Sunday, April 30, 2006

From the mailbag...

Jake emails a link to some Bobover violinists and writes:
It's a growing trend alright! I think these guys are going to put Mischa and Co. out of business once this video hits. You never know. These guys call themselves "Bobov Power", or maybe the "Bobovishnu Orchestra", depends on the crowd. Enjoy!
I thought the band name was actually the "Goppelach" or is it the "Beach Boys"? It's so hard to keep the Bobover gangs bands straight.

On a serious note, this video is from the Simchas Beis Hashoeva tish of one of the current claimants of the title of Bobover Rebbe. It has long been a tradition in Bobov that the violinists play for the Rebbe in the sukkah.

It's sad to see the divisiveness in several chassidic communities of late over the issue of succession. In particular, the late Bobover Rebbe, R' Shlomo, built a community well-known for its tolerance and shalom. It's a shame to see it come apart so quickly. I wonder if the aspirants in both Satmar and Bobov have given any thought to the lasting effect their sparring is having on their respective communities. Sometimes, the better man is the one who walks away from something he's entitled to. I wonder if we'd have seen riots in Boro Park over Arthur Shick's arrest had the massive blowup over Bobover succession not preceded it. Food for thought.

Yitzy G. writes
It would be an oversight if the point were not made that MOST, if not ALL of the great Composers in world History un-apologetically borrowed melodies that were known to them from other sources. Bach’s chorales cantatas etc. were based on well known German church melodies. Mozart wrote sonatti around old folk tunes that he knew. Ever hear the song twinke-little star/Baa Baa black sheep? The ABC song? Mozart did a whole arrangement of it for Piano! For many great composers of the Romantic Era the very goal was to take the folk music of their geographic location and elevate it to the level of art. In fact it was probably happening simultaneously in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. For that matter, the genius of the Chasidim, like the great composers, was in what they did with the music. For Chasidut it was to inspire a quest for spirituality.
Shmuel forwards a link to Lipa Schmeltzer's Wikipedia entry.

J. forwards a link to a Hyde Park discussion about Chassidic musicians!

Azriel and Benyamin Bresky forward a link to Benyamin's article on Kiruv, Carlebach, and Israel's version of Burning Man.

Zali V'Aroni Yosheves Tziyon

Shabbos was peaceful, but, can a new Satmar band, Willy Power, be far behind?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

From the mailbag... (continued)

Yitz has responded to this post. He writes:
Nachzor l'inyaneinu: the Pasternak quotes - these I copied from ASJ's blog, which I had sent him in an e-mail, which I had copied directly from a book by Pastenak:

>>In the words of R. Velvel Pasternak, a contempory Jewish musicologist, "Those who opposed chassidism, and many music scholars who made little effort to understand the soul of chassidic music, never failed to emphasize that foreign elements can be found within its melodies. However, even the borrowed motifs never remained as they had originally been. They were worked and reshaped into a new form, the form of the Chassid. From this a new melody resulted, born of spiritual Judaism, which became the individualistic melody known as the chassidic niggun."

And later he says, "The surprising and interesting thing about chassidic music is that it could take the foreign elements of the surrounding cultures, and create a unique body of song with its own definite characteristics."<<

I assume the words of his you were challenging as "wishful thinking" were these:

However, even the borrowed motifs never remained as they had originally been. They were worked and reshaped into a new form, the form of the Chassid.

NOWHERE does he say that non-Jewish tunes were not used by Chassidim. He only says that they were reworked, not as the original. Again, you can only bring me proof about Shamil or Napoleon's March [or any other of the 9 you mention], if you've heard the original from the Russian peasant or the French Army. By changing the beat, rhythm, adding a Yiddishe "kneitch" to the niggun, the tune may still be recognizable as to its "provenance" as you say, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't been "worked & reshaped into the form of the Chassid," as Pasternak asserts.

Let me give you a more contemporary example, although it's only a theory of mine. The was a secular tune called "Just Whistle a Happy Tune," from the musical/movie "The King and I". The second part of it is remarkably similar to the second part of Reb Shlomo Carlebach's niggun, Barcheinu Avinu. I discovered this the first time when listen to an instrumental version of the niggun by Musa Berlin. Now it may be mere coincidence, but let's say, for the sake of argument, that Reb Shlomo, even consciously [which may be stretching it a bit, but let's say...] took this motif & adapted it to his niggun. THAT is what Pasternak means - it didn't remain the same as the original, even if you could detect its origin.

Now, l'taameich, if you could only find 9 examples [many of which are debatable, as I've mentioned] of this, out of the thousands of Chassidic niggunim that were composed, I'll still have to say that Pastenak's assertion is right on the money!
He also sends a few more quotes from Pasternak:
"The strains of shepherd melodies evident in the Baal Shem Tov‚s music in no way harmed the Kedushas HaNiggun, the sanctity of the melody, for the essence of a niggun, according to Chassidus, is the sound; and if the sound is derived from impure sources, there is a duty to elevate, purify and sanctify it until it is worthy of the responsibility for which it was created. Some of the Chassidic leaders considered it a holy duty to use secular tunes for sacred purposes. Many leaders felt that this was a greater virtue than creating an original melody.

And from ArtScroll's translation of a R. Zevin story:

And so the young lad grew up in the home of Rebbe Shmelke, and all the melodies and shepherd songs that he knew, he made holy. The books of Kabbalah explain that all the tunes in the world originate in the Heichal HaNegina in heaven. The Other Side - impurity - knows neither melodies, nor the taste of joy, since it is itself the source of melancholy. Only through the sin of Adam did certain stray sparks fall into the unholy domain of the Other Side, and the task of the tzaddik is to elevate those sparks of melody that have gone astray.

And that is exactly what this little boy who tended geese did with the songs he had known from the woods. He recalled, for example, a song that ran like this:

Forest, O forest, how big you are!
Rose, O Rose, how far you are!
If only the forest were not so vast
The rose would be nearer to me.
If someone would take me
out of the woods
Together, O Rose, we'd be.

And now, lilting to the same melody, this is how he would sing this song:

Exile, O Exile, how long you are!
Shechina, O Shechina, how far You are!
If only the exile were not so vast,
Then the Shechina would be closer to me.
If Someone would take us
out of it soon
Together, O G-d, we‚d be.

That inspired gooseherd grew up to be a tzaddik celebrated as a sweet singer of Israel ˆ Rebbe Yitzchak Isaac Taub, better known as the Rebbe of Kaliv.

THIS is one of the Kaliver "Hungarian" songs that you refer to in your list of 9. Again, they have definitely been "reworked in the form of the Chassid."
A few points. Yitz's attempted explanations to the contrary, it is generally acknowledged among chassidim that some secular songs (not just melodic motifs) were adopted by the chassidim. Even such chareidi publications as the Jewish Observer and Yated Ne'eman have acknowledged this. The specific JO article I'm thinking of, "Who Took The Jewish Out Of Jewish Music" was written by Dovid Sears, a well-known Breslover chassid, and published about nine years ago. In it, Sears acknowledges that Rebbes have taken secular tunes, even as he condemns others for doing so.

A while back I addresses a series of Yated articles that were published on Deiah V'dibbur. Here are some excerpts from those articles:
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.(Link to my original post on this.)
Incidentally, here's a quote from a letter written by Rav Nissan Karelitz:
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.(Link to my original post on this.)
Here's another:
"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."(Link to my original post on this.)
The notion that chassidim alone didn't take secular melodies, when all other Jewish groups thought history have, AND when much of their music is clearly influenced by the surrounding secular music, AND when such is considered common knowledge strikes me as wishful thinking more than anything else.

The idea that through "changing the beat, rhythm, adding a Yiddishe "kneitch" to the niggun, the tune may still be recognizable as to its "provenance" as you say, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't been "worked & reshaped into the form of the Chassid," is directly refuted, both by the tunes I listed, as well as Rav Karelitz's letter which I cited above.

I'm not an ethnomusicologist, and my knowledge of secular Eastern-European melodies is less than encyclopedic. Yet, even so, I was able to quickly list several secular tunes adopted by the chassidim. If any ethnomusicologists want to chime in here, feel free. Incidentally, I'm quite sure there are more secular melodies sung specifically by Chabad chassidim, but the titles are escaping me.

I know some borrowed songs that I can't name. For example, I bought a tape about fifteen years ago called "20 German Beer Drinking Songs." One of the songs on that tape was a march that was being played at Chassidic simchos in NY at the time. Since I know neither the name of the march, nor the German tune, I can't cite it here.

Regardless, if Pasternak wishes to assert that original chassidic melodies that incorporate secular motifs are "worked and reshaped into a new form, the form of the Chassid etc.", I can accept that assertion. However, the notion that all secular melodies adopted by the chassidim were reworked is 100% Meah Achuz untrue!

On this subject, P'sachya writes:
I can add at least one song to your list of yeshivish/chassidish songs from non-Jewish sources. It's the song that was sung by London School of Jewish Song as "Olam haze domeh l'prozdor", and is sung by today's bochurim as "Ashrei mi she'amalo ba-torah". I heard it on a live Theodore Bikel album from the '50's as a Romanian folk song.

There have also been rumors about the popular melody for Maoz Tzur - either that it was a German lullabye, or possibly even a Lutheran hymn (!). In any case, I have yet to hear of any rabbanim banning either song from your better yeshivishe affairs (or menorah lightings).

Oh, and let's not forget Kazatzke. Whenever a customer tells us not to add all those "goyishe" quotes to the holy Kazatzke (it's a Russian peasant dance, folks)...anyway, don't get me started.
PT, shepping nachas, forwards this link.

Jacob Laufer writes in response to Maoz Tzur - Nusach Nadverna:
The "Hashlishi" is not forced as the preceding phrase in practice is said "U-FISH-IY" although this raises a question as to why it is singular when the "CHATOAY" is plural.
Jordan Hirsch writes:
Monroe Power's horn section, Nachman Freund, Moshe Fried, and Yossie Farkas are all students of mine. This is part of a resurgence of interest in instrumental music I am witnessing in the Satmar community that I think bodes well for the future of live music in the Jewish community. I have been performing frequently in Williamsburg and Borough Park alongside one man bands, and have a number of new students in Kiryas Yoel.

The subject of live music year round was discussed extensively in an article by Rabbi Aharon Kahn in an early volume of the RJJ Journal.
I've noticed the resurgence of Chassidic instrumentalists too and agree with this assessment.

The Khan article is one of the sources I used when researching these topics.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Poor Elton

Elton John's new musical is being panned. Here's a great quote:
The Washington Post's Peter Marks said the fixation with singing vampires had to stop. "Give the bloodsucker a ballad, and it's his show that joins the walking dead."

From the mailbag...

TTC writes:
I don't have anything against the idea of having a musician as a social commentator. I do however have a problem with the idea of this as a suitable informational workshop for high school seniors on their way to potential "flippin out"
Michael Huye writes:
There are those of us that love Hashem too, but don't speak the beautiful Hebrew language. Thank you for responding. I am going to get the cd and perhaps a Rabbi can help me.
Shmuel writes:
One quick correction; That is not Yosis. When Lipa's part of the concert came, these guys replaced the Yosis Orchestra. They are Monroe Power, led by drummer Avrumi Schreiber.
J. writes:
this would make for an interesting thread on your forum, what musicians think of Neginah.......
Yitz writes:
You asked about the source for instrumental vs. vocal music during Sefira. On the same Life-of-Rubin post that you linked to, I commented:

>>Interesting that the Shulchan Aruch, Rama, Rav Shulchan Aruch, & Mishna Brura all ONLY mention rikudim u'mecholos [aren't both of these DANCE?]. It's only in the Aruch HaShulchan that he mentions, v'kol shekein she'assur l'zamer b'klei zemer. The Aruch HaShulchan is in Orach Chaim, Siman 493, s'if Beis - and the Kol Shekain he's referring to is dancing [rikudim u'mecholos]. That is, if dancing is prohibited, certainly the use of musical instruments is assur.

How this somewhat obscure Halacha became extended to listening to the radio or to music tapes or CDs, is somewhat beyond me. Personally, I listen to vocal tapes with or without a minimal musical accompaniment, & try to avoid purely instrumental music, even if recorded. And THAT too I consider a chumra, but within the spirit of what Chazal appeared to be promulgating.
Perhaps I need to clarify the question. I and many of my colleagues make a living trading on the fact that most people recognize a distinction between live and recorded music and are willing to pay significant money to have live music at their event, instead of just playing CD's. As Yitz acknowledges, it seems a stretch to include recordings in the prohibition, especially since the technology wasn't around at the time the minhag was instituted. If one is going to argue for extending the prohibition to cover recorded music as well -- something that is by no means clear and in part what I am requesting sources on -- then why should there be a distinction for recorded vocal music, especially, if the recorded vocal music *sounds* like instrumental music.?

The Gemara addresses the permissibility of listening to music nowadays in two locations.

One place is Sotah 48A which isn't directly relevant on this point. The second Gemara is in Gittin 7A. The Gemara says: "sholchu lei l'Mar Ukva, Zimra mina lan d'assur? Sirtait v'kasav lahu "Al tismach Yisrael el gil ba'amim'. V'lishlach lahu meihacha 'B'shir lo yishtu yayin'? Iy mehahee, hava amina hani mini zimra dimana, aval zimra dipuma shari, ka mashma lan.' The Gemara explicitly rules out distinguishing between vocal music as opposed to instrumental music. In other words, in this case, when music is prohibited, it includes all music, vocal and instrumental.

Note: the question of how to understand the Gemara and its practical application is complex and off-topic for this post. If there is interest, I will post a summary of how various Rishonim and Acharonim interpret and apply this text.

The only source I am aware of that distinguishes between recorded vocal and instrumental music is Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 166, who holds that listening to vocal music on the radio is muttar, but instrumental music is prohibited. (Rav Moshe is of the opinion that listening to music nowadays is generally prohibited.)

Yitz continues:
Of course, live music is somewhat different. I was, however, somewhat puzzled that a close friend, who made a Bar Mitzva for his son last night, had live music. None of the very-Chassidish people their, Chabad and others, seemed to object or even mind it. Any clue? Is it because of Nisan?
There are different minhagim with regard to observing the avelus of Sefirah. Some start at the beginning and keep it through Lag BaOmer. Others start at Rosh Chodesh and keep it until the shloshes yemei hagbalah. Finally, some follow the Minhag Ari and observe avelus throughout sefirah. There are many teshovos on this SOURCE

Yitz also challenges me:
Regarding my [on ASJ] Pasternak quote, you say:

The first Pasternak quote strikes me as wishful thinking because there are many cases where unaltered melodies were adopted.

I hereby challenge you to provide us a list. And I don't mean contemporary "Ghengis- Khan-becoming-Yidden" music. Chabad's "Shamil" might be one, but do you know how the actual original tune was? Ditto "Napoleon's March". Only if you have an exact original to compare to the niggun can you make such a statement.

Now you might say the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l's adaptation of the Marseillese to HaAderes v'Emuna -- but I'm not sure that everyone would call that a niggun.
Here are a few quickly, off the top of my head that have been adopted by Chassidim.

1 ) Mustapha - a Greek Melody adopted by the Chassidim. I've played this song with Greek specialists and it's identical.
2) Abu's Khatzer. In fact, many of the tunes in the Meron klezer repertoire are adopted.
3) The Marseillese, as Yitz acknowledged. Chabad chassidim still sing this one.
4) Szol a Kokosh Mar - a Hungarian folk song adopted by the Kalever Rebbe, I believe.
5) There's a chassidic march some call Toska (its played in Chaim Berlin on Purim) that is actually a Russian Folk song called "Longing for Home." An elderly Russian man once came over while I was playing it and identified it.
6) Miserlou
7) Chayav Inish - The well-known version of Chayav Inish sung on Purim is actually a Hungarian folk song called "Czép Aszonynak Kurezálok." The melody is identical, although the form is somewhat altered.
8) I believe Chabad's "Nyet, Nyet" might also be borrowed.
9) Shamil's Nigun, which you mentioned, is attributed to a Ukrainian Robin Hood, Shamil.

I also see no reason to challenge the provenance of songs like Shamil's Nigun or Napoleon's March. Chassidim widely view those songs as being secular in origin. In short, they acknowledge the possibility that secular tunes may be borrowed in full under the right circumstances.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why Johnny Can't Read Music!

The above is from the back of a box of General Mills' Kix cereal.

We are informed that "Annie loves to sing and make up her own colorful songs."

The first three questions are:
1) Did she sing more green notes or red notes?
2) How many red ones?
3) How many blue notes did she sing?

The answers:
1) Red
2) 4
3) 5

Dm's questions:
1) Why are the noteheads on the blue pair of sixteenth notes backwards?
2) Since when are two beamed sixteenth notes considered one note?

Tarras, Brandwein, Statman, Krakauer, London, Sony

Here's Peter Kirn on Sony's answer to Apple's Soundtrack and Garageband.
The problem is, as always, that you’re limited to pre-defined styles, and Sony has included only 20 options. (There are variations; hard to know without hearing it how cheezy it is, but past experience with this kind of product suggests . . . Velveeta.) But look closely at the brochure: clearly, you have everything you need! “High Adrenaline” “Drum ‘n’ Bass”, “High Voltage” Rock, “Fourth World Surge” Ambient (not entirely sure where the Fourth World is, but I guess it’s nations with even more poverty than the Third World?), and, most importantly, Klezmer! (Hey, if you have 20 styles, you better make one of them Klezmer.) I’m sure it’ll go well with the video about . . . parrots . . . shown in the brochure.

I’ll let you know when the demo version is available so the CDM community can unleash its High Adrenaline Klezmer mash-ups on the world.
The good news is, if this works, it might mean the end of J-videographers using Project RelaX and Arkady's "The Other Side" in their wedding videos.

Added link to Arkady's website.

Mo' Links

Fudge has posted a guest post by Jewish reggae singer Ari Ben Moses who shares his thoughts on Matisyahu. Hat tip,Fudge Sr.

Is it just me, or is there something incredibly ironic about this poster promoting "shelo shinu es levushom".

About Niggunim

A Simple Jew emails a link to his post, "A Conversation On Niggunim." The post is a good summary of Chassidic perspective on negina, especially the use of "foreign" nigunnim. The first Pasternak quote strikes me as wishful thinking because there are many cases where unaltered melodies were adopted, but the second quote is on the mark.

A Tale of Two Concerts

A True Fable:

One night's Chol Hamoed entertainment at two hotels.

Both tour operators paid for concerts by "name" performers and both charged guests through the nose for their Pesach packages.

One got a tight well-rehearsed show with a tight hip backup band.

The other got a second-rate backup band, most of whom couldn't read sheet music and didn't know the songs the performers were singing.

All musicians for both bands were paid about the same.

Is there a moral?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sefirah Challenge

Can anyone identify any sources that differentiate between vocal and instrumental recordings with regard to sefira?

Bonus points if you can cite a source addressing our questions.

From the mailbag...

Michael writes:
I loved the song Atta Kadosh from eshpizin, where can I find an english translation to the song, it is beautiful.

4/24/06 Link Dump

The Town Crier reports on one of the sessions at YU's upcoming Israel Vendor Fair.
Flippin Out or Time of Awakening? Chose Your Own Israel Adventure...
Moderators: Dov Rosenblatt and Rabbi Josh Joseph
Dov Rosenblatt, of Blue Fringe, and Rabbi Josh Joseph, Center for the Jewish Future, will discuss the sociological phenomenon and fads of change during the year in Israel. What is the value of external religious change? How can ritualistic changes be meaningful and helpful in accommodating true growth? What are the downsides? Where do you stand on these complicated issues? Join us in discussing how to stay balanced during a year of transition.
TTC doesn't seem to approve, but we think the idea of musician as social commentator is great. We'd love to see more honest and open public dialogue with J-musicians.

For those who've been wondering what Eli Gerstner's Yosis Orchestra looks like...

Chabad Mont Pneimios writes:My First Cantoral Concert. The number of comp tickets being given to supposedly sold-out concerts is one of the largely ignored improprieties in concert fundraising in the JM world.

Here's Michael Alpert:
Asked what he likes most about teaching klezmer dance, Alpert quotes a saying by [18th-century Hasidic sage] Reb Nachman of Breslov: "Mitsvo gdoylo l'hiyoys b'simkho tomid." He offers an English translation: "It's a great mitzvah to be constantly in party mode."
Alpert's involved in so many great bands; especially Khevrise and Brave Old World. Check out Brave Old World for some great New World badkhones. Michael also appeared on Itzhak Perlman's "In The Fiddler's House" project.

Mark Rubin writes on racisim and playing with Kosher Gospel singer Joshua Nelson.

This is just outrageous!
The Anti-Defamation League said on Thursday that it was "appalled" by plans to present the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Majdanek Concentration Camp outside Lublin, Poland.
LIFE-of-RUBIN has some thoughts on current sefirah music.

Finally, Avremi G. has announced the 2006 version of his wedding book.
I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the release of my 2006 Wedding Book. This edition was redesigned from the bottom up. Fully re-edited with new layout features. It once again includes all the standards such as Od Yishoma, Yidn, Ditto and so on. A whole bunch of new stuff including: A replacement 'Erev Ba' Set; A New section called 'A Breslover Wedding'; A new 'Eli Kahn Opener' set; New songs from MBD, Dovid Gabay, Lipa Schmeltzer and others. The order of the sets and the tunes themselves were re-sequenced to make for more logical flow.

This edition contains 23 more tunes than the 2004 version; 351 in total. Unlike the 2004 version where many tunes had an additional staff for horn lines, the 2006 version does not contain horn arrangements. This is to conserve space and to make the book less bulky. Double staff lead sheets are still separately available.
He's posted the index and some free sample lead sheets on his website.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

PSA: Say No To Illegal Downloading Redux!

We're getting still more of these Google searches for Adi Ran downloads. Just buy the album, folks. If you're looking for the songs from the Ushpizin soundtrack, they can be found on his first CD, "Ha'acharon Sheba'am." Ran has also recently released an "Unplugged" CD with many of his hits as well as some new material

Pre-Pesach Links & Letters

Heichal HaNegina has done a rounup of Pesach nigunim with links to audio clips.

Kesher Talk has some too!

Now some letters (emails actually):

A.G. writes in response to Hayom Yom Huledet... L'Moshiach?!:
You have taken a very complex issue and oversimplified it. You ought to study it in depth before you flippantly dismiss it another wayward cult. One day when we meet, I’ll lay it all out for you…The issue is not whether the meshichists are right or wrong – let one and all practice their independent religious beliefs – but rather, how frum artists, self proclaimed role models to Jewish young and old would whore themselves to a cause they clearly don’t believe in for a few shekels. That’s what pisses me off…
I studied cults in university as part of a sociology minor. I’m not just throwing out words.

I don’t consider Chabad to be a cult, but the messianic sub-set there has evolved EXACTLY as UFO cults evolve. I don’t say this flippantly. I was playing in Crown Heights a lot around the time the Rebbe ZT"L died and I also have some friends who became BT’s of the meshichist variety. I’ve also read a lot of Messianic Chabad literature over the years.

In addition, I’ve read David Berger’s book and Chaim Rapoport’s response.

Read about this UFO cult:

The similarities with regard to how these groups resolve their “cognitive dissonance” is remarkable.

And I disagree with his other point as well. The issue is whether the meshichists are right or wrong. If they are wrong and distorting Torah, and I believe they are, then people have an obligation to protest and certainly shouldn’t be assisting in promoting their beliefs. For example, take a look at one meshichist blogger's attempt to explain the Rambam in the comments to a Hirhurim post we linked here.

Psachya writes re: Sefira acapella albums:
Re the a cappella "Sefira album" issue - two personal stories that may add some perspective:

A couple of years ago, I was invited to perform on a Sefira album (never mind whose). My performance consisted of playing choral parts on a voice-sampled keyboard. Eventually, my tracks were cut from the final version because they "sounded too good." While I have no complaints against the artists (I was paid for the sessions, after all), it kind of begs the question - how "bad" does it have to sound to qualify?

Another story. I recently played a 1-piece Bar Mitzvah for a relative of mine. A few weeks before the BM, a grandmother passed away. I called & asked if they still wanted music, and was told to come, but to only play when the mourner left the room. I suggested hiring extra singers and making it an a cappella gig. I was actually very impressed with the response: "Music is music is music - why look for loopholes? There's a reason an avel isn't supposed to listen to music." Just a few points to ponder.
I'm still looking for a halachik source, i.e published teshuva, that distinguishes between recorded vocal music and recorded instrumental music with regard to sefira. Can anyone cite one?

Bob Schneider writes:
Albany Records has just released "Aires de Sefarad". It is a cycle of 46 works,an hour of music,written for the violin and guitar ensemble-Duo46 by composer Jorge Liderman and based on 500 year old Jewish songs .For information,visit the website at

Sunday, April 09, 2006

4/9/06 JM Link Dump

David wants to know what to tell a bad chazzan.

Aryeh writes about a new acapella album that raises some interesting halachik questions.
The song is very well done. The intro to this song is Sweet Home Alabama (hope he gave credit!), and leads into Piamenta's Yi'baneh. Guitar is replaced by vocals with heavy distortion. The effect is good, but the tone of the guitar sounds like a low-end keyboard guitar sound. Having said that, I think the creativity of the idea outweighs the minor tonal issue. There are also vocal drums and bass. The arpeggios at the beginning of the song sound like they sampled the vocals and made a keyboard patch out of it, and then played it.
The techniques used raise some interesting questions as to what is/isn't permissable with regard to music production techniques for sefira albums.

I'm not sure where the distinction between vocal and instrumental music -- rather than recorded vs. live music -- comes from with regard to sefira. I can't recall having seen a source on it.

At any rate, assuming that the halacha is in line with current JM industry practice, that vocal recordings are permitted but tracks with instruments are not, an obvious question is what constitutes vocal music. Where is the line drawn?

For instance, many synthesizers use samples as the basis for the sounds they generate. Would any sound based on a vocal sample be permitted?

Is sampling a vocal, assigning the notes to a keyboard, and then playing it back permitted? Would it matter if the line played is actually singable?

How about processing vocals with distortion and the like?

At what point is a vocal no longer considered pure vocal as opposed to a processed electronic instrument?

What is the status of a vocal sound that is generated purely via synth. In other words, if it sounds like a vocal, do we ignore the source and treat it as one?

We raised some related questions a while back in "Kol Haschalos Kashos."

Would a synthesized female voice be assur as Kol Isha?

Would there be a difference depending on how the synth generates sounds, for instance, via samples, FM, or additive synthesis?
Finally, MoC may have made Wikipedia, but we've made Bob Marley News!

Dear Molly - Klezmer Edition

Frome last week's Jewish Week:
Dear Molly,

My wife is a musician with a well-known klezmer band. She loves music and would never want a different career, but this career does not exactly make us wealthy, even though the band is a fine one and plays quite often.

Our good friend became engaged recently to a woman we have spent time with over the last few years. Their wedding is planned for the fall.

He is a lawyer and is marrying a teacher. After they became engaged, he called and asked to speak to my wife. When she got off the phone with him, my wife was furious. She explained that Robert had called to ask for a recommendation for a "cheap" klezmer band to play at the wedding.

Our friend knows what my wife does for a living. He knows we rely on her income as well as my own to make ends meet. He knows her band is among the best around. Yet he never even asked about their rates; all he wanted was cheap.

My wife was incredibly insulted and I would like to call our friend to give him a piece of my mind. I think what he did was tacky and insulting. He thinks he can get away with this because we're friends, but I think he should be told how we feel about his phone call. What do you say?

Angry Husband
Here's Molly's response:
Dear Angry Husband,

Your friend's phone call indeed was tacky and ill advised. I'm sure he felt that to ask your wife for her rates, however, and then not to hire her would have been more insulting.

My guess is that in calling your wife, he likely was trying to avoid a problem rather than create one. He probably was trying to signal you that money was an issue in planning the wedding and rather than ask your wife for her rates and then not hire her, it would be better to let her know up front that he was not going to be using her band.

I think he handled this clumsily, but I would not end a friendship over it. You will surely want to be able to go to the wedding with a heart filled with joy for them. Don't let this be the issue that ends the friendship.

Hayom Yom Huledet... L'Moshiach?!

Today's the day of the big Yerachmiel Begun/Miami Boys Choir/Shwekey concert in honor of the Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach's B-day. It should be obvious that I disapprove of such nonsense and feel that it is inappropriate for JM singers to lend their support (even if it's just for the money) to these events.

The meshichist nonsense is not rational. Much of the "chizuk" and support these people feel is from the fact that they get together in large groups and reinforce their beliefs. It's classic cult behavior. Interested parties may want to read some of the literature on UFO cults and how they work. It's fascinating stuff.

As such, performers at these events are directly contributing to the furtherance of this lunacy. This is wrong. This is the third such concert featuring JM stars from the US. Here's my post about the first one. The notion of JM artists performing and singing Yechi at an event whose sole purpose is to gin up insane emotions is wrong. Music has tremendous power and performers need to use it wisely.

On a side note, if any of our readers are attending any of the Miami Boys Choir events this Pesach, may we recommend printing out this poster to wave at the show. JM artists love when you wave "fan material" during their performances. Especially if they are vidoeing them for later sale. V'dal.

Top 20 JM Lists Compared - Updated

Here are the "Top 20 in Jewish Music" (Country Yossi version):
1 MBD - Efshar Letaken
2 Shalsheles Junior
3 Lipa Schmeltzer - Keinanahara
4 Dovid Gabay - L'gabay
5 Matisyahu - Youth
7 Shwekey - B'hissorerus
8 L'chaim Tish
9 Lev Tahor 4
10 Yeshiva Boys Choir Live
11 Ari Boiangiu - Rosh Ashmurot
12 London Girl's Choir - Silver Lining
13 Simply Tsfat - Never Give Up
14 Pi Shnayim
15 Uncle Moishy - Mezuzah
16 Eli Gerstner - A Chassidishe Kopelya
17 Shira Chadasha Boys Choir
18 J-Walking II
19 Malkie Giniger - Camp Ranenu
20 Tzvi
Here are the "Top 20 in Jewish Music" (Lifestyles version):
1 MBD - Efshar Letaken
2 Lipa Schmeltzer - Keinanahara
3 Shimon Kugel - Shiru Lashem
4 Dovid Gabay - L'gabay
5 Shalsheles Junior
6 Shwekey - B'hissorerus
7 Dachs/Levine - Songs of Yesterday
8 Lev Tahor 4
9 Yeshiva Boys Choir Live
10 Gershon Veroba - Variations 4
12 Uncle Moishy - Mezuzah
13 Ari Boiangiu - Rosh Ashmurot
14 HASC 18
15 Malkie Giniger - Camp Ranenu
16 Chaim Yisrael - Words of Prayer
17 Shira Chadasha Boys Choir
18 Miami Boys Choir - Revach
19 Yeshiva Boys Choir 2
20 J-Walking II
Now, you may be wondering how these lists could be so different. How could one artist, Shimon Kugel, be #3 on one list and not even place on the other? For that matter, you might wonder how Eli Gerstner's new release could be on Country Yossi's list at all, since at press time it isn't in stores? Fortunately, we here at Blog in Dm are glad to help answer such important questions by providing insider info to y'all.

According to Country Yossi: "Ratings are based on information supplied by wholesale distributors and major retail outlets in the greater NY metropolitan area." Left unexplained is the reporting system used by these distributors and retail outlets.

Using the latest in modern forensic accounting, we are pleased to inform our readers that we have reverse-engineered the reporting system and can now with full confidence report on how this is done. Distributors report sales by purchasing ads in these magazines. An ad buy tells the magazine publisher that the album is selling well. Gerstner's CD may not be in stores, but it was the cover ad, excuse me, story of last month's Country Yossi mag. Ergo, it must be doing well. Since it's not in stores, though, it only ranks at #16.

Similarly, Shimon Kugel demonstrated sales to Lifestyles magazine by placing a feature ad, whoops, article and TWO full page ads. An artist who has two full page ads in one issue must be selling well indeed, hence that album's #3 placement.

Hayotze mikol zeh...

It seems that there is a flaw in the reporting system, whereby some artists/distributors are inexplicably reporting sales to only one of these publications. We'd like to advise these folks to ensure their rightful place on ALL top twenty lists, by remembering to report their sales to Country Yossi, Lifestyles, and Jewish Entertainment Magazine. [/sarcasm]

Several readers have emailed that Lifestyles magazine is owned and published by the Kugel family. So we've amended our theory to refer to ad placement instead of ad purchases.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Money For Nothing

Glen Tamir writes a letter to the editor of the Jewish Week.
Last week’s letter “Matisyahu Debate” ends with the writer’s assurance that Matisyahu and Chabad are laughing all the way to the bank. This is part of the reason that the “chasidic reggae superstar” is not considered a “reggae” musician.

Reggae can be considered to be a uniquely Jamaican art form. There is nothing “racist” in saying this. If one is to co-opt this form of music, one should show respect to the pioneers and roots of the music. Even Bob Marley, arguably the most recognizable reggae artist, would never allow himself to be billed as a “superstar.” His message was a universal one, not a Jewish one. The universal message of peace and justice is the true essence of reggae music.

Matisyahu and his handlers have done a terrific marketing job and have no doubt made a lot of money. Ponder this question: If Matisyahu didn’t wear a black suit, hat and tzitzit, would he have been so popular and marketable? I think not.

Glenn Tamir
Mamaroneck, N.Y.
The notion that a musician's financial success means that he isn't a "reggae" musician is silly. So is the argument against allowing himself to be billed as a superstar (assuming he even has a say in that).

Tamir's final point, though, is right on the mark.

Speaking of, here's a Jewish Week article on the Matisyahu/JDub contretemps.

And, speaking of meshichists...

Here's more on the meshichist concert in Israel this Sunday. Apparently, Yerachmiel Begun, who together with a small group of boys from his Miami Boys Choir, is a featured performer at this event has been disingenuously referring to the event as a "Bein Hazmanim show." Here's an excerpt from a recent interview with Nachum Segal on JM in the AM:
YB: …tomorrow, I’m going to Eretz Yisroel, we’re doing a concert this weekend
NS: (laughs) The Shabbos Hagadol Concert? (laughs)
YB: It’s, it’s a big event in Eretz Yisroel on Sunday in Eretz Yisroel and then we’re first coming back on Monday…

7:25 YB: We’re doing a concert, I’m bringing a portion of the group to Eretz Yisroel, we’re doing a concert over there, so, so it’s like a bein hazmanim type of a of a show of a concert there -
NS: and their expecting a big crowd?
YB: Yeah, um yeah they do it every year ...
So, once again, here's the poster for that event:

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shiny Happy People

Oy! MOChassid must be shepping!

04/05/06 JM Link Dump

In addition to his email, which we included in our last post, Chaim has also blogged his thoughts on Country Yossi. The Town Crier comments.

On a roll, the Town Crier has a hysterical link to a video spoof of MBD's copyright video. This one is by the Law Offices of Dschingis, Khan, and Schwartz.
"Hi, my name is Rob, and I wanted to share an important message with you. All Poskim (Rabbi's) agree that stealing ... all » is wrong. They don't mention any loopholes. Deena D'Malchus Deena means you must obey the laws of the country where you reside. This country doesn't allow taking others peoples music and pretending its your own. This message is brought to you by: The Commission For Taking Responsibility. Thank You Mr. Van De Dachmid"
Chaim's also got another Yidden video.

Here's a NY Times wedding announcement.
The wedding ceremony was strictly Orthodox, except that the bride and bridegroom entered to the music from "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Their 134 guests watched as the couple met under the wedding canopy — after not having seen each other for a week in Orthodox tradition — and received blessings in Hebrew, Aramaic and English.
Here's Jewlicious on "Bar Mitzvah Disco: The Documentary."

The Lab Rabbi is quoting some J-music criticism from Rabbi Avraham Blumenkranz:
"Every member of the family must enjoy Pesach, like every other Yom Tov. This is an obligation clearly defined in the Torah as explained by Chazal (M"B 529:15). Pesach is to be looked forward to and anticipated with joy. How contradictory to this joyful approach is the song "I have the Pesach Blues" sung in the "Journey's" [sic] tape. Songs such as these, though intending to be humorous, help feed and even create the dreadful feeling about the coming of Pesach. It would be so much better if people would think positively about Pesach, appreciating the opportunity to show a bit of mesiras nefesh towards the A-mighty and to His mitzvahs.
And, in a valiant effort, JDub's Aaron Bisman posts info about a DJ SoCalled/Balkan Beat Box concert to the Shwekey/MBC/YBC/Eli Gerstner fan club.

From the mailbag...

Don emails a link to an audio promo for a concert in the city this Thursday evening by Pesach Chaim. We posted about Pesach Chaim a few years ago in "Heavy Metal with a Hechser."

Hillary writes:
The music for Gene Pitney's song "If I only Had time" is identical to a french hit "Je n'aurais pas le temps" by Michel Fugain. People tell me that Pitney wrote it, but Fugain claims to have written the music. Who did really? It won't end the world not to know, but I'm being driven mad by it.

Chaim writes:
Sometimes I think Country Yossi is living in such a tight vacuum that not only does he not hear what we write about his magazine, but he finds new and creatively deceptive ways to push truth in advertising back 50 years.

Sunday I was in a Pizza shop in Flatbush and I noticed a new Country Yossi issue. I immediately opened it to the top 20 list and I was shocked to see that a CD that isn't even in stores yet is # 16 on the Top 20 selling CD's. What further proof does that Jewish community need to see how fictitious the Country Yossi magazine is. What a joke.
Shmuel forwards a link to an eBay auction for Lipa Shmeltzer ' s $20 Bill

Bert Stratton emails info about Yiddishe Cup's upcoming concert in Brooklyn. Details are:

2 p.m. Sun., April 23
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
(at Brooklyn College)
Walt Whitman Theatre
We reviewed their album "Meshugene Mambo" her in "Klezmer With A Slice Of Wry."

A Simple Jew emails a link to his post on Ari Boiangiu

Mindy writes:
I thought it would interest you to do a video google search on 'sameach'. you'll unearth a bunch of sameach videos, including gelt, adetanye, and more.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PSA: Say No To Illegal Downloading

Well, it's bein hazmanim again, so we're getting more hits on Google searches like this one.

Guys, do the right thing; just buy the albums!