Sunday, November 30, 2003

TUBACHRISTMAS 2003

Attention, tuba players! Looking for a gig?

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Rejected!

The anti-Semitic Greek composer tries to "apologize", but is rejected!

Friday, November 28, 2003

The Rabbi and the Rock Opera

Here's a Forward article about a recent CLAL event.
Best 'graph:
"Kudish admitted that he was unsure what the story of Galileo had to do with the very real and pressing problems facing the Jewish community, but he dropped the subject when he became wrapped up in a discussion with Turner about Bertold Brecht."
So there is life after Deep Purple after all!

Bad Review

Here's a story about neighbors calling 911 on a singing teen!
A teenage girl whose opera-like singing was mistaken for screaming found herself face to face with police responding to her neighbour's 911 call.
It was "the most embarrassing night of her life" said Caroline Pors, the mother of 14-year-old Stephanie Pors. "She'd rather not talk about it."
"I know my voice is bad and I'm just assuming she has my genes," Ms. Pors said.

Got Rhythm?

Here's a fascinating article by Greg Sandow on rhythm:
But classical musicians often don't hear the groove at all! One reason for this is that -- especially in romantic classical music -- rhythms are stretchable. Imagine a melodic phrase that arches up toward a climax. Most classical musicians will push the beat faster as they surge toward that peak. They'll literally change the beats, pressing them closer together. Then, as they come down from the climax, they'll slow down. They may not know they're doing this; it's so much a part of classical performance that it's practically unconscious. And they may not be able to avoid doing it, even if they're suddenly thrust into a non-classical context where pulling and pushing the beats in this way isn't appropriate.
Here's a real-life example. I won't name names, but I know a terrific musician who works both in classical and pop. He's done some crossover projects, using pop musicians and classical musicians together, including some very big classical names. He told me once that one of the big classical names couldn't feel the groove. He'd push the beat forward when he reached toward the climax of a melody -- not really hearing the other players, who were grooving along, each in his own way inflecting what they infallibly felt as a steady pulse. What the classical soloist did in this case would be reasonable, if he knew he was leaving the groove, and came back to it after he'd pushed the phrase to its climax. But he couldn't do this, because he didn't feel the groove, or at least didn't feel it with the tight precision that the pop musicians had. He'd come back to a very slightly different tempo, which for the pop musicians was like not feeling any tempo at all.
One result of this -- some people, for whom classical music is home base, can't always hear what's going on in pop music. A classical musician might hear a rock song, and say, "Yuck! Those rhythms are just juvenile! The same pounding 4/4 in every measure." While a rock musician will say, "Listen to how tight they are!" -- meaning we should listen to how well they play their groove. Each good band has a groove of its own. Those different grooves help give different songs their identities -- something classical music people may not hear, because they're listening for structural things that just may not happen in rock. Meanwhile the groove is developing in ways they don't get at all.
To put this in another way (crudely stating an intriguing philosophical difference) -- classical music gets involved with thought, rock gets involved with body language. I'd say both are needed for a full view of life. But remember that this really is quite crudely stated; rock music in fact has thought, and classical music does have body langauge. It's just that the relative importance of thought and body language differs.
Interesting! I'd use his distinction in that last paragraph to explain the difference between the "classic" styles of Jewish music that I love and the "contemporary" JM styles I find banal. The new stuff is all about beat -- the melody is almost an afterthought.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Holiday Klezmer

Protocols points out an ad for a Klezmer Christmas album, "Oy to the World!" by the Klezmonauts (not The Klezmatics) on Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

I haven't heard the Klezmonauts release, but if you're looking for a great holiday klezmer album, I'd recommend the Klezmer Nutcracker.

Antitrust Exemption

Slashdot reports that Senator Orrin Hatch is supporting an antitrust exemption in the Copyright Act [for] record companies and music publishers" Why? Because of 'market realities.'

The good Senator's opinion on the bill -- a dumb idea-- wouldn't have anything to do with this, would it?

Instapundit thinks an antitrust/RICO investigation is warranted.

Singing Mushrooms???

Read about it here.

Via Dave Barry's Blog

Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song

Meryl Yourish want to know if Adam Sandler plans on revising his "Chanukah Song" to include the line "Michael Jackson: not Jewish!"

Give Your Turkeys Back Their Confidence!

"Britain's farming union has released a chill-out album to help turkeys keep calm in the understandably stressful run-up to Christmas" CNN reports.

Thanks, Dave

Not Secure After All

CNN reports that a Norwegian hacker has cracked the iTunes code.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A Dilemma

Ever since I heard about the following story, I've been debating with myself whether or not to blog about this. I have never agonized over a post the way I have thought about this. Here's the background. On September 26th the Jerusalem Post reported:
Two haredi men, one the singer son of a prominent American haredi performer, were arrested Friday afternoon in Jerusalem for enticing girls, some of whom were below the age of 16, to take dangerous drugs and then to have sexual relations with them.
In addition, police said the two men photographed the girls in intimate positions in the bathroom and having sexual relations with other men. The suspects would later show the pictures to their friends. A search of the downtown apartment of one of the suspects turned up the miniature camera that was used.
When the singer was arrested, he tried to swallow the memory disc of his computer, breaking the chip as he chewed it. "We think he had good reason to do so," the police told the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge.
The victims were all harediot, and police said the suspects took advantage of the girls' innocence and lack of sex education.
Investigation of the case began based on complaints filed by some of the girls as well as on additional sources, said police.
The police description of one of the suspects as the son of a prominent haredi personality led to wild speculation in the haredi community. Radio reports noted that Israeli Internet sites carried the full names of the suspects.
The judge ordered the police to allow friends of the two suspects to supply them with strictly kosher food with Eda Haredit certification.
I'm not going to name the singer here because he is presumed innocent with regard to the particulars of this accusation until proven guilty. I will say that at the very least the drug part of this has been an open secret for years. And sadly, my point here isn't just with regard to one individual. There are several others as well who are known to indulge in alchohol/drugs. The big question here is how will the industry respond. Will business continue as usual, or will the others see this as a wake-up call?

The industry's response to this scandal is even more important than the individual artists. To date, there has been no public response by the industry, and perhaps there shouldn't be, but privately there should be some deep introspection on the part of those who produce and promote Jewish music.

I believe that the producers and distributors have an obligation to stop promoting these artists. Their responsibility to the community should prevent them from promoting inappropriate role models to our youth. Unfortunately, their track record isn't good. Recent years have seen many unsuitable artists and groups promoted to our community. These include a bar-band, Soulfarm, whose logo is a psychedelic mushroom, as well as other suposedly "frum" singers whose private lives are anything but "frum".

Over the past few months, this blog has achieved a following among many in the Jewish music industry. I've received emails from producers, musicians, and the like, and I've been "blogrolled" and linked to by several Jewish blogs and forums. I think that one of the things I've been able to accomplish –and I'm assessing this in large part on the basis of the private correspondence I've received – is to increase the awareness of the importance of providing proper role-models for the community. I've posted many times about inappropriate acts that are being marketed to our community. I've also blogged often about the importance of honesty, whether in advertising, or in a singer's public actions or comments. And I believe that I've made people reconsider on that front as well. There's still a long way to go, though.

I believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant – that if people know that the public is aware of what is going on, then they will be less likely to try to cover up or be associated with wrongdoing. The OU/Lanner scandal is a good illustration of this. Abuse that went on for years, and was ignored by NCSY leadership, was addressed immediately upon publication of the accusations in The Jewish Week. Here too, I believe that if people in the industry realize that this word is out here in the U.S.A. too, (it is widely known in Israel) then they will refrain from associating with this artist and others similar to him.

It is my hope that people in the industry take this message to heart, rise to the challenge, and help to make our community better. If not, know this… people are watching and the truth will out!

A final thought:

The singer who was arrested makes a living singing Torah. The total disconnect between his music and his lifestyle is shocking and I think that it demonstrates that he didn't/doesn't mean what he sings. This is a feeling that one gets from much of the Jewish music being marketed today. The trend of late has been for vocalists to buy songs from composers. Anyone with enough money can buy these songs, hire Yisroel Lamm, Moshe Laufer, or one of a few others to arrange the music, and put out an album. The only criterion appears to be the person's voice. (Well, that or the fact that he's willing to pay Yochi Briskman, Gideon Levine, or another producer a lot of money.)

The community has been programmed to listen to music for the quality of the singer's voice alone, instead of for the emotional content of the lyrics. I hope that the producers and distributors once again begin focusing on artists who are performing inspirational music that comes from their souls. (It goes without saying that singing ability should also be factored in.) I believe that it is possible to have heartfelt, Jewish music in most any music style so long as the artist means and genuinely feels what he's singing.

Different Dei'ah V'dibbur

Here's a Dei'ah V'dibbur article on wedding planning.

These 'graphs are interesting:
The location of the band is critical. "The musicians need a place to play that will honor the guests," explains Gedaliah Shofnos, a popular orchestra leader for more than twenty years, originally from America. "If they're stuck in a corner or put under a low ceiling off to the side, you get sound that's accentuated and louder than it should be -- not to mention disinterested musicians. The band also needs to have eye contact with the dancers." For these reasons, a central location in the hall, close to the center of the room, is crucial.
People should be aware of these issues when deciding where the band should set up at their affair.

I hate it when this happens:
For example, at rabbonishe weddings, the entrance of every new rosh yeshiva invariably brings someone over to the orchestra to demand another round of "Yomim al yemei melech..."
"We can play Yomim for ten minutes until the guests have it coming out of their ears, but each time we start to play another song, someone comes over to tell us to play it again," Shofnos recalls. "The hosts should trust the band's judgment, and also assign someone as an intermediary, to tactfully say `no' to unreasonable requests."
This usually happens on Purim as each Rebbi/Rov enters the room. It sometimes happens at weddings too.
Surprisingly, the catering can slow down the momentum of the band and the dancers... or extinguish it altogether. By serving the courses too quickly, too much time is freed up for dancing, which overtaxes the guests.
This is something that many people don't realize. Often, the dance set will be either longer or shorter than necessary and people will naturally assume that this is the bands fault. The reality usually is that the caterer either needs more time to get the main course ready, or else, is trying to rush the event to keep it on schedule. In the NYC area, it's usually the caterer who decides the length of the dance sets and not the bandleader.

More Silly Music

Goys and Dolls!

Say Oy Vey

A Tale of Bridge, Romance, and a Nice Prune Danish!

Safam Songwriter

I think I just found the guy who wrote Dodi Li, B'nei Safam, and other sappy songs for Safam.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Sameach @ the Wheel

So I just heard some of the new Sameach at the Wheel release. What are these guys thinking? The drums sound terrible and the guitar is way overprocessed. The album concept seems silly too... Jewish driving music???

Also, the Neshoma office seems to have a schizophrenic approach. One day they decry the secularization of Jewish music…
This album has been recorded with one purpose in mind. That purpose, simply stated, is to return Jewish Music to its former glory and splendor. It is our hope that we have captured the Neshoma of a Heimishe Simcha in its most pure and basic expression. That is, we have attempted to let the Niggunim and the words speak directly to the heart and soul of a Jew-without the extraneous influences that unfortunately have begun to corrupt many of our meaningful and most treasured Niggunim. We pray that you, the listener, will discern the emes amiti of the music included on this album and will allow it to elevate your Neshoma to an even higher plane(From the liner notes to Neshoma Orchestra's "A Heimishe Simcha" )
...while the next they're releasing this sort of rock/pop album. The album even includes The Axel F. theme from the Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Look Out, Chevra!

Here come the singing pickles!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Oy Baby!

The The yada, yada, yada blog has a post about an new video for Jewish babies titled "Oy Baby!"
One of the vocalists, Kim Palumbis, recorded vocals for "OyBaby" only days before giving birth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Concert or Wedding?

From the Jewish Press letters section: "Where Am I?

In defense of those whose behavior Beth Schindelman (Letters, Nov.7) found deplorable at a Sukkos concert: Perhaps they mistakenly thought theywere at a wedding. At a number of weddings I`ve attended in the last few years, I mistakenly thought I was at a concert.
Mark Sodden
(Via E-Mail)

Ha!

Guess who's in trouble!

Fox News reports about Michael Jackson's latest troubles. This 'graph is interesting:
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Jackson decried all the self-appointed friends and spokesmen who took to the airwaves today in his defense. Some of those friends, as with most celebrity cases, are turning into paid consultants to various TV shows. Among those who’ve suddenly bobbed up on the air: Shmuley Boteach, the shamed rabbi who ran a shady charity with Jackson for a short time. The two have actually not been on any terms for more than a year. A Jackson insider, hearing that Boteach had started giving interviews, literally shrieked with horror: “I hate that guy. He’s not Michael’s friend. Someone should tell him to shut up, already.”
Remember when Boteach made headlines in the Jewish media for bringing Jackson to the Carlebach Shul for Friday night davening?

Again With The Horses!

Meredith discovers the singing horses.

Blog in Dm was there long ago.

Public Service Announcement

Don't confuse Shalshelet: Original Jewish Music with Shalsheles.

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibbur Article - 5

The article also contains a list of rules about music:
1. The Songs. Songs of goyim and chillonim are not to be played, even with holy words. Similarly, songs of a rebellious nature are not to be played, even if they were written by chareidi people, such as all the songs that are made in the style of cheap street music.

A few sources might be useful here: See Rambam in his Perush Hamishnayos to Avos 1:16 where he describes as foolishness those people who protest if they hear songs sung in a foreign language even if the subject matter is quite proper. We see from here that the Rambam knew of secular songs that were mutar, or even recommended. The Chida (Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 560) quotes the Sefer Chassidim that says one shouldn't sing "pritzus" songs, but there is nothing wrong with using the melodies. Also see Teshuvos Yechave Da'as 2:5 where he rules that it's mutar (and perhaps even a mitzvah min hamuvchar) to sing kedusha to arabic love songs.
2. The Style. Even the traditional songs must be played in a Jewish style and in a respectable manner fitting to the holy words, and it is not at all permissible to play in the style of the porkei ol.
See my comments above for a small selection of sources that would disagree.
3. The Instruments. The quality of the music is influenced by the instruments that are used. Unfortunately, most bands use instruments that are especially made to play wild music, and have no place in respectable music. It is recommended to play only with respectable instruments, or at least to take care to play respectfully, that is, not to distort the sound of the electric guitar, and to refrain from playing wild abnormal rhythms on the drums.
Agin with the intolerant language. A rhythm may not be to the listener's satisfaction, but that doesn't make it "abnormal."
4. The Drums. It is necessary to take care that: 1] The sound level of the drums should be less than the main melody; 2] Not to play wild rhythms.
This is a meaningless statement. What constitutes a "wild rhythm? I agree with the point about the volume level of the drums though.
5. The Volume. It is forbidden to play at a volume above 90 decibels, and any band that plays louder should be rebuked. It is advisable to demand that the musicians not use ear plugs.
I agree that the volume should be kept low and have said so in the past (here and here), but the assertion that the band should play without earplugs is foolish. Anyone who is regularly exposed to even 90 decibels as part of their job should wear hearing protection. There is a difference between attending an affair once in a while where the volume is at 90decibels, and spending five hours at a time, night after night, exposed to such levels.
6. It should be stressed that only the person who pays the band has the right and the responsibility to decide what or how to play, and nobody else has the right to request anything else without the permission of baalei hasimchah.
I actually agree with this one to an extent…especially, when the guy with the "good voice" who invariably is present comes over to ask if he can sing with the band.
The following details were added by the members of the committee to explain the above guidelines:
1. The Songs. Recently songs have been taken from the non-religious media and "converted" by changing the words to pesukim etc. These songs creep in by means of the "religious" radio and by demand of irresponsible youth. They find their way to the weddings of bnei Torah, together with other wild rebellious songs written by "religious" singers. Regarding the songs of the chareidi pop stars that are generally songs of chutzpah and rebellion, the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner wrote: "We are obligated to distance ourselves from this, as they mix the posul with the kosher and the kosher is also profaned."
As I mentioned earlier, the songs using actual secular melodies are rarely played at affairs here.
2. The Style. In order to understand how a band can change a pure Jewish song into a pop song, one should pay attention to the way they play the song before the chuppa and note the difference in the way it is played by the band and the way the guests sing it outside. By adding a few small changes to "jazz up" the melody, it is transformed into a different song and is now unsuitable to accompany the chosson and kallah to the chuppah. This is how most kosher songs are played today in order to adapt them to the modern style and by doing so they lose all of their spiritual content. Therefore it is extremely important to choose a kosher band whose musicians can play according to these rules.
The tradition of playing embellishments of the melodies goes all the way back to the beginnings of Chassidic music. The earliest recordings contain ornamentations and embellishments of the melodies.
I do think that the musicians selected should have a strong background in – and experience with – Jewish music.
3. The Instruments. The electric guitar is made only for use in rock and pop music and it has no place in any form of kosher music. It is possible to play it in a respectable way and there are a few avreichim who do so, but the musicians who play this instrument in the way it is really made to be played spoil the whole kedushah of the wedding.

The same problem exists with the saxophone, referred to 80 years ago as "the devil's flute." Everything depends on the musician. It is possible to play it in a respectable manner or in a coarse vulgar manner. Therefore it is preferable to request that the clarinet should be used instead of the saxophone. (The baalei simchah should know that it is their privilege to decide which instruments they want to be used.)
Almost every musical innovation has been criticized by some as inappropriate when it is first introduced. The waltz rhythm was banned in the Prussian courts as inherently indecent. Are we going to ban all those Chassidic waltzes?
Other points that should be mentioned: not to amplify the low bass tones more than normal, and not to use weird electronic sounds or distortion.
I think that it should depend on how the distortion is used. Not all distortion is bad, although some of the players on the local wedding band scene here in NY do overuse it.
4. The Drums. Also, the modern set of drums was created for playing non-kosher music. Therefore it is important to avoid drummers who do not understand how to play in a suitable style. It should be known that the definition of rock music is when the rhythm is the dominant factor over the melody. Therefore the drums and all percussion instruments should not be as loud as the other instruments. And especially at weddings in Yerushalayim, they must be careful not to make the rhythm of the drums louder than the singer. [It should be noted that the function of the drums is only to accompany dancing, as is mentioned by the Malbim, Yeshayohu, 24:8].
Interesting definition of rock music there. I disagree, though.
5. The Volume. Medical experts say that prolonged exposure to noise levels over 90 decibels damages hearing and general health. The noise problem can be solved, bezras Hashem if every wedding hall will be required by law to install a noise meter that will disconnect the electricity when the noise exceeds this limit. The noise level should be measured from the place where the people dancing come closest to the speakers. Where it is not possible to measure the sound level, the band should be told that they are to fix the volume according to the judgment of the baal hasimchah, and they should be warned that if they do not listen when told to reduce the volume, they will not be paid.
An interesting approach that could help solve the problem. The method suggested feels quite repressive though.
6. The Singer. The status of the singer at weddings today is very problematic since most of them try to imitate the frum rock idols both in the way they sing and in the way they move and dance while singing and in the way they pronounce the words. If they do this it is better to ask them not to sing. All of these guidelines certainly apply when playing inside a beis hamedrash at a Hachnosas Sefer Torah or Simchas Beis Hashoeva.
Frankly, I've worked with many of these singers, and in general, I don't find that they move around at weddings the same way they do on stage at concerts.

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibbur Article - 4

The Dei'ah V'dibbur article continues with:
An Interview with Reb Abish Brodt, Ba'al Menagein
"It is a Dance of Corruption of the Feet, not a Song of the Heart"
Reb Abish Brodt's pleasant voice is well-known to lovers of authentic Jewish music. His songs are the highlight of the American Agudas Yisroel's annual convention, where he conducts hundreds of participants in stirring song at the communal melaveh malkoh. His voice and songs pierce our hearts.
"As a matter of principle, Reb Abish keeps the number of his performances to a bare minimum. This modest individual feels honored to praise Hashem through song.
One who does not ordinarily listen to music should, nevertheless, take heed of Reb Abish's pertinent words. His message is most significant. Reb Abish is deeply worried by the current trend of imitating foreign cultures and the resulting dangers.
Note the need to build "Reb Abish's" chareidi bonafides up first by mentioning his singing at the Agudah convention Melave Malka, a fact that is totally irrelevant to his ability to speak to the issues here.
"What is the danger of today's "Chassidic music"?
I heard from one of this generation's great talmidei chachomim that the golus of our generation is the golus of "Let's be like all the nations."
In each generation, our nation has faced spiritual danger. There were generations of avodoh zorah in all types of disguises. There were generations that had other problems. The problem of our generation, nehiyeh kechol ho'amim, is the poison of the Maskilim that still lingers. They wanted to appear like gentiles. Be a Jew at home and a man on the street, was their motto. Even the assimilated Jew's temple attempted to mimic the appearance of a church, R"l.
It has expressed itself in each generation in different forms. In the past, they tried looking like a non-Jewish intellectual, a man of the West. They produced the pioneers of Western `culture' in all areas of the entertainment industry. Jews!
In other words, the reason for the problem with the music at these affairs is because we "want to be like the other nations." He fleshes out his argument:
However, Jews with yir'as Shomayim do not try to appear as non-Jews.
True, but it certainly has had an impact. The street's evil influences, unfortunately, have infiltrated our camp. Every foreign object is trying to make itself kosher by donning a yarmulke. This is especially prominent in today's music. It is alien music, even if one attaches words from the mekoros.
I must be missing something, but why is this unique to this generation? Wasn't this the issue with the Hellenists, Maskilim, and Reform Judaism in their days? I think the assertion that this generation – as opposed to others – is one that is unsupported by history.
How has today's pop-music succeeded in infiltrating?
There are many musical compositions that have influenced Chassidic music via the secular world. Their ear gets used to raucous noises. As a result, they produce the compositions that they produce.
He's only referring to the "contemporary" Jewish music here, but the reality is that Chassidic music has always been influenced by secular music.
About them, we cannot complain. However, how could this pass through the sensitive ear and the fragile regesh of a tzibbur yireh Shomayim? How could the tzibbur not reject this? Some of them are yeshiva-educated, yet they make alien music. The damage is enormous.
Can you give an example of the damage?
Certainly. At the shul where I daven in the United States, we do kiruv for groups of kids that have gone off the derech. They need lots of compassion, so we give them support. They asked me to sing a bit for them.
Which song did they request? Tashmi'a lonu es Ovinu Malkeinu -- with the familiar, old and gentle tune. This music speaks to the heart.
Of course they asked for a Jewish song. They were talking to Abish Brodt, not James Hetfield.
When I spoke with these teenagers, I became interested in how they fell to where they were. I heard a variety of reasons. However, one of the things that kept repeating itself was surprising--even if it didn't personally surprise me: It started with "Chassidic" music!
They attended concerts. Practically speaking, it is impossible to maintain rules of separation at such events. And the music itself, the street music, was their first push into the street.
I find this assertion quite unbelievable. I can't imagine that there are that many kids who went off of the derech because of "The Chevra" or M.B.D. I think there is quite a bit of exaggeration/simplification going on here.
We're talking about bochurim who had no previous connection with the outside world. This music connected them to the street. Their ears got adjusted to its noises. Afterwards, they discarded the pesukim and they started listening to the original. From there, they fell rapidly. This music simply broke the barrier between the chareidi public and the street, and choliloh, many became its tragic victims!
I think that this is a simplistic way out of accepting any responsibility for the fact that there are so many "at-risk" youth. After all, it's not the way the community treats them, their sense of alienation, frustration, or whatever issues at home that inspire this rebellion. It's all the fault of that "goyish" sounding Jewish music.
How does it break the barrier?
Once upon a time, when a bochur entered a record and tape store, there was a clear difference between kodesh and chol. Whatever belonged to us was Jewish.
I actually agree with his point here. Why are seforim stores selling rock CD's and Yanni? (Not that I have any religious objections to Yanni, only musical ones. But, I digress.)
Today the distinction is broken. There are melodies that have been taken from the worst places, from sources of tumoh. In Moscow for example, I met a baal teshuvoh who worked at the American Consulate. He said about a particular song, "This is a song of a neo-Nazi group!" Their music is steeped in hatred and soils one's soul.
I believe that he's referring to Yidden here. I don't know how he knows they are anti-Semitic though.
Nevertheless, didn't previous generations of gedolei Torah and Admorim take melodies from non-Jews?
True. We aren't on the level to be able to analyze the positive aspects of their songs. But one does not need an especially musical ear to identify songs of prikas ol. Such a song moves the body, causing a person to dance in an alien way for bnei Torah.
This is the standard cop out answer. They did, because they were able to tell which melodies were appropriate, but we, not being on so high a level, yadda, yadda, yadda…. The fact is that many Chassidic songs are taken from, or influenced by secular songs, and they didn't take the "art songs" either. They took their inspiration from the peasant drinking songs, and, in many cases, took the songs themselves. On Purim in Chaim Berlin the band plays a march called Toska for a half hour or so as R'Aharon Schechter and the "oilam" sing it over and over. The song is actually a Russian/Ukrainian folk song called "Longing for Home."
When a song is from the innermost chamber of our souls, it moves the body in a swaying of gentle deveikus, of the beis medrish. People close their eyes, they see that this raises them spiritually.
At chasunas for example, when the song is alien and not from our circles even if the song's words contain pesukim, you see all the adults disappearing from the dance circle. It's impossible to participate in it. That says it all.
This may be true to an extent, but my experience is that much of the time the adults disappear from the dance floor for the second dance set regardless of whether the band is playing newer "rock" songs, or older Chassidic "freilach" style songs.
It's a dance of corruption of the feet, not a dance of the heart. One sees that it originates from the outside, not from the beis medrish. Let's not allow it to invade our sheltered communities.
Are the negative influences attributed only to the music, itself?
No! Everything surrounding it also has influence. You could see how the so-called necessity for a "star performer" has developed. This is a need for something that came from the outside, that has entered the walls of the beis medrish. That, in its own right, is very serious. How much more so when the need for them is based upon something negative.
Unfortunately, religious `pop-idols' are gaining recognition. Young kids who are not appropriately inoculated against this are trying to imitate these same images and their actions. Sometimes, there are concert goers who act in a despicable manner. We must put an end to this.
He does have a point about the performers as I've mentioned many times (like here, and here.)
This is definitely nehiyeh kechol ho'amim, even if they try to disguise it with a yarmulke. Afterwards, you see its effects upon the bochurim. Their souls are drowning from the consequences. We see it from how they walk, and in their singing. They forgot the true song, the melodies of the heart.
What's your opinion regarding children performing in choirs?
Once a father came to me with his son who had sung in such a framework. He boasted of his son who "possesses an incredible voice." When I saw the child, I didn't stop praying that this child should not become damaged from it, choliloh. I feared that after his period of singing, nisim will be required for him.
I actually agree with him on this one. I don't have a problem with kids singing in a school choir, but I think that the Miami Boys Choir (and other similar choirs) are not good for the kids in them. The kids – and their parents, BTW – are exploited.
What damage does this cause?
On stage, it's impossible to sing like an ehrliche Yid. The children who sing, impersonate the so-called star performers. Even after the song has finished, you see children bloated with ga'avoh. This accompanies them throughout the day. But in what does he pride himself? Ga'avoh is always forbidden, but this particular ga'avoh stems from something posul
You generally see a child who has become conditioned to act for external responses: for the applause, for the praise, for instant gratification. Later, when his voice changes, the adolescent will be left in an empty vacuum. His spiritual world will be lacking because of this. Nothing will remain, even from his deceptive praises. It clearly endangers his physical well-being, not just his spiritual well-being.
Reb Abish, what do you consider to be Jewish music?
Jewish music is something that arouses the neshomoh and not the body. Even shirim of simchoh need to fit this definition. Many of these songs are appropriate. I try to visualize for myself the nigun in the Beis Hamikdosh, as much as I am able, according to my level.
In other words, its wholly subjective. Different people are moved by different kinds of music.
Imagine a man surrounded in fear, for he needs to bring a korbon chattos. He comes to the Mikdosh, knowing that he must do teshuvoh. He hears the song of the levi'im, which touches a sensitive nerve. This penetrates his soul, which arouses him. He begins to cry, to be awakened, to return.
Afterwards the shechitoh, kabboloh, zerikoh, and teshuvo and kaporoh. He then hears the sound of a happy shir. His soul is gladdened by the fact that he has atoned, that he has merited to do teshuvoh. The melody helps him keep in step with proper spiritual feelings. We aren't on this madreigoh, but when a person sings, closing one's eyes and concentrating on the words, he feels a longing, a yearning. Thus he arouses himself.
One can only feel this if the melody is not alien and disturbing. If one were to think and have kavonoh. This should be the feeling, like a shaliach tzibur, like a person who is over lifnei he'amud. "Know before Whom you are standing." Know before Whom you are singing!
So essentially, we get a non-answer; it's all about a feeling.

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibbur Article - 3

The Dei'ah V'dibbur article includes the following letter written by Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in 5748:
The Rambam writes (Hilchos Lulav 8:14): [The Simchas Beis Hashoeva on Succos] "was not celebrated by ignoramuses or by anyone who wanted, but by gedolei chachmei Yisroel and Roshei Hayeshivos and the Sanhedrin and the Chassidim and the elders and men of good deeds. These were the people who danced and clapped and played [the music] and rejoiced in the Mikdosh during the festival of Succos. But all of the people came to see and to listen."
We learn from this that seeing and hearing a simcha shel mitzvah means to see and hear the simchah of gedolei Yisroel and the chassidim and elders that is all kedushoh, and this arouses a spirit of holiness that comes from a simcha shel mitzvah.
And from this we should understand how careful we must be to avoid the opposite of this, that is, to see and listen to the music of reshoim even at a simcha shel mitzvah. But we must make sure that the whole execution of the simchah should be from a holy source, and even if they change slightly the words or the music, tumah should not be acquired by changing it to kedushah, and we should distance ourselves from these songs.
The hosts of simchos must request and make conditions with the musicians that they play only songs and tunes from holy sources and not chas vesholom the opposite.
May it be that we will merit speedily to an everlasting simcha from the building of the Beis Hamikdash,
Nissim Karelitz
(The letter was also signed by HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, and HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg.)
The letter isn't exactly on point here. The issue as Dei'ah V'dibbur explains it is not just the use of secular songs, but even Jewish music that is composed or played in a secular style. Rav Karelitz's letter, on the other hand, only addresses the use of secular songs, which generally isn't such a big problem at simchos. I've posted previously here and here about the plagiarism of secular songs in Jewish music, but few of these songs are typically played at affairs. The ones that are are Yidden, Asher Bara (Piamenta), and Turkish Kiss (also Piamenta), other than that the pop/rock music played at a typical "frum" affair is the various classic rock riffs (i.e. Cream's Sunshine of Your Love, Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water, the Rolling Stones "Jumping Jack Flash") that are often played during "Keitzad Merakdin", and the fanfare for the chosson and kallah which frequently is a riff or theme from a pop tune like Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" or Europe's "Final Countdown." In other words, the problem of secular songs is one that is much smaller than the (alleged) problem of secular influences.

Stern College in the News!

Protocols gives us the Daily News story about Britney Spears' album signing. "Alexandra Rosler of Miami, a 19-year-old who goes to Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University is quoted:
"Don't get me wrong, I love Britney, but I thought she was skinnier."
Good to see she's learning something in school.

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibbur Article - 2

The Pied Pipers of Brooklyn
Of all the things that the yetzer hora has managed to smuggle into the chareidi public, probably his greatest success is modern "chassidic" music. After all, many people think, what harm can there be in a song?
Maybe after all that has been said here, people will realize that these songs can do a lot of harm. The kosher singer Abish Brodt (in an interview that appears here, and originally in the Hebrew Yated, Tammuz, 5761) said that it is this music that opens the door for many young people to leave the Torah world. Parents and educators must be aware of the great influence that modern music has on children, and protect them from hearing those songs that are far more dangerous than songs that our rabbis warned against hundreds of years ago.
Abish Brodt is well known for his work with Regesh. When Regesh first came out, it was marketed with the fact that it was "appropriate" Jewish music. The arrangements only used acoustic instruments, and I remember an interview (ad, really) in the now defunct "Good Fortune" magazine that described how the album used only soft sounds like French horn and not the sharper, aggressive, more powerful brass or sax sounds.

If you listen to the series in order, though, you can hear a clear evolution of the music on the Regesh recordings. They slowly added more brass, electonic instruments, and the like, to the point where there is a pounding '50s Rock piano groove used in the arrangement of "Borei Olam" (it's after the instrumental break, for those who are interested) and Yossi Piamenta was brought in to add his unique rock guitar sound to "Adir Bamarom." In short, the Dei'ah V'dibbur characterization of him as "Kosher" seems to indicate that use of secular influences is acceptable, it's just a matter of how they are used. This is a fair approach, but it's inconsistent with their blanket rejection of secular styles.
The power of the chareidi pop stars and the respect that they receive from young people is also a very serious problem. Cheap entertainers who make themselves look like bnei Torah in order to sell their songs to a naive public are being advertised on every street corner, and many young people are led to look up to them as much as we look up to gedolei hador, Rachmono litzlan.
I agree with this. I've been agonizing a post relating to this for a while, with regard to a recent scandal. I do think the assertion that people "look up to them as much as we look up to gedolei hador" is an extreme over exaggeration.
We must realize that they are not our people. Anybody who has a feeling for music can sense in their songs that they are immoral people. This is not surprising if one knows who they take as their examples and what low types of people they work with in the corrupt world of rock music. The non- Jewish and Israeli papers have already compared the most famous chareidi singers to the likes of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other immoral personalities. To them that is a compliment, but to us the opposite.
What low types of people do they work with in the "corrupt world of rock music"?
The success of the Committee for Jewish Music depends on the response of the public. We have already received much support and encouragement from many important rabbis and roshei yeshivos, but the public must also take this matter seriously and stand up for the honor of Hashem Yisborach and the honor of the Torah, in order to ensure the spiritual welfare of the next generation.
There seems to be some confusion here. One the one hand, the burden is placed on the public, but the main emphasis here seems to be to legislate rather than educate.
Parents and teachers must be careful to guard their children from a young age from all the bad influences with which we are being bombarded, and they must take care what kind of music they are exposed to. Anyone who cannot distinguish between kosher music and treife music should take advice from people who do understand the difference.
I'm curious, would these "experts" have a problem with the secular influences on the Regesh recordings I pointed out above? Will they ban them? Is there a different standard for full-fledged members of the "Agudah" community?

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibuur Article - 1

Since the article is so long, I'll be breaking it, and my comments, into several posts.
After the compilation of the rules for weddings, it was decided to bring them to the attention of the kosher band leaders in order to receive their agreement and approval. A meeting was set up in Bnei Brak on the 8th of Av between the bandleaders and the members of the Committee for Jewish Music as well as a number of important askonim. The decisions were clear and unanimous.
The bandleaders all said that they were capable and wanted to play according to the rules that had been made, but they were in danger of losing a lot of business if they did so. They explained clearly the present situation, that the bochurim reserve for themselves the right to choose the band, and any band that does not play in the modern style is not popular in the yeshivos. They claim that this is the reason why we are forced to suffer at weddings, to hear unbearably loud and coarse music.
The article is correlating two issues, volume and style, that need not be related. It's quite possible to have a low volume rock or pop influenced band and a high volume band playing old-style "yeshivish" music.
The band leaders requested to bring this information to the roshei yeshivos. They said that only if the roshei yeshivos demand that the chassonim choose a band that plays according to the new rules will it be possible to improve the situation.
I've been saying this for a long time (Here's one example.) Given the level of respect accorded to the Roshei Yeshiva on a personal level by the bochurim, I find it hard to believe that a concerted effort by the Roshei Yeseshiva to positively influence their talmidim on the choice of a wedding band wouldn't be effective. They could begin by coming over to the bochurim who are standing in front of the band egging the drummer and guitar player on and, in a friendly manner, bringing them back into the dance circle. I believe that if the a given Rosh Yeshivah told his talmidim not to patronize a certain band – or insist that they ask that certain musicians not be in the band – that they can have a tremendous positive impact on the volume level (and quality of music) that people are exposed to at simchos.

Dei'ah V'dibbur - Part Deux

Here's Part 2 of the Dei'ah veDibur series on Jewish music. I blogged about earlier here and here.

I'll post my comments soon, but thought that this "critique" of Avraham Fried's song "Mi Ma" by a Rabbi D. Blaser raised some good points.
An Example
"Mi Ma" begins with a typical big band concert intro. In the body of "Mi Ma," every device is cleverly used to create a full use of the two brief snatches of actual tune. The composer and arranger is trapped because this style of music really has very few options. Pop music has no scope.
Sections of Mi-Ma
In "Mi Ma", we first hear the lower melody. Now, to build up to a semi-climax, we have a bridge section using answering phrases. The first time this appears, it is soloist and chorus. On later repetitions, it is solo and brass, trumpets and saxes, rhythm and chorus etc. The notes go up as do our expectations and pulses.
The reason for this buildup is that the "big sell" of this number is the "Mi Ma" bit, the second section: high, impassioned and catchy. Now both the arranger and the singer do their utmost to make the most of the situation. The soloist puts enormous energy and effort into enlivening the melodic line. He slides dramatically into new sections, and swells and molds the shape of notes in the best traditions of the pop singer. Much thought has gone into this performance, as into, I am sure, all his work.
The Accompaniment
The arranger uses every attempt to expand his brief. He has the chorus singing a short counter melody; answering with a slightly risque "Wo-ho-ho"; using a hint of "teeny-bop" voice affectation in the "NA-na-na-na-NAH-na" build up sections; he alternates the use of instrumentation as far as possible.
In summary, within their genre, the Mi-Ma performers have done a really professional job for a pop tape. They would not pretend, I feel, that they are creating masterpieces, but rather good value for money entertainment.
The Jungle Beat
"Mi Ma" relies very heavily on its persistent, rock beat. Imagine it without the drums. Impossible! Without drums the tape would sound utterly empty. Thus rather than adding to and supporting the melody, we find that the percussion is a crutch. In this "Mi Ma" is no different from thousands of similar pop tunes.
He does have a point about much of this music. The part of "Mi Ma" that most irritates me is the insertion of the schoolyard taunting "Na, na, na, na,na" into the bridge. I've always thought it sounded silly.

Eulogy for an Internet Merger

Read "Death of a Friend", Glen Reynolds' "hesped" for MP3.com.

A search on MP3.com for Jewish music will turn up pages and pages of music by artists you've never heard of. Some of them are quite worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Jungle Music!

I've heard the song V'eirastich off of the new Ohad release on Nachum Segal's radio show and am finding it irritating. The background vocals are by Yossi Green, who composed the songs and produced the album, and they are so annoying. It sounds to me like he recorded multiple tracks of himself hooting. And, altough I'm sure that he didn't intend this, he sounds like a gorilla in heat.. whooo, whoo, whoo! In general, I've been noticing a trend towards more annoying backup vocals on these albums over the last few years. This is just one of the more egregious ones.

Most of the producers are using the same guys (who never sounded good) and have been trying to outdo the other recordings by having the vocals do more shtick. It rarely works, as we all can hear.

Another peeve of mine with regard to these vocalists is that it has become standard for arrangers to have the vocals sing the intro or interlude theme, even when these lines are clearly instrumental parts like horn hits or guitar solos and not vocal lines.

Finally, once I've mentioned the Ohad song, the auto-tune effect he uses on part of the vocals is so lame. Plus, it's been used before (excepting Cher and numerous pop stars) by many other Jewish artists on their recent albums. Hmm.... cheesy and unoriginal... let's put this one to rest guys.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Video Clip

"Dancing Jews with Wacky Shoes"

More anti-Semitism

Here's a Baltimore Jewish Times story about Russian conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev, the conductor of the prestigious Vienna Symphony Orchestra, allegedly firing all the Jewish musicians in the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1977-1978.

One witness says that: "after musicians began applying to leave the country, the Soviet minister of culture summoned the orchestra's conductor, Ghennady Rozhdestvensky, and demanded that he discharge all Jewish musicians from the orchestra. Rozhdestvensky refused to do so and resigned his position as conductor instead."

This story deserves wider coverage.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Thanks for the compliment, I think!

So Arye Dworkin is reminiscing about how he once recorded himself singing an Extreme song "More Than Words" and played it for his GF whose priceless response was "That was really great, Arye. My mom really loves that song."

Apology not accepted!

Amish Tech Support isn't satisfied with Greek composer Mikis Theodarkis' "apology" for saying the Jews are the root of all evil.

Via Meryl Yourish

This isn't me - Part XII

Not me!

More De'ah V'dibbur

More De'ah V'dibbur

Avraham over at Protocols posts a letter to the editor about the Deah V'dibbur article I commented on
here and here.

The editor's response is quite week though…
"Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Racism is certainly not Jewish. For example, anyone can become a Jew regardless of race, as long as he or she meets the requirements. Africa was chosen and referred to as it was not because its residents are unequivocally black -- which of course they are -- but because they are unequivocally primitive. Africa and the savages who live there were chosen as symbols of primitivism not as symbols of a race. Thus, I do not think that the comments are racist."
It's really a shame that "goy-bashing" has become so acceptable in the "Chareidi" world that otherwise tolerant people -- I'm giving the editor the benefit of the doubt here-- will justify it.

Friday, November 14, 2003

This Isn't Me - Part XI

Turn your speakers down before clicking on this link.

Via Dave Barry's Blog

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Reforming reform?

Here's an interesting report on changes in Reform Judaism.
Sample 'graph:

A similar mix flavors the rituals at Nashville´s Temple Congregation Ohabei Shalom. Once a month, some 200 people typically gather there for "Blue Jean Shabbat," featuring a five-piece band playing music by the likes of the renowned Debbie Friedman. The cantor, Bernard Gutcheon, strums guitar.
"Blue Jean Shabbat" sounds interesting, but I'll bet the draw is still "kiddush after services."

That'll Show Them!

Here's one way for a singer to respond to an anti-Semetic audience.

Zorba HaYevani

The Jerusalem Post reports about anti-Semetic hate being spewed by composer Mikis Theodrakis who is best known for composing the music for "Zorba the Greek."

Meryl Yourish comments:
"Let's compare: The Jews have given the world a vaccine for polio (Jonas Salk), relativity theory (Einstein), instant messaging (Israel), agricultural drip technology (Israel). The Greeks have given us: Michael Dukakis. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And the man who epitomizes the New Age music industry probably even more than John Tesh: Yanni."
I couldn't have put it better myself!

Update:
Here's the idiot's website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Fix Is In

Yesterday, Adam Melzer, the producer of last Motzei Shabbos' Menucha/Chaim Dovid/Fried "Live by Request" concert posted this message to the Yahoo Jewish Music group.

I'll address his post shortly, but first, a little about the Jewish music board. I've been reading the posts to this board on and off since its inception. It has been a good way to find out what the fans were thinking of the artists and recordings coming out of the "Brooklyn" Jewish music scene. The quality of the posts fluctuates wildly –- the board could benefit from some self-editing by some of the regulars as well as better moderation – but it is often a useful barometer for what is/will be popular.

Over time, many others in the industry began monitoring the group's posts. Some of these people openly joined the group. These include vocalists Nochum Stark and Ari Goldwag, members of Lev Tahor, Beat'achon, Shabbatones, Az Yashir, Diaspora, Gideon's Sword/Hamsa Boys, Emes, and producers including Sruly Nachfolger (Baruch Aboud) and Abe Kopolovitch (Shabbas Comes Alive), and more.

Some others joined anonymously and tried to push their own albums by pretending to be fans of their own group. I'm not going to "out" them here, but I find the behavior dishonest, to say the least.

Others in the business, I believe, simply read the posts online without participating in the discussion.

In any event many people in the industry are now regularly reading this board and I'm not surprised that some of them would have forwarded posts to Adam.

Now on to Adam's post…
"Hi there. A number of people have been e-mailing me messages posted to this site so with a couple of minutes that I have, I figured I would let you all in on this show and other shows as well."
He's apparently referring to posts on this new Yahoo group that were critical of the concert. Many appear to have the perception that the "Live by Request" segment of the show was fixed.
"The reception to Sat night's show has been overwhelmingly positive. As the producer, or whatever I was called, I am harder on the show and myself more than anyone. First, the live by request segment was a nice segment and I knew maybe one person other than myself who were up there (and no, it wasn't Yossi Scharf-that guy can move!). Fried and Steve Bill had a general idea of what could be requested (this means that for the most part, they knew what the possibilities were)."
"I'd say there were about 40 requests and about 15-20 of those were doubles (mostly Chazak-predictable). Of those-I figured we would have time for 10 (we actually did 8). My 2 requests- 1 was off the cuff- the other I think he had a lead sheet to it because it was his 1st hit."
Let me see if I understand… there were forty requests submitted in total? That number seems awfully low for an event whose draw is a "request" segment -- especially when you factor in "ballot box stuffing" as Adam acknowledges happened. Either this number is incorrect, or else the method of requesting – in advance via website – wasn't made clear to the ticket buyers.

At any event, lets concede that there were only twenty unique requests (excluding the duplicates) and that only eight of them were performed. Something doesn't seem right here. The fact that those eight included two by the producer and at least another two by music industry people, vocalist Dovid Nachman of The Chevra and Yossi Sharf who does the Chevra's choreography and is also involved in an as yet unreleased new Gerstner project(both part of one of Eli Gerstner's Productions – whose group, Menucha, performed that night) seems to indicate that the selection process was fixed.

It's not clear if Fried, or for that matter Melzer, were aware of it, but somewhere along the line, the deck appears to have been stacked. I've received email from people involved with the show who seemed to feel that the choice of "requesters" was anything but random.
"I wish that more requests came in with older or remote stuff. That wasn't the case so I tested him myself."
Two out of eight requests being made by the producer appears to be a tad excessive for an event sold to the public as one where the audience gets to make requests. And, if the audience doesn't want to hear older stuff… well, those that pay the piper call the tune. (Sorry, I couldn't resist).
"I also saw that there was a Carlebach selection- V'hayu Limshiso which I knew he didn't have the music for and would have probably have done it with Steve and that's it."
You're saying that you removed a request because you knew Fried didn't have music for the band? Why not let him sing it with Steve? [He's referring to Steve Bill, the guitarist/conductor.] Incidentally, Fried did record a V'hayu Limshiso himself. It's a fast freilach that has been popular at weddings in Israel for years.
"The people called up were random. I didn't know the guy dancing in the aisles or the YIKGH person who entered numerous requests (yes, people stuffed the ballot box)As a whole, I thought it was a fun segment that needs some refining."
I believe that you didn't know everyone that was called up, but at the very least you'd have to grant that the perception that things were fixed is reasonable.
"I thought for a 1st show, Menucha did a great job. When they sang together and were in front of the monitors, they had it. I think that as soloists, they wander a bit away from the monitors but that will improve."
I'll translate this…"They frequently didn't "have it" and sang off key."
"Chaim Dovid is a flavor that if you like him, you love him. If not, you have what else to see."
I'll translate this too… "I don't like Chaim Dovid.
"The hall didn't open the doors until much later than what was required which caused the show to run late. Overtime = $ = organization losing $ (every 15 min costs more). Therefore, Chaim Dovid closes with Yamamami."
I'll translate this too. "Since we had to cut someone's set short and I don't like Chaim Dovid's music, we cut his set short." The fact that the show started late doesn't mean that the organization has the right to cut a performer's act short. The concert was widely perceived (and promoted) as having two headliners. (There was even a separate promotional effort aimed at bringing in the Chaim Dovid fans.) It's simply unethical to give the audience less than they were reasonably entitled to expect.

Adam then lists some upcoming shows:
"Upcoming- YU- Dec. 18- Fried, Shwekey, Diaspora is the way it looks now.
Feb. 29 in jersey- Fried and Blue Fringe"
I'm surprised that Fried would participate in a double bill with Blue Fringe. As I've posted before here and here, I don't think that what they are doing is positive for the "heimish" community, and I do think that Fried is a responsible performer who is, generally speaking, a positive role model.
"I'm thinking of putting a refined live by request segment into each show."
That's great, only this time make sure that the people who pay for tickets are the ones who get to have their requests performed. Alternatively, let the people in the Jewish music industry make the requests, just don't sell it as "Live by Request."
"For the record, I think Jewish music is great although it is a tough industry to crack."
Huh?

In summation, at the very least, there is a strong perception that last Motzei Shabos' concert was not up to par. Many people feel that the "Live by Request" segment was stage-managed, Chaim Dovid was cut short, and Menucha was disappointing. All who were in involved in this production ought to reflect upon the mistakes that were made and make sure they don't happen again.

Update: The moderator of the Yahoo Jewish music group emails to say: "the criticism on the fixing of the live by request went on my Yahoo group, not his, but I deleted the messages bcz they were very insulting to Yossi." I knew that I hadn't seen any such criticisms posted on that board. I think that they were on the other board too, though, and I received email to that effect as I note above.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Real Hassidisco!

Mobius over at Jewschool brings us Hassidisco.

Track #2, Haben Yakir Li is an Israeli dance tune tune we used to play on every gig a number of years ago. It's also notable as the source for the lick "Oif Simchas" used on their remix of "Chiribim."

This Isn't Me - Parts VI-X

Definitely not me!

Check out the video clips! Clips one and two will give you a good taste of what the group is all all about.

Clips three and four feature Benji and the rest of the group. There is no choreography for those songs.

Clip four is quite funny. They apparently can't even sway back and forth together in unison. Watch as they keep trying to sync up but fail.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Jewish Press Letter

This week's Jewish Press contains the following letter to the editor:

"Disgusted By Lack Of Derech Eretz"

During Chol Hamoed Sukkot I had the
pleasure and displeasure of attending a concert at
Brooklyn College starring Dedi, Yaakov Shwecky
and Avraham Fried. I took my 10-year-old son to
the concert as a reward for his doing so well in
school in the subject of midot. I myself wanted to
be there because I enjoy the music of all the
performers and it was so special to have them
appear together in one concert.

Well, my son sure was taught a lesson in
midot that night — one that I wish he never
learned. The concert was called for 7:30 p.m. It
started at 7:40. My son looked around the
auditorium and asked me why it was so empty. I
told him I didn`t know. It wasn’t very long before
we had our answer: From 7:45 until 9:00 people
were streaming into the auditorium. They talked
loudly among themselves, and if they happened to
spot a friend in the audience they would not hesi-
tate to stop, schmooze, and block the view of the
people sitting in their seats.

A mother with five children — two of whom
were too young to be at this concert — had the
seats directly in front of me. It took her at least ten
minutes of very loud persuading to finally get her
children to stay seated. Then she sat down — and
promptly started speaking on her cell phone. Does
the word chutzpah come to mind? When I asked
her to please stop talking on her phone, she had
the nerve to give me a dirty look.

There was precious little derech eretz on
display that evening. People kept arriving late and
blocking the view. Cell phones were ringing con-
stantly, as were walkie talkie phones. My son at
one point turned to me and asked, “Mommy, what
happened to all these people’s midot?” What was I
supposed to say to him? He learns in yeshiva about
respecting others and then he sees his fellow frum
Jews acting so disrespectfully to each other.

Do these people ever think about anyone but
themselves? Probably not, since this was not the
first (nor, I am sure, will it be the last) time I’ve
witnessed such ugly behavior.

Why is it that when I attend a public event
that draws mostly non-Jews, there is nowhere near
the level of selfish and unpleasant behavior one
encounters at frum events? Why have we reached
the point that whenever my friends and I — all
frum ourselves — plan an evening out or an
excursion somewhere with our children, the first
thing we say is, “Let’s go where there aren’t too
many frum Jews”?

And if that’s how we feel, imagine what non-
Jews and non-religious Jews think when they
behold the anti-social behavior so increasingly
prevalent among Orthodox Jews.

Aren`t these people embarrassed to act in this
manner? I know I’m embarrassed by — and for —
them. With their kippot, black hats, sheitlach,
snoods and tzitzit, they represent every religious
Jew to the rest of the world. For my and my
children`s sake, I wish they’d make a better
impression.

In the future I’ll think twice before taking my
son, who is at such an impressionable age, to a
concert or other function where there may be this
kind of behavior.
Beth Schindelman
(Via E-Mail)

“Let’s go where there aren’t too
many frum Jews” -- a sad but realistic approach to choosing Chol Hamoed entertainment.

Friday, November 07, 2003

In Which TTC Gets Scooped!

TTC has had a busy morning. Today he posted this link to the Forward article about the failed attempt to make it into the Guiness Book of World Records for the world's largest hora on the Jewschool blog. I'd blogged this yesterday.

He also posted this link to the De'ah V'dibbur article I commented on last Sunday on his blog,THE TOWN CRIER.

Which proves that the got-to blog on Jewish music related topics is….drum roll please……Blog in Dm.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Cantor Speaks

Here's a beautiful Jewish Week article by Cantor Sherwood Goffin I found via Ari Davidow's Klezmer Shack.

Something Weird!

Here's a blog dedicated to Weird Al Yankovic.

Here's Weird Al's official site.

Also, here are the lyrics and chords to Weird Al's Lola spoof, Yoda.

Kenayna Hora!

According to this Forward article last week's attempt to get into the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest hora ever failed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

New Belzer Recording

I just heard the new Belzer recording Tzama L'cho Nafshi.

The songs are mostly composed by Eliyahu Eisenbach who is new to me, and not by longtime Belz composer Yimiya Damen who sings on the album, or Shlomo Kalish, who composed some of their recent hits. (Kalish composed one song on the album, a march, and his son composed one as well.)

I think two of the upbeat dance songs, Avinu and V'ahavoscha, may become popular.

The arrangements were done by Ruvi Banet, who did a nice job on Lipa Shmeltzer's albums. Here though, I think the arrangements fail. The intros bear no relationship to the songs, and there are too many rock and pop influences for what should be a straight-ahead chassidish album. Very unimpressive. The gratuitous rock grooves the album often goes into on fast songs adds nothing to the songs, and in my opinion, takes away from them.

The musicians are the flavor-of-the-month Israeli session musicians that all of the Brooklyn artists have been using on their albums, Aryeh Volnitz, Yaron Gottfried, Avi Singolda, and the rest. These guys have chops, but the music is very sterile and there's no feeling there.

The last Belz recording also had arranged music that detracted from the songs. (The earlier albums are all the old Chassidish style of having the vocalists and melody instruments all play the melody all of the time. It's not sophisticated, but it works.) This album is much more offensive, though. The melodies and arrangements just don't work. Instead of a heartzig chassidish album, the effect is a bad Brooklyn Jewish pop album with Chassidish vocals. I hope that the producers reconsider their arrangement choices for the next one, and stick with more traditional feels. I think that there is plenty of room for contemporary influences even in traditional style arrangements, but they should only be included in the service of the song.

Finally, what is it with the child soloists? Why do so many JM producers feel the need to put child soloists on their albums? This kid sings well enough, but his inclusion appears to be gratuitious.

Great News!

According to this article, The Chevra aren't in this for the long haul.
“There’s no real future unless I give my life to it,” said David Perlman, YC senior and member of the popular band The Chevra. “I look at it as more of a fun thing between friends than a business venture for the future.”
"Although its members are not interested in music as a long time career, The Chevra performs relatively often - at least twice a month and more often during Jewish holidays."
So, unlike the current situation with the Miami Boys Choir, we won't be subjected to an endless stream of albums with one or two good songs and a lot of filler.

I should temper this by pointing out that Eli Gerstner is showing no signs of slowing down.

Update: A reader emails to point out...

"Don't you have to play an instrument to be considered a band? I would say it's a group...no?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Judaism's Remarkable Contributions to Rock 'N' Roll

"Judaism," Scott Benarde maintains in this Sun-Sentinel article, "permeates rock 'n' roll.

For instance:
"David Bryan, keyboard player for Bon Jovi, blows the shofar at his synagogue on High Holidays"
"David Lee Roth, who became famous with the group Van Halen, told Benarde that he learned to sing from studying for his bar mitzvah."
"Lou Reed. Would you believe the family name was Rabinowitz?"

Smallpox: The Musical

Presenting 'Smallpox: A Musical'.

Best line: "The halls are awash, with the sound of mucus"

Via Dave Barry's Blog

Song Requests - Part II

A four year-old came over at last nights gig to request the song "Shalom" from the Wiggles CD.

I'd never heard of the Wiggles,and she wasn't able to sing it to me, but I got it on the second guess. She meant the traditional "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem

Sunday, November 02, 2003

In Which Sheya Mendlowitz Gets Fisked

Here's a transcript of an interview with producer Sheya Mendelowitz in which he discusses his involvement with the recent Srully (Yisroel) Williger album "MaTov".
Jewish Community Radio: "Any album or CD in the past 25 years in Jewish music that has your stamp of approval as a Sheya Mendelowitz production, you’re assured of a quality produced album and I think that’s what these singers out that that you’ve done in the past would say. I know you’ve done Piamenta, the London Boys Choir, etc. Give us a little bit about how you got together with Srully this time."
Note the flattery implicit in the question. This is something that is endemic to "Jewish Radio". Nachum Segal does this all the time too. Every Sheya Mendelowitz produced album is a "quality produced" album??? What about Shalom Morgenstern and Chuckie Muhlbauer's albums, for example? Sheya has produced many duds too.
Sheya Mendelowitz: "I’ve known Srully for quite a while. Actually I met him years ago in about 1981. I did a concert together with Mordechai Ben David. Yigal Saul came in actually he had auditions. But then I met him on different things. He did a very successful album with Yerachmiel Begun and HaKodosh Baruch Hu put the two of us together about a year ago and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience until now, kina hara, he is a professional and when you’ll hear the album, you'll see what I mean."
This paragraph is incomprehensible to me. He doesn't really answer the question. Also, Williger did two albums with Yerachmiel Begun. His first one "The Voice of a New Generation" had his only hit, "Hu Klal", and was quite successful. His second album with Begun, actually, his third album -- the second was a Suki and Ding release -- was the flop "We Can make It Right." But, Baruch Hashem, he manages to stick in some yeshivisms, "kina hara".
Jewish Community Radio: "It seems to me that there’s been a tons of this style of music has been very prolific in recent years. Maybe you could kind of define what kind of music this is."
Sheya Mendelowitz: "The truth is, yes, there has been a lot of albums that have come out on the market. From well known artists to people who are trying to come out on the scene."
Yes, and Sheya knows this because he's produced or otherwise been involved with many of these albums.
This album we took a totally different turn from what has been coming out until now.
The album actually sounds much like the other stuff that's out there. The notable differences are a prominiently featured violin on the fast tunes and the abundance of "cover songs" on the album, mostly old Rabbis Sons songs. Apparently, Williger has realized that he hasn't had success choosing "hits" for his albums, so he's recycling the hits of yesteryear instead.
"After you’ll hear, imeretz Hashem, the album, every song we chose for this album is keeping or putting the Jewish back into Jewish music, because it has taken a turn, Jewish music, in trying to copy the secular market. I personally, in my humble opinion, felt that that was a wrong turn where Jewish music has been going and I believe if I wanted to hear that type of music I’ll go to the source because they know how to do it the best. That’s not what Jewish music is about."
Excellent, more yeshivish platitudes. How exactly is the arrangement of the Rabbi's Sons tune, Kedesheinu, putting the "Jewish" back in Jewish music? And Sheya, why do you promote concerts with today's popular Jewish pop stars if "in your humble opinion" you believe that they are such an inappropriate influence.
"This, kina hara, just from the reviews and the responses, the emails, the phone calls what not, we’ve had a really tremendous response. People say, you know, it reminds us of the olden days but with a contemporary sound, a professional sound."
It's no wonder that it reminds them of the old days.... most of the songs are covers of old Rabbi's Sons songs.
"This has been a gift from upstairs that Hashem gave us that we’re bringing now to the audience. It's soothing and refreshing. People always say, what is that new thing you‘re going to us, for marketing your album. And I’m saying, we’re going back to the make it like what it once was. Actually it has no rock and roll on it at all, nothing like that. I don’t claim to know it all. I depend on the response. So I’m really curious to see what people think."
I wonder what the beat on Kadesheinu is, if not rock??? As a side point, Williger's kvetching on this track ruins a pretty melody.

This combination of hype, dissembling, and pandering has been going on for too long in the JM world. It's past time for it to stop.

This isn't me - Part V

Jewish music from Bulgaria.

Sing a Song of Bnei Brak

The Deah V'dibbur article I mentioned earlier has inspired Out of Step Jew to write a song.

Via Protocols

Deah V'dibbur

Here's the Deah V'dibbur article I found via Protocols.
It's worth taking a look at the comments on Avraham's original Protocols post. I'm not going to "fisk" the entire article, but here are some selected excerpts with my comments.
"In earlier times, most of the non-Jewish music was respectable and could be used for singing with holy words. Even simple peasant music was clean and fit for playing at Jewish simchas. But in modern times, with the development of recording and radio and the entertainment business that catered to the masses, a new purpose was found for music -- to arouse the yetzer hora."
Really? In the old days music wasn't used to arouse the Yetzer Hora??? Well, that shoots down Rabbi Mattisyahu Solomon's excellent essay on the power of music that was published in the Purim edition of Mevakshe Torah a few years ago.

So, older secular music is OK??? I'm looking forward to adding those 17th century sea chanteys and 18th century German beer drinking songs to my wedding repertoire. I have a hunch that the author only justifies the old peasant songs in light of the fact that so many Chassidic rebbes sang them.
"It is not a coincidence that the young generation in America began to rebel and discard any ideas of morality and respectful behavior exactly at the time that rock and roll music was introduced. Therefore we must take care to avoid this type of rebellious music that promotes bad influences, and it is obviously absurd to set a rock song to words from holy sources.
I suppose that's why so many Sephardic Chachamim used the melodies of Arabic love songs for their piyutim.
"We must also not forget that the majority of the guests at a wedding are over thirty, and most of them feel sick when they hear the latest treif rock songs made by "chassidishe" singers whose only connection to true chassidus is usually the yarmulke on their head.
The thirty tear-old guests probably grew up on MBD, Avraham Fried and the like. The condescension here towards the singers is palpable
"The answer is no. Most bochurim do not want to hear wild music, but they are under a lot of pressure from a handful of bochurim who do not take Yiddishkeit seriously and set the style and the fashions in the yeshivos. Anyone who doesn't "keep up with the times" is mocked and looked at as not normal by these stupid boys who are themselves not normal.
Let me see if I understand this. The handful of boys who don't take Yiddishkeit seriously set the style in the yeshivos??? Where are the Roshei Yeshivah??? Don't they have some responsibility here?

Finally, " these stupid boys who are themselves not normal" is not the language one would expect from someone purporting to represent the Torah point of view on any subject, and certainly not on a topic as subjective as music.