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Avior Byron will present a paper on Bronislaw Huberman in the 2010 'The Embodiment of Authority' Conference at Helsinki, Finland.   

 

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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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Response to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s second comment: are we normal?

This post is my reaction to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s (Chairperson of Israel Musicological Society) second comment on my post: “Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”

Dear Elisheva Rigbi,
I was thinking whether to publish you last comment at all. I decided to do so since I thought that my blog post can be misunderstood (as you misunderstood it).

You are right that I slightly edited my post since it first appeared. I mainly added a reference to Tav+ (see also the comment from Bat-Sheva Shapira which says much about the situation in Israel!). However, my main criticism did not change.

Here is what I did not say (not in the edited or pre-edited post):
1) I never said that all Israeli research in general is outdated.
2) I never said that all Israeli musicologists or Israeli research are outdated.
3) I never said that Israeli research cannot influence anything.

What I said and still do say:

1) The situation of Hebrew literature on music (academic and popular) is very bad.

2) Much of the musical research in Israel is outdated with relation to recent movements in the academic world (Social and cultural research such as performance studies, feminist studies, psychological studies, etc.)

3) I suggested that the Israel Musiclological Society would be wise to put more emphasis on the goals for future writings in Hebrew. What should be written? What kinds of research questions? Should we continue to do what we always did or should there be other action points that we want to take. It seems to me that the letter that you sent does not suggest that a radical change needs to occur. If I am right (and I hope that I am wrong), the meeting may amount to a list of complaints towards others, such as: “no budget… give us more money”.

4) I claimed that translating books could be a useful way to increase the Hebrew literature in a relatively fast and inexpensive way. Perhaps the Israel Musicological Society should offer scholarships for the translation of materials (this is something that is done in other places such as the journal Music and Letters).

5) I wrote that I am pessimistic that the Israeli academic world can make a real difference. I believe that this is true not only from the reasons that I have already stated, but also because there are so few of these people. Do we have more than 10 scholars sitting in academic posts in all Universities in Israel (the Tel-Aviv department is closed and what is left there will probably fade away)?

6) I suggested that the young generation is the promise for a better future.

I think that it is a great thing that the IMS is making this meeting. However, the goals of the meeting should be stated more clearly. It is important to arrange round-table sessions where discussions will be conducted. Most important: action points should be decided upon during the meeting, and supervised thereafter.

Otherwise, it will amount to talk, talk, talk…

It would be wise if certain people concentrate their efforts, not on being defensive, but on accepting criticism and thinking forward: how can we join forces and brains in order to make the future a better place for all of us?

There are so many other research fields in Israel that are actually working (one thinks about History, philosophy, gender and cultural studies, Jewish studies, and more…), why music is such a poor exception?

One of the reasons that we are not moving forward is that musicology (in Israel and in the world) was based on 19th century philology – they study of texts. If the world moved away from text-based studies in the last two decades, we are still stuck there.

In is seminal article titled “Between Process and Product: Music and/as Performance”, Nicholas Cook wrote: “It is tempting to say that all this is rather silly and that what is needed is simply a proper sense of balance and mutual respect between musicians. But that ignores the influence of what I referred to as the grammar of performance: a conceptual paradigm that constructs process as subordinate to product. That such a paradigm should be deeply built into musicology is not surprising: the nineteenth-century origins of the discipline lie in an emulation of the status and methods of philology and literary scholarship, as a result of which the study of musical texts came to be modeled on the study of literary ones. In effect, and however implausibly, we are led to think of music as we might think of poetry, as a cultural practice centered on the silent contemplation of the written text, with performance (like public poetry reading) acting as a kind of supplement.” [5]

In the two short conversations that I had with Dalia Cohen she stated to me that what the composer does is more important, “of course”, than what the performer does. Roger Kamian, who is also an excellent scholar and performer, demonstrated two of three years ago in a conference on performance in the Tel-Aviv University that performance should be subordinated to analysis (Schenkerian analysis to be more specific). Did he read the classics articles on the relation between analysis and performance in John Rink’s The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)? It is perhaps not surprising that they think this way, possibly due to the research tradition that they comes from. However, the fact so many younger musicians still think this way – is troubling.

Dr. Elisheva Rigbi commented “I agree that we have some pretty bad and outdated musicologists here, just like everywhere else. But we also have good ones, like elsewhere.” Elisheva. You are right. We have some very good musicologists in Israel. Yet, you are misguided in your attempt to present us as a normal place. A comparison with England, USA or other research fields in Israel demonstrates that we are not asking the right research questions.

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Why my Blog is in English: an answer to Dr. Elisheva Rigbi

Dr Elisheva Rigbi, who is the “Chairperson Israel Musicological SOciety”, commented on my post Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”. She wrote “Want to make a contribution to Israeli society? How about writing your blog IN HEBREW! Then you might have more than just ‘little hope that the Israeli academic world can make a contribution to Israeli society’”. In this post I will explain why my blog is in English and not in Hebrew.

I wrote in my post “What language should a scholar choose for writing?” that “There and issues against and for writing in English or Hebrew. If one writes in English, one can reach a larger audience. There are more scholars that can read what one writes, and comment on it. This is the reason why I decided to write my blog in English.” I have no idea how long I will write this blog. If I will see that people read it, it will grant me motivation.

My blog is not intended to solve the problem of “making a contribution to Israeli society by writing in Hebrew”. I did write a few articles in Hebrew in the past (see publications) and I hope to do so in the future. If I will see that blog writing is for me, I might open another blog in Hebrew.

Take part in the discussion

Several people wrote to me that they agree with what I wrote in Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”. I would like to encourage these people and others to comment on this post and other ones. You do not even need to use your real name if you are afraid from the long nails of the Israeli music establishment (that was a joke, by the way…).

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See also:
Response to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s second comment: are we normal?

Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”

The Israeli Musicological Association published today a call for papers on the subject: “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”. The meeting will take place at the Hebrew University on Sunday, 29 June 2008. The aim of the meeting, so it is argued, is to discuss what does not exist in Hebrew on music.

It is true that there are some books in Hebrew that one can find in the library. The problem is that most of these books are out of print, so most Israelis cannot find them in the book shops.

Another problem is the quality of these books. The main problem is that, by large, the shift that occurred in the academic world in general since the 1970s and in musicology since the 1990s did not reach Israel. There are a small number of ‘serious’ scholars in Israel (how one measures serious is a big question, however, the criteria of whether one published anything in the last five years (and in what journals and publication houses) could be sufficient to prove my point). Many Israeli scholars are disconnected from the social and cultural research that dominates the scholarly world today. Perhaps they read what is written, but how many of them make a serious contribution to the field in a global sense? There are few dear individuals that do make a contribution, but they are an exception to the rule.

I hope that the Israeli Musicological Association annual meeting will discuss not only what is not written, but also what should be written. Do we need more Schenkerian books in Hebrew that almost no one reads, or is there a more desperate need for books that might be of interest to a larger amount of readers?

To be fair, there are some excellent musicologists in Israel. Yet there voice is usually not heared and does not reach the wide public (one of the reasons that we are speaking about writings in Hebrew is connected to the attempt to be relevant to more people in Israel and perhaps also USA).

A noteworthy journal that is gathering momentum is Tav+ which is dealing with music in the context of society. The journal is consciously semi academic and it is one of the only publications that is dealing with contemporary music making in Israel. It is a pity that this journal is not sold in book shops like stimatzki and tzomet sfarim. The journal, however, contains lots of interesting articles.

I wrote a few days ago a post called ‘Why no books about music? Think about it!’ which is about how poor the situation in Israel is (with relation to issue of books on music), and I mentioned the book by Cook that was translated lately. This book is a good change in the Israeli scene. I hope that the translation of other books will follow (one has in mind the second book by John Rink on performance and books by many other authors). The translation of books could be a good way to fill the book shops with updated and interesting books on music in Hebrew.

I have little hope that the Israel academic world can make a contribution to the Israeli society. There are few scholars in Israel that actually publish interesting things, and one of the important reasons for this, is the lack of budget for music research in Israel. The budget for the Universities in Israel is constantly being reduced. There does not seem to be any sign that something will change (although things usually do change exactly at such times). Perhpas the talented authors in Israel should try to find ways not to be dependent on government budget.

I hope that I am not too pessimistic. I do hope that things will change and that more and more scholars will be able to take part in this change. The young generation is the promise. There are quite a few young Israeli musicologists who are curious, updated and ready to contribute. The internet is another way to help scholars to be creative and productive.

Do you have any thoughts on this issue? Please feel free to comment on this post with the form below. Perhaps this way a discussion will start – something that is very missing in Israel.

I responded to some of the comments to this email in the follwing links: Response to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s second comment: are we normal? Why my Blog is in English: an answer to Dr. Elisheva Rigbi We seem to fail doing the very same thing in music Here it comes מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

What language should a scholar choose for writing?

As a non-English scholar I have a great dilemma what language to chose when I write about music. I have written a few articles in Hebrew but my PhD dissertation and most of my research thereafter was written in English.

There and issues against and for writing in English or Hebrew. If one writes in English, one can reach a larger audience. There are more scholars that can read what one writes and comment on it. This is the reason why I decided to write my blog in English.

The reason to write in Hebrew is that I think in this language, and express myself better in it. I am aware that my English might sound strange to native English speakers (I hope that what I say compensates on it). One swims more easily in his or her mother tongue.

Another to write in Hebrew is that there is very little written in this language available to Hebrew readers. Young music lovers, who do not read English (or simple find it hard to read in this language), have very little to read. Why should all the latest research on music arrive to Israel only ten years after it was first published (the sad truth is that it usually does not arrive to Israel at all).

The dilemma will never end. But solutions must be found.

Why no books about music? Think about it!

When one goes into book shops in Israel, one cannot not notice that there are no music books. You could find a few song books, usually popular song books. But you will rarely find books about music. There are a few books that where translated into Hebrew. The most important one that was lately translated is Music: A Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook. This is a great book and it will probable contribute much to the dull musicological scene in Israel.

I lately went to a book shop called “Sipur pashut” in Neve Tzedek. It is a wonderful book shop with critical books on a large variety of subjects: philosophy, literature, film, art and more. Yet also here the music section was almost not existent. When I approached the person behind the desk, I was told that when they will enlarge the store they will have room for music books. It seems to me that Israel in general has no room for music books.

Why read books about music if you could simply listen to music?
Good music books make you listen to music differently. It is not only music that changes the lives of many people. It is also the words “around” it: discussions with friends, what is during a radio broadcast, what one reads in the newspaper, and what you could discover in a book.

When I write about music, it is usually out of a process where I started to listen to a certain piece of music differently. I wish to share this experience with my readers.

This is what happened in my last research trip to Berlin. As a result of extensive reading and listening, I began to hear things connected to gender in Schoenberg’s Piano Piece, Op. 33a. You can read a draft of the article in the “Drafts for comments” section of this website.

I hereby call all Israeli readers of this post to approach your local book shop and ask: “Why no books about music? Think about it!

Copyright Avior Byron 2021 .