Music Israeli Art Music
by
Ronit Seter
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0264

Introduction

Writings about music in Israel illuminate a wide range of topics, often exploring the politics of social identities: nationalism, folklorism, Orientalism, ethnicity, multiculturalism, East-West cultural borrowings and appropriations, representation, religion, and gender. Complementing the Oxford Bibliographies articles on “Jewish Music” and “Jews and Music” (by Edwin Seroussi and Judah Cohen, respectively, both of which focus mostly on ethnomusicological research into ethnic, liturgical, and popular musics in the Diaspora), this bibliography focuses primarily on Western art music by Israeli composers, yet it also examines selected writings on ethnic and popular musics that inform it. Most of the approximately forty notable immigrant composers who fled fascist Europe to British Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s—the founders of Israeli art music—aspired both to create local music and to continue their original styles from their native countries, mostly Germany, Russia, and Poland, or those they studied in France and elsewhere. As participants in the evolving Hebraic and Zionist culture, they believed that they should partake in the creation of a native, Hebrew musical style, informed by local Jewish ethnic sources that had arrived in Israel from the Mizraḥi Jewish Diaspora, often from Yemen, Iraq, or Morocco, or from those of the Palestinian Arabs. This ideology was passionately disseminated, argued, contested, and ultimately stamped as narrowly nationalistic. Beyond general and themed overviews, as well as reference works and other research tools, this bibliography focuses on the writings by and about the founders. It emphasizes those founders whose works were most widely performed and discussed, namely the Israeli Five: Paul Ben-Haim (b. 1897–d. 1984), Alexander Uriah Boskovich (b. 1907–d. 1964), Oedoen Partos (b. 1907– d. 1977), Josef Tal (b. 1910–d. 2008), and Mordecai Seter (b. 1916–d. 1994). It also examines composers who studied with the them and therefore considered themselves “second generation,” such as Yehezkel Braun (b. 1922–d. 2014) and Tzvi Avni (b. 1927); selected peers of the second cohort who immigrated to Israel in the late 1960s and the 1970s, notably Mark Kopytman (b. 1929–d. 2011) and André Hajdu (b. 1932–d. 2016); and a number of younger composers, including Betty Olivero (b. 1954). For the founders and many of their successors, the desire to create “Israeli” rather than “Jewish” music—either following common, essentialist stereotypes and signifiers, or creating neonationalist, Bartókian-, or Stravinskian-influenced local art—was paramount, whether or not they spoke or wrote about it explicitly. Yet others—and often the same composers at later stages in their lives—attempted to follow European and, more recently, American trends. While for many the word “Jewish” has often denoted Ashkenazi characteristics, “Israeli” entailed the use of Mizraḥi melodic and rhythmic elements; that is, elements from the musical traditions of the Jewish communities who fled to Israel from Arab countries and of the indigenous Palestinians. These formative, defining ideologies characterize the music of the founders but less so younger composers, who feel free to defy it. Still, Israeli compositions often receive local prizes and wider reception when they refer to local culture, folklore, identities, ethnicities, and politics. Acknowledgments: I am deeply grateful to my friends and colleagues who helped with their comments, most notably Yosef Goldenberg, Uri Golomb, and Ralph Locke, whose eagle-eyed comments over multiple iterations transformed this article. I am also indebted to Judith Cohen (Israel), Judit Frigyesi, Yoel Greenberg, Jehoash Hirshberg, Bonny Miller, Marina Ritzarev, Edwin Seroussi, Assaf Shelleg, and Laura Yust, who all took the time to read, encourage, and provide content and editing comments that helped polish this article. This large-scale project could not have been what it is without all of your contributions. Finally, this work was partly supported by an NEH Fellowship.

Scope, Borders, and Multiple Ethnic Populations

This article reflects the state of the past and current research—and, no less important, the lack of it—on Western art music and other selected kinds of music that have been and are being made in Israel; that is, it does not represent Israeli music in its totality, but rather a selection of its historiography. Several of the most distinguished composers, musicians, and performers are absent or underrepresented here simply because there is little or no significant musicological research about them. The selected writings on art music are detailed and specific, while those on popular and ethnic musics are general and useful as a springboard to research into these areas. Moreover, approximately 20 percent of the population in Israel (not counting the Palestinian Authority, i.e., Gaza and the West Bank) is non-Jewish, including Muslim and Christian Arabs and a small minority of immigrant workers from the Philippines, Nepal, India, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa, among others. Notable research about music-making in these communities is still in its initial stages. More research is available about Arab musicians and musics, such as music-making in mosques, churches, Druze villages, among the Bedouins, and their various liturgical, art, ethnic, and popular genres, some of which are discussed explicitly below or within writings for which a citation is provided. Both Hirshberg, et al. 2001 in Grove Music Online and The Middle East volume of the The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (2002) provide fundamental overviews of a variety of the most prominent musics in Israel.

  • Danielson, Virginia, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds, eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 6, The Middle East. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

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    Includes a sizable section on Israel (pp. 1011–1075), with an overview by Edwin Seroussi and essays on ethnic and popular musics in Israel. See also additional articles in the book’s other sections about music in Israel and Palestine: on liturgical Jewish music (199–206), Mediterranean popular music (261–268), and popular music of the intifada (635–640).

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash, Natan Shahar, Edwin Seroussi, and Amnon Shiloah. “Israel.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2001.

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    Edited by Jehoash Hirshberg, the selection of approximately one hundred entries relating to Israeli music in the 2001 print edition, and in Grove Music Online, consists mostly of art music composers. Other entries are devoted to popular music composers, some performers, conductors, musicologists, and cities. See list of entries under “Israel,” which is divided into sections on art music by Hirshberg, folk and popular by Nathan Shahar and Edwin Seroussi, and Arab music by Amnon Shiloah.

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General Overviews

Scholarship on Israeli art music has been slow to develop, not reflecting the growth from forty notable Jewish composers in British Palestine in the late 1930s to approximately three hundred during the late 2010s. The slow progress in scholarship probably derives from a sense of cultural inferiority. Israeli musicologists, especially those educated in Israel, have mostly opted to research other topics, more in tune with mainstream musicology in Western countries (as was perceived at different times, reflected, for example, in most issues of Israel Studies in Musicology and the first issues of its online sequel, Min-Ad). They likely feared falling into what was seen as a niche research area with little projected relevance to broader musicological fields. (That said, ethnomusicological scholarship on the oral traditions of the various Jewish and Arab communities in Israel has been considerably larger.) Another hindrance to the wealth of scholarship has been related to nationalism. Israel is often perceived as having been founded as a result of European fascism; therefore, soon after its establishment, some scholars refrained from writing about, and certainly not solely about, local composers, also for fear of being seen as nationalistic or provincialistic in their scholarship. When the first musicological works on local music did appear, however, their main theme was the elusive Israeli—as opposed to more generally Jewish—identity. The first notable survey of Israeli music is Max Brod’s Israel’s Music (1951), celebrating the third anniversary of the State of Israel and focusing on Western local composers, and later revised as Brod and Cohen 1976. The book was published in English and German (not Hebrew), as many of the musicians who propelled classical music in British Palestine during the 1930s came from Central Europe. Cohen 1990 (in Hebrew) revised and translated into Hebrew two chapters of the 1976 edition to introduce Cohen’s encyclopedic volume, consisting of biographical essays of about one hundred composers. Keren 1980 is a basic analytic survey with almost two hundred musical examples from Israeli compositions. Fleisher 1997 is the first significant set of long interviews with Israeli composers in English, representing common perceptions about the generational relationships among Israeli composers. The first social history of music in Jewish Palestine prior to 1948 is Hirshberg 1995. Hirshberg 1998 summarizes and expands upon Hirshberg 1995. Hirshberg wrote copiously on the subject, and was the first in the field to secure a major publishing house for his book. The first—and to date only —prominent survey of Israeli popular music is Regev and Seroussi 2004. A comprehensive article on Israeli art music and nationalism, and the first to appear in a notable musicological journal, is Seter 2014, analyzing hermeneutically ideological essays by Paul Ben-Haim, Mordecai Seter, and Josef Tal. Finally, a selective, interdisciplinary interpretations of Israeli art works as culture is Shelleg 2014, uncharacteristically decentering Ben-Haim, and replacing him with a focused study of Erich Walter Sternberg, Mordecai Seter, and Tzvi Avni.

  • Brod, Max, and Yehuda W. Cohen. Die Musik Israels. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1976.

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    First edition, Brod, Israel’s Music (Sefer Press, 1951). First notable survey of Israeli music, subtitled Revidierte Ausgabe mit einen zweiten Teil: Werden und Entwicklung der Musik in Israel von Yehuda Walter Cohen. Cohen’s part is available in Hebrew in Cohen 1990. Encyclopedic source about the prominent composers of the 1930s to the early 1970s, with beginning and ending texts about the (dis)connections with Jewish music, Mizraḥi ethnic sources, commonalities among composers’ styles and forms, and classical music institutions.

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  • Cohen, Yehuda W. Ne‘imei zmirot Israel: Musica u-musica’im be-Israel. Tel Aviv: Am-Oved, 1990.

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    Approximately one hundred short biographies of Israeli composers from the 1930s to the 1980s. One of the richest sources of information, almost always reliable, and some of it unavailable elsewhere. The introductory and concluding essays, revised from Brod and Cohen 1976, reflect common perceptions of the 1970s among composers and musicians. (English translation: “The heirs of the psalmist: Israel’s new music”).

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  • Fleisher, Robert. Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    First of its kind, comprising twenty interviews taken in 1986, an introductory survey, and three chapters on three generations of Israeli composers. Among the interviewed: Josef Tal, Haim Alexander, Abel Ehrlich, and Mordecai Seter of the founders; Ben-Zion Orgad and Tzvi Avni, self-identified as “the second generation”; and Arik Shapira, Tsippi Fleischer, Haim Permont, Yinam Leef, Betty Olivero, Ari Ben-Shabetai, and Oded Zehavi.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash. Music in the Jewish Community of Palestine 1880–1948: A Social History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    A history of the culture created by the European refugees who pioneered the classical music tradition—performers, composers, and audiences. On the synagogues of Jerusalem, which Idelsohn documented (1910s and 1920s); the Palestine Orchestra (known, after 1950, as the Israel Philharmonic); immigrant composers; East-West topos; Ashkenazi-Sephardi tensions; and the semiotics of Mizraḥi elements in Israeli compositions. Highly informative survey; much of the information about this period is otherwise available almost exclusively in archives.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash. “The Development of Music Performing Groups.” In The History of the Jewish Community in Eretz-Israel since 1882. Part 1, The Construction of Hebrew Culture in Eretz–Israel. Edited by Zohar Shavit, 263–341. Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1998.

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    Based on his research for Hirshberg 1995, this version is rich in additional information fit for readers with extensive knowledge of Hebrew culture. Additionally, three short chapters by Hirshberg in this volume survey Jewish music in Europe; setting the framework of musical life; and the concert societies, professional unions, and the struggle for survival (pp. 69–70, 99–104, and 411–414, respectively). In Hebrew.

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  • Keren, Zvi. Contemporary Israeli Music: Its Sources and Stylistic Development. Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1980.

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    Revealing ideologically, including more than one hundred pages of musical examples, a testimony of an era written by a jazz pianist and composer. Traces stylistic similarities and reflects composers’ attitudes. Based on a doctoral dissertation, the first written on Israeli art music (London University, 1961, updated to 1973). Taxonomic, about influences of Oriental music, cantillation, and folk music in Israel and the Diaspora.

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  • Regev, Motti, and Edwin Seroussi. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    Hebrew edition: Musica popularit ve-tarbut be-Israel (Raanana: Open University of Israel, 2013, including additional chapter on Israeli music in the 2000s). A comprehensive study of popular music in Israel; defines and discusses its three strands as folk songs or Shirei Eretz Yisrael; Israeli cosmopolitan rock; and ethnic-oriental musiqa mizraḥit. Additionally, covers Jewish religious and Arab popular musics—all constitute the Israeli soundscape, analyzed and explicated in this highly informed volume about Israeliness in music.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Israelism: Nationalism, Orientalism, and the Israeli Five.” Musical Quarterly 97.2 (2014): 238–308.

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    Introducing Israeli art music’s little-known impact on American music, this article suggests a theoretical framework of nationalism, folklorism, and Orientalism underpinning the music of the founders. It then delves into the hermeneutics of seminal essays, written in the 1950s and 1960s, on ideology by three of the Israeli Five: Paul Ben-Haim, Mordecai Seter, and Josef Tal.

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    A hermeneutic, highly interdisciplinary, cultural-studies work with a chapter (out of three and an epilogue) on the dialectics of Jewishness and Hebrewism in Idelsohn, Bloch, and Schoenberg. The narratives on Sternberg, Boskovich, Tal, Seter, and Avni are interjected with a wide cultural and historical interpretations, from the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars to Amichai, Buber, Oz, and Zach.

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General Overviews: Ethnic and Popular Musics

While the voluminous Oxford Music Bibliographies articles on “Jewish Music” and “Jews and Music” (by Edwin Seroussi and Judah Cohen, respectively) cover the rich literature of ethnic Jewish—and some Israeli—music, and while several of the following entries appear also in other sections, the books and articles in this section serve as a springboard for further research in the fields of ethnic and popular musics. The following, concise selection of writings encompasses a wide range of Israeli musics: ethnic, liturgical, popular, rock, art, and various hybrids. One of the first serious attempts to present a collection of articles about musics in Israel, with an emphasis on art music (hence not included in this section), is Bar-Am 1980 (cited under Anthologies, Collections). In comparison, Bohlman and Slobin 1986, a special issue of Asian Music, presents a wide variety of local music, from immigrant composers (written by Bohlman) to Moroccan Bakkashot (Seroussi). Therein, Gila Flam’s article on Bracha Zephira is perhaps the second notable scholarly work about the singer, following the chapter about her in Hirshberg 2010 (originally published in 1983, cited under Writings about Ben-Haim). Shiloah 1987–1988 is one of the first implicit attempts to change the common narrative about Mizraḥi music. Shiloah 1992 emphasized Mizraḥi Jewish traditions in an overview. The volume of The Garland Encyclopedia on The Middle East includes not only a sizable section on Israel (Seroussi, et al. 2002), but also additional articles in its other sections about music in Israel and Palestine. The first and only (through 2019) comprehensive scholarly work on popular music in Israel is Regev and Seroussi 2004 (Hebrew edition, 2013). Seroussi 2009 is a (arguably, the) comprehensive overview of the literature on Jewish music, mostly outside Israel, but directly pertaining to Jewish communities in Israel, too.

  • Bohlman, Philip V., and Mark Slobin, eds. Special Issue: Music in the Ethnic Communities of Israel. Asian Music 17.2 (Spring-Summer 1986).

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    On the coexistence of Jewish communities originating from divergent cultures. Introduction by Bohlman and Slobin; Bohlman on immigrant composers, 1933–1948; Jehoash Hirshberg on the Karaites; Edwin Seroussi on Moroccan Bakkashot; Bruno Nettl and Amnon Shiloah on Persian classical music; Uri Sharvit on religious music; and Gila Flam on Bracha Zephira (cf. Zephira 1978, cited under Arabic and/or Mizraḥi Art Music and Culture and Bracha Zephira).

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  • Regev, Motti, and Edwin Seroussi. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    The most comprehensive study to date on the theme. Defines three main branches of popular Israeli music as folk songs (Sherei Eretz Yisrael), cosmopolitan rock, and musiqa mizraḥit, which, with Jewish religious and Arab popular music, cover the local soundscape. The introduction is especially illuminating in its cultural-analytical concepts.

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  • Seroussi, Edwin. “Music: The ‘Jew’ of Jewish Studies.” Jewish Studies—Yearbook of the World Union of Jewish Studies 46 (2009): 3–84.

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    A detailed, critical overview of Jewish music research, including an extensive bibliography, and one of the most comprehensive writings in the field. Theoretical-hermeneutic introductions; sections on paradigms, folklore, institutions, musical binaries, genres, and canons. Offers the term “musicology of the Jewish” with brief and illuminating comments on Western art music.

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  • Seroussi, Edwin, Jehoash Hirshberg, Amnon Shiloah, et al. “Israel.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 6, The Middle East. Edited by Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds, 1011–1075. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

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    An overview by Seroussi and essays by Hirshberg, Amy Horowitz, Seroussi on Jewish Moroccan traditions, Uri Sharvit on Jewish Yemenite oral traditions, Shiloah on ethnomusicology, and Gila Flam on popular music. See also Seroussi on religious Jewish music, 199–206; Horowitz on Mediterranean popular music, 261–268; and Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg on popular music of the Intifada (1987–1990), 635–640.

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. “Revival and Renewal: Can Jewish Ethnic Tradition Survive the Melting Pot?” Musica Judaica 10.1 (1987–1988): 59–69.

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    A world-renowned scholar of the early theory of Arabic music, Shiloah uncovers soft-pedaled facets of Orientalism in popular and art music, without mentioning the term and before that subject became prominent in musicology. Cf. Shiloah 1993 (cited under Nationalism and Orientalism).

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. Jewish Musical Traditions. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992.

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    A general ethnomusicological work, with an emphasis on non-Ashkenazi traditions, and discussions of Jewish identity and national Israeli identity. The study of non-Ashkenazi, mostly Mizraḥi, musical heritage was paramount for many composers of both art and popular music.

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Reference Works

Grove Music Online is a paramount scholarly reference source for basic information on Israeli music. The “Israel” entry in the 1980 New Grove was the first substantial one on the theme, and the entries on Israeli composers were edited by William Elias, the chair (1961–1989) of Israel Music Institute (IMI, the national publishing house for art music), who was then considered among the most knowledgeable in the field. For the 2001 edition of the Grove, Stanley Sadie approached Jehoash Hirshberg (after he published the first, 1990 English edition of his book on Ben-Haim, Hirshberg 2010, cited under Writings about Ben-Haim), who edited approximately sixty entries on Israeli composers and a few dozen about performers, songwriters, and cities, updating and rewriting some originally by Elias. Hirshberg also wrote the Grove “Israel” entry with the collaboration of Nathan Shahar, Edwin Seroussi, and Amnon Shiloah. A sizable number of the Grove entries about Israeli art music composers were written by Hirshberg and Ronit Seter, who also contributed three about living women composers: Rachel Galinne, Betty Olivero, and Chaya Czernowin, the latter of which was revised for The Grove Dictionary of American Music. During the early 2000s, Hirshberg was also comissioned to write and edit entries on Israel for Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) which were often shorter than those in Grove. The section on Israel in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music is introduced and edited by Edwin Seroussi (see Seroussi 2002). During the first two decades of the 21st century, Seroussi, the chair of the Jewish Music Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, headed the project of creating a wide-ranging database about Jewish music, titled the Thesaurus of Jewish Music. Amnon Shiloah edited hundreds of entries on music and musicians in the 2007 Encyclopaedia Judaica. Zemereshet, online since 2008, is a grass-roots project, accompanied by musicologist Shay Burstyn, to collect, preserve, and disseminate electronically Jewish-Palestinian folk songs from the end of the 19th century to approximately 1948. Among the reference sources available only in print, Cohen 1990 is still a useful source of information for the founders and the second-generation composers. Tischler 2011 is one of the most reliable sources, other than the website of the Israel Music Institute, for lists of composers’ works. Each volume in the IMI Mini Biographies Series (Israel Music Institute) is devoted to a local art music composer; the series began in 1991 and continues to the present.

  • Cohen, Yehuda W. Ne‘imei zmirot Israel: Musica u-musica’im be-Israel. Tel Aviv: Am-Oved, 1990.

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    Contains approximately one hundred short biographies of Israeli art music composers, prominent in Palestine and Israel from the 1930s to the 1980s. One of the best sources for data and general information, some rarely found elsewhere and almost always reliable. The introductory and concluding essays reflect common perceptions of the 1970s among composers and musicians at the time. (English title: “The heirs of the psalmist: Israel’s new music”).

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  • Skolnik, Fred. Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2d ed. Jerusalem: Keter, 2007.

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    This 2007 Second Edition includes hundreds of entries on Jewish music, edited by Amnon Shiloah. See the multi-authored, 66-page essay on music (mostly similar to the 1971 edition), covering themes from biblical music and cantillation to a short survey of music in Israel. Cf. Shiloah 1992 and Seroussi 2009, both cited under General Overviews: Ethnic and Popular Musics.

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  • Grove Music Online/Oxford Music Online.

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    Jehoash Hirshberg edited and wrote, with other authors, approximately sixty entries on Israeli art music composers, in addition to a few popular music composers, performers, and other musicians. Among the Israeli composers, mostly from the founding and second gnerations, there are seven entries on Israeli women composers (four living by 2019). For comparative-reception research, see also Don Harrán, “Israel, Art Music,” in the 1980 New Grove, and cf. with Hirshberg in Bar-Am 1980 (cited under Anthologies, Collections).

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  • IMI Mini Biographies Series.

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    Israel Music Institute, Israel’s public-supported press for Israeli art music (founded in 1961), initiated in 1991 a series of (mostly) bilingual IMI News issues, mostly booklets and a short book (Boskovich), each devoted to an Israeli composer, and mostly edited by Paul Landau. They are not currently available online. Each includes a biographical sketch, an essay about the works, an extensive list of works, selected performances, discography, and bibliography. Among the composers represented: Mordecai Seter (1991, 1995), Yehezkel Braun (1993), Abel Ehrlich (1997), Menachem Wiesenberg (2003), Hanoch Jacoby (2003), Haim Permont (2003), Menahem Avidom (2006), Josef Bardanashvili (2006), Yinam Leef (2006), Tzvi Avni (2007), Ben-Zion Orgad (2007), Tsippi Fleischer (2009), and Alexander Boskovich (2016).

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  • Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG).

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    Somewhat similar, though shorter entries, compared to the Grove Music Online. Jehoash Hirshberg wrote on Israel and edited dozens of entries on Israeli composers, revised or written for the editions were published during the mid-2000s.

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  • Seroussi, Edwin, Jehoash Hirshberg, and Amnon Shiloah, et al. “Israel.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 6, The Middle East. Edited by Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds, 1011–1075. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

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    An overview by Seroussi and essays by Hirshberg on art music, Amy Horowitz on Mediterranean music, Seroussi on Jewish Moroccan traditions, Uri Sharvit on Jewish Yemenite oral traditions, Shiloah on ethnomusicology, and Gila Flam on popular music. See also Seroussi on religious Jewish music, 199–206; Horowitz on Mediterranean popular music, 261–68; and Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg on popular music of the Palestinian Intifada (1987–1990), 635–640.

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  • Thesaurus of Jewish Music.

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    The website of the Jewish Music Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem includes fully searchable biographical and article databases, which are consistently updated. Its holdings include research by a diverse body of scholars, mostly from Israel, Europe, and America, as well as entries on Israeli composers and musicians.

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  • Tischler, Alice. A Descriptive Bibliography of Art Music by Israeli Composers. Rev. ed. Sterling Heights, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 2011.

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    First edition published 1988. In the 2011 edition, Tischler covers about one hundred Israeli composers. She personally engaged many of them—and the Israel Music Institute (for the late composers)—and covered only composers residing in Israel (e.g., excluding Shulamit Ran, Jan Radzynski, and Chaya Czernowin, among others). For each composer she provides a factual biographical blurb and a selective list of compositions.

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  • Zemereshet.

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    A website dedicated mostly to old Hebrew songs in Palestine during the first half of the 20th century. Under the scholarly direction of Shai Burstyn (musicologist, early music) and operated by a group of music lovers, the website is impressive for its scope and organization (5,400 songs, 9,600 recordings by 2019). The tab “iyun nosaf” (further readings) leads to writings about the songs. See the 2008 Hebrew review by Yosef Goldenberg.

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Archives

The main music archives pertaining to local music—popular, ethnic, as well as art—are located at the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem; the Israel Music Institute Library, Tel Aviv; the Archive of Israeli Music at Tel Aviv University; and the music archives at the Felicja Blumental Music Center and Music Library, Tel Aviv. The libraries of the main music departments also include a small amount of valuable materials: the Department of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the Music Department at Bar-Ilan University; the library of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University; the library of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; and that of the Music Department at Haifa University. The archive of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra contains little information on local music, hence it is not listed below, but it might be useful for reception of orchestral Israeli works. The database of Itonut yehudit historit (Historical Jewish Press) also holds essays about musicians and concert reviews, valuable for reception studies.

Anthologies, Collections

Bar-Am 1968 and Bar-Am 1980 are among the first notable anthologies on local music. Benjamin Bar-Am was a music critic at the Jerusalem Post, a composer and lecturer, and a long-time secretary of the Israel Composers’ League. In this latter capacity, he edited the 1968 bilingual booklet with overviews on Israeli music, and the 1980 booklet for the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) World Music Days in Israel, both well edited and highly informative about a wide range of topics pertaining to Israeli art, popular, and ethnic musics. Zmora 1968, conference proceedings, includes transcriptions of discussions with composers and other musicians, and is highly valuable for its cultural and ideological assessment of the time. Michal Zmora was an editor and writer, and she served in several significant institutions and committees pertaining to the performance of Western art music in Israel. Bohlman and Slobin 1986 is far more academic than Zmora 1968, covering fewer topics, which are discussed in more depth. Hirshberg and Adler 1987 is merely a collection of facsimiles of source readings intended for an academic course, but since these materials were not readily available as they are today (Hirshberg used them, among others, for Hirshberg 1995, cited under General Overviews), it has been used by other scholars, too. The approximately 30–100-page booklets of the program notes of the annual Israeli Music Festival (Hag ha-musica ha-yisraelit (Israeli Music Festival)) also include valuable information for a study of the state of Israeli art-music making. Friling, et al. 2014 is a large, comprehensive collection of essays, interviews, and overviews, ranging in quality and content. The Avner Bahat website summarizes the lifetime of work of this prolific ethnomusicologist who studied with the founders, notably with Partos, and completed his PhD dissertation at the Sorbonne in 1975. It was the second notable dissertation devoted to Israeli art music (the first was that of Kerens, from 1961; see Keren 1980, cited under General Overviews). Bahat focuses on the ethnomusicological underpinnings of some of the works of the founders. He headed the music division of the Beit Hatfutsot museum for the last two decades of the 20th century, and his website includes recordings and complete books, such as the one on Partos.

  • Avner Bahat.

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    A website of the ethnomusicologist Bahat, who focuses on Yemenite music. Includes testimonies, his biographies, articles, books (some complete, including Bahat 2016, under Nationalism and Orientalism, and Bahat 1984, under Oedoen Partos), lectures on Yemenite melodies in art music (with an emphasis on Seter’s Midnight Vigil), a translation of a rare Boskovich article, recordings of songs by Sara Levi-Tanai in her voice, and broadcasts on Partos, Orgad, Seter, and Yemenite and Jewish musics.

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  • Bar-Am, Benjamin, ed. 20 shana ba-musica ha-Israelit: Kovetz ma’amarim ve-re’ayonot. Tel Aviv: League of Composers in Israel, 1968.

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    Hebrew and English editions, 64 and 96 pp., respectively. (English title: 20 Years in Israeli Music: Articles and Interviews.) Article on Israeli folk songs, general overviews by music critics Menashe Ravina and Olya Silberman, essays on local chamber music and on Israel Composers’ League (as the League is now called), and interviews with Tzvi Avni and other composers. Authentic, well-documented, selective coverage of art music at the time.

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  • Bar-Am, Benjamin, ed. Aspects of Music in Israel: A Series of Articles Published on the Occasion of the ISCM World Music Days—Israel, 1980. Tel Aviv: Israel Composers’ League, 1980.

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    One of the best collections of articles on local music published during that decade. Jehoash Hirshberg on the emergence of art music, Nathan Mishori (music critic) on the second generation, Uri Sharvit on Jewish traditions, Bathja Bayer on folk songs, and Amitai Ne’eman on popular music. See edited and translated versions of Hirshberg’s and Mishori’s texts, in Hebrew, in Golomb and Orgad 1984, cited under General Analyses.

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  • Bohlman, Philip V., and Mark Slobin, eds. Special Issue: Music in the Ethnic Communities of Israel. Asian Music 17.2 (Spring-Summer 1986).

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    Known as a unique place to study ethnomusicology, because of the coexistence of Jewish communities originating from divergent, international cultures, Israel became the focus of this issue. Introduction by Bohlman and Slobin. Articles by Bohlman on the immigrant composers; Jehoash Hirshberg on the Karaites; Edwin Seroussi on Moroccan Bakkashot; Bruno Nettl and Amnon Shiloah on Persian classical music; Uri Sharvit on religious music; and Gila Flam on Beracha Zephira (see Flam 1986, under Bracha Zephira).

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  • Friling, Tuvia, Gideon Katz, and Michael Wolpe, eds. Music in Israel: Iyunim bitkumat Israel 8. Jerusalem: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 2014.

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    Containing 1,049 pages, a historical introduction by Friling, and thirty-eight articles about Israeli rock, jazz, Hebrew songs (zemer ivri), Arabic/Mizraḥi musical traditions, art music (articles on Benno Bardi, Ben-Haim, Orgad, Kopytman, oratorio in the 1920s, and Bach in Israeli music), music and religion, music and culture, and an epilogue by composer Wolpe. Accessible writing, mainly for undergraduates, with some primary sources for scholars.

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  • Hag ha-musica ha-yisraelit (Israeli Music Festival).

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    An annual fall festival for orchestral and chamber local music founded in 1998; previously also titled Israeli Music Celebration. The first festival in 1998 published a ninety-page booklet, Yuvalim be-Israel (in Hebrew), comprising ten essays about Israeli Prize winners in art music composition since 1954, by Ronit Seter. The following festivals published extensive Hebrew (only) program notes with rich information by and about composers and musicians. Since 2006, published by IMI; 2009–2016, edited by Uri Golomb; then, by Ohad Gabay.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash, and Ayelet Adler, eds. Ideologia ve-leḥatzim ideologiyim be-ḥayyei ha-musica ba-yishuv bi-tkufat ha-mandat. Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1987.

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    This volume (Ideology and ideological pressures in the music life of the Yishuv during the Mandate period) is a collection of thirty-nine facsimile source readings consisting of concert reviews and newspaper essays by critics (Ravina, Swet, Rosolio, Gorali, Ezrahi) and composers (Sternberg, Salomon, Weinberg), between the 1920s and the 1940s. Used by Hirshberg at the Hebrew University during the late 1980s and 1990s as a source-reading collection for his Israeli music course.

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  • Zmora [Smoira-Cohn] Michal. Yesodot mizraḥiyim u-ma‘araviyim ba-musica be-yisrael. Tel Aviv: Israel Music Institute, 1968.

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    Proceedings of a conference (Eastern [Mizraḥi] and Western Elements in Israeli Music) held in Zichron Yaakov in April 1962. Lectures and discussions by composers, musicologists, critics, and teachers, among them Gerson Kiwi, Bathja Bayer, Menashe Ravina, Orgad, Tal, Seter, Boskovich, and Ovadia Tuvia. Details about two concerts. Lively, rare, and significant ideological document from that time.

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Journals

Since 1955, the prominent journals focusing partly or mostly on local music included Bat Kol, Tatzlil, Yuval, Israel Studies in Musicology, Music and Dance in Time, Musica, IMI News, Oznaim, Tav+, Pe’imot, Yuval Online, and Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online. While the division into General Journals and Scholarly Journals could be seen as arbitrary—“general” periodicals often include scholarly information and some analysis or interesting insights, and hence are sometimes even more valuable than those categorized as scholarly—these division helps delineate them.

General Journals

The only notable local periodical before the 1955 Bat Kol was the 1938 trilingual Musica Hebraica, in Hebrew, German, and English, which did not survive the beginning of World War II. It took almost two decades—following the Holocaust, then Israel’s Independence War in 1948–1949, and then the tumultuous period of early 1950s—for a noteworthy journal to emerge in 1955, Bat Kol (literally “Voice,” using an ancient Hebrew idiom). It was edited by Michal Roehr (later Michal Smoira-Cohn [sometimes spelled Zmora-Cohn]; for the second series, prominent musicologist Herzl Shmueli joined her as a co-editor. Across two nonconsecutive years and seven issues, in Hebrew with an abridged English version, Bat Kol covered art and ethnic local music and musicians, written by both leading musicians and scholars. Musica of the late 1980s was a monthly magazine, edited by controversial music critic Hanoch Ron; it contained essays by and interviews of composers. The little-known Iyunim ba-musica (1973–1982), a newsletter of the Israel Composers’ League, included valuable information, memoirs, essays, and interviews by composers. Music and Dance in Time (1983–), the periodical of the Jerusalem Academy of Music (now the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), was founded and edited by composer Tzvi Avni, who also contributed his writings to several of the issues. Gitit was the Israeli magazine of the local Jeunesses Musicales, edited by Avni for more than a decade around the 1980s; it included information and short essays about composers and their works. Opus of the early 1990s was a music teachers’ periodical and contained also short essays by composers; also in Hebrew, current and unrelated, Opus Magazine online (2014–) by and about performers of classical music (all three, Gitit, and the two unrelated Opus publications, are perhaps not significant enough to justify separate entries below, but they include testimonies of classical music life during their respective times). IMI News (1990–2009), founded and edited by Paul Landau, was the periodical of the major publishing house of art music in Israel, the Israel Music Institute. A reliable source of information about composers, it included short biographies, lists of works, and a few general surveys. Oznaim la-musica (literally “Ears,” 1999–2001) was initiated to fill the lacuna of journalistic writings on music, with some emphasis on local music. Some of the six volumes include articles on art music. Tav+ (2003–2010) was founded by writer Bat-Sheva Shapira as a semi-academic journal focusing on local art, letters, and music. Embracing polemics on Israeli music and issued with CDs of avant-garde local music, Tav+ was well respected at the time, and contained a few academic works side by side with poetry and prose.

  • Bat Kol. 1955–1961.

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    Michal Roehr edited four issues, from 1955 to 1956; Roehr (later, Zmora-Cohn) and Herzl Shmueli edited three issues, in 1960–1961. The first notable journal on music in Israel, with English abstracts within the first series and English abridged parallel issues of the second. Musicological, ethnomusicological, and bibliographical articles by leading musicologists and composers reflected the national musical scene, including by Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Partos, Tal, Seter, Bertini, and Raduan.

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  • IMI News. 1990–2009.

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    Published by the Israel Music Institute. Currently not available online. English and Hebrew editions, edited by Paul Landau. One to four issues per year, approximately 15–25 double-column pages each. Additional editors: Yuval Shaked, Igal Myrtenbaum, Bat-Sheva Shapira, and Uri Golomb. Contains invaluable articles and information on and by Israeli composers, publications, performances, and recordings.

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  • Iyunim ba-musica: ḥaverim kotvim.

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    The newsletter of the League of Composers in Israel (today, Israel Composers’ League), 1973–1982, 15 issues, in Hebrew, not available online. Edited by Benjamin Bar-Am. See essays by and about Yedidyah Admon, Haim Alexander, Benjamin Bar-Am, Boskovich, Ehrlich, Artur Gelbrun, Gilboa, Hajdu, Maayani, Orgad, Leon Schidlowsky, Stutschewsky, and Tal, as well as information about performances and recordings. The 1982 issue is a booklet, containing the proceeding of a 1981 conference on performance of Israeli music.

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  • Music and Dance in Time/Itim le-musica u-maḥol.

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    A bilingual publication (English and Hebrew issues) of the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music and Dance, Israel (now, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance). Founded in 1983 as Music in Time and edited through the 1990s by Tzvi Avni, later by Michal Smoira-Cohn [Zmora-Cohn], and then by Ron Regev. Wide array of articles about and by Israeli composers and musicians, including several by Avni, Tal, Haim Alexander, Michael Wolpe, and Menachem Zur. Online since 2012.

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  • Musica.

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    Published in Tel Aviv, 1987–1989, edited by Hanoch Ron. Monthly music magazine in Hebrew, with twenty-seven issues on classical music in general (Schubert, Mahler, Cage, Bernstein) and on Israeli music, including composers and performers Sasha Argov, Matti Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, André Hajdu on Mahler, Yossi Mar-Chaim, Ami Maayani, Avihu Medinah, Betty Olivero, Arie Shapira, Naomi Shemer, Noam Sheriff, Dan Yuhas, Oded Zehavi on Crumb, and Mordechai Zeira.

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  • Musica Hebraica.

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    Edited by Hermann Swet and subtitled “Founded by the World Centre for Jewish Music in Palestine,” the one issue of 1938 (Vol. 1–2) is a valuable scholarly testimony of music life in Palestine prior to 1948. (Publication was discontinued once the war began.) Proud of writers from major cities around the Western world, this trilingual issue (Hebrew, English, and German for most essays) holds articles on Jewish music, Hebrew harmony, Bloch, and Erich Walter Sternberg on his The Twelve Tribes of Israel (1938).

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  • Oznaim la-musica.

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    Elisheva Rigbi was the first editor (six issues) of Oznaim (literally, “Ears,” 1999–2001), a publication of journalistic writings. Unsurprisingly, the first article in Volume 1 discusses the rise and fall of the idea of Israeli music by Oded Assaf. A 2000 issue is more scholarly, focusing on music cognition, setting Hebrew to music, and Israeli opera; the last issue, from 2001, was published during the Hag ha-musica ha-yisraelit (Israeli Music Festival) (formerly, Israeli Music Celebration) and includes contributions on Jewish liturgy, Arab music, and the integration of ethnic music in art music.

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  • Tav+: musica, omanuyot, ḥevra.

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    Edited by Bat-Sheva Shapira, from 2003 to 2010, covering fourteen volumes (English: “Note+, music, arts, society”). Including CDs of avant-garde/experimental music with pieces by Arie (Arik) Shapira. Focuses on Israeli experimental music. General-public essays, few academic articles, prose, poetry and photography. Prose by the editor and articles by composers Fleischer, Kadima, Shapira, Seroussi, Shaked, Wolpe; composers-essayists Peles and Assaf; and musicologists Goldenberg, Maury, Seter, Shelleg, and Wagner. On Israeli music, see esp. Volumes 9, 10, 12, and 13.

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Scholarly Journals

In 1960 Moshe Gorali (Hebraicized from Bronzaft) founded the annual Tatzlil (an eloquent Hebrew term for a chord, not a term used among musicians) for music research and bibliography—the first of its kind in Israel—which, unlike most Israeli musical periodicals, lasted consistently for two decades until 1980, covering mostly Jewish and Israeli music. Yuval—Studies of the Jewish Music Research Centre, a periodical of the Jewish Music Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was founded by Israel Adler in 1968 and focuses on ethnic music. The year 1978 saw the first issue of Israel Studies in Musicology, a peer-reviewed publication of the Israel Musicological Society, which in turn was founded in 1967, headed by Israel Adler, Hanoch Avenary, and Judith Cohen; it consisted of sixty-five musicologists and ethnomusicologists, music critics, composers, performers, music teachers, and several international corresponding members (it followed a smaller group of musicologists founded in 1956 by Shlomo Hofman). Israel Studies in Musicology was published in English from its first issue to reach wider audiences, and in 1999 transformed into Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online, still mostly in English and edited by Adina Portowitz. It is the leading musicological journal in Israel. Min-Ad gradually became rich with contents on local music, and also open to a few Hebrew submissions. Most of its early issues contain little on local music, because serious musicology as seen at the time did not show much interest in local music (just as the study of American music within American departments of musicology reached prominence only around the 1970s). Similarly, Orbis Musicae (1980s and 1990s), not listed below and published by the Department of Musicology at Tel Aviv University, also held only a marginal part of its content on local music. Pe’imot: Journal of Music and Culture (literally, “Beats,” founded by the literary scholar Shoshana Zeevi, 2010–) is currently (2019) the only highly reputable music periodical in Hebrew; since 2016 it has been peer-reviewed. Published approximately once in three years, Pe’imot attracts good musicology, and its 2016 issue was devoted to Israeli art music.

Art Music: Themed Overviews

Israeli music somtimes constitutes a section of a general study about Jewish music, and sometimes the discussion is specifically themed. Perhaps the first musicologist to pen a chapter on Israeli music in a notable book about Western contemporary music was Alexander Ringer, who, during the mid-1960s, helped initiate local musicological academic programs and was impressed by the high level of local composition (see Ringer 1965). Philip Bohlman chose to conduct one of his earliest researches in Jerusalem in the early 1980s, and published it in the second of his many books, an ethnomusicological study of an Ashkenazi (not Mizraḥi) community of European refugees and their approach to composition as exiles (Bohlman 1989). His focus on Central European Jews—those who created the foundation of classical music in British Palestine in the late 1930s—and not other Ashkenazi communities, was especially notable. Two decades later, in Bohlman 2008, he crystallized, revised, and incorporated this study into a general book about Jewish music, covering five hundred years of modern Jewish music. That he still found it significant to thread the story of some of the founders of Israeli music into a narrative on Jewish music, ethnic or not, is telling. Peter Gradenwitz, a publisher and musicologist, completed an ambitious project, a historical survey of Jewish music (Gradenwitz 1996). His chapter on Israeli composers is highly knowledgeable and mostly accurate, with little hermeneutics. Robert Fleisher, who interviewed twenty Israeli composers for Fleisher 1997 (cited under General Overviews), revised its general introduction and published a survey based on these interviews, framing the narratives he heard from composers and musicians into the well-rooted conception of the dynamics of influences among the three generations of Israeli composers (Fleisher 2000). In Rubin and Baron 2006 one can find a brief, encyclopedic view of Israeli art music, which reflects views from abroad. Youngerman 2009 studies the Jewish-German composers and the influence that their forced emigration to the United States and Palestine/Israel had on their identity, ideology, and, consequently, their music. Bahat 2011 is a culmination of the author’s knowledge about Jewish music as the chair (1981–2000) of the music division of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum (The Museum of Jewish People). His knowledge of the founders (he studied with Partos and knew many of the rest) informs the chapter on Israeli art music. Shelleg 2012 attempts to dispell what Shelleg considers the myth of the generational taxonomy of Israeli composers (explicitly discussed in Fleisher 1997, cited under General Overviews; Seter 2004, under Nationalism and Orientalism; and Seter 2014, under General Overviews), offering a historical one and utilizing Parakilas’s auto-exoticism idea instead. Hirshberg 2015 summarizes the author’s work in the field, from Hirshberg in Bar-Am 1980 (cited under Anthologies, Collections) to several variations of Hirshberg 2005 (cited under Nationalism and Orientalism). It is both a concise introduction and a potential springboard for detailed, possibly controversial, further research.

  • Bahat, Avner. Musica yehudit: Sha‘ar le-otzroteha ule-yotzreha. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2011.

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    Encyclopedic, 500-page, 24-chapter volume (Jewish music: Introduction to its treasures and creators), holds five survey chapters on musical institutions, Israeli songs, ‘edot (communities) and their musical traditions, and art music. Especially knowledgeable in the discussions about the founders’ borrowings from Yemenite and other Mizraḥi traditions.

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  • Bohlman, Philip V. “The Land Where Two Streams Flow”: Music in the German-Jewish Community of Israel. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

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    An original, sociohistorical approach to ethnomusicological study of an Ashkenazi (not Sephardi or Mizraḥi) community, mostly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, written by an outsider. Bohlman analyzes the impact of the World Centre for Jewish Music in Palestine (1936–1940), the emerging nationalism in folk music, and the German-Jewish immigrant composers’ and musicians’ struggle to compose and perform genuine local culture through East-West syntheses.

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  • Bohlman, Philip. “Paths toward Utopia.” In Jewish Music and Modernity. By Philip Bohlman, 126–143. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    While the whole book is rich in theoretical and analytical insights about Jewish music, specifically applicable to the study of Israeli music, this chapter looks at the music in the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in British Palestine, i.e., looking at the same period explored in Hirshberg 1995, cited under General Overviews) and the utopian (and dystopian) themes and imagery in the music of its pioneers.

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  • Fleisher, Robert. “Three Generations of Israeli Music.” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 18.4 (Summer 2000): 102–126.

    DOI: 10.1353/sho.2000.0016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A revised version of the introduction of Fleisher 1997 (cited under General Overviews). Based on an ethnomusicological approach to documenting art-music composers’ testimonies, this article (and the corresponding book chapters) examines their views about their own histories, including the ideologies of the founders and the dialectic attitude of the composers who self-identified as the “second generation” of Israeli composers.

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  • Gradenwitz, Peter. The Music of Israel: From the Biblical Era to Modern Times. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1996.

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    Revised edition of Gradenwitz’s The Music of Israel: Its Rise and Growth Through 5000 Years (New York: Norton, 1949). Forward by Leonard Bernstein and Introduction by Yehudi Menuhin. Rich in sweeping generalizations and Orientalistic clichés. An overview of Jewish music from ancient instruments through Rossi, Mahler, and Schoenberg, to its last quarter about Israeli art music—yet surveyed by a highly knowledgeable author, who was also the head of the firm Israeli Music Publications.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash. “Art Music in the Yishuv and in Israel.” In The Cambridge Companion to Jewish Music. Edited by Joshua S. Walden, 228–243. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCO9781139151214.016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Effectively summarizes his book Hirshberg 1995 (cited under General Overviews) and article Hirshberg 2005 (under Nationalism and Orientalism), with several new insights. Informative, survey-style narrative, covers approximately one hundred years of Israeli music, c. 1910–2010. Looks at the impact of the German Aliyah (wave of immigration) of the 1930s, represented by Ben-Haim. Discusses a taxonomy of styles: the collective-national, popular-national, individual-national, and cosmopolitan. East-West tensions, second generation, and music since 1970 also discussed.

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  • Ringer, Alexander L. “Musical Composition in Modern Israel.” In Contemporary Music in Europe: A Comprehensive Survey. Edited by Paul Henry Lang and Nathan Broder, 282–297. New York: Norton, 1965.

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    Written by an outsider who visited Israel for extended periods during the early 1960s, Ringer’s survey is representative of its time. Focuses on Zionist ideology and especially on the secular-cultural attitude of the pioneers. The short introduction is followed by a somewhat more detailed focus on Ben-Haim, Partos, Boskovich, Tal, Seter, Ehrlich, and Orgad, and smaller sections on Sadai, Natra, and Habib Touma.

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  • Rubin, Emanuel, and John H. Baron. Music in Jewish History and Culture. Sterling Heights, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 2006.

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    The last two chapters (of fifteen) of this overarching survey discuss music in the Yishuv in Palestine and in Modern Israel. Unlike the solid chapters on music in the Bible, cantillation, and music in synagogues, the last chapters offer information that is sometimes inaccurate, marred by cultural stereotypes, and lacking in perspective. Useful as a basic overview and as a description of how music in Israel has been viewed by some observers from outside of Israel.

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. “Israeli Art Music: A Reintroduction.” Israel Studies 17.3 (Fall 2012): 119–149.

    DOI: 10.2979/israelstudies.17.3.119Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Notes the minor place of contemporary Israeli music in local culture, and attempts to analyze essentialist and positivistic attitudes regarding the music of the 1930s to the 1970s. Discusses Mediterraneanism and auto-exoticism (a kernel also in Shelleg 2014, under General Overviews), the dilution of nationalism, and music after 1967. Controversial.

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  • Youngerman, Irit. “Immigration, Identity, and Change: Émigré Composers of the Nazi Period and Their Perceptions of Stylistic Transformation in Their Creative Work.” Naharaim 3 (2009): 117–134.

    DOI: 10.1515/naha.2009.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on research for Youngerman’s 2013 dissertation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem about the German-born Israeli composers, this study intriguingly compares the experiences and ideologies (and their influences on the music) of composers who immigrated to the United States with those who immigrated to Palestine/Israel. On Krenek, Schoenberg, Miklos Rozsa, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Lavry, Stutschewsky, Ben-Haim, Wolpe, and Boskovich, among others.

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Ethnic and Popular Musics: Themed Overviews

Themed overviews on ethnic and popular musics reveal the wide range of local musics. Bohlman 1994 is significant for its unprecedented, original introduction on early nationalism through songs, before statehood. Wagner 2005 is a prosodic analysis of Sasha Argov’s songs, often considered among the best popular songs written in Israel. Eliram 2006 presents a detailed theoretical and cultural study of shirei eretz-yisrael, or the songs of the Land of Israel. Brinner 2009 is the first in-depth study of the local Palestinian-Israeli musical collaborations (all far less known than Said and Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra). Assaf 2012 explores the unique yet common Israeli phenomenon of setting high poetry to popular songs. Goldenberg 2013 is a thorough analytical discussion of the estranged quotation in songs, including in a cover of “Hatikvah.”

  • Assaf, Oded. Ha-musica lifnei ha-kol: Al shirat meshorerim ve-halḥanata. Tel Aviv: Sal tarbot artzi, 2012.

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    An innovative study of text and music, written by a composer and prolific journalist, discussing canonic Israeli poetry set to popular songs (English title: “Music first: On poetry and music”). Gracefully written, intended for high school students but insightful for scholars, too. Notes on methodology, Alexander Argov, Nathan Alterman, Moshe Vilensky, Leah Goldberg, Rachel [Bluwstein], Naomi Shemer, and Schubert’s Lieder. See Naphtali Wagner’s Hebrew review in Min-Ad 2013.

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  • Bohlman, Philp V. “Afterword: Shireh ‘Am, Shireh Medinah [sic].” In Israeli Folk Music: Songs of the Early Pioneers. Edited by Hans Nathan. Madison, WI: A-R Editions, 1994.

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    A short afterword yet seminal contribution to the critical theory of nationalism in Jewish-Palestinian folk music of the Zionist pioneers pre-statehood; one of the first studies of its kind.

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  • Brinner, Benjamin. Playing across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395945.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigating musical hybridity, a concept new to ethnomusicological research, Brinner looks at Arab and Jewish-Arab musicians in Israel, focusing on music and politics. His case studies portray collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian performers: those led by Taiseer Elias and Yair Dalal, and within the ethnic bands Alei Hazait and Bustan Abraham.

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  • Eliram, Talila. “Bo shir ‘ivri”: Shirei eretz yisrael—hebetim musicaliyim ve-ḥevratiyim. Jerusalem: Keter, 2006.

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    Based on interviews with composers and poets, and accessible for undergraduates with a theoretical-analytical chapter (Translates as “‘Come, thou Hebrew song’: The songs of the Land of Israel—musical and social aspects”). Chapters on definitions of the genre (cf. Regev and Seroussi 2004, cited under General Overviews) and style, melodic and rhythmic characteristics, functional and social traits, East-West considerations, and cultural functions.

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  • Goldenberg, Yosef. “The Estranged Quotation in Israeli Popular Music.” Popular Music 32.3 (2013): 497–519.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143013000330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough discussion of nostalgic, critical, contrasting, or satirical musical quotations (estranging them from their original context) from early national(istic) songs, implanted in Israeli rock songs, especially during the 1970s. Rich with musical examples, among them the national anthem, “Hatikvah,” performed as a heavy metal song.

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  • Wagner, Naphtali. Et ha-melel, et ha-laḥan, ve-et mah she-beineihem: Mishkal poeti u-musicali be-shirei Sasha Argov. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2005.

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    Intricate musical-poetic analysis of a selection of songs by Sasha [Alexander] Argov, often considered the foremost among composers of popular songs during the 1940s through the 1960s, considered classics today with many covers. Includes prosodic analyses of the texts, written by well-known poets such as Haim Hefer, Ayin Hillel, Nathan Alterman, and others. (English title: “Sasha Argov: Prosody transforms into music.”)

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Arabic and/or Mizraḥi Art Music and Culture

As much as local Arabic art music and its understanding are crucial to the field, notable scholarly texts are few. Zephira 1978, a short introduction to a book of transcriptions of ornate, art-ethnic songs, is still one of the few brave testimonies about the (Zionist) East-West synthesis idea of the founders, written by an ardent, central participant in the process—and uniquely so, from the Mizraḥi, or culturally Jewish-Arab, side. The introductory sections of the book, including the one on Zephira’s collaborations with Ben-Haim and other composers, explain her conclusion that a true integration or synthesis between the Mizraḥi and Ashkenazi/Western elements, both cultural and societal, never really materialized, despite their best attempts, and as a sharp opposition to the assessment of her peers. Warkow 1986 studies the Jewish instrumentalists of Muslim Baghdadi society. While seen as outsiders or second-class citizens by Muslim Arab elite, they still constituted the majority among the best Iraqi musicians in the world until the early 1950s, when most of the Jewish community fled to Israel and the United Kingdom. They revived their art in Israel during the 1960s—making a later impact also in London, where they were invited to perform for the Iraqi-Jewish community, and back in Iraq (which, around 1950, lost many of its best musicians), where the music was also broadcast. Shiloah 2003 focuses on one of the most prominent Mizraḥi musicians in Israel, Ezra Aharon (1903–1995), whose written reception locally was limited, or rather oppressed, as a Jewish-Arab (Mizraḥi) performer who functioned within predominantly Ashkenazi, Western-oriented cultural institutions. Aharon was renowned among the musicians in the famous 1932 Cairo Congress of Arab Music, attended also by Bartók, Hindemith, and Robert Lachmann, who noted his music. During his last sixty years in Palestine and Israel, Aharon performed, composed, and led bands and orchestras. Brinner 2009 is the first in-depth study of the rather common phenomenon of local Palestinian-Israeli musical collaborations between musicians well versed in both Arabic and Western art music. Beckles Willson 2013, which portrays the performance of Western art music in Arabic communities in Palestine since 1840 and implies sharp criticism of Hirshberg 1995 (cited under General Overviews), for Hirshberg’s Zionist approach, presents a no less one-sided view (explicitly and intentionally so) of Western music during a somewhat similar period, with additional chapters on events since 1987. Wasserman 2014 is one of the rare surveys on Arab/Mizraḥi art music practitioners and institutions, written by a sociologist and based on a 2013 Tel Aviv University PhD dissertation.

  • Beckles Willson, Rachel. Orientalism and Musical Mission: Palestine and the West. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139567831Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A post-Said cultural-theoretical analysis of archival sources of various institutions (governments, churches, schools, and radio stations) and interviews. It draws a postcolonial narrative about teaching Western classical music (“elevating” local culture) in Palestine from the late Ottoman and British Mandate regimes to the present, which in turn potentially sheds light on histories of Western music in Israel. See also Benjamin Brinner’s review.

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  • Brinner, Benjamin. Playing across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395945.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focusing on music and politics, the case studies portray collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian performers; the musicians appeal both to a general audience and to other musicians who appreciate Mizraḥi music. Brinner studies groups led by Taiseer Elias and Yair Dalal, known for their roots in Arabic art music, and the ethnic bands Alei Hazait (short-lived) and Bustan Abraham.

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. “Ezra Aharon ve-‘hazemer ha-‘ivri ha-mizraḥi’ bi-tekufat ha-yishuv.” In Yerushalayim bi-tekufat ha-mandat: ha-‘asiyah ve-ha-moreshet. Edited by Yehoshua Ben-Arie, 450–472. Jerusalem: Mishkenot Shaananim, Yad Ben-Zvi, 2003.

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    A general retrospective on Aharon, this chapter (Ezra Aharon and the Mizraḥi-Hebrew song during the Yishuv time) includes biographical details, his participation in the 1932 Cairo congress with his band, Chalgi Baghdad, his move to Jerusalem in 1934 and the culture shock, the local leaders who supported him, the reception, his music and stylistic features, and his archival material, brought by Shiloah to the National Library of Israel.

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  • Warkow, Esther. “Revitalization of Iraqi-Jewish Instrumental Traditions in Israel: The Persistent Centrality of an Outsider Tradition.” Asian Music 17.2 (Spring/Summer 1986): 9–31.

    DOI: 10.2307/833896Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Still one of the most thorough, groundbreaking studies on the theme, exhibiting extensive field study and politically sensitive analysis of the data. Based on Warkow’s dissertation, directed by Shiloah. Discussion of Ezra Aharon (cf. Shiloah 2003), who brought the Jewish-Iraqi tradition to Palestine in 1934, and the revival of Jewish-Iraqi maqam in Israel in the 1960s through the 1980s.

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  • Wasserman, Simona. “Ḥadshanut musicalit u-misud bi-sde ha-musica ha-mizraḥit ha-omanutit be-yisrael.” In Music in Israel: Iyunim bitkumat Israel 8. Edited by Tuvia Friling, Gideon Katz, and Michael Wolpe, 432–471. Sde Boker and Jerusalem: Ben-Gurion Research Institute, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 2014.

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    Inspired by Bourdieu, focuses on Palestinian and Israeli performers of Arab/Mizraḥi art music who play the oud, their path to cultural dominance, their distinctive styles, and the piyyut tradition, creating a non-essentialist identity, which is “becoming, not being.” Sections on world, academic, and Arabic musics. (English title: “Oriental art music in Israel: Innovation and institutionalization.”)

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  • Zephira, Bracha. “Shituf ‘avodah ‘im malḥinim.” In Kolot rabim. By Bracha Zephira, 21–26. Ramat-Gan, Israel: Massada, 1978.

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    In this introductory short essay (Collaboration with composers)—in a book holding over a hundred transcriptions of Yemenite, Sephardi, other Mizraḥi, Arab, and Eretz-Israeli ethnic tunes, including Zephira’s own songs—Zephira’s critical view, unparalleled at the time, sheds light on the local creation of Western art music based on Jewish-Arabic or Mizraḥi tunes, maqamat, and rhythms.

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Nationalism and Orientalism

A significant number of the general overviews on Israeli music deal specifically with the politics of identities, and especially nationalism, which are often expressed through such terms as Orientalism, folklorism, borrowings, and representation. Notwithstanding this, until the early 1990s, no notable musicologist who published on local art music studied critically the theme of Orientalism in Israeli music. Conventional wisdom has held that Orientalism and exoticism were problems of European composers but not of Israelis, who live in a place where about 50 percent of the population consists of either Arabs or Mizraḥi Jews, who originated from Arab cultures. Unlike local sociologists, musicians held an often false perception that non-European Jews experienced little discrimination, and that most European exiles or European-educated composers embraced Mizraḥi culture as their own. Interviews with Israeli composers (see General Overviews and Interviews with Composers) are ripe with similar statements. Amnon Shiloah (b. 1928–d. 2014), an ethnomusicologist, Mizraḥi in origin, was one of the first to argue (in 1993) that some of the naïve East-West syntheses in Israeli art music were actually expressions of the old European Orientalism, common in the 19th century. This argument had little impact on Israeli scholarlship until Seter 2004 analyzed ideologies of nationalism, Orientalism, and folklorism in Jewish Israeli art music from the late 1930s to the early 2000s. Hirshberg 2005, arguably an implicit rebuttal, was also published elsewhere in variations or sections and in multiple venues (see the appendix of Seter 2011, under Writings about Ben-Haim). Goldenberg 2009 is a scholarly work on Israeli nationalism published in Tav+, a Hebrew music journal that was the best published venue at the time for polemics on Israeli art music. Goldenberg followed this article with a contextualizing work, Goldenberg 2013, on contemporary, mostly European pieces that include, to the Israeli ear, “Israeli” moments; it was disseminated as a conference paper at the World Congress of Jewish Studies. Shelleg 2013 attempts to illuminate the mirror image of studies on nationalism in Israeli music, discussing its gradual dilution. Bahat 2016 is partly based on its author’s 1975 Sorbonne dissertation, perhaps the second dissertation devoted solely to Israeli art music (following Keren 1980, cited under General Overviews, based on a dissertation of the 1960s). Utilizing ethnomusicological approach to Israeli art music and Bahat’s experience as an ethnomusicologist who focused on Yemenite music, Bahat 2016 is a summary of the author’s work. It analyzes the ethnic underpinnings of Israeli compositions from the founders to the second-generation composers. Seroussi 2015 is the best scholarly, authoritative source on the national anthem, “Hatikvah.” One of the most comprehensive, oft-cited articles by an Israeli composer, Boskovich 1953 deals with nationalism in music and the desired stylistic signifiers, with little mention of the word in the article itself, given the time it was written.

  • Bahat, Avner. Kolot mi-kedem u-mi-yam. Tel Aviv: Misrad ha-trabut, 2016.

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    Written by one of the most prolific ethnomusicologists of his time, this is an informative book, supported by the [Israel] Ministry of Culture and peer-reviewed, and available online in Hebrew (English title: Voices of East and West: Researches of Jewish and Israeli music). Presents both important research and testimony about Yemenite music and art music based on it. Sections on Bracha Zephira, Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Tal, Seter’s Midnight Vigil (the longest analysis of any one composition), Ehrlich, Orgad, Avni, and Sheriff.

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  • Boskovich, Alexander Uriyah. “Ba‘ayot ha-musica ha-mekorit be-yisrael.” Orlogin 9 (November 1953): 280–294.

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    Considered the leading ideologist of his generation, composer Boskovich lays his prescriptive ideas about the desired Israeli style (English translation: “The problems of original music in Israel”). He regards the where and when questions of contemporary music as fundamental, and argues that artwork must reflect the artist’s society. In Israeli music, therefore, the expressions of contemporary European techniques (when) and Zionism and the Mizraḥi traditions (where) are prerequisites to the creation of local art.

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  • Goldenberg, Yosef. “Le’umiut, moderniut ve-emet be-musica yisrealit.” Tav+ 13 (Haifa, 2009): 9–24.

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    Wide array of references to Hebrewism and Israelism as reflected in arts and letters, mostly during the 1930s and 1940s, support Goldenberg’s thesis that the Mediterranean style (of Ben-Haim, Lavry, and others) was not as tightly connected to Zionism as most writers argue. One of a small number of highly scholarly articles in Tav+. (English translation: “Nationalism, modernism, and truth in Israeli music.”)

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  • Goldenberg, Yosef. “‘Israeli Moments’ in Foreign Music” Paper presented at the World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2013.

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    Because much of Israeli art music of the founders was based on European models, for Israelis, moments in the music of Hovhaness, Vaughan Williams, and Milhaud, for instance, might sound “Israeli.” This analytic paper discusses signifiers such as the Dorian and Mixolydian modes, chords based on fourths, and anapest rhythms.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash. “The Vision of the East and the Heritage of the West: Ideological Pressures in the Yishuv Period and their Offshoots in Israeli Art Music during the Recent Two Decades.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 4 (2005).

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    Beginning with a 1946 critique of Boskovich’s “too oriental” music, Hirshberg surveys the music of the 1930s and 1940s, Erich W. Sternberg, and singer Bracha Zefira, and defines collective nationalism, individual nationalism, popular nationalism, and cosmopolitanism as local trends of a synthetic Israeli style. Different versions of this article and variations on its sections were later published in German and Hebrew.

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  • Seroussi, Edwin. “Hatikvah: Conceptions, Receptions and Reflections Yuval Online 9 (2015).

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    Perhaps the most comprehensive, yet concise, study of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” (literally, “The Hope”). In forty-four pages, Seroussi explores its textual, musical, and historical origins, critically combs the literature and common conceptions, and analyzes the reception, yielding a wide array of exemplary approaches and methods.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Yuvalim be-Israel: Nationalism in Jewish-Israeli Art Music, 1940–2000.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 2004.

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    A comprehensive study of nationalism in Israeli music. Overviews of institutions and events; theoretical study of folklorism and Orientalism (based on Beckerman, Bohlman, Locke, Taruskin); hermeneutic essays on Rosowsky, Stutschewsky, Sternberg, Shlonsky, Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Partos, Seter, and Tal; and long chapters on Ben-Haim, Seter, Jan Radzynski, and Shulamit Ran. Hebrew and English appendices of source readings, with an extensive bibliography.

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. “The Dilution of National Onomatopoeias in Post-Statehood Israeli Art Music: Precursors, Contiguities, Shifts.” Journal of Musicological Research 23.4 (2013): 314–345.

    DOI: 10.1080/01411896.2013.837712Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on art music written between the 1930s and 1960s. On Ben-Haim’s “exotic paraphernalia” and the change of his style in his Capriccio (piano and orchestra, 1960), Hebrewism and its cultural consequences; Mark Lavry’s Emek (orchestra, 1937), Tal’s Chaconne (1936), Boskovich’s Semitic Suite (1945), and Avni’s Piano Sonata No. 1 (1961). These works receive brief discussions to illustrate Shelleg’s wide-ranging cultural-historical narrative.

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. “Eastern Sources in Israeli Music.” IMI News 93.2–3 (1993): 1–4.

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    See also Hebrew edition of IMI News, and a previous, longer version as a short booklet (U-l-fa’atei mizraḥ kadimah, Misgav Yerushalayim, 1989). Ideas from Shiloah 1987–1988 (cited under General Overviews: Ethnic and Popular Musics) are reshaped and focused on art music. One of the rare sources at the time to claim that Israeli art music was often Orientalistic. It identifies and challenges the ideological trends of the founders and provides a study of reviews from the 1920s until the 1990s. Shiloah also critically looks at the composers’ focus on Yemenite music, contextualizing Zephira 1978 (cited under Arabic and/or Mizraḥi Art Music and Culture).

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Mediterranean Style

Discussions of the Mediterranean style in Israeli music are part and parcel of most of the general and themed overviews, and are prominent in Boskovich 1953 (under Nationalism and Orientalism) and Hirshberg 1995 (under General Overviews). This section, however, focuses selectively on three writings which discuss the theme explicitly. One of the first studies attempting to discern the “Israeli” (i.e., Mediterranean, at that time) character of local music (beyond an oft-cited paragraph in Max Brod’s Israel’s Music, published in 1951; see Brod and Cohen 1976, under General Overviews) is Hirshberg and Sagiv 1978, which reports in detail on a statistical experiment, in which they played different commonly conceived “national” music excerpts mixed with international ones, and asked their audience of students to tag them appropriately. They argue, consequently, that local listeners can often tell an Israeli piece from others. Given the time frame—implicitly celebrating Israel at thirty and Israeli musicology in academia at approximately ten, in the first volume of an official Israeli scholarly journal—it is perhaps not surprising that methodical flaws can easily be found, notably in the choice of Israeli pieces with signifiers of Orientalism. Bresler 1985 is an oft-cited research study on this same topic. Seter 2013 unearths the origins of the “Mediterranean style” as the term was used, originally, during the 1940s and 1950s by Israeli art music composers and writers about them, notably Max Brod.

  • Bresler, Liora. “Ha-signon ha-yam-tikhoni ba-musica ha-yisraelit—ideologia u-me’afyenim.” Cathedra le-toldot Eretz-Israel ve-yishuva 38 (December 1985): 136–160.

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    Bresler traces the foundations of Boskovich’s ideology, Brod’s and Boskovich’s descriptions of the desired Mediterranean style, and the music of Ben-Haim (based on Zephira’s songs) in Nietzsche’s writings. Bresler ascribes all three, notably, to Nietzsche’s description of French music in particular, and the music of the “South” in general. (English translation: “The Mediterranean style in Israeli music—Ideology and characteristics.”)

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash, and David Sagiv. “The ‘Israeli’ in Israeli Music: The Audience Responds.” Israel Studies in Musicology 1 (1978): 159–173.

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    A study in statistics presenting twenty musical excerpts, half Israeli (Seter, Ben-Haim, Sternberg, Boskovich, Lavri, Avni), and half non-Israeli (Albéniz, early Boskovich, Bernstein, Milhaud, Bloch, Copland), to show that an Israeli audience of students (half native Israelis, half immigrants) could discern Israeli style and point to melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic elements to support their selection.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Mittelmeerstil.” In Enzyklopädie jüdischer Geschichte und Kultur. Vol. 4. Edited by Dan Diner, 212–216. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2013.

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    Explores the origins of the term by Boskovich and discussed by Brod; the central role of Bracha Zephira who provided Mizraḥi tunes for works by Ben-Haim, Lavry, Partos and others; similarities between the style in Ben-Haim’s works and Nietzsche’s descriptions of French music; Boskovich’s ideology (see Boskovich 1953, under Nationalism and Orientalism) versus Wagner’s Das Judenthum; and Mordecai Seter’s works based on Levi-Tanai’s tunes. See also an article-length, draft version, “The Israeli Mediterranean Style: Origins, 1930s–1950s.”

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Interviews with Composers

Israeli composers are interviewed regularly on the Israeli classical music radio station Kan Kol Ha-musica (until spring 2017, Kol Ha-musica), and sometimes in newspapers and periodicals. The first and oft-cited set of replies by composers to a questionnaire, in a few paragraphs each, was Shiloah 1953. This compilation featured the views of eleven composers, an ethnomusicologist, and a conductor, who were all among the leading musicians in Israel at the time—Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Partos, Tal, and Seter included. Appropriate for the time—Israel five years after its founding—Shiloah devoted his questions to the notion of national identity in music, and the set of answers in Shiloah 1953 became an important primary source of composers’ aesthetics. The periodical Music and Dance in Time (cited under General Journals) has commonly included interviews with local composers. Another set of interviews, this time considerably longer and in a book format, is Fleisher 1997. Exploring music in culture, Fleisher interviewed twenty composers in Israel during the summer of 1986, prefaced each interview with a short biography, and added to the book a substantial introduction, which echoes many of the then widespread attitudes and concepts relating to contemporary music. Miller 2004 presents Shulamit Ran’s views as a contemporary Jewish composer. Shapira 2007 includes extensive interview with Arik Shapira, who also expresses the views of many of his peers. Pe’imot: Journal of Music and Culture (cited under Scholarly Journals), a music periodical in Hebrew, is devoted to Israeli music and includes interviews with composers. Seter 2015–2016 is based on a set of 2003 interviews celebrating a Jubilee of Shiloah 1953, fifty years later. It presents the 1953 replies hermeneutically and adds follow-up interviews on ideological matters. Ritzarev 2016 consists of interviews of the writer with Josef Bardanashvili. It is one of the most extensive interviews with any Israeli art-music composer.

  • Fleisher, Robert. Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    The introductory survey and three chapters on three generations of Israeli composers represent common views at the time. Among the interviewees (in 1986): Josef Tal, Haim Alexander, Abel Ehrlich, and Mordecai Seter of the founders; Ben-Zion Orgad and Tzvi Avni, self-identified as “the second generation”; and Arik Shapira, Tsippi Fleischer, Haim Permont, Yinam Leef, Betty Olivero, Ari Ben-Shabetai, and Oded Zehavi.

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  • Miller, Malcolm. “Between Two Cultures: A Conversation with Shulamit Ran.” Tempo 58.227 (January 2004): 15–32.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0040298204000026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introductory section about Israeli art music, and a thorough interview with the Israeli-American composer. Ran discusses her formative years studying with Boskovich and Ben-Haim, and her three-decade career as a composition professor at the University of Chicago. Reflections about her piano, chamber, symphonic, and opera works, and her Jewish and Israeli identity. See also an extensive interview with Ran on identity, Seter 2004 (under Scholarly Analyses).

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  • Music and Dance in Time.

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    Periodical of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, founded and edited during the 1980s and 1900s by Anvi. Includes numerous interviews with and articles by Israeli composers and musicians. Some of the issues are bilingual (Itim la-musica). See especially 1983–1984 by Tal, Bertini, Avni, Boehm; 1984–1985, Avni, Arie Vardi; 1986–1987, Alexander, Avni on Israeli music, Zur; 1988–1989, Wolpe on Alexander; 1990–1991, Ari Ben-Shabetai, Taiseer Elias, and Israeli music festival in Cologne; 1993–1994, Avni, Kopytman; 2000, Wiesenberg, Zur, Elias; 2003, on piano music; 2005, devoted to Israeli art music, Zur, Kopytman, Avni, Wiesenberg, Leef, Wolpe, Alexander, Permont, Ayal Adler; and 2007, Avni and Zehavi.

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  • Pe’imot: Journal of Music and Culture.

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    This peer-reviewed periodical, in Hebrew, devoted its Vol. 3 (2016, edited by Shoshana Zeevi), to composition in Israel. Composers interviewed: Ruben Seroussi, Arie (Arik) Shapira, Oded Zehavi, and Ofer Pelz.

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  • Ritzarev, Marina. Iosif Bardanashvili, Zhizn’v trekh izmereniakh (3D): Besedy s kompozitorom. Tel Aviv: VeDiScore, 2016.

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    A long, multifaceted interview featuring Bardanashvili, as both a composer and a painter, is the heart of the book (translates as “Josef Bardanashvili, life in 3D: Conversations with the composer”). Includes lists of compositions (partly in English) and his paintings, and a collection of the composer’s own program notes to his works. In Russian.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “‘An Exotic Ornament’: Amnon Shiloah on Israeli Art Music.” Translated by Arbie Orenstein. Musica Judaica 21 (2015–2016): 171–205.

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    Celebrating the 55th anniversary of the composers’ interviews in Shiloah 1953, this article presents a variation on Shiloah’s questionnaire and its hermeneutics. Juxtaposes the 1953 responses of Ben-Haim and Seter with those, in 2003, of Arik Shapira, Ruben Seroussi, Oded Assaf, Betty Olivero, Josef Bardanashvili, and Shiloah himself. See extended original Hebrew version in Tav+ 12 (2008), which includes interviews (by students) with composers Avni, Braun, and Fleischer.

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  • Shapira, Bat-Sheva, ed. Ka-ḥo’aḥ ben shoshamim: Arik Shapira, malḥin Israeli. Haifa, Israel: Oryan, 2007.

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    A long interview with Shapira, conducted and edited by his wife. Since he studied with some of the founders—Partos, Boskovich, Seter at the Tel Aviv Academy—and (as opposed to most of his peers) never left Israel for studies abroad, his approach to composing Israeli (avant-garde and electronic) music, as he emphasizes it, is especially illuminating. (English translation: “Thorn among roses: Arik Shapira, an Israeli composer.”)

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. “Mish’al ‘al ha-musica ha-yisraelit.” Massa (literary supplement of La-merḥav, Tel Aviv) 44 (1953): 6–8.

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    The first notable published set of interviews with Israeli composers on Israeli identity, about three to six paragraphs each. Composers questioned: Haim Alexander, Paul Ben-Haim, Alexander Boskovich, Ram Daus, Abel Ehrlich, Arthur Gelbrun, Hanoch Jacoby, Oedoen Partos, Mordecai Seter, Josef Tal, and Joseph Kaminski. Edith Gerson-Kiwi (ethnomusicologist), and George Singer (conductor) also interviewed.

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Selected Analyses

The number of high-level, in-depth analytical articles and chapters about Israeli music is rather limited. The selection below is not necessarily representative, but includes several of the more interesting. Most of the selected analyses below are scholarly, with the exception of two sources intended for music teachers.

Scholarly Analyses

The first in-depth scholarly analysis of one Israeli work is Elias 1974. Elias was then the chair of Israel Music Institute, the main publisher of Israeli art music. (He also edited and contributed entries about Israeli composers to the 1980 New Grove; he never again published any other analysis of Israeli music.) Elias 1974 presents an analysis of Mordecai Seter’s Ricercar for strings (1953–1956). Other analyses of pieces by the founders and by second-generation composers, which were considered core repertory, are found in Bahat 2016, based on the author’s ethnomusicological work during the 1970s. Ron 1993–1994 analyzes dodecaphony in Tal’s and Partos’s pieces. Seter 2004 includes analyses of works by Ben-Haim, Seter, Jan Radzynski, and Shulamit Ran. Greenberg 2011 is one of the first in-depth analyses of early Ben-Haim, before he immigrated to Palestine. The 2016 issue of Pe’imot (Vol. 3) includes several extensive analyses in Hebrew, including Goldenberg 2016, on two string quartets written in the early 1960 by Partos and Avni; Viks 2016, on facets of postmodernism in Olivero’s music; Shelleg 2016, on piano pieces by Tal; and Tamir-Ostrover 2016, written by a composer, on Czernowin’s embodiment of trauma in her experimental opera Pnima.

  • Bahat, Avner. “Kolot mi-kedem u-mi-yam.” Tel Aviv: Misrad ha-trabut, 2016.

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    Among the testimonies, and lexical, informative, and hermeneutic essays, articles, and books that compose the website of the ethnomusicologist Avner Bahat, this book (Voices of East and West: Researches of Jewish and Israeli music), within the website, presents brief, informative analyses of pieces by Ben-Haim, Partos, Boskovich, Tal, Levi-Tanai, Seter, Ehrlich, Orgad, Avni, and Sheriff. Also self-published online.

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  • Elias, William Y. Mordecai Seter’s Ricercar. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Musicology Department, 1974.

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    Hebrew with English abstract. The first notable monograph dedicated to a single composition by an Israeli composer, written by the chair of IMI. Information on the reception of Ricercar (quartet, or trio with string orchestra, 1953–1956), on the work’s hundreds of performances, and a detailed theoretical and hermeneutical analyses of the triple fugue in the first movement, the scherzo, and the final gigue.

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  • Goldenberg, Yosef. “Shtei revi‘iyot klei keshet yisraeliot moderniot mukdamot: Kashtot kaitz me’et Tzvi Avni ve-Tehillim me’et Oedoen Partos.” Pe’imot 3 (2016): 49–81.

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    A rare analytical paper (Two early modern Israeli string quartets: Summer Strings by Tzvi Avni and Psalms [Tehillim] by Oedoen Partos) by a theorist (unlike most writers on Israeli music, who are mostly ethnomusicologists or music historians), which brings the historical context, but also places the pieces within their European context and contemporary theoretical writings. Traces Avni’s piece in Seter’s Ricercar, and proposes that the modernist trends are seen in the harmony, while Israelism is in the motifs.

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  • Greenberg, Yoel. “Drawn Up out of a Mute Wellspring: The Revival of Paul Ben-Haim’s Early String Quintet (1919).” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 9 (2011): 25–42.

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    Studies the quintet from both a historical perspective, as Ben-Haim wrote it fourteen years before he immigrated to Palestine (therefore, “Jewish”/German rather than “Israeli”), and from a performance-practice one, as the quintet became part of the repertory that Greenberg played as a violist with his Carmel Quartet. Based on the manuscript and supporting materials found at the National Library of Israel, Ben-Haim archive.

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  • Ron, Yohanan. “Expression of the Twelve-Tone Row in the Works of Oedoen Partos and Josef Tal.” Orbis Musicae 11 (1993–1994): 81–91.

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    Analyses of Partos’s String Quartet No. 2 (Psalms, Tehillim; cf. detailed analysis in Goldenberg 2016), and Tal’s Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra. With several musical examples. Ron wrote his voluminous TAU dissertation on Tal, whom he interviewed at length. This article is available on the website maintained by Josef Tal’s son, Etan. See section on Josef Tal and Ron 2000 (cited under Writings about Tal).

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Yuvalim be-Israel: Nationalism in Jewish-Israeli Art Music, 1940–2000.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 2004.

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    In addition to historic-theoretical chapters on Israeli nationalism, and hermeneutic essays on nine of the founders (Rosowsky, Stutschewsky, Sternberg, Shlonsky, Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Partos, Seter, and Tal), four long chapters analyze national, cultural, ethnic, religious, and gender signifiers in selected works by Ben-Haim, Seter, Jan Radzynski, and Shulamit Ran. Hebrew and English appendices of source readings, extensive bibliography.

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. “La-ḥshov me-ḥadash ‘al divrei ha-yamim shel ha-musica ha-omanutit ha-yisraelit (ve-gam ‘al Josef Tal).” Pe’imot 3 (2016): 17–48.

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    Beyond Shelleg’s attempts to dispel myths and deconstruct common perceptions of earlier narratives (Hirshberg, Gradenwitz, Fleisher), most of the article (Rethinking the historiography of Israeli art music—and also Josef Tal), using peculiarly ornate language, analyzes Tal’s 1949 Sonata (piano). The analysis is contextualized with references to Tal’s 1936 Chaconne (piano), 1937 Three Pieces (piano), 1940 Suite (viola), and the 1949 cantata Em ha-banim smeḥa.

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  • Tamir-Ostrover, Hila. “Hitgalmut ha-trauma ba-opera Pnima shel Chaya Czernowin.” Pe’imot 3 (2016):119–156.

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    One of the most original analyses of an Israeli work. Based on a dissertation in progress (NYU), Tamir-Ostrover utilizes theories of embodied cognition to explain audience’s response to Czernowin’s expression of trauma (Holocaust, unspoken testimony). Tamir argues that Czernowin’s music embodies common reactions to trauma (silence, paralysis), which can elicit similar reactions among the performers and audiences.

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  • Viks, Anat. “Hash’alot, shiluvim, ve-halḥana me’ḥadash be-shalosh yetzirot shel Betty Olivero.” Pe’imot 3 (2016):83–118.

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    Based on her Bar-Ilan University dissertation on Olivero’s music (Viks 2016, cited under Betty Olivero), this article analyzes, historically and theoretically, Olivero’s Achot Ketaná (Little Sister, 2000), Zimaár (2003) and Neharót Neharót (Rivers, 2006), using theories of 20th-century borrowings and modernism (Burkholder, Metzer), and postmodernism (Lochhead and Auner). The section on Neharót Neharót is of special significance, as this piece marks a turning point in Olivero’s oeuvre, with most views on YouTube.

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General Analyses

During the 1980s (and well before and after), composer Ben-Zion Orgad was one of the institutionally influential musicians in Israel, especially as the long-time head of the music education system. He initiated and supported two edited volumes of basic analytic descriptions of works that he and the writers considered core repertory in Israeli art music. Both books, Golomb and Orgad 1984 and Boskovich and Rosental-Bogorow 1987, are intented for music teachers in high schools, but they have been also used by performers and scholars and reveal the composers who were considered most prominent at the time. These volumes exhibit common approaches to local art music during the 1980s.

  • Boskovich, Miriam, and Yona Rosental-Bogorow. Madrikh le-vitzu‘a yetzirot yisraeliot li-fsanter. Tel Aviv: Ha-merkaz ha-metodi le-musica, 1987.

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    Preliminary and ending summaries on trends in the history of Israeli music for piano by the authors, distinguished piano teachers, and by composer Orgad and pianist Krasovsky. Highlights twenty-one compositions by sixteen composers, including Yardena Alotin, Avni, Ben-Haim, Boskovich, Kopytman, Partos, Seter, and Moshe Zorman. (Translates as “Performance guide for Israeli piano pieces.”)

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  • Golomb, Dalia, and Ben-Zion Orgad, eds. Madrikh le-ha’azana li-ytzirot yisraeliot. Tel Aviv: Ha-merkaz ha-metodi le-musica, 1984.

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    Basic descriptions of thirty pieces by twenty-six composers, most of which were considered among the most significant in the repertoire at the time (mostly orchestral and chamber), and two overview articles by Hirshberg and Mishori (see original English versions in Bar-Am 1980, cited under Anthologies, Collections), a comparison of Western and Eastern musics, and short bibliography. On works by Avni, Braun, Boskovich, Partos, Seter, Tal, and others. (Translates as “Listener’s guide to Israeli works.)

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Performers, Musicians, Institutions

Writings about and by performers illuminate the history of music-making in Palestine and Israel through social, cultural, and institutional angles. Several of these exhibit the local history from its outset throughout the 20th century.

Gary Bertini

The foremost conductor of Israeli music, who premiered over seventy local, original works between 1955 and 2005, Gary Bertini (b. 1927, Brichevo, Bessarabia [now Moldavia]; d. 2005, Tel Aviv) also pioneered the Israeli choir scene in 1955 when he founded the Rinat Choir, the first professional choir in Israel, which premiered Israeli pieces alongside Renaissance repertory. A decade later, he founded the Israel Chamber Ensemble (now the Israel Chamber Orchestra), focusing (unlike the Israel Philharmonic) more on Baroque and contemporary repertory. During the 1980s he was instrumental with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he founded the international Liturgica Festival around Christmas time. Between 1987 and 1997, Bertini also served as the music director and conductor of the New Israeli Opera (founded in 1984), and later was invited to conduct some of their productions, including a premiere of an opera by Josef Bardanashvili shortly before his death. From the 1970s, he gradually performed more often abroad than in Israel, and was known for his Mahler recordings. His contribution to the Israeli classical scene, however, was paramount, especially from the 1960s to the 1990. Among Israeli composers, he seemed to have favored Seter and Tal (and was criticized for that). He premiered all of Seter’s orchestral and choral works, and most of Tal’s symphonic works and operas. Zmora-Cohn 2012 is geared to the general public. It misses crucial dates and details and lacks a consistent critical approach, but it does provide a wide and deep survey of the man and his time in Israel.

  • Zmora-Cohn, Michal, et al. Gary Bertini be-ḥayei ha-musica be-Israel. Jerusalem: Carmel, 2012.

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    The forty short chapters by Zmora-Cohn and others detail the biography of Bertini, the choirs and orchestras he founded and conducted in Israel and abroad, and his contributions to Israeli education, dance, theater, and opera. Among the writers are composers, conductors, performers, singers, dancers, and music critics. Includes a few of Bertini’s essays.

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Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

During the mid-1930s, violinist and music visionary Bronisław Huberman, who concertized in numerous locations in Palestine in 1929, was able to convince about seventy-five Jewish performers and musicians, many of whom were dismissed from their work in fascist Europe, to join his Zionist vision of creating the first Jewish professional orchestra in Palestine. The inaugural concert of the Palestine Orchestra on 26 December 1936, under Toscanini, became a national holiday and attracted almost 10 percent of the Tel Aviv population at the time, with approximately 3,500 in attendance. The orchestra was renamed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1950. Decades before the 2012 documentary film Orchestra of Exiles, Ibbeken and Avni 1969, Ohad 1986, and Toeplitz 1992 wrote its history in Hebrew and other European languages. See also a chapter on IPO in English in Hirshberg 1995 (cited under General Overviews).

  • Ibbeken, Ida, and Tzvi Avni. An Orchestra Is Born. Tel Aviv: Yachdav, 1969.

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    A compilation of letters, speeches, and articles by Bronisław Huberman. Compiled by Ibbeken, his secretary, and composer Avni, then director of the Central Music [public] Library in Tel Aviv (today, the Felicja Blumental Music Center and Music Library). In Hebrew, German, French, and English, with photos and a biographical sketch of Huberman.

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  • Ohad, Michael. Ha-philharmonit: Ha-tizmoret ha-philharmonit ha-yisraelit. Jerusalem: Keter, 1986.

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    Introduction about Bernstein and the IPO. Chapters on Huberman, Toscanini’s first 1936 concert, fifty years of programs, orchestra tours, anecdotes, and a section on Zubin Mehta. Based on multiple interviews with conductors, soloists, and three generations of performers. Includes some reception study.

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  • Toeplitz, Uri (Erich). Sipurah shel ha-tizmoret ha-philharmonit ha-yisraelit. Translated by Hed Sela. Tel Aviv: Sifriyat Poalim, 1992.

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    An exhaustive, early history of the IPO. Includes a story of the local music life in 1936. Chronological and thoroughly informative. The writer was a flautist who played with the IPO for its first three decades, 1936–1967.

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Leo Kestenberg

Kestenberg (b. 1882–d. 1962) impacted classical music in Palestine/Israel in a myriad of ways. Most importantly, he was the artistic director of the Palestine Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic) between 1938 and 1945, and the founder, in 1945, of the main Israeli College for Music Teachers (ha-Midrasha, which has since been incorporated into the Levinsky College of Education); these remain two of the major music institutions in Israel today. A son of a Hungarian Hazzan, he studied in Berlin, and he became a well-known pianist and an activist who connected music to his socialist ideals. He is recognized in Germany for his early career through the Internationale Leo-Kestenberg-Gesellschaft (IKG). Like other musicians, he followed Huberman to Palestine, where, in addition to his institutional activities, he was also a coveted piano teacher. See also a short testimony on Kestenberg by Judith Cohen in Min-Ad (2009) in Hebrew. Kestenberg 1961, a rare book, was translated into Hebrew by Ido Abravaya, and edited by the Israeli Music Publications’s founder and editor, Peter Gradenwitz, as Zmanim rogshim: pirkei hayyim musiyim-musicantiyim (Jerusalem: Israeli Music Publications, 1983).

  • Kestenberg, Leo. Bewegte Zeiten: Musisch-musikantische Lebenserinnerungen. Zürich: Karl Heinrich Möseler Verlag, 1961.

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    A little-known autobiography of a founder of Israeli musical institutions, the book begins with childhood memories, continues with Kestenberg’s studies with Busoni in Weimar and later performances as a pianist under his baton, and focuses on his educational, institutional, and administrative activities in Europe. Only a short, but important, part of the book presents his work in Palestine and Israel. See also the website of the Internationale Leo-Kestenberg-Gesellschaft (IKG).

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Sara Levi-Tanai

Levi-Tanai (b. 1910–d. 2005) became best known as the first original-Israeli, modern-ethnic choreographer, for which she won the 1973 Israel Prize. She founded and led the Inbal Dance Theater Company for more than four decades. For Inbal, she commissioned arrangements and compositions from leading Israeli composers; among them, Amiran, Avidom, Ben-Haim, Bertini, Boskovich, Orgad, Yoni Rechter, Seter, Ovadia Tuvia, Zeira, and Moshe Zorman. Levi-Tanai was also a songwriter (lyrics, music, and both) of about a hundred songs, some of which became Israeli classics within the genre Songs of the Land of Israel (shirei eretz yistrael). She also wrote some prose and wrote and taught children’s plays. Toledano 2005 tells the story of the Inbal Dance Company. Rottenberg and Roginsky 2015 is an anthology of writings about Levi-Tanai’s creative work in dance, music, and prose.

  • Rottenberg, Henia, and Dina Roginsky, eds. Sara Levi-Tanai: Hayyim shel yetzirah. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2015.

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    Written by scholars of dance, theater, sociology, and musicology, the book (Sara Levi-Tanai: A life of creation) explores Levi-Tanai’s early prose, her songs, Mizraḥi art, a study of the dance-theater “Megilat Ruth,” her creative process, and gender and ethnicity. See especially Avner Bahat’s well-documented ethnomusicological biography. Appendix includes a list of all of her songs (music and lyrics, app. 30), her settings (app. 70), and dozens of settings of her lyrics.

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  • Toledano, Gila. Sipura shel lahaka: Sara Levi-Tanai ve-te’atron-maḥol Inbal. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2005.

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    Toledano, one of Inbal’s founders and Levi-Tanai’s assistant, does not hide criticism about the choreographer, composer, dancer, and lyricist in this well-researched volume (A story of a company: Sara Levi-Tanai and the Inbal Dance Theater). No index, but detailed list of her works from 1951 to 1991. Most of the musical compositions or arrangements for Levi-Tanai’s dances are by herself, Ovadia Tuvia, and also by Boskovich, Ben-Haim, Bertini, Seter, and Rechter. See also “Levi-Tanai” in Zemereshet, written by Toledano.

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The Samuel Rubin Israel Academy of Music

The Samuel Rubin Israel Academy of Music (1945–present) is one of Israel’s two major music academies for composers, conductors, performers, and musicologists (the second is The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance), today renamed the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University. Its faculty has included some of the leading composers and musicians, among them Oedoen Partos (who also chaired it from its outset until 1977), Alexander Boskovich, Mordecai Seter, Arie Vardi, Yehezkel Braun, Noam Sheriff, Ami Maayani, and others who taught generations of Israeli musicians. Lev 1998, therefore, serves also as a history of teaching art music in Tel Aviv during its first fifty years. Among the composers who have taught there since 2010 are Ruben Seroussi and Josef Bardanashvili.

  • Lev, Tomer. The Samuel Rubin Israel Academy of Music, the First Fifty Years: Studies in the History of Higher Music Education in Israel, 1945–1995. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1998.

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    Lev’s history of the Tel Aviv Academy is based on extensive archival material and thirty-eight interviews. Tomer Lev is a pianist who served as the Academy’s director in 2004–2009, during its transformation into the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. In Hebrew.

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Bracha Zephira

Because of her extraordinary voice, ear, and repertory, folksinger Bracha Zephira (b. 1910–d. 1990; often spelled Zefira, but not in her own book, Zephira 1978) was seen as the main source (and informant) of Mizraḥi ethnic music for classical composers, especially during the 1940s and 1950s. Her performances served as an inspiration for them, and many of the songs from her repertory—some traditional, others composed by her—were utilized as melodic foundations of works in the core repertory of the founders. She worked mainly with Ben-Haim, Partos, Lavry, and Avidom. In Zephira 1978 and in her interviews, she was one of the first to point out Orientalistic attitudes among the composers with whom she worked (Shiloah 1993, cited under Nationalism and Orientalism, would do so later), but her objections were dismissed as an “other” to local Western culture, and she was ultimately tagged as “difficult” in some writings and discussions. Her extensive knowledge of hundreds of Mizraḥi songs—including Yemenite, Sephardi, Persian, Bukharan and Israeli-Darwish, Arab, and Israeli folk songs (Songs of the Land of Israel, shirei eretz yisrael), as well as songs of her own—attracted composers who were looking to create a distinctive local compositional style within the broader parameters of Western art music. Unlike other equally influential leaders among the founders (about ten of them, including Partos, Ben-Haim, Tal, Seter, Levi-Tanai, Wilensky, and Argov), Zephira did not receive the Israel Prize, a fact often noted in writings about her, especially in several of the overviews. Zephira 1978, a collection of her songs, includes illuminating and controversial introductory essays. Flam 1986 is an ethnomusicological study of Zephira’s work. Yerimi, an Internet page, is informative and geared for the general public.

  • Flam, Gila. “Beracha Zefira—A Case Study of Acculturation in Israeli Song.” Asian Music 17.2 (Spring-Summer 1986): 108–125.

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    Out of a special issue on Asian Music in Israel (Bohlman and Slobin 1986, cited under Anthologies, Collections), this article is especially significant as one of very few studies dedicated to Zephira, a singer of ethnic songs who initiated contact with art-music composers for arrangements. Ben-Haim, Avidom, Lavry, Partos, and others used her tunes in their works.

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  • Yerimi, Emmanuel (Amy). “Zephira, Bracha.” In Zemereshet.

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    Written for the general public, but nonetheless rich. It includes more than ten web pages and encompasses biographical sketches, discussion of her songs, information on East-West tensions, basic details about Zephira’s reception, photographs, and information about and links to recordings of some thirty of her songs.

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  • Zephira, Bracha. Kolot rabim. Ramat-Gan, Israel: Massada, 1978.

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    Prefaced by Max Brod, a 288-page large volume (Many voices) with a substantive introduction and over a hundred transcriptions of Yemenite, Sephardi, other Mizraḥi, Arab and Israeli tunes, in addition to Zephira’s own tunes. Her assessment of her work with art-music composers in the introduction is a virtually unparalleled early source of criticism of the establishment’s Orientalistic attitude toward Mizraḥi music.

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Contextualizing Texts

A wide range of writings that do not explore Israeli music directly, but rather study contemporary, ethnic, popular, or Jewish music in general, have been important facets in the study of Israeli music. They include writings on 20th- and 21st-century musics with a special emphasis on nationalism, Orientalism, exoticism, borrowings and quotations, modernism and postmodernism, culture studies, and the oral traditions of Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora, to mention some of the pertinent themes. Six of these writings seem paramount. Those by Idelsohn, the father of Jewish ethnomusicology, are exceptionally significant for their influence on composers who aspired to compose Hebrew and Israeli music, especially during the 1940s and 1950s. Local composers used Idelsohn 1914–1932, a pathbreaking, ten-volume corpus of hundreds of transcriptions of liturgical and para-liturgical melodies he collected in Jerusalem synagogues in the 1910s and 1920s—as melodic and rhythmic raw materials to bestow ancient, authentic quality on their music. Idelsohn 2013 (first published 1929), on Jewish music, also deeply impacted Israeli composition, although the book was intended for the American Jewry, with more emphasis on Ashkenazi music, unlike his preliminary, Hebrew version, which included more on Mizraḥi melos. Móricz 2008, a groundbreaking work, juxtaposes three themes: the birth of the notion of Jewish art music in Russia, Ernest Bloch, and Arnold Schoenberg—all of which served as examples for Israeli music composers, either to rebel against or to follow. Its original introduction analyzes essentialist claims about the nature of Jewish (“Jewish”) music by and about these composers. During the decade since its publication, Móricz’s work has assumed growing significance in the field of Jewish studies and music, which her work helped to make visible also within the American Musicological Society. Seroussi 2009 surveys a wide range of scholarship on Jewish music as the term is commonly conceived (i.e., mostly ethnic, liturgical, and popular musics). It is a comprehensive critical review of the field, and one of the best research tools into Jewish music scholarship. Written by the chair of the Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, this eighty-page thought-provoking article includes an extensive bibliography, which is the basis of Seroussi’s Oxford Bibliography article “Jewish Music.” Loeffler 2010 is one of the few comprehensive histories of the 1908 Society for Jewish Folk Music and the culture from which it emerged, which Israeli composers, especially the founders during the late 1930s and early 1940s, were following (Stutschewsky) or rejecting (Ben-Haim, Seter). Móricz and Seter 2012 is a collection of essays that followed the 2010 inaugural meeting of the Study Group of the American Musicological Society on Jewish Studies and Music.

  • Idelsohn, Abraham Zvi. Hebräisch-orientalischer Melodienschatz. Leipzig: Benjamin Herz, 1914–1932.

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    English translation of Vols. I–II, VI–X, published 1923–1933. A century after the initial publication, this collection of transcriptions of Jewish liturgical and folk songs by the founder of Jewish ethnomusicology is still the most comprehensive of its kind (English edition: Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies; Hebrew edition: Otzar neginot Israel). Like their peers in Central Europe, Israeli composers, especially during the 1940s and 1950s (but also before and well after), have incorporated many of Idelsohn’s transcriptions from this monumental, ten-volume thesaurus (five volumes for Mizraḥi traditions, and five for Ashkenazi) in their concert-hall pieces.

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  • Idelsohn, Abraham Zvi. Jewish Music: Its Historical Development. New York: Dover, 2013.

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    First edition published 1929, followed by several reprints throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Beyond the seminal role in the study of Jewish music by its pioneer, this book influenced the way Israeli composers, especially during the 1940s and 1950s (but also a few Jewish composers in Europe and America), have conceived their expression of Jewish—and Israeli—signifiers in their music.

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  • Loeffler, James. The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300137132.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough historical-cultural study of the societal changes that shaped the music of Joel Engel and Lazar Saminsky, and brought about the creation of the Society for Jewish Folk Music in 1908 in St. Petersburg, and later its Moscow branch, which was founded by, and in turn nurtured, composers who initiated Jewish nationalism in music. See the closely related 2015 article by Loeffler in Yuval.

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  • Móricz, Klára. Jewish Identities: Nationalism, Racism, and Utopianism in Twentieth-Century Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520250888.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Exemplary introduction deconstructing essentialist notions of Jewish music. The first highly critical study of the 1908 Society for Jewish Folk Music, founded in St. Petersburg. Thoroughly analyzed—both theoretically and hermeneutically—chapters on Ernest Bloch and Arnold Schoenberg, focusing, inter alia, on racism/anti-Semitism and internalized racism and their musical manifestations through a reception study.

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  • Móricz, Klára, and Ronit Seter, eds. “Colloquy: Jewish Studies and Music.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 65.2 (Summer 2012): 557–592.

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    A collection of essays exploring fundamental themes at the intersection of Jewish studies and music. Short introduction by Móricz and Seter; Judah M. Cohen on career paths; a discussion of definitions by Alexander Knapp; Steven Cahn on European-Jewish historiography; Rebecca Cypess on modern orthodoxy; and Edwin Seroussi provides a summarizing, conceptual overview.

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  • Seroussi, Edwin. “Music: The ‘Jew’ of Jewish Studies.” Jewish Studies—Yearbook of the World Union of Jewish Studies 46 (2009): 3–84.

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    A critical, detailed overview of Jewish music research, including an extensive bibliography, and one of the most comprehensive writings in the field. Sophisticated theoretical-hermeneutic introductions, sections on paradigms, folklore, institutions, musical binaries, genres, and canons. Offers the term “musicology of the Jewish,” with brief and illuminating comments on Western art music.

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Writings by and about Composers

Israel is a young nation; the limited perspective that scholars and commentators have reached in relation to the founding generation of composers is reflected below, and significant writings have now appeared by and about composers from the generations that have come after the founders. The Israeli Five—Paul Ben-Haim, Alexander Uriah Boskovich, Oedoen Partos, Mordecai Seter, and Josef Tal—never saw themselves as part of a group or a clique. But repeatedly, the influential role of the Five, mostly as individuals, among the other founders has been reflected in their reception since around 1960, both in journalistic and musicological writings, and in their share of performances (see Seter 2014, under General Overviews, for a discussion of the Five). Other deserving composers among the founders have been represented far less in the concert hall and in writings, often for reasons that are ideological or else related to internal politics within musical institutions: Erich Walter Sternberg, Joachim Stutschewsky, Menahem Avidom, and Marc Lavry, among them. Three of the Five, however—Ben-Haim, Tal, and Seter—have received more, and special, attention in writings, through performances, and as influential models for their generation and younger composers, than most of the other founders. Moreover, they also composed in different styles, thus represented three leading trajectories in local music.

Writings by and about Ben-Haim, Tal, and Seter: Three Trajectories in Israeli Music

Paul Ben-Haim, the best known and most disseminated of these three, both locally and abroad, has been seen as the most conservative of them. As a native of Munich, his style was fundamentally German, and, once forced out of his homeland and having acclimated to the local Zeitgeist in Yishuv-era Palestine, he chose a style that amalgamated his German roots with the Spanish-informed French impressionist style (mainly Debussy and Ravel; also De Falla), into which he incorporated the melodies and rhythms he heard from Bracha Zephira, an ethnic singer, songwriter, and informant of Yemenite descent. He reinterpreted these melodic and rhythmic characteristics and presented them as the local Mediterranean style, a style which he, perhaps more than any other composer, created and disseminated through the influence of his music. Upon emigration, Ben-Haim shelved his music written in Germany—and even more so, after World War II, after the murder of most of his family left behind—and promoted only those works he had written in Palestine and then Israel. His style, elegant and accessible, won local and later international success. Upon emigration from Berlin for the same reasons, Josef Tal composed utilitarian music (Gebrauchsmusik, inspired by Hindemith, his teacher) that he wrote for his Kibbutz. But his move to Jerusalem, and the lacuna created by Stefan Wolpe’s emigration from Jerusalem to New York in 1938, among other reasons, encouraged Tal to re-explore the direction he had embarked on during his studies in the electronic music studio of Trautwein in Berlin. Tal became the first notable scion of the avant-garde and its leader in Israel when he established the first electronic music studio at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1961. He closely followed Central European contemporary techniques and strongly supported his students in doing so, in order to help music composed locally be considered worthy in the wider Western music world. While Ben-Haim became the poster boy of Jewish-Palestinian and then Israeli art music, and Tal’s operas were performed both in Israel and Germany, a third trajectory, ultimately, achieved a long-lasting influence among Israeli composers of the subsequent generations. That way focused on the attempt to thoroughly synthesize Mizraḥi elements (mainly melodic and rhythmic) as national signifiers with Western technique, in a non-exotic and non-Orientalized way, following both the Stravinskian and the Kodály-Bartók schools of neo-nationalism. This direction was led by Oedoen Partos, who held the most institutional power locally, especially during 1960s (and well before and after), and his peers and close friends, Alexander Boskovich and Mordecai Seter, often viewed by themselves and their students as a unified clique or the Troika. Of the Troika, Seter’s scores and style, often more than those of others, were studied by his peers, including Partos and Boskovich, and by the following generations of composers.

Paul Ben-Haim

Over the last six decades, no Israeli composer of art music has received wider and long-lasting reception, in performance as well as in scholarly works, than Paul Ben-Haim (b. 1897, Munich; d. 1984, Tel Aviv); he has been cherished as Israel’s national composer of art music. Born Paul Frankenburger, his career as an assistant conductor to Bruno Walter and as a conductor in Augsburg during the 1920s—and as a young, promising German composer—was curtailed by fascism. Frankenburger immigrated to Palestine in 1933, Hebraicized his name, settled in Tel Aviv, and shelved his early German works, mostly Lieder and chamber works, including his 1933 oratorio Joram. Ben-Haim’s reception as one of the local composers most often performed and best liked by audiences is attributed to his accessible, elegant style, which was also influential on other composers of the founding generation through its gentle use of Mizraḥi melodies and signifiers. Several of the leading composers shared elements of his appealing style, notably Marc Lavry and Menahem Avidom—and, among his students, Tzvi Avni, Ami Maayani, Naomi Shemer, and Noam Sheriff. Until the 1990s, however, most critics and historians reflected Ben-Haim’s (arguably Orientalistic) way of discussing his own works uncritically. Throughout his life, he opposed the Second Viennese style, although he did express limited appreciation for it. Ben-Haim was a prolific composer. Among his most frequently performed works are his Clarinet Quintet (1941), 5 Pieces (piano, 1943), Sonatina (piano, 1946), Three Songs without Words (voice and piano or orchestra, 1951), and Fanfare to Israel (orchestra, 1950); the Fanfare represented Israel in multiple tours of local orchestras abroad, especially during the 1960s. His first major success in Palestine, however, was his Symphony No. 1 (1940), considered one of the earliest and significant local symphonic works ever since its premiere in 1941 by the Palestine Orchestra. The peak of his career was marked by the Koussevitzky commission of The Sweet Psalmist of Israel (Neim zmirot yisrael, for soloists and orchestra, 1953), performed and recorded under Bernstein; its last movement, “Song of Degrees,” has been performed independently. His piano and violin concertos (1949, 1960) have also been performed often. Following the 1979 incomplete premiere of his oratorio Joram (1933, composed prior to his emigration), Ben-Haim commented that this might have been his magnum opus. While the Ben-Haim archive at the National Library of Israel is the most comprehensive research tool for Ben-Haim, the writings of his biographer, Jehoash Hirshberg, are seminal. Hirshberg 2010 (first published in Hebrew in 1983, cited under Writings about Ben-Haim), is a good starting point, as a traditional, exhaustive biography—indeed, it is still the best about any Israeli composer. The selected writings below are divided into the composer’s writings and writings about his life and works.

Writings by Ben-Haim

Because Ben-Haim wrote little prose (unlike his peers Shlonsky, Stutschewsky, and Boskovich), the essays that he did write have been cited in multiple sources. Shiloah 1953, citing Ben-Haim, is cited and translated into English in several sources. The booklet Paul Ben-Haim (1967) is a rare publication with a short biography and list of works, written collaboratively with the composer by the man who was his publisher and friend during most of his life, at Israeli Music Publications (which ceased operation during the 1990s; Ben-Haim’s scores are now available at the Israel Music Institute). Ben-Haim 1971 is the first of five autobiographical chapters (written originally in German, published in Hebrew), which are rarely used, much like his 1954 and 1968 lectures—the latter of which is discussed in Gurkiewicz 2015–2016. Paramount is the Ben-Haim Archive at the National Library of Israel.

  • The Ben-Haim Archive at the National Library of Israel.

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    The physical archive extends over 2.5 meters of shelf space, but some of the materials are digitized and available to be seen and listened to online. Includes manuscripts, sketchbooks, lectures, and personal letters (mostly in German), some writings on Ben-Haim, and photographs. The archive’s call no., MUS 55, is clickable with detailed lists.

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  • Ben-Haim, Paul. “‘Aliyati le-Eretz-Israel: Zikhronot mi-shnat 1933.” Tatzlil 5.11 (1971): 185–188.

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    The first of five short autobiographical essays by Ben-Haim, among the rare writings by the composer, translated from German. See also Tatzlil 7.13 (1973) about his immigration to Palestine; Tatzlil 8.14 (1974) about 1939–1944, including his work with Zephira and the first symphony; Tatzlil 9.15 (1975), on his success abroad; and Tatzlil 9.16 (1976), a short memoir of the years 1950–1970.

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  • Gurkiewicz, Liran. “Paul Ben-Haim: Unpublished Archival Sources—New Perspectives.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 13 (2015–2016): 203–226.

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    On two sets of lecture notes written by Ben-Haim in 1954 and 1968. Of special interest are the discussions of Ben-Haim’s classification of Israeli composers (vs. Hirshberg 2005, cited under Nationalism and Orientalism) according to their ideology and aesthetics, and his relationships with Bracha Zephira (cf. Seter 2011, under Writings about Ben-Haim), Alberto Hemsi, Peter Gradenwitz, and Max Brod.

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  • Paul Ben-Haim. Tel Aviv: Israeli Music Publications, 1967.

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    A twenty-seven-page monograph published for the composer’s seventieth birthday. Includes short essays on his biography, symphonic works, biblical cantatas, liturgical music, and vocal and chamber music, with a selective list of works. The writer is not identified, but most likely Peter Gradenwitz, the IMP’s founder, owner, music historian, and Ben-Haim’s friend and publisher, wrote the booklet with full participation of the composer.

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  • Shiloah, Amnon. “Paul Ben-Haim.” In “Mish’al ‘al ha-musica ha-Israelit.” Edited by Amnon Shiloah. Massa (literary supplement of La-merḥav, Tel Aviv) 44 (1953): 6.

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    In the section titled “Mish’al ‘al ha-musica ha-Israelit,” Shiloah presents four questions to thirteen composers and musicians, and Ben-Haim’s answers attest to his attitude to Mizraḥi music and Isralism in music, his techniques, and his sources of inspiration. The few paragraphs by Ben-Haim have been repeatedly quoted, translated, and analyzed as a rare source about Ben-Haim’s ideology in the 1950s.

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Writings about Ben-Haim

Ben-Haim’s biographer, Jehoash Hirshberg, has written copiously about the composer beyond his monograph, Hirshberg 2010, and his Grove and MGG entries, mostly within his many articles about art music in Israel. Hirshberg 2010 is a third, revised edition (especially in the work list) of Ben-Haim: His Life and Works, a biography that was first published in Hebrew in 1983, then in English in 1990. Seter 2011 is a thorough, albeit controversial, review of both the monograph and Hirshberg’s writings in the field. Guttmann 1992 is a performance guide. The 2002 issue of IMI News includes three long essays devoted to Ben-Haim; one on reception, and the others providing surveys of his piano and orchestral music. While Hirshberg was the first to access, organize, bring to the NLI, and then describe Ben-Haim’s early works as a German composer, other scholars followed his work more than two decades later, notably Greenberg 2011(under Scholarly Analyses), an analytic article about the 1919 Quintet, Greenberg 2014 on the 1937 Quartet, and Gurkiewicz 2013 on the 1933 oratorio Joram. Gurkiewicz 2013 is the fullest discussion thus far of a work that Ben-Haim himself considered his magnum opus, Joram (1933). Gurkiewicz 2016 is a comprehensive dissertation about Ben-Haim. Torres 2003– is an online discography, often updated.

  • Greenberg, Yoel. “Ben-Haim’s String Quartet Op. 21: A Programmatic Reading.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 12 (2014).

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    An analysis and programmatic interpretation of one of the first notable works written in the Land of Israel in the 1930s, and one of the most popular in Israeli chamber music. (Cf. Greenberg 2011, under Scholarly Analyses, on the 1919 string quintet.) Based on Ben-Zion Orgad’s comments, Greenberg delves into an biographical reading of the 1937 quartet.

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  • Gurkiewicz, Liran. “Paul Ben-Haim: The Oratorio Joram and the Jewish Identity of a Composer.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 11.2 (2013): 106–129.

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    The longest study (cf. Hirshberg 2010) on Joram (1933, for mixed choir, STBB soloists, and orchestra), which the composer completed as his last work as a German composer, and which he retrospectively saw as his magnum opus. Historical background based on extensive archival work, discussion of the libretto based on Borchardt’s 1905 The Book of Joram, and analysis of the psalmody motif, the augmented second, and the connections with Symphony No. 1.

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  • Gurkiewicz, Liran. “Me’afyenim signoniyim ve-zehut yehudit bi-ytzirotav ha-tizmortiot shel Paul Ben-Haim.” PhD diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2016.

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    Based on extensive research of the Ben-Haim Archive at the National Library of Israel, the dissertation argues that both before and after his emigration to Palestine, Ben-Haim strove to integrate what he saw as Jewish signifiers in his music. Works discussed: Joram, Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2, The Sweet Psalmist of Israel, To the Chief Musician, and The Eternal Theme.

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  • Guttmann, Hadassah. The Music of Paul Ben-Haim: A Performance Guide. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1992.

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    A collection of brief descriptive analyses (following the style guidelines of Jan La Rue) of each movement of ten piano, solo, and chamber works, including structural timelines. Among them, Sonatina, Five Pieces for Piano, Three Songs without Words, Clarinet Quintet, and Sonata in G for Violin. Short performance guide, basic information about the pieces.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash. Paul Ben-Haim: His Life and Works. Tel Aviv: Israel Music Institute, 2010.

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    Revised, edited, and updated by Paul Landau. First English edition (Jerusalem: Israeli Music Publications, 1990) was translated from the previous Hebrew edition (Paul Ben-Haim: Hayyav vi-ytzirato, Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1983) by Nathan Friedgut and edited by Bathja Bayer.The most comprehensive biography about an Israeli composer of art music. Chapters on Ben-Haim’s major works, numerous sections on his other works, with musical examples. Explores his childhood in Munich and his early Lieder and the oratorio Joram (1933); immigration to Tel Aviv (1933), work with singer Bracha Zephira, his symphonies (Nos. 1 & 2, 1940, 1945), and the peak of his career with The Sweet Psalmist of Israel (1953, a Koussevitzky commission). For a review, see Seter 2011. New Hebrew edition, forthcoming.

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  • IMI News.

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    The first 2002 issue of Israel Music Institute News is devoted to Ben-Haim’s 105th anniversary, and includes essays and articles by some of the best music essayists on the subject. See Oded Assaf’s knowledgeable, contemplative, and poetic article; Joseph Peles’s extensive survey on Ben-Haim’s piano music; and Michael Wolpe, who promoted Ben-Haim’s music, on his orchestral works. The last two articles include multiple musical examples.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Hirshberg’s Ben-Haim: Three Decades Later.” Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 9 (2011): 97–113.

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    A controversial review of Hirshberg 2010 that critically evaluates issues regarding the composer’s reception and his Jewish-German and Israeli identities, with a focus on his Orientalist attitude to Bracha Zephira (to which Hirshberg objects in a following response, same issue). Ends with a comprehensive list of Hirshberg’s writings on Israeli music; footnotes contain basic bibliography on Israeli music. Cf. Seter 2004 (under Scholarly Analyses), pp. 161–248.

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  • Torres, Claude. Paul Ben-Haim: Liste des Oeuvres. 2003–.

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    An itemized list of Ben-Haim’s recordings, likely the most exhaustive available. Sections include works for keyboard; chamber music; a list of recordings of one of Ben-Haim’s favorites, Three Songs without Words; orchestral music; vocal and choir music; and film music. Also contains thematic lists (e.g., music on biblical and religious themes).

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Josef Tal

Tal (b. 1910–d. 2008) has been considered the pioneer of avant-garde and electronic music in Israel, and was the founder of the first local electronic music lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1961. He was especially esteemed as one of Israel’s best proponents of Central European contemporary music from the 1960s to the early 1980s—that is, during the utmost influence of modernism and the avant-garde on Israeli art music, and before postmodernism influenced Israeli composers. During that period, when the style of Ben-Haim, Partos, and Seter became regarded as passé among younger modernist composers, Tal was seen as the leading modernist among the founders (although most younger composers who pursued local avant-garde styles during the late 1970s and 1980s chose to study with Ehrlich and Schidlowsky). Born Josef Grünthal in Pinne near Poznan, he moved to Berlin and studied between 1927 and 1929 at the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Music with Paul Hindemith, and with Friedrich Trautwein in one of the first electronic music studios in the world. Consequently, Tal’s style followed Hindemith’s principle of Gebrauchsmusik (utilitarian music), which he used in the kibbutzim upon emigration to Palestine (1934). Soon after, he settled in Jerusalem, where he met Stefan Wolpe, and especially since the late 1950s his style followed the Second Viennese School and, to a certain degree, its Darmstadt branch. Later, he also pursued electronic music. Tal was often criticized for (and engaged with apologetic statements about) not expressing “enough” Israelism in his music as compared to his peers. He was also perceived as holding antithetical attitudes to Ben-Haim’s approach to Israelism, although the respective German roots of their different styles are, in hindsight, apparent. Partly as a reaction to this harsh criticism, and given his family’s religious background, most of his operas are based on biblical and Jewish themes. Perhaps because of his modernist style, he received the Israel Prize (1971) years after Partos, Ben-Haim, Avidom, and Seter. Among his most frequently performed works are his Symphonies No. 1 (1953) and 2 (1960), Sonata for Piano (1950), and the Concerto for Piano No. 6 (piano and electronics). Almost half of his approximately one hundred works are orchestral and stage works, among them six symphonies and six additional orchestral works, thirteen concertos, and eighteen operas, cantatas, and dramas. Tal’s archive at the National Library of Israel is a primary research tool, together with the materials that his son, Etan Tal, made available on his website for the composer. The selected writings below are divided into the composer’s writings and writings about his life and works.

Writings by Tal

Most of Tal’s scores, manuscripts, and writings are held at the Josef Tal Archive at the National Library of Israel; most of the rest is available for the public on Tal’s website, made by his son, Etan Tal. Josef Tal wrote copiously: three autobiographies, two in his native German, the first in 1985. The second, published in 1997, was translated by his friend, writer, translator, and musician Ada Brodsky, and published in Hebrew. Tal 2005 is the third. Tal 1960, an expansion of Tal 1953, is the first notable essay in which he opposed folklorism and supported the adaptation of European contemporary styles in Israel, too. Tal 2002 summarizes his Schoenberg-influenced ideology and his approach to electronic music.

Writings about Tal

Beyond Tal’s Grove entries, written in the 1980 edition by Alexander Ringer and in the 2001 one by Hirshberg, who also wrote Tal’s MGG entry, most general surveys about Israeli art music and its founders, whether in books, articles, essays, reviews, or websites, hold paragraphs, short sections, or more on Tal as one of its pioneers. Fleisher 1997 is a short autobiography, including his compositional ideology. Burns 2000 discusses several piano works by Tal. Flender 1998 presents the ideological and biographical similarities between Stefan Wolpe and Josef Tal. Ron 2000 is based on a comprehensive Tel Aviv University dissertation on Tal’s music and includes analytical articles. Shelleg 2016 begins with a critique of the historiography of Israeli music and focuses on Tal’s Sonata for Piano (1950).

Mordecai Seter

Among the most influential of the founders, Mordecai Seter (née Marc Starominsky, b. 1916, Novorossiysk; d. 1994, Tel Aviv) has been perceived as a national composer for his early music, and a composers’ composer for his late style. Several of his early and midcareer works won long-lasting reception as national core repertory, beginning with his 1940 Sabbath Cantata and culminating with the 1961 oratorio Midnight Vigil. His 1962–1963 orchestral fantasy Judith was one of three of his ballets commissioned by Martha Graham. Seter based many of his early and midcareer works on traditional, liturgical, and paraliturgical Mizraḥi melodies. Inspired by his studies with Nadia Boulanger (Paris, 1935–1937), he reworked these melodies within a broad range of textures, often on a continuum between monophony through early- and high-Renaissance and late Baroque dense polyphony to heterophony. His late works (1970–1987), however—which have began to regain interest among performers and make up almost half of his oeuvre, consisting of chamber and piano music—are expressive yet introverted and ascetic, while holding internal drama, which erupts mostly in the climaxes. Thirty-five of his forty-six late works are based on his thirty-three original diatonic modes of 12–25 notes of minor, major, augmented, and double-augmented seconds, which create his musical language, comparable to (but radically different from) Messiaen’s. Seter’s prose publications are not copious, unlike those by his mentor in the late 1930s, Stutschewsky; his close friend Boskovich; or his peer Shlonsky—and he certainly did not publish about himself like Tal. He focused on composition primarily, and on teaching at Tel Aviv University. His few writings, however, are crucial to an understanding of the composer, whose scores have been studied closely by his peers and followers. All are available at the Seter Archive at the National Library of Israel. While all notable surveys of Israeli music describe the composer as particularly original and influential among the leading composers of his generation—placed among his seniors, Ben-Haim, Partos, Boskovich, and Tal—few writers of his day chose to discuss him and his works at length. Music historians and critics alike often acknowledged in their writings that his music was important, but tacitly agreed that writing about the man or his music (e.g., in an article or a book dedicated to his work) would have been too difficult a task. Contributing factors could have been his introverted personality, his limited net of connections with officials of art music (he did not easily volunteer information about himself, especially not later in life, and consistently stayed away from institutional power), and probably his multifaceted style.

Writings by Seter

The Mordecai Seter Archive at the National Library of Israel holds his manuscripts, sketches, and a variety of pertaining materials. Seter’s notable writings comprise his only two (known) published essays, Seter 1958 and Seter 1960; three published interviews, Seter 1953, Seter and Adelman 1987, and Seter and Fleisher 1997; and his personal journals (1952–1994; discussed, notably, in both Grover-Friedlander 2005 and Shelleg 2014, both under Writings about Seter). All are available at the Seter Archive. Excerpts of his interviews with Ronit Seter (mostly during the years 1986–1994) are partially cited throughout her works on the composer, his music, and on Israeli and contemporary music in general. Seter 1953 (in Shiloah’s questionnaire) is his first significant published statement about his version of East-West stylistic syntheses. Shiloah included him as a young composer of note—even before Seter penned his midcareer major works and before his choral works of the 1940s won decent performances (by Gary Bertini’s Rinat Choir, founded 1955)—because the few works that were performed by that time—Children’s Songs (1937–1939), Sabbath Cantata (1940), Partita for violin and piano (1950), and Sonata for two violins (1951–1952)—had made him known among composers. Seter 1958 was written after the first, ballet version of Midnight Vigil (1957) and while he was working on the radiophonic oratorio version. It sheds light on Seter’s concept of the Zionist melting pot expressed in this work. Seter 1960 was placed in Bat Kol to create a discussion and controversy. It immediately followed Tal 1960 (cited under Writings by Tal) in the same issue: Tal, in favor of the European avant-garde; Seter, supporting a local style that synthesized Western-Mizraḥi elements. Offering cursory histories of Eastern and Western musics, he emphasized the qualities of both. Seter conveyed an appreciation of Mizraḥi’s music elastic rhythms; rich, microtonal melodies, and complex heterophonies—in an equivalent way to Western music’s polyphony, harmony, and developed forms, noting that an integrationalist synthesis is possible. Seter and Adelman 1987 (Adelman’s interview) is a short biographical survey. The composer rewrote it before publication. Adelman was one of three who interviewed Seter at length around his seventieth birthday, including Paul Landau (Landau 1990, under Writings about Seter), who broadcast his four interviews on Kol ha-musica (Israel’s classical radio station) in March and April 1986, and Seter and Fleisher 1997. The latter is based on Fleisher’s 1986 interview; done by a composer and an ethnomusicologist for an English readership; however, its content differs considerably from other sources, and it is based on long and thorough replies from the composer.

  • Mordecai Seter Archive at the National Library of Israel.

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    The call number 110 of the Seter Archive is clickable for more details. Hebrew side contains different info. Donated to the NLI in 1999, the archive (two meters) holds the composer’s manuscripts, sketches, personal journals, articles and interviews, newspaper clippings of reviews of his music, correspondence, and photographs, among other materials.

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  • Seter, Mordecai. Personal Journals at the National Library of Israel.

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    Hebrew site reveals more info. Seter’s personal notebooks divulge little about his personal life. Approximately thirty handwritten notebooks, mostly about half-letter size, reveal his artistic philosophy and contain comments relating to performances of his works and reception; several stylistic, introspective overviews of his oeuvre and its themes and expressive content; and mostly citations from the composers’ readings of literature, history, and musicology, in Hebrew, Russian, French, and English.

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  • Seter, Mordecai. “Mordecai Seter.” In “Mish‘al ‘al ha-musica ha-Israelit.” Edited by Amnon Shiloah. Massa (literary supplement of La-merḥav, Tel Aviv) 44 (1953): 8.

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    In a short statement, Seter explains the three common styles of Israeli composers at the time: those using Eastern-European Jewish melodies; those using Mizraḥi music in an Orientalistic, exotic way; and those, like him and his close friends Boskovich and Partos (not mentioned), who use the Mizraḥi melodic and rhythmic elements also in the harmony, form, and the orchestration. Seter also draws attention to societal processes hindering the development of art music.

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  • Seter, Mordecai. “Ḥevlei ha-leidah shel ha-musicah ha-yisraelit” Haaretz, 31 October 1958.

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    Tracing the genesis of Israeli music in the works of the composers of the 1908 St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music, Seter explains the musical expressions of the melting-pot Zionist ideal. He urges composers to deeply identify with various Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizraḥi materials in order to find, as Idelsohn (not mentioned) argued, the common thread of Jewish communities in order to convey it in art forms.

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  • Seter, Mordecai. “Mizraḥ u-ma‘arav ba-musicah—keitzad?” Bat Kol 1.4 1960: 7–8.

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    Seter supports local style inspired by Renaissance and contemporary forms and techniques, in which he finds parallels in Mizraḥi ones, in order to create a coveted East-West synthesis. Unlike Boskovich 1953 (under Nationalism and Orientalism), he stresses that his ideas are not instructive or prescriptive, but rather a description of the approach that he and his peers (Boskovich and Partos, neither mentioned by name) used in their works. See Seter 2014 (269–278, cited under General Overviews) for a hermeneutic analysis. (Translates as “How [can one synthesize] East and West in Music?” English abridged version, 1961.)

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  • Seter, Mordecai, and Uri Adelman. “Siḥot ‘im Mordecai Seter.” Gitit (The Israel Music Journal of Jeunesses Musicales d’Israel) 84 (May 1987): 5, 22–23.

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    Young composer (later, novelist) Adelman interviews Seter on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Short biography about his time in Palestine, Paris (1932–1937), and back in Palestine and Israel; discussions of Ricercar, Yemenite Suite, Midnight Vigil, Sonata for two violins, Sine Nomine, and Seter’s compositional process. A section on Seter’s views on contemporary composers was omitted from the published article.

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  • Seter, Mordecai, and Robert Fleisher. “Mordecai Seter.” In Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Edited by Robert Fleisher, 108–119. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    Begins with Fleisher’s introductory section (slightly longer than others in the book). Written as a continuous text, without Fleisher’s questions, and thoroughly edited by the composer (as were other interviews). On Seter’s studies with Dukas and Boulanger in Paris, back in Palestine working with Stutschewsky and Idelsohn’s Thesaurus, Midnight Vigil, his personal modes and late works, and on Israeli music in general.

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Writings about Seter

The first scholarly work of note on Seter was Elias 1974 on Ricercar for strings (1953–1956), the only extensive writing on one Israeli composition at the time. Notably, it was written by William Elias, the chair of Israel Music Institute (1962–1989), Israel’s public-supported publishing house for art music. Beyond Elias’s multiple 1980 Grove entries, including on Seter, Elias 1974 was his longest, most comprehensive writing on an Israeli composer. Around the same time, in 1975, Bahat completed his Sorbonne dissertation on Israeli art music, which is a somewhat similar text as Bahat 2016 (cited under Nationalism and Orientalism), including a thorough analysis of the Yemenite tunes that Seter used for his Midnight Vigil (1961). Landau 1990, a biographical survey article on the man and his music, faithfully reflected common conceptions (and myths) about the composer at the time. Based on four interviews with the composer that Landau broadcasted on Kol ha-musica (Israel’s classical music radio station) in 1986, Landau 1990 was subsequently reprinted as a booklet, the first of the IMI Mini Biographies Series (cited under Reference Works), which also includes a list of Seter’s compositions (published by the Israel Music Institute, 1995). Landau, too, was the chair of Israel Music Institute (1989–2012), and, similarly to Elias, this is his longest writing on an Israeli composer. Later, it was also included as the opening essay in the booklet Mordecai Seter: Composer of the Year, which accompanied a series of concerts dedicated to Seter during the 2012–2013 concert season as part of the annual Israeli Music Festival of 2012 (edited by Uri Golomb, it also includes notes by Paul Landau on several works by Seter). Fleisher 1997 is his 1986 interview with the composer. Grover-Friedlander 2005 is the first scholarly work focusing on Midnight Vigil published in a musicological journal. Shelleg 2014 includes an analytic discussion of Midnight Vigil. Several of the writings about Seter were written by Ronit Seter (his daughter-in-law), including his entries in Grove Online, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, and Encyclopaedia Judaica. The Grove entry (Seter 2001) is the longest on any Israeli composer, and the only one that includes a complete list of works. Previously, Seter wrote her 1991 Bar-Ilan MA thesis, an analysis of his late works; a short essay on the composer in a booklet (Yuvalim be-Israel, 1998) which was published for the first annual Hag ha-musica ha-yisraelit (Israeli Music Festival); and a chapter in her 2004 Cornell dissertation about Midnight Vigil.

  • Avner Bahat.

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    A website of the ethnomusicologist Bahat, who focused on Yemenite music. Bahat penned the most extensive ethnomusicological study of Seter’s Midnight Vigil. He looks into its melodic sources from the Yemenite tradition, and focuses on the composer’s collaboration with Sara Levi-Tanai. See, under Books, Kolot mi-kedem u-mi-yam (Voices from East and West), 207–255. The first version of this analysis appeared in Bahat’s 1975 Sorbonne dissertation.

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  • Elias, William Y. Mordecai Seter’s Ricercar. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Musicology Department, 1974.

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    Based on Elias’s TAU master’s thesis. Extensive information on the work’s background and its reception in over a hundred performances during the 1960s and early 1970s, including its use in a few ballets, a detailed structural and intervallic analysis, and an original interpretation of the work’s significance. Hebrew with English abstract.

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  • Fleisher, Robert. “Mordecai Seter.” In Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Edited by Robert Fleisher, 108–119. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    Fleisher’s introduction includes discussion of Seter’s studies with Boulanger, the polyphonic techniques, and the range from modal to atonal melodies. This 1986 interview begins with a short biography, including the time he studied in Paris (1932–1937), and his contact with Stutschewsky, who in 1938 introduced Seter to Idelsohn’s Thesaurus.

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  • Grover-Friedlander, Michal. “Echoed Above.” Opera Quarterly 21.4 (Autumn 2005): 675–712.

    DOI: 10.1093/oq/kbi098Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A longer version of this article was published as “Singing and Disappearing Angels: Mordecai Seter, Tikkun Ḥatsot (Midnight Vigil, 1961)” in Operatic Afterlives (New York: Zone Books, 2011), 151–196. Spiritual interpretations—including Kabbalistic and operatic approaches (inspired by Carolyn Abbate’s hermeneutic style)—of Seter’s oratorio Midnight Vigil, densely hermeneutic with seven different interpretations of the prayer, the redemption, death, and silence.

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  • Landau, Paul. “Mordecai Seter: From the Collective to the Intimate.” IMI News 90.3 (1990): 3–5.

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    Biographical survey article on the man and his music; faithfully reflects common reception (and myths) of its time about the composer. Republished in the first of the IMI Mini Biographies on Seter (1995), and revised in the booklet for Seter, for the Israeli Music Celebrations’ composer of the year for 2012–2013 (Israeli Music Festival). Based on four interviews Landau conducted with Seter in 1986 and broadcasted on Kol ha-musica for the composer’s seventieth birthday. See also Hebrew edition.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Seter: ha-nigleh ‘al ha-nistar: ha-modus ufrisato bi-ytzirotav ha-me’uḥarot 1973–1987.” MA diss., Bar-Ilan University, 1991.

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    The historical background and musical aesthetics is based on about forty interviews with the composer, 1986–1991. Theoretical analysis of Seter’s late style. Interval vectors of the 33 original diatonic modes of 12–25 notes in most of Seter’s 46 late works (1970–1987, chamber and piano). Chapters on Intervals (piano, 1973), Quartetto Sinfonico (string quartet, 1976), Dialogues (piano, 1983) Improvisation (piano, 1983) and Presence (piano, 1986). Available online.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Seter, Mordecai.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2001.

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    A comprehensive entry (c. 3,500 words) with a complete list of works. Short biography, studies in Paris (1932–1937; 1935–1937 with Boulanger), style and techniques, details about Sabbath Cantata (1940), Ricercar (1953–1956), Midnight Vigil (1961), chamber and piano late works (1970–1987) and the original modes, and reception.

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Yuvalim be-Israel: Nationalism in Jewish-Israeli Art Music, 1940–2000.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 2004.

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    Provides an introduction to Seter’s reception and his status among the founders as a different composer in method and style, deconstruction of the Seter myth as both a national composer and a composers’ composer, overview of Seter’s own original modes in his orchestral works of the 1960s and his late works, and a detailed historical and theoretical analysis of his magnum opus, oratorio Midnight Vigil (1961). See the section titled “Mordecai Seter: Myth and Midnight Vigil: Seter’s Tikkun Hatzot” (pp. 249–339).

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. “Thematic Incongruities (Or, Violating Kairological Time).” In Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History. By Assaf Shelleg, 133–151. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199354948.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sets Seter as a different composer, both in terms of his interpretation of the Zionist ideology and the use of borrowed Mizraḥi melodies. Discusses “Al Naharot Babel” of the Motets (1940), Chaconne and Scherzo (1955), and Midnight Vigil (according to the 1961 score, not the final 1984 recorded version). See also a section on late Seter (208–216).

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Other Members of the Founding Generation

Beyond Ben-Haim, Tal, and Seter, representing three trajectories in Israeli music, other composers among the founders were equally notable for their compositions and/or for their reception at the time. Solomon Rosowsky (b. 1878–d. 1962), a cofounder of the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music (1908), brought its ideas to Palestine, where he lived from 1925 to 1947. Joachim Stutschewsky (b. 1891–d. 1982) followed the Society’s ideology in Israel, and wrote copiously about Jewish and Israeli music. The works of Erich Walter Sternberg (b. 1891–d. 1974) were chosen, first among his peers, to be performed by the newly founded Palestine Orchestra in 1937. His imaginative, conservative works are gradually and slowly re-emerging in the repertory after decades in obscurity. Stefan Wolpe (b. 1902–d. 1972) was well known among Jerusalem composers during the late 1930s, but because the classical music scene was merely at its start and not conducive to nontonal composers (among other reasons), he immigrated to New York. Several pieces by Marc Lavry (b. 1903–d. 1967), notably his light classical music Emek, were staples of Israeli music during the 1950s and 1960s. Verdina Shlonsky (b. 1905–d. 1990) was the only notable woman composer among the founders; an avid writer, too, she was marginalized because of her gender. Oedoen Partos (b. 1907–d. 1977) was considered the leader of classical music during the 1950s and the first laureate of the Israel Prize for music (1954). Partos stayed at the center of musical activities, including composition, performing, teaching, and institutional duties, until the 1970s. Of the influential Troika (Partos, Boskovich, and Seter), Alexander Uriah Boskovich (b. 1907–d. 1964) delineated in his influential writings and music a prescriptive ideology of the Mediterranean style and the ideal Israeli music. The ten symphonies of Menachem Avidom (b. 1908–d. 1995) were performed during his life time. He was not only active institutionally but also chosen, along with Lavry, Partos, and Ben-Haim, to represent Israeli music in the first Israel Philharmonic tour in the United States in the early 1950s (see his NLI archive and his IMI Mini Biography). Abel Ehrlich (b. 1915–d. 2003), known as the most prolific among Israeli composers, with more than three thousand works, was also one of the most influential, especially through his many students, including Yoni Rechter, Naomi Shemer, Chaya Czernowin, and Ruben Seroussi; see his archive at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and his IMI Mini Biography. Significant writings about Avidom and Ehrlich are not available at present. The following entries include notable scholarly or general articles, chapters, or books about the rest of these composers.

Alexander Uriah Boskovich

Born in Hungary, Boskovich (b. 1907–d. 1964) studied in Paris with Lazar Levi, Paul Dukas, Alfred Cortot, and Nadia Boulanger and immigrated to Palestine in 1938. He has been considered the ideologist among the founders of Israeli music, especially since the late 1950s. Some of his works entered the Israeli canon: notably, the Concerto for Oboe (1942) and, more so, Semitic Suite for piano with several orchestral versions (1945), and the popular or folk song Dudu (1948), which won many covers. His copious writings covered multiple articles, concert reviews (Haaretz), and an unpublished book (1956), all held at the Boskovich Archive at the National Library of Israel (MUS 037, 2.5 meters). In his articles, he disseminated the idea that Israeli composers should express their time and place, or the “where and when” (ha-heikhan ve-ha-matai) of their works. He meant that local compositions must embrace contemporary European techniques (when), but they also should adhere to the Zionist cultural drive (where), which, in music, meant embracing local melos, the tunes of the local Jewish communities, and first and foremost, the Mizraḥi ones—those traditions that were brought to Israel by Jews originating in the surrounding Arab countries, representing the locale (more so than the Ashkenazi ones, which was the common thought at the time). With Max Brod, he coined the term “Mediterranean music” regarding Israeli art music—different from the current use of the term, which often relates to the popular genres. Boskovich 1953 crystallizes these ideas, and has been often cited in discussions on Israelism or national identity in Israeli music since. Hirshberg and Shmueli 1995 is divided between a biography (Hirshberg) and hermeneutical and theoretical analysis (Shmueli) of Boskovich’s works and articles. Golomb 2016 is a comprehensive source of information about the composer.

  • Boskovich, Alexander Uriyah. “Ba‘ayot ha-musica—ve-ha-musica ha-mekorit be-Israel”: “Ba‘ayot ha-musica ha-mekorit be-Israel.” Orlogin 9 (November 1953): 280–294.

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    The second part of a two-part article, begun in Orlogin 3 (July 1951): 177–187. The 1953 article (the first is introductory) is one of the most cited as a prescriptive, thought-provoking article on national identity in music of its time and is regarded as the manifesto of the Mediterranean style. Partly reprinted in Hirshberg and Shmueli 1995 (pp. 193–210). Available, as his unpublished writings, in the Boskovich Archive at the National Library of Israel. Cf. its Hebrew version.

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  • Golomb, Uri, ed. Alexander Uriyah Boskovich. Tel Aviv: Israel Music Institute, 2016.

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    At ninety-six pages, this is the longest, most substantial of the IMI Mini Biographies Series (cited under Reference Works). Bilingual, it includes a biographical essay by Joseph Peles; biographical timeline; extensive list of works, performances, and premieres; discography; and publications. Includes updated information, beyond Hirshberg and Shmueli 1995, and was supervised by the composers’ widow, pianist Miriam Boskovich.

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  • Hirshberg, Jehoash, and Herzl Shmueli. Alexander Uriyah Boskovich: Ḥayyav, yetzirato ve-haguto. Jerusalem: Carmel, 1995.

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    A major contribution to the study of the formation of Israeli identity in music. In addition to his achievements as a composer, Boskovich also formulated some of the most detailed, comprehensive, and representative manifestos of Israeli national music, and is thus regarded among the founders of the Mediterranean school in Israeli art music. This book discusses his life, music, and ideology, and presents extensive excerpts from his own writings, some published in his lifetime, others from unpublished drafts.

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Marc Lavry

One of the most widely performed composers among the founders, Lavry (b. 1903, Riga; d. 1967, Haifa) was a prolific composer whose music attracted large audiences. His Emek (Valley, 1937), a symphonic poem, became his signature piece and was performed hundreds of times during the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote the second significant opera in Palestine, Dan ha-Shomer (1941, second to Jacob Weinberg’s Ha’halutzim). See the Marc Lavry Archive at the NLI, MUS 0118. Lavry 1977 is his oft-cited comment on his musical ideology. His official website is informative but not consistently scholarly. Nemtsov 2013 is currently the most thorough study of the composer’s biography.

  • Lavry, Marc. “Ani ma’amin shel kompositor.” Tatzlil 9.17 (1977): 122.

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    In one paragraph written the year he died, 1967, Lavry, who did not express himself much in writings, conveyed his desire to be accessible to the large public, while discussing Israelism (without using the term). See free translation on the composer’s official website, founded by his daughter Efrat Lavry, under “Composer’s Motto.”

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  • Nemtsov, Jascha. “Vermittler zwischen den Kulturen: Marc Lavry.” In Doppelt vertrieben: Deutsch-jüdische Komponisten aus dem östlichen Europa in Palästina/Israel. Jüdische Musik: Studien und Quellen zur jüdischen Musikkultur 11. By Jascha Nemtsov, 89–150. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013.

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    Examines his early years in Riga, studies in Leipzig, work in Berlin, a long discussion of Lavry’s best-known, best-performed work, Emek (symphonic poem, 1937), his opera, Dan ha-shomer (1941), his first piano concerto (1946), and a discussion of the Mediterranean style.

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Oedoen Partos

The first musician to receive the prestigious Israel Prize (1954), Partos (b. 1907, Budapest; d. 1977, Tel Aviv) was widely considered the foremost musician of his generation, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. Following some decline in performances of his music during the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a revival since. Recruited by Huberman, who asked him to play the first viola in the Palestine Orchestra, Partos, formerly a violinist, became the best violist in Israel and was known internationally. A Bartókian in his compositions and a leader of musical life who brought the Bartók-Kodály school to Israel (born in Budapest, he studied with Kodály between 1919 and 1924), he taught generations of Israeli composers. His viola concerti and a few chamber works, notably Visions (Ḥezionot, 1957) and Psalms (Tehillim, a string quartet, 1960), are considered core repertory by a member of the founding generation. Partos 1956 portrays his compositional ideology, originating in that which he absorbed during his formative years in Budapest. Bahat 1984 is a traditional biography and includes a survey of Partos’s music; it was the second biography written about an Israeli composer (after Hirshberg 2010 on Ben-Haim, cited under Writings about Ben-Haim). Since 2016, Bahat 1984 is available online. Partos’s archive is kept among the archives of the founders of Tel Aviv University.

  • Bahat, Avner. Oedoen Partos: hayyav vi-ytzirato. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1984.

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    Reflecting common, admiring views of the composer, this biography covers Partos’s childhood in Budapest and emigration to Palestine in 1938, his time as a renowned violist at the Palestine Orchestra (since 1948, Israel Philharmonic), testimonies about his personality and his Bartók-influenced ideology, and a survey of his works. Includes analyses of Visions (Ḥezionot, 1957), and Psalms (Tehillim, 1960), also available but separated online.

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  • Partos, Oedoen. “Darki ba-musica.” Bat-Kol 3 (April 1956): 6–8.

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    Oft-cited source of the ideological underpinnings of Israeli music. The introduction openly draws on the Bartók-Kodály school as a model for local composition, which he shared with his friends Seter and Boskovich and disseminated to his many students. English synopsis appended.

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Solomon Rosowsky

Composer, cantor, and a cofounder of the Society for Jewish Folk Music (1908), Rosowsky (b. 1878 Riga; d. 1962, New York) studied with Rimsky-Korsakov (who encouraged his Jewish students to explore their traditional melos), founded a Jewish music conservatory in Riga, and immigrated to Palestine in 1925, where he composed songs and stage and chamber music. The anti-Ashkenazi Zeitgeist in the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine, pre-1948), especially in music, was not conducive to his work, and his move to New York in 1947 resulted in one of the best books since about the Ashkenazi (Polish-Lithuanian) cantillation, The Cantillation of the Bible (1957). Rosowsky 1928, however, is one of the rare and original views of his time on Jewish identity in music, uniquely connecting—and separating—Jewish and Hebrew musics.

Verdina Shlonsky

The first woman composer among the founders, Shlonsky (b. 1905, Yekaterinoslav [Dnipropetrovsk], Ukraine; d. 1990, Tel Aviv) was hardly appreciated among her peers. Not only because of her gender, but also for not following the local dictum to weave Mizraḥi elements into her music, and for her “cosmopolitan” tendencies—all deemed “not Israeli enough.” Her connections with European composers whom she met in Paris also set her apart from the local scene. While she received her first composition prize in Paris in 1931, her first one in Israel, where she settled in 1944, was awarded to her only in 1973. Shlonsky (sister of the well-known Hebrew poet, Avraham Shlonsky, who translated her works into eloquent Hebrew) was also a prolific essayist on contemporary music and identity in music, especially on Jewish and Israeli identity. In her generation, she was comparable only to Boskovich and Stutschewsky, who wrote copiously. Her complete archive, including scores, articles, and rich correspondence with European composers and musicians, is held at the National Library of Israel, MUS 070. Seter 2007–2008 analyzes her unique position among the founders.

Erich Walter Sternberg

Among the first notable musicians who fled from Germany to Palestine, in 1931 (after his work was performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker), Sternberg (b. 1891, Berlin; d. 1974, Tel Aviv) was the first local composer to have a work performed by the Palestine Orchestra (1937) and also the first to compose a large-scale orchestral composition (The Twelve Tribes of Israel, 1938). His conservative, richly polyphonic style was influenced by the late Romantic German composers and Hindemith’s Gebrauchsmusik in his orchestral works, and by early Schoenberg in the chamber ones. His local reception tagged him, however, often tacitly, as more Jewish than Israeli, or as a composer whose immigration did not change his German style much, so that it was arguably lacking Israelism compared to Ben-Haim, Lavry, Avidom, and, later, especially the Troika (Partos, Boskovich, and Seter). Sternberg’s archive is held at the Archive of Israeli Music at Tel Aviv University (cited under Archives). Sternberg 1938 opposes overt Zionism in music. Shelleg 2014 is one of the rare hermeneutic appreciations of the composer.

  • Shelleg, Assaf. “Control Cases.” In Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History. By Assaf Shelleg, 59–64. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Often relegated in writings about Israeli art music to a secondary place among works by the founders, a few of Sternberg’s compositions receive here a close look into their cultural context, notably Östliche Visionen (piano, 1924–1926, suggesting the frigish shteiger; juxtaposed with Castelnuovo-Tedesco). See also pp. 81–83 on The Twelve Tribes of Israel (orchestral, 1938).

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  • Sternberg, Erich Walter. “The Twelve Tribes of Israel: Theme and Variations for Orchestra.” In Musica Hebraica 1–2 (1938): 24–27 (English and German) and 70–71 (Hebrew).

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    Beyond the body of the essay, which consists of detailed program notes on one of Sternberg’s major works, the introductory paragraph spells out his frustration with the prevalent pressure to compose with local signifiers (which meant then “Eretz Israeli folklore, synagogue cantillation, or melodies ornamented with Russian tunes”), and his decision to follow his own internal language; that is, the musical language he cultivated in Berlin.

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Joachim Stutschewsky

One of the most active musicians in Palestine/Israel during the 1940s–1960s as a composer, performing cellist, pedagogue, scholar, and essayist, Stutschewsky (Joachim or Yehoyachin; b. 1891, Romny, Ukraine; d. 1982, Tel Aviv) was a third-generation klezmer (both parental sides) who both participated in the creation of the legacy of the Second Viennese School and disseminated Jewish music, both traditional and original. Stutschewsky played in the famous Kolisch Quartet during its formative years in the mid-1920s and premiered several works by Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. Immediately after the Anschluss in 1938, Stutschewsky immigrated to Palestine and became an advocate of Jewish music in performance and of its integration in art music. His symphonic suit Israel (1964) won a 1973 Israel Philharmonic Orchestra prize. He published, mostly in German, pedagogical books for cello playing (Schott; discontinued during the Third Reich), books about Jewish music, an early biography, and an award-winning book on klezmer music. Stutschewsky 1988 (edited by Avner Bahat), an opus posthumous, is a selective collection of his essays, out of several hundred, mostly translated from the German and all related to Jewish identity in music and the creation of art music in Israel. Stutschewsky has been somewhat marginalized in Israel, especially after the early 1960s, partly because he embraced klezmer music at a time when its use in art music gradually came to be seen as a marker of the Diaspora, or exile music, and not music that would express Israelism. Research about him seems to have been practically discouraged. Nemtsov 2013, therefore, is the most thorough study of the composer’s biography available.

  • Nemtsov, Jascha. “‘Ein Leben ohne Kompromisse’: Joachim Stutschewsky.” In Doppelt vertrieben: Deutsch-jüdische Komponisten aus dem östlichen Europa in Palästina/Israel. Jüdische Musik: Studien und Quellen zur jüdischen Musikkultur 11. By Jascha Nemtsov, 151–256. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013.

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    A thorough discussion of the composer’s biography, with a focus on his early history as a son of klezmer musicians; his time in Zurich, Vienna, and the Schoenberg connection; a section about his time in Palestine; an overview of his work; and an attached article by Stutschewsky about Schoenberg at 100.

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  • Stutschewsky, Joachim. Be-ma‘agalei ha-musica ha-yehudit. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1988.

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    A collection of thirty-nine of his essays (1929–1972), thoroughly edited after the composer’s death. Originals held at the Stutschewsky Collection in the Felicja Blumental Music Center (formerly known as the Tel Aviv Public Music Library). Themes range from Bloch and Bruno Walter to Joel Engel and Solomon Rosowsky. His opinion essays on identity in Jewish and Israeli music are among the most thought-provoking of his time.

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Stefan Wolpe

Wolpe (b. 1902, Berlin; d. 1972, New York) spent only four years of his career in Palestine (1934–1938), yet his influence on composers in Jerusalem was well known, just as that formative time impacted his own music, too. As Cohen 2012 describes vividly, convincingly, and with scholarly authority, Wolpe, whose composition and teaching followed the Second Viennese School, received little support in Jerusalem, where the Zionist culture enhanced Gebrauchsmusik (utilitarian music, of the Hindemith school) much more readily than Wolpe’s atonal style. When he left for New York, Tal took his place at the Jerusalem music academy, and in Tal’s biographies he expresses his deep debt to Wolpe.

  • Cohen, Brigid. “‘Amalgamated’ Musics and National Visions in 1930s Palestine.” In Stefan Wolpe and the Avant-Garde Diaspora. By Brigid Cohen, 140–201. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    In an original chapter researched in Jerusalem, Cohen focuses on Wolpe’s artistic and pedagogical work, his political views on a future Palestinian state, and his opposition to the exploitation of Arabic local idioms. Wolpe, on the one hand, enthusiastically supported Zionism by his arrangements of local songs, and on the other, disseminated twelve-tone music in Palestine. Wolpe was the first composer to do so locally. See also the website of the Stefan Wolpe Society.

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Composers Born after 1920

Several of the prominent Israeli composers of art music born after 1920 were considered, and often saw themselves as, “second-generation” composers: Tzvi Avni, Yehezkel Braun, Ami Maayani, Ben-Zion Orgad, and Noam Sheriff among them. Most of them studied with Ben-Haim, Partos, Boskovich, Seter, or Tal, and their music continues that of the founders in some respects, but also departs from it, sometimes radically, in others. Some of their peers of a similar age, who made aliyah during the 1960s or early 1970s, and who did not share these formative years in Palestine and in Israel, still followed the second-generation ideologies in some of their works, as part of their attempts to integrate into the musical scene. Prominent among these, in their reception and cultural influence no less than in their music, were Mark Kopytman, André Hajdu, Leon Schidlowsky, and Sergiu Natra. While all of the composers named above have entries in Grove, and several of their archives are held at the NLI (not Maayani’s and Schidlowsky’s), there are notable books and articles about or by only some of them. As for younger composers, they rarely consider themselves “third-generation” (a tenuous signifier, at best), and they encompass a greater number of culturally influential composers. Some, after initial training in Israel, relocated to Western Europe or North America, but are still often associated, and often self-idenity, with Israel. Notable writings about these composers cover only Arie (Arik) Shapira, Tsippi Fleischer, Shulamit Ran, Josef Bardanashvili, Betty Olivero, and Chaya Czernowin.

Tzvi Avni

Avni (born in Saarbrücken in 1927, immigrated to Palestine in 1935, and lives in Tel Aviv), a 2001 Israel Prize laureate, is among the leading composers of the second generation of Israeli composers. He studied with Paul Ben-Haim and Mordecai Seter, emulated their styles, and also rebelled against some of their aesthetics. A man of letters more than most of his peers, Avni wrote dozens of essays from the early 1960s through the 2000s. He published some of his essays in two journals, which he also edited: Gitit, the Israel music journal published by Jeunesses musicale d’Israel and intended mostly for young musicians in their teens, and Music and Dance in Time (Music in Time until 2012), a publication of the Jerusalem Academy of Music. Avni also headed the central public music library in Tel Aviv (1961–1975, now renamed the Felicija Blumental Music Center and Music Library). As a professor at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, he taught generations of composers. Of approximately one hundred of his selected works, several have remained in the repertory. Among them, Capriccio (piano, 1955/1975), Sonata (piano, 1961), Prayer (Strings, 1962), Meditations on Drama (chamber orchestra, 1965), Mizmorei Tehillim (chorus, 1967), and Five Pantomimes (chamber, 1968). Avni and Fleisher 1997 is an exhaustive 1986 interview of the composer. Wolpe 2000 surveys six of Avni’s orchestral works. Avni, et al. 2008 is his interview on Israeli and Jewish identity in his music. Avni 2012 unfolds his biographical chapters and reissues some of his previously published essays. Its introduction, written by Michael Wolpe, is a revised version of an essay Wolpe wrote for the Avni IMI Mini Biography booklet (2009), which also includes an extensive list of his works. Shelleg 2014 is a dense, hermeneutic, thought-provoking, cultural discussion of the composer and his poetic world, using several of his works as case studies. Goldenberg 2016 is a detailed analysis of Avni’s Summer Strings (string quartet, 1962), and is rare in its high quality among writings about Avni’s works.

  • Avni, Tzvi. Be-mif’am ishi: Pirkei ḥayyim be-musica. Kfar Sava, Israel: Maba, 2012.

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    A collection of autobiographical essays and memoirs and not a traditional autobiography. Introduction-overview by composer Michael Wolpe. Long autobiographical chapter with sections about his teachers, Ben-Haim and Seter, and about his peers. Includes also some of Avni’s previously published essays focusing on contemporary music, Mizraḥi music, music and dance, Bracha Zephira, and Joachim Stutschewsky. Several poems by the composer, photos of his paintings, a list of works, and discography in English also included.

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  • Avni, Tzvi, and Robert Fleisher. “Tzvi Avni.” In Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Edited by Robert Fleisher, 136–148. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    Still one of the most comprehensive interviews with the composer. Discusses his childhood in Haifa; studies with Ehrlich, Seter, and Ben-Haim; Mediterranean style; Bartókian influence on Israeli composition; studies in the United States (1962–1964); experimental and electronic music; and Meditations on Drama, Five Pantomimes, Programme Music 1980, Epitaph and its Jewish elements, and Jewish and Israeli elements in his music.

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  • Avni, Tzvi, Ayala Sicron, and Anat Wax. “Re’ayon im Tzvi Avni (July 2008) (Interview with Tzvi Avni).” Tav+ 12 (2008): 34–47.

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    An illuminating interview of the composer by two students. Focuses on Israeli style, his definition of the difference between Jewish and Israeli in music, his program music, his Five Pantomimes, the significance of melody in his music, and a few words on Prayer (1961) and Summer Strings (1962)—in his opinion then, the “most Israeli” among his works.

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  • Goldenberg, Yosef. “Shtei revi‘iyot klei keshet yisraeliot moderniot mukdamot: Kashtot kaitz me’et Tzvi Avni ve-Tehillim me’et Oedoen Partos.” Pe’imot 3 (2016): 49–81.

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    One of the best analyses of Israeli works (translates as “Two early modern Israeli string quartets: Summer Strings by Tzvi Avni and Psalms by Oedoen Partos”). Proposes that modernist trends are seen in the harmony, Mizraḥi elements in the motifs. Structural outline, thematic analysis, theoretical discussion of the extended tonality, analysis of the polyphony. Traces some of the stylistic elements in Seter’s Ricercar.

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  • Shelleg, Assaf. “Avni: Counterpointing Modes of Memory.” In Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History. By Assaf Shelleg, 171–190. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199354948.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses auto-exoticism and distortions of national onomatopoeia (the Hora), ornately cultural-hermeneutical (juxtaposes Lavry’s Emek). On Avni’s Sonata (piano, 1961), Jerusalem of Heavens (1968), Five Pantomimes (1968), and Epitaph (Piano Sonata No. 2, 1979), among other works.

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  • Wolpe, Michael. “Dream of the Broken Mirror: The Orchestral Works by Tzvi Avni, Reflections.” IMI News 2000.1 (2000): 2–8.

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    Written by a composer who conducted some of Avni’s works, it is a brief survey of characteristics of Avni’s style, from the single lone melody, his sources of influences, heterophony, harmonic and rhythmic language, and quotations. Among the works discussed: Desert Scenes, Programme Music, Meditations on Drama, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, and Metamorphoses on a Choral by Bach.

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Josef Bardanashvili

Born in Batumi, Georgia in 1948, Bardanashvili became a notable Georgian composer. He was noted as such in the 2001 Grove, both in a personal entry and that about Georgia. One of the hallmarks of his style is a synthesis of his personal traditions, Georgian and Jewish, with the avant-garde techniques he adopted prior to his 1995 emigration to Israel, where he is active (he lives in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv). Following years of struggle as an immigrant in Israel, he is now one of the most frequently performed among Israeli composers, with several Israel Philharmonic performances of his symphonies, and two operas at the New Israel Opera. Bardanashvili teaches at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University. Ritzarev 2016 (Russian) is a comprehensive book about the composer, for whom there is also a 2006 bilingual (Hebrew and English) booklet in the IMI Mini Biographies Series (cited under Reference Works).

  • Ritzarev, Marina. Iosif Bardanashvili, Zhizn’v trekh izmereniakh (3D): Besedy s kompozitorom. Tel Aviv: VeDiScore, 2016.

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    A 288-page volume, in Russian and written by a world-renowned specialist in Russian music, it consists of a long, multifaceted interview, an essay featuring Bardanashvili’s creative biography, and a chapter on his opera A Journey to the End of the Millennium (2005, Tel Aviv). Lists of compositions (partly in English) and his paintings, a collection of the composer’s own program notes to his works, figures, and an index.

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Yehezkel Braun

Braun (b. 1922, Breslau; d. 2014, Tel Aviv; immigrated to Palestine in 1924), like Avni, had also been received as among the second-generation cohort of composers (Braun studied with Boskovich), but his path and reception were different. Feeling oppressed by the tyranny of the avant-garde, he created his own tonal-modal style. He composed hundreds of arrangements of popular and folk music, and also chose a highly accessible style for the pieces he considered his art-music works. A prolific composer, Braun became one of the best-performed locally, especially among choirs. Braun, et al. 2017 is based on autobiographical chapters he wrote during the last two decades of his life. It sheds light on Zionism in Palestine of the 1930s and 1940s, the role of music at that time, popular music, and the syntheses and clashes of his several identities, as an Ashkenazi composer born to a Christian mother and Jewish father studying (and growing up with) local, Mizraḥi, and Western musics—and expressing these identities in his compositions in Zionist Palestine and later Israel. Some of his works are based on his extensive study of Gregorian chant at the St. Pierre de Solesmes monastery in France during the 1970s and the following decades. Rasiuk 2012 analyzes the connection between this study and Braun’s compositions.

  • Braun, Yehezlel, Rotem Luz, Jehoash Hirshberg, et al. Yehezkel Braun: Hayyav vi-ytzirato. Jerusalem: Carmel, 2017.

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    Four imaginative autobiographical chapters, edited by Luz (his daughter), followed by Hirshberg, et al. on Braun’s orchestral, chamber, choir, and piano works, and his theater, dance, and film music, including analytical articles by Yosef Goldenberg on the Second Serenade and Naphtali Wagner on text-music relationships in one of his well-known songs (see also Wagner, Min-Ad, 2008–2009, vol. 1). Extensive yet selective list of Braun’s 280 works, all in Hebrew only.

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  • Rasiuk, Moshe. “Yehezkel Braun and the Influence of Gregorian Chant on His Music.” PhD diss., Tel Aviv University, 2012.

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    Based on Idelsohn’s approach to the liturgical cantillation of Yemenite, Iraqi, Syrian, and Persian Jews as similar to Gregorian tunes (originated in the music of the Temple), Braun studied Gregorian chant extensively, and Rasiuk analyzes its influences in a selection of choir works, Shir Ha-shirim perek gimel, Va-yimalet Cain, Tavas zehavi, Adon olam, and Uri tzafon among them. On his musical biography, and on Braun’s stylistic connections with Boskovich, Seter, and Avni, and with Durufle, Britten, and Pärt.

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Chaya Czernowin

Czernowin (b. 1957, Haifa; lives in Newton, Massachusetts, USA) is an Israeli-born and -educated composer, active mainly in the United States and also in Europe, Israel, and Japan. In 2009 she became the first woman composer to assume a full professorship in composition at Harvard University. In Israel, she studied with Abel Ehrlich and Leon Schidlowsky, and then with Roger Reynolds and Brian Ferneyhough at the University of California, San Diego, where she later taught for a decade (1997–2006). Czernowin also taught at the Darmstadt summer courses (1990–1998), and at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna (2006–2009) before she joined the faculty at Harvard. Her style is consistenly experimental and it corresponds, in some of her works, with the styles of Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, Helmut Lachenmann, and with Ferneyhough’s New Complexity. She is well known as an inspiring teacher. Her music is published by Schott, and writings about her grew considerably after 2009. For general information, see her 2001 Grove and 2013 Grove Dictionary of American Music entries, Golan Gur’s entry in the Bayerisches Musiker Lexikon Online, the writings on her Schott web page and her own website, and numorous interviews and press coverage online. In Czernowin 2012 she elaborates on her teaching philosophy. Wlodarski 2015 and Tamir-Ostrover 2016 are among the articles that discuss her music in original, thought-provoking contexts. Ross 2017, an informative journal essay, touches upon some of Czernowin’s core stylistic and thematic characteristics.

  • Czernowin, Chaya. “Teaching That Which Is Not Yet There (Stanford Version).” Contemporary Music Review 31.4 (2012): 283–289.

    DOI: 10.1080/07494467.2012.725815Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a composers’ symposium (from top American universities) at Stanford about teaching composition. The whole issue of CMR is devoted to the participating composers’ essays. It is one of Czernowin’s few representative writings about her teaching philosophy. Poetic, thought-provoking, and original.

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  • Ross, Alex. “Chaya Czernowin’s Darkly Majestic Opera ‘Infinite Now’.” New Yorker, 15 May 2017.

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    General-public essay, yet saturated with the wide and deep knowledge base of the author of The Rest Is Noise. Gracefully written, it discusses the opera’s inspiration in Remarque’s 1929 novel about World War I, her “radical” musical language, a brief overview of some of her works, and details about the score, notes on the structure, and the permiere of Infinite Now.

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  • Tamir-Ostrover, Hila. “Hitgalmut ha-trauma ba-opera Pnima shel Chaya Czernowin.” Pe’imot 3 (2016):119–156.

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    Utilizes theories of embodied cognition to explain audiences’ response to Czernowin’s expression of trauma (Holocaust, unspoken testimony). Tamir argues that Czernowin’s music embodies common reactions to trauma (silence, paralysis), which can elicit similar reactions among the performers and audiences through experimental techniques intended to create a strong emotional impact.

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  • Wlodarski, Amy Lynn. “Epilogue.” In Musical Witness and Holocaust Representation. By Amy Lynn Wlodarski, 164–177. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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    Placed in the context of second-generation works, Wlodarski looks at the connection of Czernowin’s Pnima . . . ins Innere (chamber opera, 2000) with its literary model, David Grossman’s novel See Under: Love (1989). Briefly analyzes the experience of a secondary witness; representations of boundaries and of the Holocaust, representing trauma in an opera (almost) without words and with distorted sounds.

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Tsippi Fleischer

Fleischer (Tsipporah Fleischer-Dolgopolsky, b. 1946, Haifa; lives in Haifa) is a composer, music educator, and musicologist. She specializes in Hebrew popular songs, with a focus on Shirei Eretz Israel (songs from the 1930s through the 1960s that assumed the status of canonic Israeli folk songs, with many covers), and in the study and teaching of song harmonizarion. Her art music, written mostly after 1980, synthesizes Arabic and Hebrew texts and musical modes and rhythms with Western classical instrumentation, based on her previous academic knowledge of ancient and modern Semitic languages and cultures, and, later, on her travels to Egypt. Her biography, work list, annotated bibliography (including some of her own writings), PDF scores, extensive discography, and recordings are available on her official, bilingual website. Additional materials are available at the Fleischer Archive at the National Library of Israel, partly available online, in Hebrew. See also her Grove and Encyclopedia Judaica entries. Her writings include a doctoral dissertation on Cherubini’s Médée, a textbook on song harmonization, and an extensive monograph on the music of Matti Caspi. Her Hebrew autobiography, Fleischer 2018, is highly informative.

André Hajdu

Hajdu (b. 1932, Budapest; d. 2016, Jerusalem), self-described as the enfant terrible of Israeli music, crafted a different career path than most of his peers. A Holocaust survivor from Budapest who studied there with Kodály and in Paris with Messiaen and Milhaud and taught in Tunis, he immigrated to Jerusalem in 1966 and settled there. Unlike most composers at the time, he was interested in traditional Ashkenazi, not Mizraḥi music, and following his Bartókian schooling, his ethnomusicological writings about the Hasidic repertory yielded one of his best-performed works, Truat Melech (King’s Fanfare, orchestra, 1976). Some of his didactic works, The Milky Way among them (comparable to Bártok’s Mikrokosmos), are among the most-often performed in Israeli repertory. Hajdu was a coveted teacher of three to four generations of Israeli composers and musical mavericks. During the 1990s, he added to his activities as an art-music composer a new facet, which exhibited his outstanding improvisational skills. He gathered several of his students into a band (Ha-uman Chai Ensemble, with peers 30–50 years younger than him), which specialized in performing their original kind of Jewish music. This music was inspired by both his art compositions, notably The Floating Tower (1971–1973, settings of fifty-six passages from the Mishnah) and Ashkenazi ethnic sources. Hajdu also improvised with his peers and recomposed more of his early works with them. See his official website, numerous YouTube clips of music and interviews, and clips from several films about him. Hajdu and Zakai 2015 (first edition, 1999) reveals not only the musical aesthetics of the authors, the first part focusing more on Hajdu and then gradually more on the famous contralto Mira Zakai, but also short histories of national-musical personae and local musical events.

  • Hajdu, André and Mira Zakai. Dlatot niftaḥot: André Hajdu and Mira Zakai mamshikhim le-soḥe’aḥ. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2015.

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    Second edition of Mira Zakai and André Hajdu, Le’an soḥim dgei ha-salmon: Dialogue (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1999). An impressionistic, inspired, cumulative book, it holds insights into the style and ideas of both composer Hajdu and contralto Zakai. The stream-of-consciousness range of themes includes insights into the two musicians’ careers, classic European literature, art, and music from Rembrandt to Musil, Scriabin, and Kodály, and ideological patterns within Israeli art music from Partos and Seter to Hajdu’s many students, Betty Olivero and Matan Porat among them. No index.

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Mark Kopytman

Kopytman (b. 1929, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine; d. 2011, Jerusalem) immigrated to Israel in 1972, so his attitude to creating Israeli music was somewhat similar to that of the founders, who spent their formative years before emigration and developed new trajectories in their music in Israel. Kopytman argued that the stylistic change in his music was tightly connected to his study of heterophony as expressed in contemporary music and the development of this texture in his own music. While he emphasized his Jewish roots (Kaddish, 1981, and his Cantus series, notably Cantus No. 2) and the Israeli connections in his music (October Sun, 1974; Memory, 1982), he also wished to be seen as part of a group of Russian composers, his peers from his formative studies in Moscow, including Denisov, Gubaidulina, and Schnittke, noting especially their interpretation of heterophony. One of the most influential composition teachers in Israel, with an international influence, Kopytman taught Osvaldo Golijov, Jorje Liderman, Yinam Leef, Ari Ben Shabetai, Haim Permont, Ayal Adler, and Talia Amar, among others. His official website contains basic information. Yulia Kreinin, a musicologist who devoted much of her scholarship to Kopytman, was also his biographer. Kreinin 2004 and Kreinin 2008 include discussions of Kopytman’s interpretation of heterophony and its expressions in his music.

  • Kreinin, Yulia. The Music of Mark Kopytman: Echoes of Imaginary Lines. Studia Slavica Musicologica 33. Berlin: Verlag Ernst Kuhn, 2008.

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    The title denotes heterophony, which Kopytman considered fundamental for his style. In two parts: about his style and aesthetics through analyses of selected case studies, and three essays by Kopytman from his series Studies in Composition.

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  • Kreinin, Yulia, ed. Mark Kopytman: Voices of Memories: Essays and Dialogues. Tel Aviv: Israel Music Institute, 2004.

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    First section on his genres, periods, and analytic essays, by Kreinin, Yevgeny Kletinich, Nancy Usher, Jehoash Hirshberg, Deborah Bradley, and Elena Dubinets. Yossi Tavor on Kopytman’s emigration from Russia, and Yevgeny Trembovelsky on Kopytman’s thoughts on music theory. Concludes with personal tributes by friends, colleagues, performers, and students.

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Betty Olivero

One of the leading Israeli composers, Olivero (b. 1954, Tel Aviv; lives in Tel Aviv and in Florence, Italy) won an entry in the Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers (1995) at the age of forty-one, and later in Grove Online (2001), MGG (2004), and the Jewish Women Encyclopedia (2006). Olivero was educated in Israel, studied in the United States, and eighteen years of her career were spent in Florence, Italy (1983–2001), beginning with formative studies with Berio during the mid-1980s. She returned to Israel and became the first local woman composer to hold a composition professorship (Bar Ilan University, since 2002) and the first woman composer to serve as a composer-in-residence for an orchestra (Jerusalem Symphony, 2004–2008). She pursues her career both in Israel and in Europe. Olivero has become known for the exquisite expressions of Jewish and Israeli cultural and national identity in her music. Her music coherently integrates European avant-garde techniques with folk and liturgical songs from the Sephardi (her own background, in Ladino), Mizraḥi, Ashkenazi, Arab, and other Middle-Eastern traditions. Olivero 1997 is her 1986 interview with Fleisher; at the age of thirty-two, she was already known as one of the most promising of Israeli composers. Throughout the 2010s, she still held many of the views expressed in this interview. Ziv 2001 and Viks 2016, both doctoral dissertations, trace the ethnic tunes Olivero uses in different works, allowing potentially illuminating comparisons with the music and the ideology of the founders. Ziv (a teacher and composer) analyzes Olivero’s magnum opus, Bakashot (1996, for clarinet solo, mixed choir, and orchestra), looking at the various ethnic tunes and their integration with contemporary, mostly European, compositional techniques. Bakashot is one of the most striking compositions in Israeli music, but it has not yet received its place in the performed repertory. Viks (a musicologist and pianist) offers an analytical and hermeneutic overview of Olivero’s oeuvre (1984–2014) and discusses borrowings, appropriations, and postmodernism in her music.

  • Olivero, Betty. “Betty Olivero.” In Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Edited by Robert Fleisher, 270–279. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    A 1986 interview with the composer. While Olivero has been interviewed often in journals and newspapers, especially during the 1990s and the 2000s, this is the only thorough one in a book (as of 2019). It clearly reflects its time. She discusses issues of identity and her experiences with Berio and life in Italy, her approach to composition, and short discussions of her works.

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  • Viks [Rozenshein-Viks], Anat. “Ha-musica shel Betty Olivero ve-hashpa‘at ha-folklore ha-yehudi ‘al yetziroteha.” PhD diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2016.

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    The most thorough study currently available of Olivero’s music. Analyses are thematically organized: works citing Mediterranean folklore, in Makamat, En La Mar Hai una Torre, Bashrav, and Aria; juxtapositions of Mediterranean and Eastern-European folklore, in Golem, and L’ombra che Port il Sogno; mysticism and prayer in her music, in Merkavot, Hosha‘anot; and her aesthetics. See also Viks 2016, in Pe’imot, cited under Scholarly Analyses.

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  • Ziv, Nadav. “Darkhei shibutz elementim etniyim bi-ytziratah shel Betty Olivero ‘Bakashot.’” PhD diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2001.

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    An analysis of Bakashot (1996). Focuses on the origins of liturgical and paraliturgical ethnic tunes and texts (from the Jewish prayers and Tehillim), from Moroccan bakashot, Yemenite piyyutim, Ladino songs, and klezmer tunes—and Olivero’s compositional techniques.

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Ben-Zion Orgad

A leader among the second-generation composers and an influential, established educator, Orgad (b. 1926, Gelsenkirchen, Germany; d. 2006, Tel Aviv) expressed in his writings the power of the Hebrew language on his music, focusing on the intonation and rhythms of both biblical and modern Hebrew and liturgical cantillation. He was also a writer and a poet. Orgad studied with Ben-Haim and Tal and was friends with Seter during his late years, and his music was influenced by their music and ideology—Tal’s in its style, Seter’s in its aspiring spirituality. Born in Germany, he immigrated to Palestine in 1933, and his formative years, like those of his peers and close friends Avni, Maayani, and Sheriff, paralleled the founding years of the State. In his compositions, he expressed his “tonescapes” (nofei-zlil, likely before the term “soundscapes” became known) to denote his relations to spiritual locations in Israel, mostly Jerusalem and its surroundings, where he often hiked. His major orchestral works, which won multiple performances during the 1960s and 1970s, still await satisfactory recordings. His last orchestral piece, Hove mitmashekh (Present Continuous, 2002) was performed posthumously in his memory in 2006, and some of his chamber and solo works, including Reshuyot (piano, 1978), have entered the Israeli repertory. Orgad 1968 explores musico-ideological themes, expressing both his and his generation’s debt to the founders and their deviation from the founders’ views. Orgad 1978 is perhaps the most thorough essay written by a composer on the musical potential of the Hebrew language. Orgad 1987 views the founders and his own generation; the essay amounts to a composer’s testimony. Orgad and Fleisher 1997 is likely to still be the most extensive interview with the composer in English. Finally, Shapira 2008 brings a variety of approaches, by a pianist, educator, critic, composer, and ethnomusicologists, to Orgad and his music, and includes two of his essays.

  • Orgad, Ben-Zion. “Mizraḥ u-ma‘arav ba-ytzira ha-musicalit be-yisrael.” In Yesodot mizraḥiyim u-ma‘araviyim ba-musica be-yisrael. Edited by Michal Zmora [Smoira-Cohn], 44–49. Tel Aviv: Israel Music Institute, 1968.

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    A short ideological treatise, originally presented at a 1962 conference. Discusses the steps that should be taken by composers toward a true synthesis of Western compositional techniques with Mizraḥi music: first and foremost, the study of the Hebrew, ancient and modern, and the thorough study of Mizraḥi music in order to achieve a synthesis that moves beyond exoticism.

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  • Orgad, Ben-Zion. “Ha-potenzial shel ha-safah ha-‘ivrit u-vituyo ba-musica ha-omanutit.” In Musical Tradition and Creation in the Culture of the Jewish People: East and West. Jerusalem: World Congress on Jewish Music, 1978.

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    A forty-eight-page paper in a rare collection of facsimiles of either abstracts or full papers in Hebrew, English, and French, prepared for the World Congress on Jewish Music (including those by Simha Arom, Carl Dahlhaus [added after binding], Bruno Nettl, and Kay Kaufman Shelemay). Consists of detailed prosodic and phonetic discussions and historical background.

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  • Orgad, Ben-Zion. “Bustan tzlilim.” In Madrikh le-vitzu‘a yetzirot Israeliot li-fsanter. Edited by Miriam Boskovich and Yona Rosental-Bogorow, 267–271. Tel Aviv: Ha-merkaz ha-metodi le-musica, 1987.

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    A summary of trends in the history of Israeli composition for piano. Orgad’s perspective, as a self-identified second-generation composer, is especially illuminating. Emphasizes the Mizraḥi elements and their integrations in Israeli pieces. Focuses on the founders and his generation.

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  • Orgad, Ben-Zion, and Robert Fleisher. “Ben-Zion Orgad.” In Twenty Israeli Composers: Voices of a Culture. Edited by Robert Fleisher, 128–135. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

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    This 1986 interview begins with the description of Orgad as frequently performed and highly influential (accurate for the 1960s through the 1990s). Focuses on Orgad’s German roots, his formative years in Palestine and Israel, the Hebrew language, simultaneity (in his magnum opus, orchestral-choral Mizmorim, 1966), and ideology.

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  • Shapira, Bat Sheva, ed. Ben-Zion Orgad: Kol haḥazon. Haifa, Israel: Oryan, 2008.

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    A rich source of information about Orgad. Comprises three sections: the first, five articles on Orgad’s music—by pianist Zecharia Plavin (who wrote on Orgad elsewhere), ethnomusicologist Avner Bahat, educator Shulamit Feingold, music critic Nathan Mishori, and composer Michael Wolpe; the second, a 1970 interview with ethnomusicologist Shoshana Weich-Shahak; the third, a short selection from Orgad’s many literary-autobiographical writings, edited by his partner, Rebecca Rass.

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Shulamit Ran

An Israeli-American composer, Ran (b. 1947, Shulamit Ran Lotan, Tel Aviv; lives in Sycamore, Illinois, near Chicago) studied as a child prodigy during the late 1950s and early 1960s with Boskovich and then with Ben-Haim, before her 1961 immigration to New York City, where she embarked on a career as a pianist and a composer. Ran became one of the first US women composers to assume a professorship: she taught at the University of Chicago from 1973 until her retirement in 2015. Ran became the second woman composer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1991; she was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2003. She is a recipient of multiple additional awards and honorary doctorates. Her music—opera, orchestral, chamber, and solo works—is expressionistic, dramatic, virtuosic, and idiomatic, and it incorporates both implicit and explicit Jewish and Israeli signifiers, textual and musical, as she cherishes both her Israeli and American identities. Respected among Israeli composers, her musical presence in Israel has waxed and waned. See her Grove and Grove Dictionary of American Music entries, her modest personal website, her web page on the website of her publisher, the Theodore Presser Company, and a large amount of journalistic reviews, essays, and interviews in newspapers and on the web, among other nonscholarly and semi-academic writings. Guzzo 1996 is a survey of her works until that time. Miller 2004 is a notable, thorough interview of Ran by a pianist and a musicologist. Seter 2004 is a seventy-page dissertation chapter holding analyses of Israeli signifiers in her music of the 1990s. Peck 2009 is by the author who wrote Ran’s Grove (2001) and Grove Dictionary of American Music (2013) entries. It is a short article about her first string quartet, yet one of the best scholarly writings on Ran. Ran 1981–1982 is one of a handful of her writings, rather early in her career, illuminating her attitude to feminism in music. In Ran and McCutchan 1999, she tells briefly about her teaching philosophy and the creative process. Ran 2012 is devoted to her teaching philosophy, and Ran and Kelly 2013 exposes more of the composer’s personality and worldview.

  • Guzzo, Anne M. “Shulamit Ran: Her Music and Life.” MA diss., University of California, Santa Cruz, 1996.

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    A general, yet comprehensive, survey of Ran’s oeuvre until 1996. Details her stylistic changes over the years.

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  • Miller, Malcolm. “Between Two Cultures: A Conversation with Shulamit Ran.” Tempo 58.227 (January 2004): 15–32.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0040298204000026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introductory section about Israeli art music. A thorough interview with Ran, discussing her formative years studying with Boskovich and Ben-Haim and her three-decade career as a composition professor at the University of Chicago. Reflective details about her piano, chamber, symphonic, and opera works, and Jewish and Israeli identity. See also her interview in Seter 2004.

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  • Peck, Robert. “The String Quartets of Shulamit Ran: Ran’s String Quartet, Her Other Music, and Their Reception.” In Intimate Voices: The Twentieth-Century String Quartet. Edited by Evan Jones, 309–322. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2009.

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    Thought-provoking, exquisite analysis of String Quartet No. 1 (1984), contextualized with notes about her second quartet (1989) and the third (Bach Shards, 2002), and with an informative section on many of her chamber and symphonic works.

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  • Ran, Shulamit. “In Response.” Perspectives of New Music 20 (1981–1982): 312.

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    A vehement call to avoid affirmative action (she does not use the term) for women composers, such as special, preferential concerts. Represents many women composers’ attitudes of that time.

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  • Ran, Shulamit. “On Teaching Composition.” Contemporary Music Review 31.4 (2012): 305–312.

    DOI: 10.1080/07494467.2012.725813Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a composers’ symposium at Stanford about teaching composition in an issue of CMR devoted to the composers’ essays. Unlike her interviews, this is Ran’s credo about teaching, concluding almost four decades of teaching in Chicago. Homage to her early teachers, on teaching intuitively yet beginning with a set of exercises about manipulation of pitch and rhythm vertically and horizonally, and on the balance between fantasy and rigor.

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  • Ran, Shulamit, and Jennifer Kelly. “Shulamit Ran.” In In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States. Edited by Jennifer Kelly, 27–41. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

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    A July 2010 interview, at the University of Chicago, featuring general conversation about Ran’s life, achievements, teaching philosophy, and approach to composition. A good source to understand parts of her personality, especially as one of several interviews to complete the picture. Small sections about national identity and feminism. Not much about specific works.

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  • Ran, Shulamit, and Ann McCutchan. “Shulamit Ran.” In The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process. Edited by Ann McCutchan, 115–122. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    A few pages by Ran, interviewed in May 1996, on her childhood, the balance between teaching and composition, the compositional process, her opera Between Two Worlds (1995–1997), several of her symphonic and chamber works, and her teaching philosophy. Includes a selected list of twelve of her works (1971–1997).

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  • Seter, Ronit. “Shulamit Ran, between Two Worlds: Mirage of Tel Aviv in Frosty Chicago, or, Viennese Expressionism Merged with ‘Israelism’ in American Compositions—On East Wind, Vistas, Mirage, Legends, and Voices.” In “Yuvalim Be-Israel: Nationalism in Jewish-Israeli Art Music, 1940–2000,” 384–453. PhD diss., Cornell University, 2004.

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    On her identity as both Israeli and American, a 2002 interview with the composer, on her early style, and analysis of Israeli signifiers in five chamber and orchestral works, East Wind, Vistas, Mirage, Legends, and Voices, composed between 1987 and 2000. Final sections address Ran as a woman composer, and her American identity. See also Miller 2004.

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Arie (Arik) Shapira

One of the most controversial composers in Israel, certainly among the Israel Prize laureates (in 1994; see pro and con coverage in the 1994 IMI News), Shapira (b. 1943, Kibbutz Afikim, near Tiberias; d. 2015, Haifa) studied in Tel Aviv with several of the founders, Partos and Seter among them. Ideologically, he followed Boskovich in his desire to express in his music the concerns of his own time and place. Stylistically, his version of the avant-garde is densely packed and fierce. He considers the distortion of rhythm, sound, and text as the only appropriate expression of the tensions of life in Israel. Shapira 2007 is written by and cowritten with his wife, a writer, poet, and editor, and the book reflects his views on his music.

  • Shapira, Bat-Sheva, ed. Ka-ḥo’aḥ ben shoshamim: Arik Shapira, malḥin Israeli. Haifa, Israel: Oryan, 2007.

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    Self-published long interview and autobiography of Shapira, conducted and edited by his wife (who also edited the journal Tav+). The title denotes both Shapira’s controversial reception, especially following the 1994 Israel Prize, and his prickly, dissonant, yet captivating style. Additional chapters on his works, music and politics, music and the Holocaust, and electronic music.

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