U of T holds con­fer­ence on Jewish mu­sic

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Music - RUTH SCHWEITZER SPE­CIAL TO THE CJN

A quar­tet that played ex­u­ber­ant jazz ar­range­ments of Jewish songs from Ladino cul­ture, and from Ye­men, Morocco, Kaza­khstan, Rus­sia and Is­rael closed a Univer­sity of Toronto con­fer­ence on Jewish mu­sic held Feb. 18 and 19.

Gui­tarist and oud­ist Amos Hoff­man, with pi­anist Noam Lem­ish, bassist Justin Gray and drum­mer Derek Gray, per­formed a com­pelling set at Wal­ter Hall in Toronto, fus­ing the rhythms of the Mid­dle East with jazz.

An Israeli, Hoff­man is the re­cip­i­ent of Is­rael’s Lan­dau Prize for his achieve­ment in jazz. He was dis­cussed in a pa­per pre­sented at the con­fer­ence, Mu­sic and the Jewish World: Ex­pres­sion Across Real and Imag­i­nary Bound­aries. It was hosted by the Anne Ta­nen­baum Cen­tre for Jewish Stud­ies and U of T’s fac­ulty of mu­sic.

At the con­fer­ence, Lem­ish, a doc­toral can­di­date at U of T, spoke about Hoff­man in a pa­per he gave about “multi-lo­cal” mu­si­cians – mu­si­cians whose reper­toire stems from a di­verse set of mu­si­cal tra­di­tions.

Hoff­man’s mu­sic in­te­grates jazz, Israeli pop­u­lar mu­sic, Afro-cuban mu­sic and North African and clas­si­cal Arab mu­sic. Lem­ish said the reper­toire of multi-lo­cal mu­si­cians like Hoff­man con­tains within it a long­ing for a more in­clu­sive and plu­ral­is­tic world.

In Is­rael, Arab mu­sic has be­come the mu­sic of the “en­emy,” Hoff­man has said. Yet many Is­raelis are Jews from the Mideast, North Africa and Cen­tral Asia, who brought their mu­sic, “Arab” mu­sic, with them. It was re­pressed by the more “hege­monic Ashke­nazi es­tab­lish­ment, which sought a new He­brewist na­tional cul­ture that was rooted around east­ern and western Europe,” Lem­ish said. He added that Hoff­man’s mu­sic is an “au­dio-utopia that has im­pli­ca­tions in the po­lit­i­cal sphere of the Mid­dle East.

“While Is­rael con­tin­ues to be mired in con­flict with its neigh­bours, as a mu­si­cian, Hoff­man em­bod­ies a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of Jewish Ashke­nazi roots with a whole­hearted em­brace of Arab clas­si­cal mu­sic and cul­ture.”

Lem­ish’s pa­per was one of 10 pre­sented at the con­fer­ence by U of T schol­ars and vis­it­ing aca­demics. They gave pa­pers on a va­ri­ety of top­ics, in­clud­ing “Jewish Jazz and Jewish Iden­tity,” Soviet Yid­dish mu­sic, and the cre­ation of Israeli mu­sic.

Lily Hirsch, an in­de­pen­dent scholar at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, Bak­ers­field, pre­sented a pa­per on the Ger­man-born mu­si­col­o­gist An­neliese Lan­dau, who got her PHD from Ber­lin Univer­sity in 1930. Lan­dau’s lec­tures about mu­sic were on Ger­man ra­dio un­til 1933, when the Nazis forced broad­cast­ers to can­cel their con­tracts with Jews. She then moved her lec­tures to the Ber­lin Jewish Cul­ture League, an or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ated by and for Jews in ne­go­ti­a­tion with the Nazi regime, Hirsch said.

Lan­dau left Ger­many af­ter Kristall­nacht and wound up in New York City in 1940. At the time, mu­si­col­ogy in the United States had a “marked his­tory of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion,” Hirsch said. Lan­dau re­ceived re­jec­tion let­ters “in bulk,” from her ap­pli­ca­tions for em­ploy­ment to such in­sti­tu­tions as the East­man School of Mu­sic and Barnard Col­lege.

Lan­dau even­tu­ally found work at the West­side Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Los An­ge­les in 1944. There, in 1945, Lan­dau or­ga­nized Mu­si­cians in the Mak­ing, a se­ries of recitals fea­tur­ing young play­ers. The first per­former in the se­ries, which ran for two decades, was 15-year-old pi­anist An­dre Previn. Previn im­mi­grated to the United States with his fam­ily from Ger­many in 1939. Vi­o­list Myra Kesten­baum, pi­anist Daniel Pol­lock, vi­o­lin­ist Arnold Steinhardt and pi­anist Vic­tor Steinhardt are also alumni of the se­ries.

For a 1945 con­cert, un­re­lated to Lan­dau’s work at the JCC, she pro­grammed the mu­sic of Jewish com­posers and met with some of the émi­gré com­posers who lived in Los An­ge­les, among them Ernst Toch, Erich Wolf­gang Korn­gold and Arnold Schoen­berg. Her mu­si­cal mis­sion was in some ways di­vined by the “mu­sic sup­pressed dur­ing the Nazi era,” Hirsch said.

Amos Hoff­man

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