Jewish Studies Hebrew Literature and Music
by
Michal Ben-Horin
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0196

Introduction

Literature and music have a long entwined history. Since antiquity, music and poetry (a crystalized form of “literature” or the “poetic”) have been regarded as “twin sisters,” constituting a productive source of creation and inspiration. In the Romantic era (especially German Romanticism) this affinity reached one of its peaks, as demonstrated in the emergence of symbiotic musical-poetic forms and modes of aesthetic expression. From the perspective of cultural history, however, the scope of this relationship is even wider and can be traced back to the overlap between language and music. The compatibility of music and poetry has produced a range of scholarship elaborated in various traditions of knowledge and research disciplines, including semiotics, poetics, aesthetics, musicology, cultural studies, and critical theory. It is well known that sound is a central component of both musical and verbal sign systems. What happens to this sound, however, when we read a story? Moreover, whereas the connection between sounds and poems seems obvious, as shown in the field of research called prosody, which explores various phenomena such as rhythm and alliteration, metric and intonation, the connection between sounds and prose fiction is less obvious. This article focuses on a body of works—theoretical, methodological, and textual—dedicated to the exploration of literature and music relationships in general, in order to understand the relationship between Hebrew literature (including poetry, but mainly prose fiction) and music in particular. Compared to other national literatures such as French, English, and above all German, the scholarly study of Hebrew literature and music is relatively young. Central domains of this study are the employment of sound and acoustic components (i.e., prosody), the incorporation of musical intertexts (i.e., texts that are connected to the realm of music, such as musical terminology, descriptions of music playing, allusions to musical repertoire and themes), and the shaping of analogies between musical forms and narrative structures (i.e., the sonata form or the counterpoint). Hebrew literature also has a history, of course, from the Bible and other ancient texts, to medieval Hebrew poetry, and up to modern Hebrew and contemporary Israeli literature. Viewing these poetic traditions through the specific lens of language/literature and music relationships, an emerging field of study dealing with representations of music in modern Hebrew and Israeli prose fiction will be discussed, alongside scholarship on the relationship between Hebrew poetry and music.

General Overviews

The scholarship on the affinity between music and Jewish thought in general, and Hebrew literature in particular, is relatively young. Schwartz 2013 mentions the need for further investigation and elaboration of different aspects in the field. One can discuss the stages of this research and ongoing developments within various methodological and theoretical contexts, which examine language and music relationships: structural and post-structural, semiotic, psychoanalytical, gender and critical theory. A more specific study of the relationship between literature and music emerged in the 20th century, mainly in the work Brown 1948, whose author mapped the field influences of music on literature, influences of literature on music, and intersection of the two systems. Following him, Scher 1968 engaged with the representations of music in German narrative fiction, which was highly inspired by Wagner (Wagner 2019) and Nietzsche (Nietzsche 1999). Such studies are relevant to the inquiry into music and Hebrew literature, ranging from the Bible, the Oral Law, the Kabbalah, and medieval Jewish exegeses, up to the writing of modern poets, authors, and thinkers. This scholarly stream includes Harshav 1971, which explores prosodic elements in Hebrew poetry from the ancient and medieval piyut (liturgical poem) to modern poetry, as well as more recent studies on music and Jewish/Hebrew poetics: Tsur 1992 on Hebrew poets, Idel 1982 on Jewish mysticism, Smith 2010 on Hassidic texts, Levin 1998 on Hebrew national poetry, HaCohen 2006 on Israeli songs, and Balaban and Wagner 2014 on Hebrew narrative fiction.

  • Balaban, Yael, and Naphtali Wagner. “Musical Moments in Literature.” Dappim: Research in Literature 19 (2014): 300–350.

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    This essay offers a wide range of typologies concerning musical manifestations in literary works, including an introduction to theoretical perspectives on literary-music studies. In Hebrew.

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  • Brown, Calvin S. Music and Literature: A Comparison of the Arts. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1948.

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    A seminal study in the field of music and literature relationships dealing with several central domains: the influence of music on literature, literature in vocal music, the effects of literature on program music, and musical manifestations in literature.

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  • HaCohen, Ruth Pinczower. “‘To Hear Singing and Prayer’: The Move from Words to Music and from Music to Words in Israeli Song Culture.” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 20 (2006): 13–37.

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    HaCohen employs musicological theories in a cultural analysis of the Israeli song. In Hebrew.

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  • Harshav, Benjamin (Hrushovski). “The Hebrew Rhyme from Piyut Until Today.” Ha-Sifrut/Literature: Theory - Poetics - Hebrew and Comparative Literature 2.4 (1971): 721–749.

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    This essay discusses the structural component of music-poetry relationships and lucidly presents the basic principles of Hebrew rhyme from medieval Hebrew poetry to Israeli poetry in the second half of the 20th century. In Hebrew.

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  • Idel, Moshe. “Music and Prophetic Kabbalah.” Yuval 4 (1982): 150–169.

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    A comprehensive definition of the musical manifestations in the literature of the Kabbalah, and the role of acoustic and sound components in the prophetic repertoire in particular.

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  • Levin, Israel. Violin and Jackals: Disaster, Exile, Revenge and Redemption in Hebrew National Poetry. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1998.

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    A comprehensive survey of the large range of case studies that demonstrate the role musical intertextuality plays in the shaping of national consciousness through classic and modern Hebrew poetry.

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  • Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Birth of Tragedy.” In The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Edited by Raymond Geuss and Roland Speirs. Translated by Roland Speirs, 1–116. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Nietzsche’s essential essay traces, from a philological and philosophical perspective, the cultural history of the relationships between image/word and sound, literature and music as they are reflected in theatrical works from classical tragedy to Wagner’s modern music dramas. Originally published 1872.

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  • Scher, Steven P. Verbal Music in German Literature. London and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

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    A pioneering work on portrayals of music in German novels.

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  • Schwartz, Dov. Music in Jewish Thought. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar Ilan University Press, 2013.

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    A panoramic survey and insightful exploration of the historical and cultural forms of music’s embodiments and applications in various periods and schools of Jewish thought, including literature in Hebrew, and an analysis of religious Zionist literature. In Hebew.

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  • Smith, Chani Haran. Tuning the Soul: Music as a Spiritual Process in the Teachings of Rabbi Naḥman of Bratzlav. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004183810.i-232Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    As part of the discussion of Hassidic niggun in Jewish mysticism, this research centers on the distinctive role of music in the repertoire of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.

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  • Tsur, Reuven. What Makes Sound Patterns Expressive? The Poetic Mode of Speech Perception. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822378365Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A thorough investigation into the expressive effect of sound patterns in poems, combining literary theory, linguistics, and psychological approaches.

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  • Wagner, Richard. “Opera and Drama.” Translated by William Ashton Ellis. 2019.

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    In this programmatic text, Wagner clarifies the intense relationship between sounds and words, music and verbal text, which is fundamental to his perception of the music drama and the opera of the future. Originally published 1852.

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Language and Music Relationships

The study of language and music relationships encompasses different disciplines. Langer 1942, Lévi-Strauss 1955, Barthes 1977, Steiner 1981, and Eco 1989 propose semiotic and structural approaches to explore the resemblances between these two sign systems. Psychoanalytical approaches such as those of Abraham 1995, Reik 1975, Felman 1983, Kristeva 1986, and Poizat 1992 (all cited under Psychoanalysis), examine how music, which embodies manifestations of the psyche (the unconscious), reverberates with language. Another feature of this field is the application of critical theory to musical text, as in Adorno 2002, Said 2006, Kramer 2001, and White 1992 (all cited under Cultural Studies and Critical Theory) among others.

Semiotics

Structural and semiotic approaches influenced by semantic theory, critically reflect and analyze the affinities between different sign systems. The application of these approaches within the study of music and literature relationships in works such as Barthes 1977, Eco 1989, Steiner 1981, Langer 1942, and Lévi-Strauss 1955 sheds new light on the potential resemblances and differences between the verbal and the musical sign systems and raises questions about their cultural implications.

  • Barthes, Roland. Image. Music. Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.

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    Barthes’s insightful essays on various visual and acoustic sign systems, including film, photography, sound, and image elicidates the intricate interrelation between the arts.

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  • Eco, Umberto. The Open Work. Translated by Anna Cancogni. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

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    Eco defines two interpretative modes of aesthetic and literary work: an “open work,” which invites a variety of readings, versus a “closed work,” which limits this variety. In the open work, music plays a surprising role.

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  • Langer, Susanne K. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942.

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    By contrasting the “fixed connotation[s]” and concepts of verbal language with the indefinite nature of musical expression, Langer emphasizes music’s power over language to express opposing emotions.

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  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “The Structural Study of Myth.” The Journal of American Folklore 68.270 (1955): 428–444.

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    In this seminal study, Lévi-Strauss analyzes the Oedipus myth as an orchestral score with a linguistic approach. In later texts, he would develop this thought by interpreting Richard Wagner’s mythological motifs as shaped in his operas.

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  • Steiner, Wendy. The Sign in Music and Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

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    Steiner assesses the semiotics of music and literature by considering a range of theories and interdisciplinary views, including musicology and ethnomusicology, literary studies, linguistics and poetics, aesthetics, performance, and film.

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Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalytic approaches to music and literature in works such as Abraham 1995, Reik 1975, Kristeva 1986, Felman 1983, and Poizat 1992, stress the ways in which mental processes and psychic mechanisms are embodied and conveyed through the connection between music/sound and poetic language.

  • Abraham, Nicolas. Rhythms: On the Work, Translation, and Psychoanalysis. Translated by Benjamin Thigpen and Nicholas T. Rand. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

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    In this collection of essays (written between 1948 and 1962), Abraham engages with the role of sound patterns in the perception of expressivity, while analyzing this perception’s independent signification and using psychoanalytical tools to explain the rhythmic texture of literary works.

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  • Felman, Shoshana. The Literary Speech Act: Don Juan with J. L. Austin, or Seduction in Two Languages. Translated by Catherine Porter. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.

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    Felman combines Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, philosophy, and linguistics to analyze the relationship between speech and the erotic as represented and inscribed in literary texts.

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  • Kristeva, Julia. “Revolution in Poetic Language.” In The Kristeva Reader. Edited by T. Moi. Translated by M. Waller, 89–137. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

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    In her essay, Kristeva defines the characteristics of the “semiotic” as opposed to the “symbolic” by borrowing from the field of music. For Kristeva, music provides for literature a resistance to the fixed signification systems associated with verbal language.

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  • Poizat, Michael. The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera. Translated by Arthur Denner. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.

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    Poizat employs psychoanalytical theory and terminology used since Freud to interpret various operas by Mozart, Wagner, Schoenberg, and Berg, among others.

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  • Reik, Theodor. Ritual: Psycho-Analytic Studies. Translated by Douglas Bryan. New York: International University Press, 1975.

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    Reik employs psychoanalysis in his new reading of Jewish rites and ritual as generated in acoustic manifestations such as the voice or the sound of the shofar, a musical instrument used for religious ritual.

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Cultural Studies and Critical Theory

The diversity of cultural studies and contemporary critical theory has opened up new ways of conceptualizing the relationship between literature and music. Among the founders of this approach, especially in the fields of music sociology and music philosophy is Adorno 2002, whose author maintained that music reveals the tensions and contradictions of the social powers hidden by other representational systems. This approach is further developed by Said 2006, Kramer 2001, White 1992, and Neubauer 1992. In addition, works by major feminist scholars, such as Cixous 1976 and Irigaray 2004, have signaled the profound role music plays in the construction and deconstruction of gender identities.

  • Adorno, Theodor W. “Music, Language and Composition.” In Essays on Music. Edited by Richard Leppert. Translated by Susan H. Gillespie, 113–126. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    In this essay Adorno examines the traces that music has engraved in verbal language, such as the case of the foreign word as a conflicting power, which both constructs and destructs potential modes of tradition and communication.

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  • Cixous, Hellen. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Translated by Keith Cohen. Signs 1.4 (1976): 875–893.

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    In this groundbreaking essay, Cixous tackles women’s historical and cultural repression, manifested in the denial of their bodies and writing. She describes women’s reclamation of that which they have been denied by way of plumbing the empowering role of music, voice, and song in their becoming through and with writing.

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  • Irigaray, Luce. “Before and Beyond Any Word.” In Key Writings. Translated by Luce Irigaray and Timothy Mathews, 134–141. New York: Continuum, 2004.

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    Irigaray undermines the traditional Western dichotomies of eye/ear and masculine/feminine, claiming that, via music, listening permits a becoming that is better characterized by flow than by gaze. She explores the power of a feminine musical language to embody and respond to the Other.

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  • Kramer, Lawrence. Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2001.

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    Kramer probes the meaning of music as a “cultural practice” in a way not previously encouraged either by systematic music analysis or by music historiography.

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  • Neubauer, John. “Music and Literature: The Institutional Dimensions.” In Music and Text: Critical Inquiries. Edited by Steven P. Scher, 3–20. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Neubauer takes a comparative approach to the acts of listening and reading within the wider cultural context of institutional economy and consumption, while assessing the differences between musical performance and the reading process of a literary text.

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  • Said, Edward W. On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.

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    Looking at works by musicians and writers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Euripides, Mann, Genet, and Cavafy through the lens of critical theory, Said proposes a brilliant reading of the affinity between music and literature.

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  • White, Hayden. “Commentary: Form, Reference, and Ideology in Musical Discourse.” In Music and Text: Critical Inquiries. Edited by Steven P. Scher, 288–319. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    In his concluding remarks to the essay collection, White reveals the ideological aspects of musical discourse as they are structurally and thematically constructed.

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Music-Literary Studies

Interdisciplinary research on literature and music has expanded rapidly in recent years. The subject has led to the establishment of the International Association for the Study of Words and Music (WMA), an organization coordinated from the University of Graz in Austria. The WMA holds biennial international conferences, and publishes its own book series, Word and Music Studies. This interdisciplinary research includes a wide range of works on the relationships between music and poetry and prose (narrative fiction) by musicologists (Danuser and Plebuch 1993), and literary scholars (Brown 1970, Scher 1984 and Scher 1992, and Wolf and Bernhart 2016).

  • Brown, Calvin S. “Musico-Literary Research in the Last Two Decades.” Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature 19 (1970): 5–27.

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    In addition to Brown’s groundbreaking book, this essay, published in an issue of the journal Comparative and General Literature, provides the readers a historical glimpse at the emerging research field in its early stages.

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  • Brown, Calvin S. “The Relations between Music and Literature.” In Special Issue: Music and Literature. Comparative Literature 22.2 (1970): 97–107.

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    An extensive range of scholarly studies in the field edited by Brown, demonstrating the current state of the research.

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  • Danuser, Hermann, and Tobias Plebuch, eds. Musik als Text: Bericht uber den Internationalen Kongress der Gesellschaft fur Musikforschung. Kassel, Germany: Barenreiter, 1993.

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    The proceedings of the Gesellschaft fur Musikforschung Convention include several essays on the interrelation between music and text.

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  • Scher, Steven P. “Einleitung: Literatur und Musik - Entwicklung und Stand der Forschung.” In Literatur und Musik: Ein Handbuch zur Theorie und Praxis eines komparatistischen Grenzgebietes. Edited by Steven P. Scher, 9–25. Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 1984.

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    Following Brown’s pioneering study, Scher elaborates on the typology of relations between literature and music: music and literature, music in literature, and literature in music.

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  • Scher, Steven P., ed. Literatur und Musik: Ein Handbuch zur Theorie und Praxis eines komparatistischen Grenzgebietes. Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 1984.

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    Contains fundamental theoretical and typological reflection in the field of music-literary studies.

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  • Scher, Steven P., ed. Music and Text: Critical Inquiries. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    Complements Scher’s work from the perspective of critical theory.

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  • Wolf, Werner. “Relations between Literature and Music in the Context of a General Typology of Intermediality.” In Literature and Music. Comparative Literature: Sharing Knowledge for Preserving Cultural Diversity 1. Edited by Lisa Block de Behar,‎ Paola Mildonian, Jean-Michel Djian, et al., 133–155. Oxford: Eolss, 2008.

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    A significant mapping of the field of music-literary studies within the wider context of intermediality from a typological perspective.

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  • Wolf, Werner, and Walter Bernhart, eds. Silence and Absence in Literature and Music. Word and Music Studies Book 15. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill and Rodopi, 2016.

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    A fundamental contribution to the field of music-literary studies.

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Music and Poetry

Of course, music and poetry have been regarded as sister arts since antiquity. In the field of music and literary studies, relevant texts include Kirby-Smith 1999, a historical survey on the music-poetry relationship; explorations of the challenges of word-music encounters by Dayan 2017 and Goehr 2010; and Tsur 1998, an interactive and cognitive perspective on these issues.

The Artistic Song

The subgenre of the artistic song demonstrates a distinct aesthetic form of music and poetry relationships. Stein 1971, Wolf and Bernhart 2001, and Lambert 2009 explore the German artistic song (Lied) and song cycle.

Music, Narrative, and Prose

In addition to the relationship between music and poetry, over the past few decades an increasing amount of attention has been given to music and prose or narrative fiction. The value of each discipline (musical theory versus literary theory) has been immensely enriched by the other; narratology has provided new methodologies for interpreting and analyzing musical pieces, whereas musicology has strengthened and elucidated various aspects of prose texts and narrative fiction.

Narrative in Music

This branch of the research explores various aspects of narrative and the ways in which narrative content can be represented in works of music. Whereas Byron 2008 demonstrates a variety of narrative strategies in music, Kivy 2009 defends musical formalism against literary interpretation of the musical canon. Additional - and, to some extent, contrasting - perspectives concern the program music that explicitly relates to extra music text, as well as cultural readings of the musical piece in contrast to formalist approaches.

Sound in Narrative Fiction

Following Scher 1984 (cited under Music-Literary Studies), who defined word-music relationships, this area of study, as exemplified in Kristeva 1981 or Dayan 2016, scrutinizes sonar and vocal manifestations and their implications within the realm of poetic or literary texts.

  • Dayan, Peter. Music Writing Literature, from Sand Via Debussy to Derrida. New York: Routledge, 2016.

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    In his stimulating analysis of French music (Debussy, Berlioz) and literature (Sand, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Proust), Dayan probes the limits of the music-literature relationship, while accentuating its illuminative productivity.

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  • Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Edited by L. S. Roudiez. Translated by T. Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981.

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    Kristeva claims that the term “music” defines a unique poetic texture, which she calls the “polylogue” that is conveyed through the psychic mechanism of the unconscious.

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Musical Form in Narrative Fiction

In the realm of structural analogies as shown in Barricelli 1988, Brown 1992, Frye 1976, Stanley 1981, and Shockley 2009, various manifestations of musical form such as the sonata form, rondo, fugue, or a musical texture like polyphony or counterpoint are discussed.

Musical Themes in Narrative Fiction

The study of narrative works (novels or prose fiction) which allude to the musical medium encompasses a wide range of phenomena. Scher 1968 (cited under General Overviews) defined this branch as “verbal music.” Other scholars address different aspect of these relationships: cultural criticism in Prieto 2002, Brandstätter 1990, and Benson 2006; gender and feminist issues in Bjorken-Nyberg 2002, Miller 1982, and Baker 2002; racism and minorities in Dugas Bouton 2002; national identity and xenophobia in Weiner 1993 and Huber 1992.

Music in Hebrew Literature

Theoretical perspectives on literature and music relationships are an integral part of the study of Hebrew literature and music. Hebrew literature, of course, also has a history. At various stages in various time periods, musical representations, sound components, and figurations have played different roles in the literature. Tobi 2010 (cited under Music in Jewish Medieval, Kabbalist and Hassidic Literature) shows how, already in the Bible, music was a fundament of poetry, both oral and written. Over time, however, music disappeared from Hebrew poetry, returning only in the 10th century, with the flowering of a new school that was greatly influenced by Arabic poetry. In the 20th century, Shmuel Yosef Agnon (Agnon 2007, cited under Essays), one of the leading writers of modern Hebrew literature, defined the essence of his fiction as “composed songs in writing,” referring to the transformation of the ancient Levite melodies into a modern poetic text. Despite the symbolic aspect of this story (Agnon’s constructed tradition/biography), a significant portion of modern Hebrew literature engages with music. A survey of the scholarship, however, reveals a surprising picture. The scholarly work in this interdisciplinary field is relatively limited, as demonstrated in a search for anthologies on the subject. What does exist is a body of fine scholarly work dedicated to different aspects of word and music relationships, including works cited under the section Music in Jewish Medieval, Kabbalist and Hassidic Literature): Groezinger 1982, Hoffmann and Walton 1992, and Tunkel 2006, all on liturgical chants; Ben Moshe 2012 and Mark 2009 on the Hassidic niggun; Idel 1994 and Pedaya 2012 on vocal manifestations in Kabbala and mystic literature, and Schwartz 2019 on musical motifs in religious Zionist literature, among others. Several works focus on the incorporation of musical images and allusions to musical instruments in various literary texts, including Stern 2011 on the Bible, Tobi 2010 on medieval Spanish poetry, and Levin 1998 (cited under General Overviews) on national literature. Another scholarly branch deals with prosodic aspects, such as Hrushovski 1980 (cited under Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Poetry) on modern Hebrew poetry. Much of the interdisciplinary study on music and modern Hebrew literature concerns various aspects of word and melody relationships as demonstrated in the “Israeli Song,” namely, composed lyrics, including Hever 2006, Calderon 2009, Wolf-Monzon 2012, and Sovran 2013 (all cited under Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Poetry). A handful of scholars have propose a multilayered or typological exploration of musical manifestations, such as Hirschfeld 2011 (cited under Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Poetry) on poetry, and Ben-Horin 2015, Wagner 2018, Balaban 2019, and Shamir 2019 (all cited under Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Fiction), on prose fiction. This body of research is expanding, with work such as Goldwicht 2005, Ben-Dov 2013, Schwartz 2014, and Rapp 2016 (all cited under Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Fiction), on single writers or literary corpora. A selection of primary texts shows, however, that there is still much work to be done in the field.

Music in the Bible

Music was a basic component of poetry, both oral and written, in biblical times. This is well demonstrated in the Book of Psalms, which emerged with musical elements, musical terms, and names of musical instruments. Representations of music in the Bible are explored in Tunkel 2006 and Stern 2011, while Alter 2019 points out rhythmic patterns in the Bible translation (poetry and prose).

Music in Jewish Medieval, Kabbalist and Hassidic Literature

Before the advent of secularization, the Hebrew language was regarded as an exclusively holy language (lashon kodesh). This holiness or sacred element is sometimes embodied through the medium of music, as shown in Groezinger 1982, or Hoffmann and Walton 1992 on liturgical texts. In this sense, Idel 1994, which shows how the vocal aspect of language is a vital component of the mystical technique cultivated in the ecstatic Kabbalah, opens up a whole new field of discussion, as also demonstrated in Pedaya 2012, Mark 2009, and Ben Moshe 2012. While Tobi 2010 probes musical motifs in Spanish medieval poetry, Schwartz 2019 deals with these questions, among others, in his survey on music and Jewish thought.

  • Ben Moshe, Rafi. “New Approaches to the Analysis of Niggunei Hitbodedut in Habad.” In Garment and Core: Jews and Their Musical Experiences. Edited by Eitan Avitsur, Marina Ritzavev, and Edwin Seroussi, 219–244. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2012.

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    Ben Moshe addresses a unique genre of Hassidic tunes, the niggunei hitbodedut, which are performed by the Hassidim of the Habad dynasty at special gatherings dedicated to spiritual uplift. In Hebrew.

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  • Groezinger, Karl-Erich. Musik und Gesang in der Theologie der frühen jüdischen Literatur: Talmud, Midrasch, Mystik. Tübingen, Germany: J.C.B. Mohr, 1982.

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    Offering and alternative to the classic musicological perspective, this book proposes a useful analysis of the musical manifestations (mainly thematic) in ancient sacred Jewish texts from the perspectives of music philosophy and music theology.

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  • Hoffmann, Lawrence A., and Janet R. Walton, eds. Sacred Sound and Social Change: Liturgical Music in Jewish and Christian Experience. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.

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    A selection of essays comparing Jewish and Christian liturgical literature and sacred music.

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  • Idel, Moshe. “The Voiced Text of the Torah.” Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 68.1 (1994): 145–166.

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    According to Idel, the vocal aspect of langauge is a vital component of the mystical technique cultivated in the ecstatic Kabbalah. He demonstrates this by discussing the niggun as a precondition for prophecy in Rabbi Abraham Abulafia.

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  • Mark, Zvi. Mysticism and Madness: The Religious Thought of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. London and New York: Continuum, 2009.

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    A comprehensive study that clarifies and analyzses the thought of R. Nachman of Bratslav as mystical thought, both in its theoretical aspects and in the practical realm. The fourth chapter considers the place of the mystic melody in the confrontation with heresy as expressed in his writings.

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  • Pedaya, Haviva. “Grief and Bliss: Israel Najara and the Nightly Musical Path in Judaism.” In Garment and Core: Jews and Their Musical Experiences. Edited by Eitan Avitsur, Marina Ritzavev, and Edwin Seroussi, 79–122. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2012.

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    Pedaya explores the emergence of the night as a stage for the performance of musical rituals in Judaism. In her study of Rabbi Israel Najara, she seeks the roots of Jewish mystical thought and practices, and their associations with musical practices. In Hebrew.

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  • Schwartz, Dov. Meetings: Chapters in Jewish Aesthetics. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2019.

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    A fine exploration of various encounters in the realm of Jewish aesthetics. In particular, the relationships between music and Hebrew literature (Agnon) or Yiddish literature (Shalom Aleichem) are discussed in chapter 2, which opens with a methodological view of the challenges generated by this interdisciplinary study. In Hebrew.

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  • Tobi, Joseph Yuval. “Music and Musical Instruments in Spanish Medieval Poetry: The Poem of Yosef ibn Saddiq in Praise of Yishaq ibn Barun.” In Between Hebrew and Arabic Poetry. By Joseph Yuval Tobi, 148–189. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004184992.i-520Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This work examines the interrelations between Arabic and Hebrew poetry and the role that this affinity played in positive attitudes toward music in Spanish medieval poetry.

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Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Poetry

The emergence of modern Hebrew poetry is connected to the revival of the Hebrew language at the end of the 19th century. Processes of Jewish secularization encouraged the creation of a new poetics in Hebrew, which was no longer exclusively perceived as a holy language. H. N. Bialik (b. 1873–d. 1934), in the sphere of poetry and S. Y. Agnon (b. 1888–d. 1970), in the sphere of prose, were deeply engaged in these processes. Interestingly, both figures incorporated music in some way or another into their work. Hrushovski 1980, Hirschfeld 2011, Hever 2006, Sovran 2013, and Wolf-Monzon 2012 suggest various perspectives on music and melody versus words and lyrics. The study Calderon 2009 relates to the emergence of Israeli poetry by exploring music-poetry relationships since the second half of the 20th century.

  • Calderon, Nissim. The Second Day: On Poetry and Rock in Israel after Yona Wallach. Tel Aviv: Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, and Dvir, 2009.

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    Calderon analyzes the relationship between music and poetic texts, by examining the melodies composed by Israeli rock musicians for Israeli poetry in the second half of the 20th century. In Hebrew.

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  • Hever, Hannan. “The Song in Eretz-Israel ‘Labour Poetry.’” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 20 (2006): 53–86.

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    By means of critical theory Hever analyzes the song repertoire of the “labor” community in the development of Israel, exposing the ideological role it played in the building of its subjects.

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  • Hirschfeld, Ariel. The Tuned Harp: The Language of Emotion in H. N. Bialik’s Poetry. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2011.

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    By alluding to Bialik’s romantic perception, Hirschfeld shows how music is not a marginal aesthetic device, but rather a crystallized component of Bialik’s spiritual conception, surfacing in the musical aspects of his poetry. In Hebrew.

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  • Hrushovski, Benjamin. “The Meaning of Sound Pattern in Poetry: An Interaction Theory.” In Special Issue: Poetics Today 2.1a. Roman Jakobson: Language and Poetry (1980): 39–56.

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    Based on linguistic and poetic (Prague structuralist) approaches, Hrushovski develops an interactive theory of poetry, while emphasizing its acoustic components.

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  • Sovran, Tamar. “House and Home: A Semantic Stroll through Metaphors and Symbols.” Journal of Israeli History 32.1 (2013): 141–156.

    DOI: 10.1080/13531042.2013.768044Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sovran evaluates the role of “House” and “Home” metaphors in Hebrew poetry and Israeli popular songs.

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  • Wolf-Monzon, Tamar, ed. Special Issue: Criticism and Interpretation. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Culture Hebrew. Songs: Poetics, Music, History, Culture 44 (2012).

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    A wide range of essays dealing with the relationship between music and poetry/lyrics within historical and cultural contexts. In Hebrew.

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Music in Modern Hebrew and Israeli Fiction

The affinity between music and prose fiction is less evident than that between music and poetry. Nevertheless, comprehensive research on this topic has been undertaken on different Western national literatures. The case of Hebrew literature seems complex, as shown in Hirschfeld 1995. While still relatively young, this study is vibrant and emerging. Since the last decades of the 20th century and the first decades of the twenty-first, various works were published in the field, in studies such as Goldwicht 2005, Ben-Dov 2013, Schwartz 2014, Ben-Horin 2015, Rapp 2016, Wagner 2018, Balaban 2019, and Shamir 2019.

  • Balaban, Yael. Many Voices in the Prose of Shulamith Hareven. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2019.

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    Balaban examines musical representations in Hareven’s novel and short stories, and the role they play in shaping the sociocultural conflicts between Arabs and Jews, and Easterners and Westerners, in Israel. In Hebrew.

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  • Ben-Dov, Nitza. “Voices of War, Illness, and Dream.” Hebrew Studies 54 (2013): 287–298.

    DOI: 10.1353/hbr.2013.0013Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ben-Dov examines the acoustic dimension of David Grossman’s novel To the End of the Land, concentrating on the strategies Grossman uses in order to make the voice heard within a literary text that questions the limits of human conditions.

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  • Ben-Horin, Michal. “The Secular and Its Dissonance in Modern Jewish Literature.” Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times. Edited by Ari Joskowicz and Ethan B. Katz, 115–141. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

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    The essay discusses the role of music as theme, texture, and structure in the emergence of modern Hebrew poetry and particularly in prose, including examples from Kenaz, Hendel, and Hoffmann.

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  • Goldwicht, Michal. “Music in Aharon Appelfeld’s Work.” Mikan, Journal for Hebrew and Israeli Literature 5 (2005): 141–153.

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    Applying theoretical perspectives in the field of music-literary study and trauma studies, Golwicht deals with the role that vocal and sound components play in Appelfeld’s poetic representation and working-through of traumatic experience.

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  • Hirschfeld, Ariel. “Mr. Mani, The Mirror and the Art of Fugue.” In the Opposite Direction. Edited by Nitsa Ben-Dov, 80–89. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1995.

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    Inspired by the analogy between musical form and narrative structure, Hirschfeld employs the musical form of the fugue defined as various overlapping voices (counterpoint) that move in different directions. In Hebrew.

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  • Rapp, Ronit. “Ekphrasis and Iconoclasm in Yehoshua Kenaz’s Heart Murmur.” In The Beauty of the Defeated. Edited by Chen Strass and Keren Dotan, 386–420. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2016.

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    In her reading of Kenaz’s novel, Rapp exposes the intertextual employment of Romantic and modernist conceptions of art, while integrating theories of visual representation and the poetic depiction of musical instruments such as the guitar. In Hebrew.

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  • Schwartz, Yigal. “Le’at (Slowly): The Orchestration of a Motif in Appelfeld’s Fiction.” Yod: revue des études hébraïques et juives 2014.

    DOI: 10.4000/yod.2071Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Schwartz productively borrows the term “orchestration” from the field of music in order to revisit the notion of “lyrical prose” related to Appelfeld’s prose and general poetics and overviews.

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  • Shamir, Ziva. Literature and the Spirit of Music: Depictions of Musicians & Musical Instruments in Hebrew Prose Writings. Tel Aviv: Safra Books, 2019.

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    A thoughtful examination of Nietzsche’s conception of the national symbolic role of music as employed in canonical works of Hebrew fiction by Agnon, Bialik, Shofman, Gutman, Michael, Shaham, Yizhar, and Yehoshua, among others. In Hebrew.

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  • Wagner, Naphtali. Lethal Music: Music in the Eyes of Literature. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2018.

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    A comprehensive survey of musical representations in non-Hebrew (German, American, English, Russian, French) and Hebrew literature, such as prose by that of Kenaz, Shaham, Yizhar, Bialik, and Amir among others. In Hebrew.

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Primary Texts

In addition to the scholarship in the field of modern Hebrew and Israeli prose fiction, a selection of primary essays and prose fiction demonstrates the potential reach of this study.

Essays

Essays found in sources such as Bialik 2000, Agnon 2007, and Appelfeld 1979 illustrate the crucial role of music in modern Hebrew literature.

  • Agnon, Shmuel Yosef. “Acceptance Speech on Receiving the Nobel Prize.” In Selected Speeches of Nobel Laureates in Literature. Edited by Shulamit Almog, Noam Lester, and Inbal Sagiv, 51–59. Haifa: University of Haifa Press, 2007.

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    Agnon sketches, in Hebrew, his constructed autobiography as the son of the Levites who used to sing in the ancient temple. In contrast to the Levites in Jerusalem, whose presence in their homeland enabled them to make music, the exiled Agnon can only “compose songs in writing.” Available online in English.

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  • Appelfeld, Aharon. “Beyond the Tragic.” In Essays in the First Person. By Aharon Appelfied, 41–50. Jerusalem: Hasifriya Hatzionit, 1979.

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    In this essay, Appelfeld uses sound images and vocal figurations in order to describe and define a new mode of representing the horror generated by the experience of the Second World War and the Holocaust. In Hebrew.

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  • Bialik, H. N. “Revealment and Concealment in Language.” In Revealment and Concealment in Language: Five Essays. Translated by Zali Gurevitch, 11–26. Lake Worth, FL: Ibis Press, 2000.

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    In this essay Bialik develops the role of music as a sound succession (negina) in verbal language. Together with two other non-semantic phenomena, crying and laughter, the tune that reveals and conceals, becomes at the same time the ultimate mode of expression and representation.

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Narrative Fiction

A selection of prose fiction by writers—Shofman 1960, Shaham 1993, Yizhar 1996, Kaniuk 2000, Yehoshua 1989, Hoffmann 2004, Kenaz 1995, Almog 1993, Hareven 1977, Hendel 2007, Bar-Yosef 2012, and Bar-Gil 2005, among others—displays the fruitfulness of this study, which is still at its early stages.

  • Almog, Ruth. Artistic Amendment. Jerusalem: Keter, 1993.

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    In several stories, Almog exploits the realm of music to express voices that were silenced in traumatic experiences of radical violation and deep loss. Incorporating semiotic succession, such as foreign words, images of musical instruments, musical repertoire, and more, the story reverberates with that which is non-representable. In Hebrew.

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  • Bar-Gil, Eran. Horseshoe and Violin. Tel Aviv: Xargol Books, 2005.

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    Bar-Gil depicts an experience of “exile at home.” Socially detached due to a childhood trauma, the novel’s protagonist, a violinist, seeks to break through the alienated urban spaces of Tel Aviv. In Hebrew.

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  • Bar-Yosef, Hamutal. “Music.” In Music: Short Stories. By Hamutal Bar-Yosef, 7–16. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2012.

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    Bar-Yosef uses a variety of musical images and repertoires to poetically explore issues concerning identity politics, gender, and immigration (mainly Israeli cultural formation and its alternatives by Russian immigrants to Israel). In Hebrew.

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  • Hareven, Shulamit. A City of Many Days. Translated by Hillel Halkin. New York: Doubleday, 1977.

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    The novel demonstrates inter-cultural conflicts conveyed through a wide scope of musical repertoire, including scenes of music playing. The use of musical intertexts foregrounds differences between Eastern children, both Jews and Arabs, who are characterized as pure voices, and Western classical music, which represents contradictory, conflicting forces.

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  • Hendel, Yehudit. “The Tale of the Lost Violin.” In The Empty Place. By Yehudit Hendel, 91–114. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad and Hasifria Hachadasha, 2007.

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    In this novella Hendel tells the story of the 1948 war by using a wide range of musical intertexts, including Bach’s biography, the presentation of his B minor fugue score, and allusions to his cantatas. In Hebrew.

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  • Hoffmann, Yoel. The Shunra and the Schmetterling. Translated by Peter Coal. New York: New Directions, 2004.

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    Hoffman provides the reader with a unique case in Hebrew literature of keen attention to the sound component of language. Using the transcription of foreign words from Aramaic and German, among others, as well as shaping intensive tonal repetitions, the novel transforms the music into a dominant element in the narrating of this literary, constructed autobiography.

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  • Kaniuk, Yoram. Adam Resurrected. Translated by Seymour Simckes. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

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    In this early novel, Kaniuk depicts a Jewish prisoner forced to play the violin in a Nazi death camp, thereby pointing to and poetically probing the horrific Nazi entanglement of the sublime and barbaric.

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  • Kenaz, Yehoshua. Musical Moment and Other Stories. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. South Royalton, VT: Steerforth, 1995.

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    Kenaz critically recounts a private apprenticeship that reflects on the collective formative processes of Israeli society by incorporating the musical repertoire of Corelli and J. S. Bach.

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  • Shaham, Nathan. The Rosendorf Quartet. Translated by Dalya Bilu. New York: Grove Press, 1993.

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    Through analogizing a narrative based on four “voices” and the musical form of the quartet, Shaham tells the story of four musicians who emigrated from Germany to Palestine in the 1930s. As musicians born and trained in Germany, these figures enable the author to explore how the ideal of Bildung, or self-formation, brought to Israel by German-Jewish immigrants, has come to carry echoes of oppression, displacement, and loneliness.

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  • Shofman, Gershom. “Ha’kinor.” In Kol Kitvei G. Shofmann. Vol. 3, By Gershom Shofman, 186–188. Tel Aviv: Dvir and Am Oved, 1960.

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    In this story, Shofman shapes the cultural dialectics regarding Israel and Europe as conveyed through the “negation of exile” by using musical images of the violin—the instrument, its sound, and the implication of the act of playing. In Hebrew.

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  • Yehoshua, A. B. Five Seasons. Translated by Hillel Halkin. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

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    Music is a central theme in this novel, which traces Molkho’s journey while mourning the death of his wife. Yehoshua interweaves musical intertexts such as the records the protagonist plays to ease his wife’s dying, the Hayden concert he attends, and the operas, including those of Gluck and Wagner, which he flies to Berlin to attend.

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  • Yizhar, S. “Lonely Piano in the Night.” In Asides. By S. Yizhar, 11–18. Tel Aviv: Zmora-Bitan, 1996.

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    In this intimate depiction of listening to a piano concerto in the dining room of Ben Shemen, the narrator retrospectively crystalizes a nostalgic moment of beauty and pain. An allusion to Thomas Mann’s story “Tristan,” which in its turn alludes to Richard Wagner’s opera, deepens the space of musical intertextuality. In Hebrew.

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