Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Ghoti Question

Which caterer came up with the idea that at buffet tables, the whitefish salad should be stuffed back into the carcass? This is attractive how? Can anyone explain this one? I see it all the time at simchas and it is not appetizing in the slightest.

5/31/06 Link Dump

Create Digital Music has the scoop on Garritan's new online "open source" orchestration course.
Sample designers Garritan Library, the folks behind the popular orchestral library Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO), have begun releasing portions of their free guide to orchestration (see my previous story). The full text and examples are straight out of the classic Rimsky-Korsakov orchestration text, the landmark guide to orchestration that has taught many master composers. The Rimsky-Korsakov is a must-read for composers, but it’s still one perspective and hardly perfect, so it’s even better to discover the text has been fully annotated in this version.

The result is a community-driven guide to orchestration that’s really unlike anything I’ve seen before. The whole course is designed for self-study, with plenty of examples and illustrations. The professors who edited and annotated the text are discussing the results, turning the Garritan forums into a kind of interactive classroom. When the whole set of lessons are done, they’re even holding an orchestration contest. (Now that’s something I never got in my orchestration classes — not just grades, but genuine competition.)

Here's a Jewish Week article on outgoing JTS chancellor Rabbi Ismar Schorsch's farewell address.
In his commencement remarks, Rabbi Schorsch told the 144 graduates (20 of whom were ordained by the rabbinical school): “As opposed to the dense and demanding discourse of scholarship, students crave instant gratification. The way to the heart is not through the circuitous and arduous route of the mind but the rhythmic beat of the drums. …

“The primitiveness of rap and the consumerism of the mall threaten to trivialize the literary culture that is the pride of Judaism. Kitsch has become kosher. A synagogue out of sync is deemed bereft of spirituality. … Our addiction to instant gratification has stripped us of the patience to appreciate any discourse whose rhetoric is ddense and demanding. Mindlessly, we grasp for the quick spiritual fix.”
That darn rap music! In addition to promoting misogyny, degrading Black people, and promting various vices, it's also affecting the scholarship level of the Conservative community. Via Jewschool.

In the mood for some oldies? Check out these rare 78s.

YCT Rabbinical student Drew Kaplan writes about why he doesn't blog about music.

A Different Derech asks:
why is it that the only "jewish dance" is walking around in a circle... *sigh*
Canonist writes about a fake Vatican organist.

Jewfork reviews Etan G's "South Side of the Synagogue. Mordy comments:
As much as I love snarky reviews of Jewish music - isn’t there an expiration date on most of these albums? Plus, can mocking a Shlock Rock sideproject be called edgy?
Meet "Hatebeak"; a death metal parrot.

Say hi to the Sasregen Boys Choir too.

Glenn Reynolds is saying nice things about Sweetwater. I've only had good experiences with them too.

The Town Crier emails a link to a video produced by the CFJF, "Oy! Did he? Oh!" Incidentally, in both the Yehuda! version used in this video and the Ohad/Kinderlach version we linked to previously, the melody in bar two is sung wrong. Compare with Neshama Carlebach's version. In Cm, the third to last note of the bar should be an Ab, not a G. Let's nip this one in the bud guys, m'kay?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

From the mailbag...

Shmuel forwards a link to a Gospel choir version of Reb Shlomo's Pischu Li.

Yacov Young writes:
Yacov Young Cd in store now thank you for all your help
Best Regards,
Yacov Young
MOChassid forwards a link to his post "Niggun Un-Neshama: How to Destroy a Beautiful Song."

Eat Gebrux sends in a Carlebach Mad Lib:
If you would have stopped a Yiddelah while he was filling out a police report because his house just got robbed, and just the day before his mother had passed away, and he was maxed out on his credit cards and he was $50,000 dollars in debt and his middle son was going off the derech and he just got off the phone with his boss who had fired him: and asked him "what are you thinking about"
he would answer "I'm thinking about Yerushalayim,
I'm on my way to Yerushalayim"
Ban School writes:
Yaakov Shwekey's recent track on Oorah's latest album is-is it just me?-horrible. I mean, the guy practically slobbers over the lyrics and the melody itself lacks just about everything. Again, it could be just one persons humble opinion.

What's your take?
Looks like he didn't like it. I've been meaning to write about the broader issue of using artists to promote tzdakah, or should I say, using tzedakah to promote artists. I'll try to get to it soon. In short, there is a tension between using one's talents for mitzvos, which is clearly a good thing, and taking advantage of a mitzvah to promote a personal agenda. The dividing line isn't always clear. This CD can serve as a good illustration of the positive and negative sides of this issue.

As far as musically, I listened to the CD once. Nothing about any of the songs caught my ear.

Jordan Hirsch writes:
Hey guys,

Come on down to Barbes on May 30th for a great double bill. I start with the Kleztraphobix at 7:30, and Slavic Soul Party plays their regular Tuesday night set starting around 8:30.Barbes is at 376 9th Street in Park Slope right off Sixth Avenue.
Ellis Workman writes:
Who is Jordan?
Why should I care?
If I did? What city, state, country, & planet?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

5/25/06 Link Dump (Carlebach Mad Libs edition)

David Kerner forwards a link to his website and writes:
Firstly, I enjoy your blog very much - its insightful, informative, enjoyable and needed!

If you would take 3 minutes to listen to my recording of a 'new version' of Hatikvah, I'd be most appreciative.

In honor of Yom Yerushalayim, I've posted it in its entirety on

May we all be zoche to partake in the complete rebuilding of Yerushalayim, speedily!
THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG posts about the "most overplayed song in Jewish music." The Town Crier comments on honesty in Jewish Music promotion.

I also received the email from Shiru Lo with a link to the mp3 and wondered why they're posting it for free download if they're intending to sell it as a single.

In honor of Yom Yerusholayim Heichal HaNegina is quoting R' Shlomo Carlebach.
“There is no pain in the world that can make us forget Yerushalayim
There is no joy in the world that can make us forget Yerushalayim
For two thousand years, whenever we prayed, and we prayed all the time,
We directed our thoughts, our feet, our minds to Yerushalayim

If you would have stopped a little Yiddeleh on his way to the gas chambers
And would ask him, ‘What are you thinking about?’
He would answer, ‘I am thinking of Yerushalayim. I’m on my way to Yerushalayim!’

If you’ll stop a little Yiddeleh on his way to Siberia:
‘What are you thinking about?’
He will answer, ‘I am thinking of Yerushalayim.
I’m on my way, I’m on my way to Yerushalayim!’
We once played with a Carlebach wannabe who sang this whole bit during a party. For days afterwards, we were joking around about it singing things like:
If you would have stopped a little Yiddeleh on his way to dinner at Prime Grill
And would ask him, ‘What are you thinking about?’
He would answer, ‘I am thinking of Yerushalayim. I’m on my way to Yerushalayim!’
Carlebach Mad-Libs! Fun for the whole family! Create your own!!!

Arutz Sheva has posted a partial transcription of Ben Bresky's Adi Ran interview.

Finally, meet Steve Barnett - Motivational Non-Speaker

Monday, May 22, 2006

5/22/06 Link Dump

Over at Israel National Radio, Ben Bresky has posted the audio of his interview with Breslov rocker Adi Ran.

Steven I. reports that "If You Insult the Jews, You Can't Come Over and Play in Graceland."

Here's some info on a neat looking drum controller.

No comment!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From the mailbag...

Psachya writes:
I love the idea of using John Cage's "4:33" as a fanfare. Here's another suggestion: For customers who insist on continuous music, put a copy of "4:33" on each musician's music stand during breaks. If you want an especially long break, put repeat signs before "Tacet 1" and after "Tacet 3". Voila - continuous music!
Hey, lets do a comp album. 10 different J-bands each performing their own arrangement of the tune. I call Hassidisco! I hope we won't get sued!

David K. writes:
Regarding your recent post on the subject - what about Zev Brenner's Talkline giving Dov Shurin airtime every motzei Shabbos? Its sad that the NY Jewish market has to settle for this - not to mention motzei Shabbos programming that is all too often one long commercial for an electronics store - don't we have enough microwaves and ipods?
In my original post on this topic, "Radical Jewish Music (Not by John Zorn)", I wrote:
I've always been disturbed by the connection between the Brooklyn jewish music scene and the radical “Kahanistas.” Dov Shurin, extremist, and the composer of the song, Zochreini Na, writes a regular column for the Country Yossi magazine, a journal which has come to be identified with the JM scene. I find it embarrassing that the JM community isn’t ashamed to be associated with such amoral, anti-halachik views.

I think that at the very least there ought to be a public debate about the appropriateness of singing “songs of revenge”, but to the best of my knowledge, no Rav here in America has addressed the issue. The artists, producers, distributors, and promoters on the “scene” here have an obligation to the communal good and shouldn’t be associating themselves with extremist views.

It is not my intent to deny Mr. Shurin the right to express his views, abhorrent though they are. But, I am saddened at the lack of moderate voices on the Jewish music scene and troubled by their flirtation with and tacit endorsement of the radical right.

Sing It Again, Sam?

Here's Hirhurim on repeating words in songs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From the mailbag...

Aryeh writes:
This e-mail is based on Michael's comments.

I listened to the Rockapella version of Sweet Home Alabama, and it is most definitely not the same arrangement as AKA Pella. Although they both use the same bass line, that line is from the original arrangement, and it's expected for acapella groups to adapt intrumental songs to vocals by using some of the same parts.
PT forwards a link to "I Got Your Blog", a duet with Dr. Bean.

Monday, May 15, 2006

From the mailbag...

Banschool writes:
What's your take on Matisyahu's second studio album YOUTH? I'm just curious to hear your opinion. I think it's infectious and downright uplifting...then again I'm not a professional music guru. 'Jerusalem' is my favorite track.
Didn't listen to the whole thing. Didn't like the tracks I heard.

Michael writes:
In addition to the general silliness surrounding the Monsey/5-Star-Judaica/Sapphire Advertising video clip, I would like to point out that the actual vocals-only *arrangement* of “Sweet Home Alabama/Yibaneh Hamikdash” was ‘borrowed’ from Rockapella, which in turn covered the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

The Rockapella album is called “Common Time.”

So they’re not just ‘borrowing’ songs from the goyish oilem, they’re borrowing arrangements from goyish a cappella groups.

Let’s hear Sameach’s response to that.
If the use of the arrangement is licensed, I have no problem with their using it. If not, they can be sued for infringement. Regardless, I'm pretty sure Sameach had no idea of its source.

Rachel writes:
Thanks for your great blog. I just started an Adi Ran blog, and wanted to get any ideas you may have. I'm going to try to put up translations of Adi Ran songs, and have put up 2 so far.

Adi Ran News & Translations of Hebrew Lyrics
Heshy Maryles writes:
I noticed that there was some interesting discussion about sources for prohibiting taped music, and I thought I could add some information.

The original source to prohibit taped music is from R YC Zonnenfeld, zt"l, who paskened that the prohibition adopted in Yerushalaim against music at chasunas included recorded music. Now realize that at that time recorded music was very unsophisticated, and he still held it was ossur, so kol shekain today, where a good sound system with a great CD could sometimes sound better than live!

There are those (tzitz eliezer, for example) who maintain that a tape recorder, etc, is a musical instrument, which would prohibit even the poorest quality "musicless" sefira CDs (he even says v'chein nohagin), but it doesn't seem that the velt is mekabel this chumra.

Sources - ayin Piskei Teshuvos

P.S. your blog gets real interesting in a Toradige way sometimes -- it's starting to look like Hirhurim (minus the UO/MO issues, of course)!
I didn't include R' Sonnenfeld's psak in the discussion because I'm not convinced that it is relevant to sefirah. The takana against music at weddings in Yerusholayim is relatively recent (150 years or so) and was in response to a cholera epidemic. It is not based on the Talmudic prohibition against music since the Sanhedrin was abolished. The premise of the takana is that Jews living in Yerusholayim, who view Yerusholayim b'churbonoh daily, have an added obligation to mourn its destruction with heightened sensitivity. Thus, extracting anything from those takanos and applying it elsewhere may be a stretch, since the premise isn't applicable.

Thus, one could accept Rav Sonnenfeld's psak and still permit listening to recorded music during sefirah, IMO.

In fact, I've heard that many poskim in Yerusholayim, who accept Rav Sonnenfeld's psak, rule that it is permissible for Americans getting married there to have a full band at their weddings; which makes it clear that this is something that only applies to residents of Yerusholayim.

Incidentally, the minhag in Yerusholayim is to allow drums at weddings. They usually have one drummer and some singers. I'm surprised that no one has adopted this approach to producing sefirah albums ala Funkapella. Why waste all that time on sampling and producing second rate "mouth drums" when it seems as though you can just have the real thing?

5/15/06 Link Dump (Sewer edition)

Stepping into the sewer, the lovely Jew haters over at Liberty Forum have discovered an old thread discussing revenge, a discussion started when someone posted a link to my post on Dov Shurin and the inappropriateness of performing his song, "Zochreini Na." Here is my original post, "Radical Jewish Music (Not by John Zorn)". Here's a related post,"Singing of Revenge." Talk about missing the point! I'm referring to the'ers.

LGF has posted "Voices from the Past, More Relevant Than Ever", an audio link to a rediscovered BBC recording from April 20, 1945, featuring newly liberated inmates of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi death camp singing “Hatikvah” — for the first time in 6 years.

Shira Salamone is quoting a Lenny Solomon tune, "Davar". The tune, the album closer on "Shirei Boker", an album setting the AM liturgy to music,is a fun setting of the text found at the end of Korbanos.
Davar halamed may-in-yano
v'davar halomed mesofo,
v'chayn shnay ksuvim hamachishim zeh et zeh.
Ad sheyavoh hakasuv hashlishi v'yachria bay-nay-hem.
The track features a masterful kazoo solo played by Gary Wallin, and quite influenced my approach to that instrument.

Here's a link to buy the sheet music for John Cage's composition, 4'33. We're thinking of using it as a fanfare to introduce the couple at weddings just before the 1st dance. What do you think? Here are various clips of 4'33" in MIDI, .wav, and OGG formats.

Finally, Kallah Magazine is shocked that a potential simcha industry advertiser would think that he's entitled to dictate editorial content and which of his competitors ads may be accepted. It's nice to see an advertising circular with a sense of ethics.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shir Hashirim Asher L'Sefarad

In the mail... "Aires de Sefarad", an interesting recording by Duo 46. Duo 46 is guitarist Dr. Matt Gould and violinist Beth Ilana Schneider.

The project features composer Jorge Liderman's 46 song cycle setting of unchanged original Ladino melodies that were sung by the Sephardic Jews. Here's some info from their website:
Born in Buenos Aires, Jorge Liderman is quickly becoming one of the most highly-regarded South American composers of today, with his works being performed worldwide. Though his music is experimental, it is also extremely colorful, with a strong nationalistic undercurrent. Aires de Sefarad (Airs from Spain) is a cycle of 46 songs without words for violin and guitar, and although many of them are love songs, they vary in character and their musical nature. These songs highlight, at the core of their musical structure, unchanged original melodies that were sung in Ladino by the Spanish, or by the Hebrew, Sephardic Jews. After the Spanish Inquisition, a large number of Jews emigrated to Portugal, Tunis, Morocco, Turkey and Israel among other countries. After a 2003 visit to Spain, walking through the Jewish quarter in Cordoba and experiencing the vibrant life of the region, Liderman was inspired to write Aires de Sefarad. As he says, "This work reflects my impressions of past and present Spain in its vast and varied culture.
The music is well-played and the duo has a good rapport. The songs are short, with none longer than three minutes, and most lasting about a minute and a half or so. The flow from track to track is nice and makes harmonic sense. If you'd like to hear traditional Ladino melodies explored in depth in a classical style, or if you like art music featuring the combination of violin and classical guitar, check out Duo 46.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Kickin' It, Sefira Style! - UPDATED

Here's an interesting approach to marketing a Sefira album. Note: The video has Fiddy's "In Da Club" for those who avoid recorded music during sefira and those who avoid rap music in general. You've been warned.

Jewish Music Blog comments here. LIFE-of-RUBIN's take is here.

Miscellaneous comments:

LOR is correct. There was a Sameach logo on the box one of the chassidim was standing on last night. It's not there anymore. This is not the only Sameach related AKA-pella web item that's gone missing. In a since deleted post, referenced in the comments here, people involved with AKA-pella posted that Sameach has a policy of not allowing for the acknowledgement of which secular melodies were used in a project. IOW, the producers of AKA-pella, an album featuring Jewish lyrics set to such tunes as "Sweet Home Alabama", Van Halen's "Right Now", the "Theme from Gilligan's Island" and more, weren't allowed to credit the melodies sources in their album liner notes. An unusual policy, shall we say.

The video was filmed in Monsey in album producer Mo Kiss' father's Judaica store. Remember Moishy and Me?

Reading the comments on several of Jewish Music Blog's AKA-pella related posts, as well as on the thread linked by LOR, it's evident that some involved in this project are very thin-skinned. That's fine. But, it's pretty foolish to release an edgy album with marketing deliberately aimed at offending some people/groups, and then complain about being criticized. What kind of reaction were they expecting?

Finally, I'm interested in hearing other people's responses to this type of advertising. Share your thoughts, please.


Sruly Meyer from Sameach writes:
Sameach Music does not have any policy refusing to allow credit to be given to an original composer, regardless of its origins. This situation was created by a misunderstanding of how much secular music was actually on the CD. Had Sameach known how prominently the secular music was featured we would have had an entirely different approach to this album. Sameach's policy towards using secular music is as follows. We strongly urge artists, present and future to only use original material. If secular music is being used as a parody similar to Shlock Rock or Variations that is different.

At this time I would also like to state for the record that Sameach Music is in no way involved with the marketing or promotion of this album. We were not at all involved in the artwork created for the ads or the video that was produced.

If anyone has any further questions about this, please e-mail me at

Monday, May 08, 2006

5/8/06 Link Dump

Can I get some sympathy for the Beatles? Not!

I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. has posted her "(not J-music) suggestions for busting the sefira blues."

Here are 61 Versions of Tico Tico.The big JM in the AM radio station blog missed the Jewish version, "Hora Tico", on Yochis Briskman's "Mostly Horas 2" album.

While we're on the subject of multiple covers, here are 60 versions of "Stairway to Heaven."

Ever get a song stuck in your head? Brownsville Girl did.

Here's an article about Reva L'sheva frontman Yehuda Katz's latest project. Via Yitz.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Music for Yom Hazikaron

Here are some lyrics for Balada LaChovesh and Hakotel which we performed tonight as part of a Yom Hazikaron program immediately prior to the Yom Ha'atzmaut festivities.

Regardless of how one views the State of Israel and Yom Ha'atzmaut, I think it behooves us all to at least stop and recognize the tremendous sacrifices made by Israeli soldiers and their families, many of whom have to deal with the pain of losing a father, brother, husband, or son who gave his life to protect other Jews.

Unfortunately, there are many, especially in Israel, but here in the US too, who find it beneath them to honor the soldiers and their loved ones. In Israel, some Chareidim make a point of actively disrespecting the national moment of silence. Is it really so difficult to be sensitive to others? This, even if just the actions of a few,ought to be condemned by all chareidi leaders in Israel. Would that they would! Unfortunately, the biblical commandment to refrain from paining widows and orphans is ignored in favor of sending a message of some sort. It's hard to see anything positive coming out of this, but the chillul Hashem for the average Israeli, and for this Jew too, is great.

So, read through these lyrics, based on real life, and take a moment to reflect and appreciate our soldiers, who guided by the values of Torat Yisrael, put their lives on the line for Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.