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Jewish Identities: Nationalism, Racism, and Utopianism in Twentieth-Century Music

Klára Móricz
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 468
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Identities
    Book Description:

    Jewish Identitiesmounts a formidable challenge to prevailing essentialist assumptions about "Jewish music," which maintain that ethnic groups, nations, or religious communities possess an essence that must manifest itself in art created by members of that group. Klára Móricz scrutinizes concepts of Jewish identity and reorders ideas about twentieth-century "Jewish music" in three case studies: first, Russian Jewish composers of the first two decades of the twentieth century; second, the Swiss American Ernest Bloch; and third, Arnold Schoenberg. Examining these composers in the context of emerging Jewish nationalism, widespread racial theories, and utopian tendencies in modernist art and twentieth-century politics, Móricz describes a trajectory from paradigmatic nationalist techniques, through assumptions about the unintended presence of racial essences, to an abstract notion of Judaism.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93368-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In “Jewish Music and a Jew’s Music,” the penultimate chapter of his path-breaking bookArnold Schoenberg: The Composer as Jew, Alexander Ringer campaigns for Jewish music that goes “beyond more or less obvious affinities with liturgical or folk-tunes, not to speak of mere textual reference or the parochial effusions of composing chauvinists.” Where this “beyond” leads composers Ringer is all too ready to declare. In the spirit of his protagonist, Arnold Schoenberg, Ringer denies the significance of the “what” (material) and elevates the “how” (treatment) in the creation of a uniquely Jewish music. Following Russian music theorist Boris Asafiev (1884...


    • Chapter 1 “Trifles of Jewish Music”
      (pp. 13-54)

      In a 1924 article Russian Soviet musicologist Leonid Sabaneyev (1881–1968) announced that through the work of a group of Jewish composers Jewish music was approaching the phase Sabaneyev called “its artistic expansion.”¹ Sabaneyev’s account of the birth of Jewish art music reflected art publicist Vladimir Stasov’s version of the development of Russian musical nationalism. Lest there be any doubt about this connection, the prophecy with which Sabaneyev closed his article demonstrated the strong effect of Russian national music on Jewish aspirations. Stasov shaped and propagated most effectively the Russian national ideals as the ideological basis for themoguchaya kuchka...

    • Chapter 2 Zhidï and Yevrei in a Neonationalist Context
      (pp. 55-92)

      In an essay entitled “Aladdin’s Lamp” and published on the occasion of the edition of An-sky’sThe Jewish Artistic Heritage, Abram Markovich Efros (1888–1954), a leading Russian art critic, declared that the Jewish artistic renaissance could flourish only “on the twin roots which underpin all contemporary world art—modernism and folk arts.” He did not endorse the imitation of Russian art in the 1890s (mockingly referred to as “the golden cockerel style” or “the balalaika period”),¹ because, he wrote, it drew upon the surface of the folk art instead of its “internal laws and inner structure of its forms.”...


    • Chapter 3 Racial Mystique: Anti-Semitism and Ernest Bloch’s Theories of Art
      (pp. 95-115)

      Physical anthropologist Ashley Montagu (1905–99) started his 1942 study on race by calling his subject one of the greatest and most tragic errors of his time.¹ As a scientist, Montagu felt the need to disprove scientifically what he considered “man’s most dangerous myth.” By 1942 the dangers of racial theories had become obvious in Nazi Germany, where racial dogmas were exploited to justify genocide. After World War II racial thinking became taboo in Europe. Replaced by “ethnicity” or banned altogether, the wordraceseems to have disappeared from discussions of European history, culture, and the arts after the war....

    • Chapter 4 Denied and Accepted Stereotypes: From Jézabel to Schelomo
      (pp. 116-152)

      The story of Jezebel’s violent death belongs among the cold accounts of bloody wars, battles, and massacres in the Old Testament. Despite the frequency of similar stories, there is something especially disturbing about Jezebel’s slaughter by men who then “eat and drink,” thereby treating her murder as a routine task that does not involve emotion. Bloch, who was attracted to the savagery of some Old Testament stories and who, as his operaMacbethreveals, did not shrink from setting bloodshed to music, chose Jezebel as the heroine of his projected Jewish opera. The opera stage required some leavening of the...

    • Chapter 5 The Confines of Judaism and the Elusiveness of Universality: The Sacred Service
      (pp. 153-198)

      Edmond Dantes, the narrator of Italo Calvino’s short story “The Count of Monte Cristo,” shares the fate of the story’s original protagonist in Dumas’s novel of the same title. Calvino’s story of the Château d’If that imprisons Dantes is a parable of human existence. As Calvino puts it, the “fortress . . . grows around us, and the longer we remain shut in it the more it removes us from the outside.” Paradoxically, by working out the possibilities for escape, Dantes is compelled to mentally construct the perfect fortress from which there would be no departure. If the real prison...


    • Chapter 6 Uneasy Parallels: From German Nationalism to Jewish Utopia
      (pp. 201-221)

      The word “utopia” was coined by Thomas More, who invented it to describe an ideal society in hisDe Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia(On the best state of a commonwealth and on the new island of utopia) (1516), the first book in the long series of utopian literature that More’s famous work initiated. The complex meaning of the wordutopiaoriginates from the nomenclature and from the literature with which it has become associated. Composed of the Greekou(written as Latinuby More), which describes a negative quality, and the wordtopos, which means place...

    • Chapter 7 Torsos and Abstractions: “Music in Its Promised Land”
      (pp. 222-254)

      Schoenberg left behind several drafts of his stage set for the second part of act 1 of his 1927 playThe Biblical Way. On graph paper he worked out the exact dimensions of the stadium and the bleachers and made pastel and watercolor pictures of the administrative building and the stadium. The bleachers surrounding the stadium are seen from the audience’s perspective as a semicircle, on two pictures closing almost into a full circle. Nature behind the stadium appears either as bucolic green hills or as towering snow-covered peaks. In either case, nature is obviously separated from humans, who gather...

    • Chapter 8 On the Ashes of the Holocaust: Anxiety, Abstraction, and Schoenberg’s Rhetoric of Fear
      (pp. 255-299)

      In response to attempts by music critics Kurt List and René Leibowitz (1913–72) to focus attention on the twelve-tone construction of Arnold Schoenberg’s shocking Holocaust memorialA Survivor from Warsaw, Henry Cowell described the piece by making a catalog of its surface gestures: “double-basses low, divided into three parts, tremolando; a muted trombone chord; repeated notes in a jerky rhythm in bassoons and oboes; burbling clarinets; muted strings in a figure of three notes occupying the space of two octaves and a major sixth.” Cowell resisted the temptation to search for technically complex unifying relationships between the notes, and...

    • Chapter 9 A Taste for “the Things of Heaven”: Cleansing Music of Politics
      (pp. 300-336)

      Among Schoenberg’s papers is an obituary of French painter, illustrator, and writer Adolphe Willette (1857–1926) from theBerliner Tageblattwith the composer’s notes in the margin. “I am rising higher and higher,” Willette was reported to have said on his deathbed with an expression of profound happiness. “Now I am ascending straight up, always up, continuously without stopping, quick as an arrow—straight to Paradise.”¹ Willette had a peaceful exit from the world, strikingly dissimilar from the violent departure of Richard Gerstl, whose death remained an open wound for Schoenberg, his one-time friend and disciple.² Willette’s death, in contrast,...

    (pp. 337-352)

    Octavio Paz concludes his essay “The Castle of Purity” on Marcel Duchamp with these words:

    In his abandonment of painting there is no romantic self-pity, nor the pride of a titan; it is wisdom,mad wisdom. It is not a knowledge of this thing or that, it is neither affirmation nor negation; it is the void, the knowledge of indifference. Wisdom and freedom, void and indifference resolve themselves into a key word: purity. Something which cannot be sought after but which gushes forth spontaneously after one has traversed certain experiences. Purity is what remains after all the accounts have been...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 353-400)
    (pp. 401-416)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 417-436)