Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Good" Jewish Music

(Painting by Alex Levin)


Yossel Kvetch commenting on Trapped In The Lower Levels - Jewish Heavy Metal:

Another question should be asked: What constitutes "good" Jewish music as opposed to "bad" Jewish music?

The beauty or shvachkeit could be in the "Jewish" aspect, or in the purely musical aspect.Good Jewish music should be "good music" by any standard, just as l'havdil good Irish music or good Indian music or good American folk music should all have the creative ingredients that move people deeply.

Another possibility: you could have well-performed expressive creative music with well-sung Jewish lyrics, but if the music does not have any shaychus to any Jewish musical tradition, Chassidic / Klezmer / Andalusian/ Baghdadi / Yemenite, etc. -- it is still open to criticism.

Kol she'kein, if the instrumental and compositional aspects are mediocre imitations of American pop tunes, have no shaychus to authentic Jewish musical mesorahs, AND the Hebrew lyrics are really just cliches that have nothing to do with the feelings expressed by the song... l'moshul "Ben Bag-Bag Ben Bag-Bag Omeeeeeer..." or the fifteen year old driven-into-the ground hack rock fiasco "Mashiach Mashiach Mashiach" featuring its syncopated Las Vegas arrangement still performed nightly by out of work club date musicians at frum weddings.

The very fact that such low music ever became popular in our communities is a bizayon, even if the entrepreneurs with the diamond pinky rings are mostly to blame.

But the "real" Jewish music defies death and despair.

Just enter any Chassidishe shtibel on Shabbos, when instruments are forbidden, and hear the olam sing!

Sincerely,

Yossel Kvetch

PS: After that article in the Jewish Observer a decade ago, things only got worse. The real problem is that frum culture became so superficial and materialistic, and this is why our music today sounds the way it does.

It is a portrait of our matzav ruch'ni b'ikvasa d'meshicha -- just as the music created in the heyday of Chassidus was a portrait of the Jewish spirit of those generations.

Our music reflects our values, and even more our state of mind.

15 Comments:

At August 17, 2006 at 11:54:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

[b]Composing nigunim[/b]

Chasidus gives some ideas about how to approach composing music. If people would at least learn what we have from the wealth of Chasidus on this subject before composing anything, results would be much better already. But the ikar is the neshomo of one who makes the music. His tmimus, bitul, kdusho and taharo. That's about it.

 
At August 18, 2006 at 2:14:00 AM EDT, Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

I love niggunim, but supposing I just cannot get by on a musical diet of niggunim only? What
should I listen to?

 
At August 18, 2006 at 8:48:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

I have to agree with "a yid" - well said! There's more of this on my site, scattered throughout.
Yitzchak: noting your pic of a jazz ensemble, I would suggest some interesting musical interpretations of niggunim. Some that quickly come to mind are Avi Adrian's "From Dust Created" which are jazz-piano interpretations of Modzitz niggunim; Musa Berlin, Roman Kunsman, & Shimon "C" Lanzbom's albums of Carelbach niggunim; there's even a Philharmonic recording of Reb Michel Twerski's niggunim. There was an early record called "Music of Modzitz" which set Modzitz niggunim to a classical orchestra; hopefully this will be re-issued by Modzitz's Machon. Chabad, Breslov and other groups have similar recordings.

 
At August 18, 2006 at 9:07:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

From the oldie It Will Stand:

"Some folks don't understand it.
That's why they don't demand it."

Which is to say that the only way to improve people's musical expectations is to expose them to something better.

 
At August 18, 2006 at 9:15:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

By the way, I have bought and listened to several recordings of niggunim and similar material played by classical orchestras.

The good ones sound like the nigunim. The bad ones pad the songs with poor orchestration containing all sorts of gaudy fanfares, repetitions without variation, etc. In this, Jewish arrangers/orchestrators could take some guidance from Dvorak's great way of orchestrating folk-like tunes (in his Slavonic Dances and Prague Waltzes, for example).

 
At August 18, 2006 at 9:41:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

the only way to improve people's musical expectations is to expose them to something better.
While there is something to this, there is also the "lowest common denominator" theory, which seems to be most prevalent in American and world-wide marketing, & spawns such garbage as the Moshiach "song" mentioned in the post. Just about everybody listens to secular music, but if you can only appreciate "pop" without enjoying jazz or classical, you're gonna go for similar stuff in so-called "Jewish music." I've found that it's almost always the people who can appreciate jazz and/or classical music that can appreciate authentic Jewish Negina.

 
At August 18, 2006 at 10:11:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Why is the "similar stuff" even worse than the thing it imitates? That is, why are the worst pop tunes and riffs ripped off, not the best ones?

 
At August 18, 2006 at 1:04:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Yitzchak Goodman said...
> I love niggunim, but supposing I just
> cannot get by on a musical diet of
> niggunim only?

A hard issue. For me it is like that – nigunim diet only :). Really, according to Gemoro and poyskim music for entertainment not permitted at all during Golus, because of zeycher lechurbon. The only thing that is permitted – music for a mitzvo and for avoydas Hashem. However poyskim permit somewhat reluctantly music as an antidote against depression. This subject is long and if you are interested you can research Halocho side of it. But the final result is, that really music is good exclusively for avoydas Hashem (at least during Golus). And as such – nigunim suit it the best. If you’ll have right intentions while using a nigun it can benefit you beruchnius greatly. That’s the best usage of nigunim possible.

 
At August 18, 2006 at 7:50:00 PM EDT, Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

noting your pic of a jazz ensemble

It's a guy in a beard and a yarmulke sitting at a keyboard.

 
At August 19, 2006 at 3:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

YG: There's also a bassist playing behind him, which is why I referred to it as a jazz ensemble. Is the black man with the "beard & yarmulke" a religious Jew, or were you being somewhat facetious? I've seen a number of black jazz musicians that dress that way...
a yid:
I agree. I sent ASJ a piece about Music & Halacha along the lines of what you wrote.

 
At August 20, 2006 at 12:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

Is the black man with the "beard & yarmulke" a religious Jew, or were you being somewhat facetious?

It's a joke. The pianist is Thelonius Monk.
Besides the beard and yarmulke,
another part of the joke is that he was known
as the "High Priest of Bop." In Hebrew that would
be "Kohein Gadol shel Bop."

 
At August 20, 2006 at 1:46:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

YG: If you like Monk, I really think you will enjoy Avi Adrian's jazz-piano interpretations of Modzitz, see above...

 
At August 20, 2006 at 1:13:00 PM EDT, Blogger Yitzchak Goodman said...

I really think you will enjoy Avi Adrian's jazz-piano interpretations of Modzitz, see above...

I'll look for a CD.

 
At March 28, 2009 at 3:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger Conrad said...

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At June 7, 2011 at 12:07:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Buy Viagra said...

the music from this culture, is so interesting, well in my real opinion is funny, I don't there's a intruments that make a real fun sound.

 

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