1st Edition

And We're All Brothers: Singing in Yiddish in Contemporary North America

ISBN 9781138266988
Published November 14, 2016 by Routledge
220 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

The dawn of the twenty-first century marked a turning period for American Yiddish culture. The 'Old World' of Yiddish-speaking Eastern Europe was fading from living memory - yet at the same time, Yiddish song enjoyed a renaissance of creative interest, both among a younger generation seeking reengagement with the Yiddish language, and, most prominently via the transnational revival of klezmer music. The last quarter of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first saw a steady stream of new songbook publications and recordings in Yiddish - newly composed songs, well-known singers performing nostalgic favourites, American popular songs translated into Yiddish, theatre songs, and even a couple of forays into Yiddish hip hop; musicians meanwhile engaged with discourses of musical revival, post-Holocaust cultural politics, the transformation of language use, radical alterity and a new generation of American Jewish identities. This book explores how Yiddish song became such a potent medium for musical and ideological creativity at the twilight of the twentieth century, presenting an episode in the flowing timeline of a musical repertory - New York at the dawn of the twenty-first century - and outlining some of the trajectories that Yiddish song and its singers have taken to, and beyond, this point.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part I Contemporary Frameworks for Yiddish Song: Becoming Yiddishists; Narrating a canon. Part II Yiddish Song and the 'Klezmer Revival':From local to global: a new stage for Yiddish song; A space for reflection: creative encounters with Europe; Encountering the Yiddish other: Hasidic music in today’s Yiddish canon; Technology, the sonic object and the (re)construction of Yiddish music; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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A graduate of Cambridge University, Abigail Wood teaches ethnomusicology in the Music Department at Haifa University and also holds the Joe Loss Lecturership in Jewish Music at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


’Like the biblical psalmodist, Abigail Wood calls forth a shir hadash, a "new song", which emerges from the seemingly silenced world of Eastern European Jewish folk song. Everything is new and vital in the worlds of Yiddish song that we enter in this book: youthful voices breathe new life into the Yiddish language; engaged believers use the mamaloshen of their ancestors to chart paths into the post-Holocaust world that will become their future; a new generation turns to the intersections of Jewish music and technology in search of a new sense of self and community; passionate voices turn to Yiddish song to transcend the past and build the future. Wood has provided us with an exemplary work of interdisciplinary scholarship - at once historical and ethnographic, and unfailingly committed to the human experience of song and singing.’ Philip V. Bohlman, University of Chicago, USA ’Abigail Wood’s kaleidoscopic and theoretically imaginative tour of Yiddishland’s twenty-first-century musical spaces deftly guides us through complex, vital communities as they forge a sonic, pluralistic and interconnected Yiddish future. Her passionate analysis challenges us to go beyond our comfort zones in rethinking, reframing, and renewing our assumptions about Jewish (is it even Jewish?) musical expression.’ Judah M. Cohen, Indiana University, USA 'I found the book captivating and persuasive, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in contemporary Yiddish culture. It will be also be stimulating for readers interested in Jewish history and Jewish studies, as well as those with a more general interest in the complex cultural work of music in communities, and of songs and singing in particular.' Notes ’... a modern ethnomusicology study that shows a new phase in Yiddish music’. FolkWorld