Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Yet more...

Yitz responds to Chaim (see previous post):
"Whoever quotes something in the name of its original speaker, brings Redemption to the World." [Megilla, 15a]. This is the issue I'd like to discuss.

It seems that we're not communicating here. I was not accusing the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l of anything, as I don't view him as the responsible for the public's perception of who composed which niggun.

Some of the earliest recorded Jewish music was that of Modzitz [1956 - first Melave Malka album], Shlomo Carlebach [1959, HaNeshama Lach - Songs of My Soul] and Chabad [I don't know which year their first album appeared]. The Modzitz albums, to my knowledge, always contained copious liner notes as to which Rebbe composed which niggun, in which year, and a brief description of the niggun.

Regarding R. Shlomo Carlebach, let me share the following quote with you: "Basically, I only have the right to sing my own melodies. But I want you to know that there is something which is so deep in my heart: 'cause when the old Modzitzer Rebbe came to America the first time – I think it was 1940 or 1941 – he came via Siberia, and my brother and I, we were little kids. We were walking Friday night, and this is the first niggun I heard him sing. It got so deep in my heart, and it's clear to me in my heart, that if I have anything to do with singing or even have the privilege of making up a song, it's only because of Modzitz." - [from the "Shabbos in Shomayim" recording, Tape 2, Side B, Track 2]

My understanding is that Chabad, on their album liner notes and in their Sefer HaNiggunim, also credited the composers of many of the niggunim, whether it be one of the Rebbes of Lubavitch, or a Chassid like R. Hillel Paritcher, etc. I know that "Hoshia es Amecha" was never credited to Rav Avraham Twerski, because decades later, people were asking me who composed it, and I didn't know either. I asked a number of people, one friend told me it was Rav Twerski, but I did not stop there. I called Rav Mottel Twerski, R. Avraham's nephew, who told me that his uncle did indeed compose it. Rav Mottel did tell me that on the album it was noted that the niggun did not originate in Chabad.

Furthermore, on a double-cassette album called "The Precise Melodies of Chabad Rebbes," the following is noted: [the brackets contain my translation of Hebrew words that were left out of the English notes]. "Among hundreds and thousands of Chassidic melodies, there are unique [and holy] ones which were composed by the Rebbes themselves, or which the Rebbes chose and made their own. These are the 'Niggunim Mechuvanim - Precise Melodies.' Every detail of such a melody is exact and purposeful [relating to the Upper Spiritual Worlds]. Niggunim Mechuvanim reveal the highest levels of the soul in which every Jew is constantly connected to G-d." It seems to me that when they want to, Chabad can be very "precise" about niggunim.

I would be very happy for Chaim to show me and this blog how Reb Shlomo Carlebach "took an old Chabad or Russian Niggun and uncredited the original author." I can also testify that when Reb Shlomo sang melodies of others, he preceded them with: "This is not my niggun - it's from the Holy Rebbe Levi Yitzchak Barditchever", etc. This, too, we have recorded evidence for.

What happened "baal peh" between Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn and Reb Shlomo Carlebach, I doubt if any of us will ever know.

My point here, though, is one of public perception. How many people know that the "Chabad" tune for "We Want Moshiach Now," was actually composed by Reb Shlomo as "Mkimi," or that "Yifrach b'Yamav Tzaddik" was originally a Vishnitz niggun? The basic perception is that unless credit is given in some form, of which "liner notes" is only one example, the niggun is that of the singer's or at least the group he belongs to or represents.

I'm still wondering if anyone has an answer for me regarding the Chabad rikud tune which can be found here:

Some of my Modzitz colleagues maintain that Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar of Modzitz, who was known to have only sung Modzitz niggunim [his own, his father's and his son's], sang it. I've even heard that he "gave" it as a present to Lubavitch when 770 opened. Can anyone confirm this?