Monday, August 31, 2009

From the mailbag...

Michael Fish sends in a peever.
Recently did a gig and the band was really in a groove by the 3rd song of second set when all of a sudden this older ‘gentleman’ came storming up to the band screaming at the keyboard player who was leading to play somthing yeshivish. He startled the musician so , that mid song he just waved off the band and started playing yomim.
Naftali forwards a link to a "Pete Sokolow Interview." I'm pretty sure I've linked this years ago, but Pete's a legend, so it's worth another link.

Steve Cohen writes:
When I read your story about singers who don’t know the words, it reminded me of a great club-date joke:

"A vocalist hired a piano player to accompany her at an audition for a night-club job. After listening to a couple of songs, the owner said, "Can you sing 'When Sunny Gets Blue?' It's my favorite song. If you can sing it, you're hired." The singer whispered to the piano player, "I don't know it all the way through." The piano player said, "I know it. Go ahead and start, and I'll prompt you." Reluctantly, she began: "When Sunny Gets Blue . . ." She looked at the piano player for help. He whispered confidently, "B-flat minor nine..."

Monday, August 24, 2009

From the mailbag...

Naftali writes:
My new pet peeve:

Singers that don't know the words. A singer is hired to do a gig with you; you go into a fairly popular song, and they whisper to you "I don't know the words" or "I'm not comfortable singing that". Mr. Singer, your ONLY job is to KNOW THE WORDS TO SONGS! You have nothing to shlep, you arrive 1 minute before (or after) start time and you only need to KNOW THE WORDS to songs! Do your research.
This arrived in my inbox just as I returned attending a concert. (I wasn’t playing.) At that performance, the lead vocalists screwed up the following lyrics:
1) Vena Al Tatzrichenu
2) Racheim

Both of those texts are from bentching, something they ought to be familiar with. Amazing!

Psachya writes:
Check this out: We Will Survive!

BTW, at about 3:30 of the clip, I could've sworn I saw a choson and kallah about to come in. :)
Igudsman and Joo rock! I've posted some of their other stuff in the past.

Avremi G. writes
‘This peep shows up with the score to an original composition they've written in honor of the bride and groom. Said musical masterpiece has been notated in Finale in the worst possibly way.’

I’m sure Sibelius is capable of equally atrocious output.
It's possible. In this particular case, the "composer" happened to have used Finale.

Daybay writes:
NYC based Jewish musician,

I read the following in The Yated (July 17, 2009 edition) in a column by Yossi Kamiel entitled Binni Blitz and the Bored Businessman, and thought you might was to address it. In his column he has one of his fictional characters say,

"My father asked a shailah and the rov told him that we're not allowed to listen to them (acapella cds) during Sefirah or the Three Weeks either. He said that there is no difference between them and regular music tapes. So even though we miss listening to these songs and albums, still, no frum Yid would even think of doing something that is not allowed in halacha."

Thank you,

A frum Yid who might think of doing something that is not allowed in halacha, but, b'H, would never do something that is not allowed by halacha.
Even Rabbi Belsky allows listening to certain kinds of acapella recordings during sefirah. So, this characterization (I assume it’s fiction) is inaccurate, even according to those who prohibit some acapella recordings during sefirah.

It’s also against common sense.

I posted his psakim on this and my comments on them here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hot Weather is Bringing Out Da Peeps

Some more peeps for y'all...

"Weed Guy"

This peep, who is not African or African-anything, shows up to an Orthodox wedding with a dashiki over his long hair, a T-shirt, shorts, and Birkenstocks. Observing him over the course of the event, we notice that he keeps making loud puffing exhalations, as though he's taking a bong hit. Then, he comes and stands next to us, and we get a closer look/sniff. Turns out, his lungs are so full of weed, that despite not having toked in hours, he can give himself a contact high just by holding his breath for a few seconds and then exhaling. Pass the Doritos, man!

"Mr. Eat Over The Keyboard"
This peep helps himself to food from the buffet, and then proceeds to stand directly in font of the band, holding his plate over the keyboard as he eats. Considerate. At least he didn't get any Lo Mein on the keys this time.

"Rabbi Rush"
No relation to the conservative talk show host. This peep is in a hurry. No reason why. He just is. So, the wedding starts at 6, he has them do the badekin at 6:10 and starts the chupa at 6:12. Did we mention he's also coordinating the schedule for the dinner which is also taking place in his shul. Did you know you can do an entire Ortho-Chasidic wedding in 2 hours? Rabbi Rush thinks you can.

"Full-Time Clown"
It is common for people to dress up at affairs as a shtick, dancing for a few minutes in a costume of one sort or another. This isn't good enough for the full-time clown, though. This friend of the bride shows up to the ceremony in full clown outfit --suit, wig, funny shoes, and face paint -- and spends the entire affair in character.

"The Composer"
This peep shows up with the score to an original composition they've written in honor of the bride and groom. Said musical masterpiece has been notated in Finale in the worst possibly way. Mathematically it all works out, but visually it's a mess. For example, instead of a dotted quarter note, you might have a dotted eight note tied to three sixteenth notes in a row tied to each other. Imagine an entire page or two of this. Ah, the beauty of HyperScribe aka why trained music copyists are not out of work just yet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh Deer!, Dear! Giraffe!

Parshablog links to yet another bizarre Jewish music article by a Rabbi who is simply making stuff up. Let's just say that his position demonstrates a lack of awareness of dance styles and practices both in and out of the frum community.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From the mailbag...

The Klezmer Shack's Ari Davidow writes:
Shalom Rav Dm,
I wrote a few words about the koren siddur on the Hebrew type blog most of which are there just to point you to a link to a wonderful article in tablet mag--How Eliyahu Koren used typography to encourage a new way to pray ( by Joshua J. Friedman.

It is worth noting that although it has been common to use the dueling languages approach to including Hebrew and English (where the Hebrew is placed to the extreme right; English to the left, so that the eye has to jump the entire width of the spread to go from one starting point on the same line to the other), the calligraphers and early typographers who created the great polyglot siddurim of the Middle Ages were quite aware that when you want the eye to go back and forth between languages, it is critical that the distance between them be as short as possible--that Hebrew and Latin share a common spine (as is the case with the Koren siddur).

But layout depends on purpose. If you have a safe assumption that the readers will use either one language or the other, keeping them far apart (the dueling languages position) is good. Producing two separate books would be even better! More on the Hebrew type blog, of course. (And even more when I finish redoing the blog so that it is more usable. Sorry about that.)

Ari Davidow
Hebrew typesetter, extraordinaire
I seem to have gotten blog smicha lately from various correspondents. Was it the Luft series?

Sneak Attack Media's Miles Grosovsky emails some PR about SAM client, Matisyahu. It included the following photo. Jewish heroin chic. Just what we wuz missing.

Here's a link to a video of the single he's promoting: Matisyahu: One Day.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Koren Siddur on Yedid Nefesh

I recently received the new Koren Siddur with Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks' translation. This is a beautiful siddur. If you're looking for a nice English translation of the traditional siddur, this one is well worth checking out. It is far superior to the popular Artscroll Siddur. Rabbi Sacks' prose is a much more enjoyable and meaningful read.

Two interesting things about this siddur:

1) The Hebrew pages are on the left with the English translations on the right hand pages. This unconventional approach --usually its the reverse -- makes sense because you start reading in the center, no matter which language you're reading. This makes it easier to flow from one to the other. Additionally, it means that if you usually daven from the Hebrew, there's a shift in the direction you're looking which may affect right-brain left-brain cognition and therefore, at least in the short term, change your kavannah experience. More on that concept here.

2) The version of "Yedid Nefesh" Koren chose to use is based on the original handwritten manuscript by the author, Safed kabalist Rabbi Elazar Azikri (1533-1600). The changes make the poem even more beautiful, and some of the seemingly difficult to translate in context words become clear. Of course, this is not the way Jewish communities sing the words, but perhaps people will start to use this version. Just beautiful!

Why I Cancelled Bridezilla Today!

Today, for the first time ever in my career, I cancelled on a client.

The back story: A few weeks ago, I was hired to play music for a wedding ceremony tomorrow afternoon. The father-of-the bride and I reached an oral agreement and he then put his daughter in touch to discuss the specifics of the event.

The bride called me a few hours later. In our initial conversation, she told me that she had a compilation CD with some modern Israeli songs she really liked, and I told her I'd be happy to transcribe/play any of them she wanted. She promised to email the artists/song titles when she got home, and drop off the CD if I needed it.

Then, nothing. No phone calls or emails. After several days of this, I left a message on her cell asking her to call me/email the information. No response.

Finally, today, the day before her afternoon wedding --I do have an evening gig as well tomorrow-- she answered the phone when I called and proceeded to make lame excuses about why she hadn't been in touch; saying that since it's so close to the gig, maybe she should just play CD's instead, because I don't know the songs she wants. Since she's never ID'd them, I can't say this for certain, but based on her description of the compilation CD she liked, I'd say that there's an 80% chance I know those songs, a 95% chance I have the sheet music for them, and a 100% chance I could have played them had she gotten me the CD even a day or two ago.

Based on comments she made in our conversation, my impression is that this was purely anti-Orthodox bias. (Her dad is Orthodox. She isn't.) She seemed to feel that an Orthodox musician would be incapable of playing an instrumental version of an Israeli pop song. Remember, we're not talking vocals here, where there could be an issue of accent, etc.

At that point, after listening to several rude comments, I called her on her inconsiderate behavior, read her the set list of Israeli pop tunes I'm playing at tomorrow evenings affair, told her I would no longer be available to play her affair, and that she should use her CD's. I also wished her the best of luck in her marriage, and advised her that I hope she treats the other vendors more appropriately.

It's amazing what some people think they can get away with. If she didn't want me to play her affair, she had plenty of opportunity to be honest about her concerns early on. Passive aggressive behavior like this is grossly unfair to the musician, who may have turned down other work for the slot and made plans around their performance schedule and it's just not "mentchlikh."