Klezmer: Music, History and Memory Lecture & Music at NYPL

Klezmer: Music, History and Memory: Aesthetic and Cultural Dimensions
published by Oxford University Press, Fall 2016

Lecture and Musical program
Thursday, December 22 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Mid-Manhattan Library, New York Public Library (NYPL)

455 5th Ave, New York, New York 10016

A lecture and musical program with Dr. Walter Zev Feldman (author, cimbal) and Deborah Strauss (violin)

This event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, and is generously sponsored by the Dorot Jewish Division in cooperation with Yiddish New York and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance.

From the NYPL announcement:

Emerging in 16th century Prague, the klezmer became a central cultural feature of the largest transnational Jewish community of modern times – the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Much of the musical and choreographic history of the Ashkenazim is embedded in the European klezmer repertoire, which functioned as a kind of non-verbal communal memory. The klezmorim ensured that their music would be mediate between the secular and the religious poles, and between the East and the West. In these musical choices they were unique among all other Jewish communities of modern times. While many klezmorim emigrated to the Americas, within decades many key patterns both of klezmer music and of Jewish dance changed fundamentally. The klezmer’s music became restricted to dance music and no longer featured display pieces or substantial improvisations. Dance itself lost the gestural and expressive qualities that had been its hallmark in Eastern Europe. In America the klezmer music of South East Europe came to predominate and within that mainly what is termed the “transitional” repertoire originating in Moldova, whose Jewish element was somewhat marginal. In particular the mediating role of klezmer music between secular and religious poles of Jewish culture collapsed. Thus to appreciate the klezmer music of Eastern Europe requires a knowledge of a variety of sources and an immersion in the Ashkenazic oral tradition of musical articulation.

Walter Zev Feldman is a leading researcher in both Ottoman and Jewish music. During the mid-1970s he and Andy Statman studied with Dave Tarras and were two of the creators of the klezmer revival; at that time Feldman reintroduced the cimbal (dulcimer) into klezmer music. Their 1979 recording Jewish Klezmer Music became a classic. He co-founded the Khevrisa ensemble with Steven Greenman—their CD European Klezmer Music was issued by Smithsonian-Folkways in 2000. His new book Klezmer: Music, History and Memory will be published by Oxford University Press this year. He is a teacher of Ashkenazic dance, and has taught both music and dance in Israel, Germany, USA, Canada and Abu Dhabi (UAE). He is currently a Visiting Professor of Music at NYU Abu Dhabi, Director of the Ansky Institute for Jewish Expressive Culture, and board member of the Corpus Musicae Ottomanicae at the WWU in Münster, Germany.

Deborah Strauss is an internationally acclaimed klezmer violinist and educator who has been active in klezmer and Yiddish music and in multigenerational Jewish education for over 30 years. She is a member of the Strauss/Warschauer Duo, the intercontinental groups Voices of Ashkenaz and Figelin and was a long-time member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Deborah was featured in the Emmy award-winning film Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House, appears in the film Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem and has performed with the Grammy awardwinning Klezmatics. She performs across North America, South America, Western and Eastern Europe and Israel, and leads workshops and classes annually at the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Yiddish Summer Weimar, Yiddish New York and KlezKanada. Deborah is also a highly regarded Yiddish dance leader and an award-winning Jewish children’s educator. She studied violin at Rutgers University and ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.