Taksim (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


“The klezmorim in their seventies to nineties still remember when taksims (a type of free improvised form which has a great deal of scale and other passage-work which embellished the main theme of the piece; after such improvisations comes a frejlaxs in 2/4) were played.The younger klezmorim don’t even recognize the concept of taksim; they have played doinas instead of taksims since the beginning of the twentieth century; in addition to the fiddler, the clarinet or flute used to play solos at table.” Beregovski 1937 [= Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 539].

“Beregovski states that the oldest klezmorim in his time remembered that the doyne had been only recently introduced from Romania, replacing an older genre named taksim. The taksim in its turn was probably derived from the improvised instrumental sections of the Romanian epical ballads (cintece batrinesti ).” Feldman 1994, p. 8.

“A taksim from the Beregovski collection was published by Joachim Braun (1987:133-136). Although Braun states that ‘the intrinsic features of the Arab taksim... are preserved in Beregovski’s Jewish-Ukrainain klezmer-taksim... ‘ (ibid.: 132) his musical example does not bear this out. 

Beregovski’s piece is a Romaninan doina, with no Jewish, let alone ‘Arab’ features. Beregovski had observed that the distinction between taksim and doina was known only to klezmorim then in their seventies to nineties. Max Goldin, who has compared the Jewish and Moldavian doinas on the basis of the extensive materials of both cultures, has concluded that ‘Jewish doinas do not have any distinctive structural features’ (Goldin 1987:27). A variant of the dance following the ‘taksim’ (Braun 1987: 136) was recorded by Dave Tarras in the 1940s as ‘A Heimisher Sher.’ An example of a Romanian taksim may be heard on record no. 6 of Antologia de muzicii populare romanesti, vol. II, edited by Tiberiu Alexandru (Electrechord, EPD 1017).” Feldman 1994, pp. 31-32. (Recording references included). 

“In Beregovskii 1987 there are four doinas: one was borrowed in toto, one partially, and two reproduce the typical roulades, rhythms and intonations of Moldavian doinas. A taksim and a dobranoch were also borrowed in toto... Fragments of a taksim are cited in Beregovskii 1973:379/Slobin 1982:560.” Goldin 1989, p. 27. (Musical notation included). 

“Jacob Gegna recorded a taksim followed by this piece ca. 1917. (A taksim usually refers to the Turco-Arab manner of a rubato exploration of West Asian modes. It means something related to this, but different when referred to as the precursor of the Romanian doina.) Despite the title, Gegna’s performanec seems to be a doina, although with perhaps less accompaniment then [sic] usual...” Phillips 1996a, pp. 14-15. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“‘Orea Poune Tin Arghi’ Excerpts...[Naxos island in Greece] This tune featured vocal with interludes of the violin...Section 4 is an approximation of the taksim portion of Konito’poulos;s solo. (This is a rubato or semi-rubato exploration of the modes of a piece.)...The pitch and frequency of the slides in the taksim is also noteworthy. (Walter Zev Feldman informed me that this is not truly a taksim, but a rubato improvisation on the melody of the tune. A taksim is not based on the melody. It certainly sounds taksim-related to me.)” Phillips 1996a, pp. 161-63. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“A taksim is not based on melody...In Jewish music the term taksim had been used before the doina came in. It is not clear what they meant by that...There was a kind of melody that Romanian Gypsies played in accompanying ballads which they called taksim, and those things are very much like doinas, but note quite. They have certain kinds of melodic phrases that are not typical of doina. No doubt that influenced what the Jews considered taksim; it is possible that some Turkish influence entered through the Romanian taksim however.

There are a few of these rather mysterious recordings, like the one that Abe Schwartz did where he changes the tuning...Schwartz’s recordings may be a taksim. It’s certainly not a doina. Tsifte-teli means ‘two strings’. In Turkish music it’s  general term for Gypsy dancing.” Phillips 1996b, pp. 182-83

“The taksim was an older type of improvisation among klezmorim, which was gradually replaced around the turn of the century by the more modern rumenishe doyne (Romanian doina). The taksim, which was freely improvised according to typical modal patterns, seems to have been developed by Jewish musicians from the instrumental preludes to the non-Jewish epic ballads from Wallachia in Southeastern Romania... Improvisations like taksim and doyne were always ended with a freylekhs -type dance.” Rubin 1997, pp. 21-22.