Sunday, March 2, 2008

What's Jewish Music's problem? What's ours?

My, my, my... we are in trouble, aren't we?

From the point of view of gossip alone, the already shaky Jewish music "industry," already under constant fire, is now being made an ever-growing target by the mostly ignorant, but loud critics of their own definition of "wrong."

uuggghhhh... where to start?

I'm not going to attempt to address it in one sitting, because I've gotten all sorts of hate mail and support mail for my work over the years, saying this is not such a simple fight. It should, however, begin with certain necessary definitions and observations that I'd like to touch on first. The rest is up to you:

JEWISH vs. "GOYISH":In short, if anyone is is hoping to link to specifically pure-bred Jewish sources of of Jewish music available in this last century, they will come up very short and disappointed, unless they accept some hard truths.

Musical composition of any major consequence, in general, has historically depended upon other musical influences to shape it into a unique mixture. Many of those mixtures, intentionally or not, can often closely resemble one of its actual sources, a style created for another purpose, or even something it had no knowledge of.

Saying that certain uses of an organ in a song, for example, with chord structure and actual choice of sound settings on the organ itself are reminiscent of non-Jewish religious music, is a fair statement. Saying that using an organ at all is therefore wrong, is not fair, anymore than using an electric guitar is wrong due to it's connections to
paganism's role in metal or modern Christian music.

If the requirement for Jewish Music (an ambiguous term, to say the least) is to resemble nothing else but Jewish sources, then roughly 60-75% of music created for Jewish entertainment, nationalism and prayer in the last 60 years must be eliminated.

If you are among those who object to "non-Jewish" music, you must know how to answer the questions of "what is..." and "what can be..." before you criticize music intended to contribute to the global Jewish community.

Finally, the term "goyish" has, unfortunately become an over-used term that remains undefined to most of its users, while its derogatory nature satisfies their anger at the present shortcomings of the Jewish music industry, which has been destroyed by their ignorance and sanctimony.

Those who have learned to hate non-Jews feel that "goyish" is the worst thing something or someone Jewish can be. In fact, musical influences created or used mostly by non-Jews or non-religious Jews for music not related to prayer have become the #1 source of influence in Jewish music this past century.

The issue has come to surround the fascinatingly un-defined term "goyish," rather than the more understood and respected term of "improper." "Goyish" is a paranoid term, in my opinion, suggesting that some underlying purpose of the "improper" influence is for the underhanded infiltration of a religion that conflicts with ours.

I can say, with 35 years of intimate involvement with just about every dimension of the Jewish music field, that much of todays so-called "yeshivish" and "chassidic" music (not all, of course), including many of those being used on the bima (prayer pulpit) contains influences in it's musical arrangements, composition, performance and even words that I feel are "improper," but often for reasons that have little to do with the influence of conflicting religions.

You should continue to comment here, there and everywhere. This is not going away and it's going to get worse.

The furor is now reaching new heights and pretty soon, if you don't already think that Jewish music's pickings are slim now, just watch what happens when you let it happen.

Leaving the subjective art of music to be judged by the black and white will not work and it will prevent the many different musical talents out there from contributing their art to Jewish life. Do you think Judaism needs music? I'll leave that question open.