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Culture: April 2008 Archives

Exploring Different Musical Traditions

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Home from Japan

By Barry Davis
Jerusalem Post

Even in an era where cultural and ethnic boundaries are leapfrogged with ever increasing frequency, the idea of a Western classically trained Japanese woman immersing herself in Eastern Jewish liturgical texts and music takes some getting used to.

Today, Kumiko Yayama Bar-Yossef knows more than a thing or two about piyutim (liturgical poems) and, in fact, can enlighten most native Israelis about the subject.

Yayama – who is married to musicology professor Amatzia Bar-Yossef – first came to Jerusalem in 1992 to pursue a PhD in musicology, but her music education began much earlier. "I studied ballet from the age of four and I took up Western classical piano from the age of six," she explains in fluent Hebrew.

While Yayama didn't exactly come from a family of musicians, there was always something interesting to listen to at home. "My father was just a taxi driver. He didn't have a lot of money but he was crazy about stereo technology and we always had the best system going at home. We listened mostly to Western classical music and, at some stage, my father also taught himself to play guitar."

Read more about this at the Jerusalem Post website:

   http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1207649979802&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Defining Jewish Music

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Milken Archive of American Jewish Music

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post

Just what is "Jewish music," anyway? In some cases the answer is clear: liturgical music and Yiddish operetta; klezmer and Israeli pop. But in this realm of classical or art music, you run into all kinds of semantic debates. Is "Jewish music" music written by Jewish composers, including Bernstein's "West Side Story"? What about pieces written by non-Jewish composers, such as Bruch's "Kol Nidrei" or Ravel's "Kaddisch" or Dave Brubeck's oratorio "The Gates of Justice," recorded and released as part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music's initial offering of 50 CDs?

Stop asking already and just put it on. Operating on this principle, the new concert series Pro Musica Hebraica is presenting its first performance at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater tomorrow night, with musicians from the Juilliard School and Itzhak Perlman as a special guest. The series's ambitious and loosely defined goal is to present "Jewish music" – until the first concert is over, the organizers are not going to commit definitely to anything more specific than that.

Read more about this at the Washington Post website:

   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/08/AR2008040802916.html

Recent Musical History of a City

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New York City

The New York Canon: Classical Music

By Justin Davidson
New York Magazine

From Laurie Anderson's magnum opus to the definitive Beethoven marathon.

Classical music is global and ephemeral and often aspires to a state of universality: Tonight's Carnegie Hall recitalist may have just flown in from Germany and will be in Hong Kong next week. Even native New Yorkers hone their acts elsewhere before hoping to return. Which makes an awkward fit for a canon of works linked by their inherent New Yorkiness. I've had to wrestle this list into its frame, omitting many memorable musical experiences because they had no special connection to the city, and tying live events to recordings. The New York Philharmonic's performance of the Brahms Requiem in the days after 9/11 was far too magnificent an event to skip. But I left out Philip Glass's 1976 Einstein on the Beach; although the premiere seared itself into the memory of those who saw it, the recording tells only half a story. New York creates as much music as it imports, and some of it is imbued with local qualities that materialize only later. In the mid-nineties, Steve Reich walked around Manhattan recording sounds that he later wove into City Life. It's more explicitly urban than his other works, yet the sense of overlapping rhythms competing in a crowd – the essential sidewalk experience – is equally evident in Drumming, which he wrote more than 30 years earlier. In music, New York sometimes does something supremely un-New Yorky: It hides.

Read about the complete N.Y. canon at the New York Magazine website:

   http://nymag.com/anniversary/40th/culture/45764/

Have Stick, Will Travel

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William Barton

A breath of fresh air for the classical tradition

By Harriet Cunningham
Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Symphony is learning a new work. The rhythms are complex, and notes fly out in all directions. Conductor Richard Gill, in his best headmaster voice, stops the musicians, points out the key underlying beats, barks out a bar number and raises his baton. And there, almost miraculously, the music starts to emerge from the morass, the opposing riffs meshing into a fascinating wall of sound.

Alongside the conductor, looking remarkably unflappable, sits soloist and joint composer William Barton. The work, Kalkadungu, was commissioned for the orchestra by Maggie Gray and Roger Allen; scored for orchestra with didgeridoo, electric guitar and vocals (all three performed by Barton).

Most significantly, Kalkadungu is a collaboration between two musicians, the Mount Isa-born Barton and the white Australian composer Matthew Hindson, bringing ancient Australian culture face to face with the Western classical tradition.

Hindson, who lectures in composition at the University of Sydney, is an old hand at writing for orchestra, which is why this project presented such a tantalising challenge.

Read more about this at the Sydney Morning Herald website:

   http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/a-breath-of-fresh-air-for-the-classical-tradition/

Trumpet