The Fifteenth World Congress Of Jewish Studies Jerusalem
Session: Between Israeli and Jewish in Music, 5.8.09
Chair: Yehoash Hirshberg
While the commonsensical answer should be “of course,” based on the impossibility, or more significantly, futility of defining Jewish music itself—many of the founders of Israeli art music stayed away from what they considered as Jewish signifiers in their music. Their aim was to design contemporary Israeli music as a national project, not as a branch of Jewish music which was traditionally written in exiled communities. They failed in creating a desired, unequivocal “national style,” though a general ideology had been established. Thus, through prescriptive definitions of Israeli music, Boskovich, Partos, Seter, and Tal succeeded in convincing musicologists that their music is Israeli—a new entity, essentially and qualitatively different from its Jewish roots. Only few scholars (Philip Bohlman has been among the firsts) incorporated the study of Israeli art music as a part of Jewish music, and only recently the understanding of Israeli music as a part of Jewish music is apparent in scholarship. Indeed, Stutschewsky of the 1950s, at the peak of the opposition to the mentality of the Diaspora (shlilat ha-galut) was marginalized among his peers because of his unfashionable affinity with his predecessors in the Society for Jewish Folk Music; even in the 1980s, major works like Noam Sheriff’s Mechaye hametim (1985) were nearly sidelined as Jewish kitsch.
Based on recent theories of Jewish identities in art music such as Klara Moricz’s (2008), this paper will analyze writings by Stutschewsky, Boskovich, and Tal against ideologies of explicit Jewishness expressed in works of the early 2000s by leading composers such as Betty Olivero, Shulamit Ran, and Chaya Czernowin.