Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

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The scientific treatment of Jewish folksongs in the English
language has hardly been attempted. Thus far the most extensive
discussion of the subject appeared in Idelsohn’s works. Saminsky
treats certain aspects of Hassidic song, describing also his valuable
experiences in the actual gathering of material from Jewish com-
munities in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. To date, however,
there have been no ethnographic descriptions of modern Yiddish
folksong in English, with the exception perhaps of Leo Wiener’s
The History of Yiddish Literature in the 19th Century
(Chapter 5,
N. Y., Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899), and several articles by
the writer: “Jewish Folksongs,” (
, Toronto, Canada,
January 1945); “Yiddish Folksongs in New York City,” (
, Ithaca, N. Y., February 1946).
A number of interesting essays and articles on a variety of
aspects of Jewish music have been written by A. W. Binder of the
Jewish Institute of Religion. Some of these are: “Hanukkah in
Music” (.
, Phila., Jewish Publication Society, 1937);
“Some Jewish Contributions to the Art of Music” (
the Jewish Academy of Arts and Science, No. 3, 1937); “Sabbath
in Music” (
a Day of Delight,
Jewish Publication Society,
1945); “Jewish Music” (N. Y.,
Encyclopedia of the Arts
, 1946),
and many others.
A scholar who deals with the customs and mores of Jewish
music of the Renaissance period is Paul Nettl, whose papers
“Jewish Musicians in the 16th and 17th Centuries” and “Mu-
sicology and its Jewish Representatives” appeared in the
Music Forum Bulletins
of 1941 and 1943 respectively. In the
first paper, Nettl illuminates a period hitherto unknown, de-
scribing the Jewish orchestras of Bohemia in the 16th and 17th
centuries, emphasizing the significance of their music in the Ghetto
of Prague and its influence upon the Gentile population of the
city. In the second one, he begins with the Jewish-Arabian culture
of the Middle Ages, and discusses the contributions to the history
of Jewish music of such personalities as Isaac Israeli (died 932),
Abraham bar Higjah (died 1136), the Kabbalist Abraham ben
Yizhak of Granada (around 1400), Gersonides (Leo Hebraeus)
and his “ tractus harmonicus,” and others.
Another scholar, who has perhaps only indirectly contributed
to the English literature on Jewish music, is George Herzog,
anthropologist and Head of the Archives of Primitive Music at
Columbia University. In his paper “Anthropological Bases of
Jewish Music” (
Jewish Music Forum Bulletin
, 1943), he discusses
the absence of homogeneity within any group and conversely, the
extent of heterogeneity of the Jews. Herzog then touches upon
the stylistic unity of Jewish music through the ages, stressing the