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Workshop/Presentation Philip V. Bohlman: Jewish Music and Its Others

Wanneer:di 10-05-2016 17:00 - 18:00
Waar:Arts, Culture and Media, Room 2, Oude Boteringestraat 34, 9712 GK Groningen

The Institute of Christian Cultural Heritage and the Department of Art, Culture and society present:

Jewish Music and Its Others

Philip V. Bohlman ( The University of Chicago)

Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover

The various disciplines dedicated to Jewish music studies are united by a primary concern: the conviction that Jewish music can be identified and described, formed into repertories and practices, and recognized as a sonic essence. The object, Jewish music, is the singular focus of Jewish music studies, whose disciplinary boundaries are erected in such ways to exclude any other musical and sonic phenomena that are not reducible to some essence of Jewishness. Though some Jewish music scholars build disciplinary alliances with twenty-first-century religious studies and sister disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, others retreat behind the walls of institutions predicated on the belief that the objective study of Jewish music remains unassailable.

We witness a different story when we turn to Jewish music studies in the past, not least the early formation of the field in Europe, the Yishuv and Israel, and North America. At many moments of modern disciplinary history, it was the move beyond Jewish music to encounter and engage with its Others that that led to recognition of the ways in which musical practice was critical to the formation of complex subject positions. Recognition of the presence of non-Jewish music proved to be equally as critical to understanding Jewish subjectivities in the twentieth century. The research of Robert Lachmann – in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Levant – led him to the contact zones between the Jewish and the non-Jewish, and it was the encounter with the music of Mediterranean Others that led to his groundbreaking studies of Jewish music on Djerba and in Jerusalem, which became paradigmatic for modern Jewish music studies.

In my presentation at the University of Groningen I shall illustrate the critical importance of non-Jewish music to Jewish music studies with several case studies from my own ongoing research. I shall draw especially from a current project in disciplinary and intellectual history, “Jüdische Musikforschung in Berlin 1900–1950,” and from my work as the Artistic Director of the cabaret, New Budapest Orpheum Society, which dedicates itself to the performance and recording of Jewish cabaret traditions. In both cases, I explore the ways in which non-Jewish music influences Jewish musical thought and practice, not as binaries between Self and Other, rather as more complex and expansive ways of understanding modern Jewish history as a part of modern history, locally and globally. In the course of my Groningen presentation, I shall make a case for redeploying the disciplinary boundaries between Jewish music and its Others as critical to the study of music in modern religious and musicological studies.