," and by Rogovoy, "The Klezmatics: Outing Klezmer."

51. Rogovoy, "Making Old-World Music New."

52. Flying Fish, FF 249 (Chicago, 1981).

53. Clifford Geertz, "Epilogue," in The Anthropology of Experience, edited by Victor W. Turner and Edward M. Bruner (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 19886), p. 380.

54. Clifford Geertz, "Epilogue," p. 380.

55. Thompson, Customs in Common, p. 6.

56. Rosenberg, Transforming Tradition, pp. 177-182. Klezmer revival pioneers came to the music through just such "named-system revivals"--Appalachian music (Sapoznik), bluegrass (Statman), jazz (Netsky, Byron, London), Balkan (Brody, Brotman), Greek (Svigals, Feldman), and other musics, rather than through Jewish music, though there are exceptions.

57. Soloveitchik, "Rupture and Reconstruction," p. 75.

58. See Mark Kligman, "On the Creators and Consumers of Orthodox Popular Music in Brooklyn," YIVO Annual 23 (1996): 259-294.

59. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 132.

60. Biography of Don Byron, European Jazz Network, Last updated August 19, 1997.

61. Jordan Wankoff, Biography of John Zorn, Contemporary Musicians 15 (November 1995), bin/tw/9339107872835211_108_215723.

62. Rogovoy, "Andy Statman's Hasidic Jazz."

63. Rogovoy, "Andy Statman's Hasidic Jazz."

64. The separation of sounds from their sources has been termed schizophonia by Murray R. Schafer, The Tuning of the World (New York: Knopf, 1977), and applied to world beat by Steven Feld, "From Schizophonia to Schismogenesis: Notes on the Discourses of World Music and World Beat," Working Papers and Proceedings of the Center for Psychosocial Studies, No. 53, edited by Greg Urban and Benjamin Lee (Chicago: Center for Psychosocial Studies, 1992).

65. See Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Confusing Pleasures."

66. Jeremy Wolff, "A 'Cat' From the Bronx Makes His Mark on Klezmer," The Wall Street Journal (19 September 1991): A12.

67. Seth Rogovoy, "Making Old-World Music New."

68. The Klezmatics Home Page,

69. Milton M. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life: The Role of Race, Religion, and National Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 56-57.

70. Andy Logan, "Profiles: Five Generations," The New Yorker (29 October 1949): 32-51.

71. Boston's Yiddish Voice on WUNR 1600 AM, Last updated August 22, 1997.

72. Klezmorim Interview, ess/Retail/Larknet/ArtKlezmorimInterview.

73. Williams, "Culture," Marxism and Literature, p. 12.

74. Rogovoy, "The Klezmer Revival."

75. Henry Sapoznik was one of the first to reissue 78s of Jewish instrumental music, document those recordings, and combine historical documentation with practical advice for the musician. Walter Z. Feldman has prepared meticulously researched liner notes, record reviews, and historical essays. Joel Rubin has released important albums of historical recordings and substantive liner notes, including a revisiting of Moshe Beregovski's pre- war collection of instrumental transcriptions.

76. Mark Slobin, "Fiddler Off the Roof: Klezmer Music as an Ethnic Musical Style," in The Jews in North America, edited by Moses Rischin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp. 95-104.

77. Loeffler deals with this subject in depth in his splendid senior thesis, "A Gilgul fun a Nigun: Jewish Musicians in New York, 1881-1945," Harvard Judaica Collection, Student Research Papers, no. 3 (1997).

78. For the range of occasions that called for Jewish instrumental music, see Loeffler in this issue and Mark Slobin, Tenement Songs: The Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).

79. Rogovoy, "The Klezmer Revival."

80. See Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994), pp. 89 ff.

81. The quip from Sapoznik appears on the jacket of Jakie Jazz 'Em Up: Old-Time Klezmer Music, 1912-1926 (New York: Global Village Music, 1984), no. 101.

82. Nahum Stutchkoff, Der oytser fun der yidisher shprakh (New York: Yiddish Scientific Institute--YIVO, 1950); S. Weissenberg, "Die 'Klesmer'sprache," Mittleilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien 33 (1913): 127-142; A. Landau, "Zur russisch- j^_dischen 'Klezmer'sprache," Mittleilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien 33 (1913): 143- 149.

83. See also Mark Slobin, Tenement Songs.

84. Indeed, this story is similar in structure to Hasidic purim plays. See Shifra Epstein, "Drama on a Table: The Bobover Hasidim Piremshpiyl," in Judaism Viewed From Within and Without: Anthropological Studies, edited by Harvey Goldberg (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp. 195-217; Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Performance of Precepts, Precepts of Performance," in By Means of Performance, edited by Richard Schechner and Willa Appel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 109-117.

85. Tikva Records, T94 (New York, 1960s).

86. Collectors Guild, Living Jewish Music, CGL-623 (1962).

87. See, for example, Cantor Werdyger Sings New Bobover Nigunim composed by the Bobover Rebbi (Rabbi Solomon Halberstam) shlita, accompanied by The Epstein Brothers Orchestra and The Bobover Chassidic Choir. Vevel Pasternal did the musical arrangements and conducted. Rabbi Moses Kessler supervised. Aderet Records, LPW 303.

88. Michael Golan produced the album for Heritage Records, Inc., CH-501 (New York: Centro International Distributing Co., Inc.). Mike Silverman wrote the jacket notes.

89. Slobin, "Fiddler Off the Roof," p. 98.

90. Amitai Ne'eman was the arranger and conductor. Heritage Records, Inc., L.P.DC 477 (New York).

91. See, for example, The Yiddish Dream: A Heritage of Jewish Song, Vanguard, VSD-715/16 (New York, 1971). See also A. Z. Idelsohn, "Artistic Endeavors," Jewish Music in Its Historical Development (New York: Schocken, 1967), pp. 461-468; Avraham Soltes, "The Hebrew Folk Song Society of Petersburg: The Historical Development," in The Historic Contribution of Russian Jewry to Jewish Music, edited by Irene Heskes and Arthur Wolfson (New York: National Jewish Music Council, 1967), pp. 1-27; Philip V. Bohlman, "The Land Where Two Streams Flow": Music in the German-Jewish Community of Israel (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989).

92. "Long Live Giora, His Clarinet and His Soul Music," Star Record Co., ST AE 76 A/B (New York, 1977).

93. Oscar Brand, The Ballad Mongers: Rise of the Modern Folk Song (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1962), n.p.

94. Agnes De Mille refers to the tidal wave in her foreword to The Ballad Mongers, n.p. Oscar Brand discusses the concept "simple noise" in The Ballad Mongers, pp. 3-16.

95. Brand, The Ballad Mongers, pp. 10, 14, 15.

96. Brand, The Ballad Mongers, pp. 10-11.

97. Brand, The Ballad Mongers, pp. 56-57.

98. Brand, The Ballad Mongers, pp. 56-57.

99. See David A. De Turk and A. Poulin, Jr., The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival (New York: Dell, 1967).

100. Theodore Bikel, Theo: The Autobiography of Theodore Bikel (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 88.

101. Bikel, Theo, p. 89.

102. Mikve Israel, a two-year agricultural college established by the Alliance Isra lite Universelle in Jerusalem. He went on to study theater at the Studio, which was run by the director of Habimah, Tsvi Friedland, before entering the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

103. Bikel, Theo, pp. 157-58. According to Bikel, Marjorie supported Yiddish and even launched a project to preserve Yiddish books.

104. Bikel, Theo, p. 108.

105. Bikel, Theo, p. 186.

106. Bikel, Theo, p. 107.

107. Bikel, Theo, 156.

108. Just before the photograph was taken, Bikel added a little graffiti to complete the scene: "I took a crayon and wrote a word on the wall next to the Jewish poster. The word consisted of three Hebrew letters: pe, aleph, kof. Pronounced, that comes out 'f**k' [a four-letter word]. It was an in-joke that very few people caught." Bikel, Theo, p. 155.

109. Klezmer Bands, Avi Dawidov's KlezShack.

110. Ruth Rubin, Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folk Song (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1963).

111. Seth Rogovoy, "Making Old-World Music New." The talking instrument is also found in Stempenyu and other literary accounts of klezmorim.

112. Quoted by Rogovoy, "The Klezmer Revival."

113. Benjamin Botkin, "The Folksong Revival: Cult or Culture," in De Turk and Poulin, The American Folk Scene, p. 99.

114. Warner Bros. Records, W 1475 (1962). Sherman states that "These songs are what would happen if Jewish people wrote all the songs--which, in fact, they do," a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that Jewish songwriters were a visible presence on the American scene.

115. Larry Yudelson, "Dylan: Tangled Up in Jews," Washington Jewish Week (1991), Last updated July 7, 1997.

116. Rosenberg, Transforming Tradition, p. 10.

117. Nama Orchestra, Nama 3 (Los Angeles, 1978).

118. Katz, Papa, Play for Me, p. 132. Katz published his autobiography in 1977, when he was sixty-eight years old. He made English-Yiddish comedy a speciality when he was in his fifties.

119. See Sapoznik, The Compleat Klezmer, p. 14, and Lewis, "Heavy Shtetl."

120. Steven Mullaney, "The Rehearsal of Cultures," in his The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), p. 69.

121. Slobin, "Fiddler Off the Roof," p. 99.

122. Marc Caplan compares the wedding parodies of Goldstein and Katz in his insightful essay, "Borsht-Belt Badkhonim: Carnival Performance Recordings of Gus Goldstein and Mickey Katz" (Unpublished, 1997).

123. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 132.

124. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 123.

125. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 155.

126. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 157.

127. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 156.

128. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 127.

129. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 128.

130. Katz, Papa, Play For Me, p. 130.

131. On code-switching and Jewish immigrant humor, see Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Culture Shock and Narrative Creativity," in Folklore in the Modern World, edited by Richard M. Dorson (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), pp. 109-122.

132. See Elliott Oring, "Rechnitzer Rejects: An Unorthodox Humor of Modern Orthodoxy," in his Jokes and Their Relations (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992), pp. 67-80.

133. Uriel Weinreich, Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), p. 95.

134. Weinreich, Languages in Contact.

135. Maurice Samuel, The World of Sholom Aleichem (New York: Knopf, 1943).

136. Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog, Life Is with People: The Culture of the Shtetl (New York: Schocken, 1995). This book first appeared in 1952.

137. Bikel, Theo, p. 12.

138. On the history of changing sensibilities in relation to Holocaust memory, see Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watched: The Holocaust on Television (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

139. Gruber, Filling the Jewish Space in Europe, p. 1.

140. Gruber, Filling the Jewish Space in Europe, p. 35.

141. Hentoff, "Indigenous Music," p. 29.

142. The Giora Feidman Home Page,

143. The German Klezmer Page,

144. Balkanarama, Last updated August 21, 1997. See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1991).

145. See Mihail Bakhtin, "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, transslated by C. Emerson and M. Holquist, edited by M. Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984).

146. Gruber, Filling the Jewish Space in Europe, p. 32.

147. Hentoff, "Indigenous Music," p. 28.

148. Wolff, "A 'Cat' From the Bronx."

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