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Jewish Music In American Culture

Decent Essays
Noah Anglin
Dr. Christopher Goertzen
MUS 165H
Paper 3
11 April 2016
Jewish Music in American Culture Since 1920 There is no other culture on planet Earth more oppressed throughout human history than the Jewish people. From their hardships in the Middle East recounted in the Torah and Bible to the infamous event known as the Holocaust, the suffering that the Jewish people have faced is incalculable. One of the few silver linings that forms through oppression is the strong expression of culture. Jewish culture has grown exponentially since 1900, and the events of the Holocaust brought the Jewish community as close as it was in the ancient times.
The time period between 1881 and 1948 saw the largest upheaval of Jewish populations in Europe. A
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Besides religious traditions, everything from art to food to music was made to mix with American society. Robert Gluck, a reporter and writer for the Jewish news service JNS, asserted that Jewish composers did not just perform American music, but that they were American music. Such composers as George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, and Irving Berlin helped to usher in the “dance craze” that proliferated the 1920s and 30s. One could surmise that without these early Jewish composers, the face of American music would have been changed…show more content…
Klezmer music, which was once mixed with other genres to avoid being shunned, became the sole musical genre played by new Jewish bands termed “neo-klezmer bands.” Neo-klezmer musicians took pride in their Jewish identity, and they asserted it in their music and everyday lives. However, most neo-klezmer musicians still believed in the ability of Jewish culture to integrate itself into American society. Thus, a sort of two-dimensional Jewish musical movement arose where one dimension asserted Jewish style with no influences and the other made Jewish style secondary to American style. This type of music continued to flourish into the 1990s, where musicians such as John Zorn spearheaded a new movement aimed at reaching Jewish youth facing discrimination. Zorn started a new record label, Tzadik Records, solely for Jewish musicians. Zorn compared Jewish suffering to the suffering of black Americans, going so far as to describe them as “brothers” and even adopt traditionally black mannerisms. His goal, he believed, was to proclaim the Jewish people as a minority and to subsequently motivate Jewish youth to enter a new age of pride in their
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