Monday, April 04, 2005

A thoughtful email

A reader writes:
I am looking for decent music I can use in shule for davening. I go to a "modern Orthodox" shule in ________ [Ed.]...and I am not attuned to all the various happenings and groups you mention. I did not grow up in an Orthodox environment, but a Conservative one...and have always loved Jewish music. My dad was from Romania, a survivor, and he and one other cousin had some nice tunes for Shabbos and davening from Europe, but otherwise, I am self-taught.

I hear a lot of tunes/groups I can't stand...I have no idea if they are in the Boro Park sound club or shiny shoe music or
whatever you call it...but there is a lot of music that I find unlistenable...and I also hear a lot of folks in shule using terrible tunes for davening, say for kedushah in Mussaf shabbos. There are tunes and melodies I think enhance davening...and others that become what I call "show tunes" or rock'n roll tunes that a lot of folks like...but I find they distract from what we're supposed to be doing.

Some tend to pick, for instance, the worst of Carlebach's tunes and then use them in what I believe are the WRONG places. Everyone is singing, but no one is davening, if that makes sense.

So this is perhaps not a simple question...I don't want to know who NOT to listen to, but if you have suggestions on albums, groups, individuals, new or old, that are worth listening to in this regards. Or, just have good music that enhances yiddishkeit.

I try to find the right music. It's tough here. We don't have a retinue of places to go listen. I have had very nice feedback on my davening, but I have no other aspirations other than to enhance the davening, and there is no greater accolade than when someone tells me I made them feel like I helped their t'fillah. So I am in constant search of the 'right' material.

Thanks for any thoughts/ideas/suggestions. I know everyone has their own tastes, but just reading a no. of your posts...I love the discussions about the state of Jewish music, and I also want to know which groups and invidividuals are worthy of listening to..both on a musical basis but also who are worthwhile-as-far-as-you-know folks...I just have no details about the scandals...don't want the details, which is why I ask for a positive list, i.e. those you WOULD recommend rather than the "let's blacklist or worry about 'em" bunch.

Finally (and I apologize for the length of this), I am enjoying the discussions about the appropriateness of using secular music as a basis for tunes or as background. My dad, z'l, I remember, would tell me about a few of the nigunim he learned from his dad, traditional Hungarian tunes, were based on Hungarian folk songs.
Would anyone like to respond?