“A Prayer for Modernity: Cantor Abraham Baer (1834-1894) and the Jewish Reform Movement”

Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
1:45 p.m. – 3:05 p.m.
Hebrew Union College, Chapel
1 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10003
*Photo ID required for entry. Please RSVP to: info@jewishmusicforum.org
Associate Professor Anders Hammarlund, Center for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research

In 1877 Abraham Baer published his “Baal t’fillah oder der practische Vorbeter,” an epoch-making work in the history of Jewish liturgical music. Baer’s publication is considered the most comprehensive documentation of traditional, 19th-century European hazzanut. While his work is well known, astonishingly little has been published about Baer’s biography. My work sheds new light on the cantor’s early years in the German/Polish province Posen, and on his cultural environment in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he worked as cantor, shochet and mohel since 1857. I demonstrate that the very peculiar and specific cultural climate of the Swedish city considerably encouraged Baer in his strivings. His Baal t’fillah emerged in a fascinating interplay and exchange between Jewish, Swedish and German culture that characterized “the Gothenburg spirit”. In fact, Baer could be described as a pioneer of Swedish ethnomusicology.

Dr Anders Hammarlund is a Swedish ethnomusicologist and cultural historian. He has served as a music researcher and producer at Sveriges Radio (the Swedish public service broadcaster) and as a university professor in Uppsala, Stockholm, and Gothenburg. Currently Dr. Hammarlund serves as research archivist in charge of multicultural affairs at Music Development and Heritage Sweden (Statens musikverk), the government institution for the music scene in Sweden. At Statens musikverk, Dr. Hammarlund coordinates and supports collaborative projects of national interest as well as works to preserve, promote and make the cultural heritage within theatre, dance and music accessible.

Hammarlund’s research has focussed on topics of music and migration, cultural identity, and Jewish cultural history. From 2009 to 2011 he was in charge of the research project Gestaltung Identity Integration, which dealt with the life and work of the Jewish Cantor Abraham Baer (1834-1894).