Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Fiddler On The Move

Recently, I’ve been reading Mark Slobin’s “Fiddler On The Move: Exploring The Klezmer World.”

Amazon has it here:

There are lots of interesting nuggets, but you have to wade through a lot of sociological writing to find them. I find that there is a lot of duplication of information in many of the books on klezmer. It’s almost as if the author, in this case Slobin, is operating under the assumption that his readers know nothing about the genre.

There are some great quotes from Max Epstien like:
“Never play it the same way twice – never!
“Don’t follow with the same thing!” (Referring to modern bands’ lack of interest in sequencing.)
“It’s the melody – you’ve got everything there – and you’re filling in the empty spots.”
Some good advice for bandleaders and soloists...

The book comes with a CD featuring multiple versions of “Dem Trisker Rebns Khosid”, “Gas-Nign”, and “Araber Tantz”. Quite fascinating!

Slobin's analysis of the “Gas-nign” in particular is quite interesting. Slobin has transcribed two bars of the melody as played by 10 different soloists including Max Epstein, Howie Lees, Alicia Svigals, Dave Tarras, and Max Weissman. No two versions are alike, and it’s interesting to see how the different players embellished the melody.

This bit about the hora or “zhok” caught me:
What captures listeners today about the slow hora is the basic insistent, redolent rhythm… perceived as ONE-rest-THREE ONE-rest-THREE, or simply NOTE-silence-NOTE NOTE-silence, and so on. Kurt Bjorling and his colleagues in the band Brave Old World use this “Gas-nign” as a teaching piece for their transatlantic workshops; Bjorling thinks of the rhythm as forming a five-beat unit. In any case, it is the silence, the hesitation that most players bring to the pause between pitches, that gives the slow hora its charm.
I’ve never thought of viewing the music as five-beat units, but it seems like an interesting approach, and it might make for some interesting phrasing choices. Food for thought…

Slobin also compares sonograms of the “krekhtz” (THE klezmer embelleshment) as played by Abe Schwartz, Max Liebowitz, Deborah Strauss, and Alicia Svigals. His tentative conclusion... the contemporary "krekhts" is a cousin, not a twin, of it's older relative.

Anyhow, just thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on an interesting volume.