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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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Israeli Musicology Society Group is now working

Israeli Musicology Society Group

I am happy to announce the existence of the Israeli Musicology Society Group. This group is for discussions, announcements, questions and other issues concerning music, especially with regards to the aims and perspectives of the Israeli Musicological Society as defined inhttp://israel-musicological-society.huji.ac.il/
I opened the group several days ago. I hope that it will encourage a real discussion between musicologists and musicians in Israel.
 
In order to read and participate in the discussions press the following link:
 

Related posts:

Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music  

Israeli Musicological website: Byron’s respondes to Hirshberg

A phone call from Prof. Dalia Cohen

  

  

On fear: Schoenberg, Stravinsky and the Israeli music scene

The problem

One of the things that make me sad about the Israeli music scene (including musicologists, composers, performer and critics) is the problem of miscommunication and isolation. People are working alone and find it hard to make mutual projects and co-operations. I felt it strongly in the Music department in the Bar-Ilan University as well as in the Israeli Musicological Society. In both places one can find talents on different levels. Yet, the ability to create something together was usually sabotaged by fear.

In the Bar-Ilan Music department there was no conversation on how one should educate the students. This was left (presumably) to very few people. In any case no conclusions of such discussions were communicated to the teachers or students. In the Israeli Musicological society there was some discussion on how to promote Israeli musicology and music, yet this was usually sabotaged by few noise people, others who promised and did nothing and others who simply gave up. It seems that everyday troubles and the fear from one another paralyze any mutual action and cooperation.

 

Schoenberg and Stravinsky

I have no idea whether this is a problem which occurs only in Israel (I have little to compare with). History seems to indicate that one can find the problem also in other places and periods. The most famous and perhaps the saddest case is that of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Peter Yates wrote in a letter dated 17 May 1952: ‘Nowdays artists work in closed boxes… Our artistic life is typified by Stravinsky, who lived here more than fifteen years without ever meeting Schoenberg in public or private, but now attends performance of the old man’s work like a devotee.’ (Quoted in Dorothy Crawford, Evenings On and Off the Roof (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p. 127). Only after Schoenberg died, Stravinsky allowed himself to be influence by Schoenberg’s music in a more open way than in the past. Now it is understandable that this happened. Schoenberg wrote a piece titled Three satires that was partly against Stravinsky. He also wrote and talked against him in various occasions. Also Stravinsky attacked Schoenberg. Yet could they not find a way to go beyond this nonsense and communicate with each other during those years that they were practically neighbors?

 

The future

In the age of Social web sites, it seems sad that one can connect with people on the other side of the world, yet find it hard to communicate with their neighbors. If there is any chance that Israeli classical music (including composition, musicology and performance) will become less provincial, than it will be by overcoming fear and mistrust, and by starting to work together.     

 

Related posts

Music University on the web

Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website

Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

Music University on the web

Being a young music scholar in Israel is almost impossible. In other counties it is also very hard. A few words about the situation in Israel, which could serve as a case study. There are only five small universities: Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. There is only one musicological department in Jerusalem which has only four scholars who are there on a permanent basis and there is something almost non existent in Bar-Ilan. In Tel-Aviv the department was closed about two years ago because some, of I have heard, played with the University’s money and lost it in the stock exchange! Haifa and Ben-Gurion have no department of musicology. Moreover, the tendency to cut budgets in social sciences makes the future not very optimistic.

How young scholars react

The reaction of young music scholars is one of the three: (1) build (usually false) hopes that one day they will be part of one on the few Israeli music departments. Some of them even agree to teach for free (I know this as a fact in the Bar-Ilan music department)! (2) They leave Israel and go to work in America or Europe; (3) They give up the profession all together and keep it as a hobby.
 
This is a grave situation since it casts doubts on the future of Israeli’s music culture. I have written in a post Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website  that without people writing quality books and article on music, our music culture will slowly die.
 

Teach and write on the web

What can one do about this situation? Here is one idea that might work. Imagine that you could make a course on the web. Let say, a course about Harmony or the history of music. You would sit down once a week for several hours and prepare your course/s. Then you will write down the main ideas of your lesson in a text that will about be 500 – 1500 words long (or longer if you like). As time will pass you will find that instead of 5 or 10 people sitting in you class, as one can find in real universities in Israel, you will have 30 people reading your lesson every week and commenting and asking questions. As time will pass (let say two years) there will be 300 people every week reading and reacting to your each of your lessons.
 

Teach music for Money

Moreover, you will receive some money from the advertisements on the pages of your lessons. So from the long-term perspective, the web will pay you more than most universities pay these days.
 

The problems

Music scholars are usually not technical people. They find it hard to open websites like my own and some even fear technology. They are also not educated with relation to the internet world. Most of them are not aware that people spend more and more time on the web while music departments in universities are growing smaller and smaller.
 
Some scholars feel that the web is only for common people. They feel that high level writing and good ideas can be found only in scholarly music journals. My personal experience is that there is lots of rubbish on the web and in music journals. One can occasionally find very interesting things in music journals, and equally – on the web. The fact that leading music department are opening online music journals is telling. You can find also intersting music links to website for scholars and search engines like google scholar and google books.
 

A possible solution

If you want to try to open a course on the web you are welcome to receive free advice from me on how to open your own website. You are also welcome to do it on my website, if your course subject is somehow related to performance, composition or theory of classical music. I welcome other fields like popular music, jazz, ethnomusicology, etc. If you decide to publish your course on my site you will receive all of the money from clicks on advertisements on your pages. You will receive detailed monthly information concerning how many people read your course pages, how long they stayed on the page and in what city in the world they live. Think about it: when you prepare one lesson in a class you receive a one time payment which is very poor. On the web you will receive monthly payments for years.
 
I am aware that blogging and courses on the web is not a perfect solution. However, I truly believe that the world of scholarship is going to change drastically during the next fifty years due to the web. Be one of the first people to join this revolution.

 

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Israeli Musicological website: Byron’s respondes to Hirshberg

Jehoash Hirshberg wrote a letter on the new Israeli Musicological website. Avior Byron respondes to this letter in the following video calling the IMS members to join Hirshberg’s initiative and think what content they can contribute to the website.

Byron: It is my first video post, so it is not very "edited" and "clean", however, I hope you will enjoy it. The video is in Hebrew, so I apologize to my English readers who do not know the holly language. I added subtitles to the most important parts. Please turn on your speakers and press on the button in the center of the picture below:


Here are the parts of Hirshberg’s letter that Byron refers to:

"הצעתי היא לפתוח במסגרת האתר, בצד כתב העת המחקרי ‘מנעד’, כתב עת למוסיקה לכלל הציבור. חסרונו של כתב העת מורגש מזה עשרות שנים, ונסיונות אחדים שנעשו בעבר כגון ‘אוזניים למוסיקה’ כשלו במהרה בגלל מחסור בתקציב וקשיים עצומים בהפצה. 
מנקודת הראות האישית שלי תפקידו העיקרי של כתב עת כזה יהיה העשרת הביקורת המוסיקלית בארץ, הן בהצגת דעות שונות מאילו של מבקרי המוסיקה על קונצרטים ומופעי אופרה, הן בסקירה וביקורת על אירועים חשובים שמשום מה חומקים מעיני המבקרים המקצועיים. דוגמה לכך היה הקונצרט המצויין האחרון בסדרת ‘תגליות’ של תזמורת סימפונית ירושלים שהציג תכנית נדירה של ‘מייסדי’ המוסיקה הישראלת: בוסקוביץ’, טל, ארליך ופרטוש. מאחר שהמדובר בכתב עת שניתן להעשירו מדי יום, תהיה גם אפשרות לנצלו למאמרים מקדימים על אירועי מוסיקה בעלי עניין מיוחד, שיהוו הרחבה של המערכת היעילה של הפצת חדשות האיגוד שפיתחו בשנים האחרונות מרינה ואלישבע.
על מנת לפתוח ברעיון מעשי, אני מציע מצדי להציג בכתב עת זה את הביקורות על הצגות האופרה הישראלית, אותה אני מבקר מזה כעשר שנים עבור הירחון Opera News של Metropolitan Opera Guild ועבור מאגאזין קול המוסיקה בעריכת ריקה בר סלע."

 

Related posts:

 Read why it is important that a website will be updated often Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website
 

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Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website

The Israel Musicological Society opened a new website (http://israel-musicological-society.huji.ac.il). I wrote in my post Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music that it is sad that much money was spent on this website. The result is poor. The decision was made three years ago, and at that time it was perhaps a reasonable one. Today, it is almost free of charge to build a site with content management systems like Joomla. Moreover, one can use services such as Google analytics for receiving valuable information on the behavior of visitors on one’s website. The only reason that I write this, is to point to fruitful directions that can be done in the near future.

A word about search engines

Websites have a potential of attracting visitors from all over the world. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN scan websites constantly for new information. After they index a new page that is added to a website, it leads traffic to it, when it thinks that it contains relevant information for web surfers. Search engines like websites that are constantly being updated. New information can include: new pages, blog posts, forum posts, comments, etc.

The goal

I think that the goal of building a website for the IMS should be, to attract people to its activities in the real and virtual world. In other words, the website should make people aware of the publications of IMS members, conferences and other activities, as well as to any of their activities on the web (that at present, apart of Min-Ad, almost do not exist).

The problem with the current site

The current site does not encourage its member or visitors to take actions on the website. A website that wants to attract visitors must create new texts all the time. These texts must be interesting in order to create further action by members and visitors. The current site includes CVs in attached documents. It is clear that most people will not bother reading more than one of two CVs. It would be useful if more personal information would be added. For example, scholars could write about their fields of interests, how they became musicologists, what they are working on in the present, plans for the future, etc. This information is more fun to read and is likely to attract more reactions than CVs (remember, reaction on the web is the most important thing). People can ask for advise from other scholar and web surfer concerning their research. People can recommend and review new and old books. Students may be encouraged to write for the website, participate in forum discussions and be active in other activites on the website.

Writing on the web

One can find music journal on the web (see my post on Where to publish online articles on music: journals review). The web can encourage a kind of writing that is less formal than in journals. This has disadvantages, however, it also has advantages. I would never write an article as I write a post in my blog. Yet, writing a blog helps me improvise on ideas, test them and communicate with a relatively big number of people. Believe me, this is fun.

The real problem

The real problem is that it is really hard to make people react and be involved in a website. I tried many things in my blog and some of these things worked. But the truth is that most forums and blogs do not survive more than two months.

The solution

What one needs to do is to think hard how a website could be a ground for involving IMS members to write about what they care of and to constantly be active and participate on the website. This is hard. But it is perhaps the only way. Technology is almost free today and there are possibilities. Things can be built relatively fast. However, first one must think about the ways to achieve social participation. I think that the IMS members should participate in this thinking and perhaps some good ideas will come up. Please comment in the form below!

Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

Please believe me when I write that it was one of the best conferences that I have attended. Due to traffic jams I missed the first hour of so of the IMS conference. I heard two papers: one by Shulamit Marom and the other by Alona Sagi. Both were very interesting. They made me think, and this is something that I cannot say about many of the papers that I heard in other conferences. Moreover, they both presented sound recordings, and this is something that is often absent from discussions about music. You probably all know the lectures that speak about music in a highly detailed manner, assuming that everybody knows about what performance you one is speaking about, and neglecting the act of listening to the recording with the audience.

Shulamit Marom made a distinction between “Mandate songs” that were written in Tel-Aviv and other that were written in the “Yeshuv” (elsewhere). David Halperin suggested that making a distinction between the two categories will not stand scrutiny in many cases. I have little knowledge about Zemer to know whether Halperin is right. I did wonder whether our contemporary thinking of Tel-Aviv as a “bubble” that is disconnected from the rest of Israel, especially in relation to the territories and the second war in Lebanon, affected the categorization that Shulamit Maron suggested to us in her research. Anyway, Shulamit Marom’s presentation was very clear and enjoyable. It is possible to see that she is a very gifted lecturer.

Alona Sagi examined the improvisation of Miles Davies in “Walkin’” during the 50s and 60s. She observed that as time passed there was a change from “vertical thinking” to “linar thinking” on the one hand, and a tendency towards “free jazz”, on the other hand. She mentioned the presence of young and experimental musicians in the 60s as something that stimulated this change. Sagi’s transcriptions were impressive and it was fun reading them while listening to the music and hearing her comments. I am using the word “fun” on purpose, since enjoying a paper is something that should be taken for granted. It was a pity that she did not manage to finish her paper due to time limit. Although she blamed it on technical issues of handing the CD, I think that a well prepared paper would predict such problems and avoid them. In the next few days I plan to write a post on “How to give a paper in conferences: useful tips”. I wondered whether there are more social and cultural issues that affected the technical change that Sagi described in the performance of Miles Davis. I enjoyed listening to this music after so many years.

After that session, there was a general meeting of the society. It was sad to see how much money was spent on the internet site of the society. Prof. Edwin Seroussi rightly argued that three years ago it was reasonable to pay such sums for buliding a website, while today websites (at least ones on the level that was presented) are constructed almost for free. I plan to write a post about the IMS website and what I see as possibilities for the future.

The second part of the conference was devoted to “what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music”. I could not stay until the end of the conference. I had to leave an hour earlier so I did not manage to hear the paper given by Prof. Judith Cohen and people that spoke thereafter. This session was simulations very interesting and disappointing. It was fascinating to see how people deeply care about the miserable situation that there are almost no books to read in Hebrew (most of them are not updated and out of print). Some of the comments were truly illuminating (I will come back to them in a moment).

The “paper” given by Gila Flamm was disappointing. It was mainly an improvisation that amounted to a presentation of “facts” by browsing through items in the National Libraries catalog. There was little information given on the nature of the books that were mentioned, and of the frequency that people read them. There was no attempt to categorize the types of readers and the various manners that people read Hebrew books on music. There was no discussion on the history of institutions approaching the library for such books. Is this information not available?

The paper given by Elisheva Rigby had few interesting points. She said that we must be able to explain to ourselves why writing about music is essential to Israeli culture if we wish to convince others. Her argument was based on the idea that any knowledge and culture are based on discourse. She mentioned the myth of the composer at the top of the creative musicians, the performers as those who could not compose, the conductors as those who could not play an instrument, and the musicologists and critics at the bottom of the hierarchy, the perfect impotents, as those who could not do anything but talk. This myth, as Rigby said, is based on the idea of “originality” that is initiated from one source. Postmodern views demonstrate how the construction of meaning is done in a social network. In other words, the hierarchy is different and every cultural agent contributes in potentially significant ways. It seems to me that the myth of the “genius composer” is, unfortunately, sustained also among many musicologists in Israel and the world. This is why performance is regarded by many as a marginal and unimportant activity in relation to composing. The composer Zippi Fleisher said in the conference something like “what can one do, it all starts with the composer, and then one performs it, and then one writes about it”. This is an old fashioned and anachronistic view of what is happening in musical culture. Beethoven would never be famous if it would not be for music critics and musicologists who wrote about him and elevated him as a Romantic icon. We would not hear Beethoven the way we do, and he would not symbolize what he does, without the words that were written on him.

In my blog there is a poll asking why there are almost no books on music in Hebrew. Many people blamed it on the academy who demands that books will be written in English. Prof. Don Haran speculated in the conference why is it possible that the French and the Italians would never think writing in a language different than their own, and we seem to find it natural to write in English. This comment was thought provoking.

Prof. Yoash Hirshberg explained how disappointing it was to find that his book on Paul Ben-Haim is not available anymore. He was especially disappointed that his publisher Am-Oved did not find it important enough to keep a few copies of the book. He compared the Israeli publisher with Oxford University Press that published one of his books in two prints and then kept an electronic copy for anyone who might be interested. There was bitterness in his voice from the attitude of Am-Oved, whom he called “a commercial publication house” and he ended his comment by saying that in the present situation he has no motivation for writing anything more in Hebrew.

As mentioned about, I could not stay for the last session. The first session of the second part, which I just described, was not well organized. The speakers were not well-prepared (in England it is considered not serious to give a paper without reading from a text that was prepared in advance). Elisheva Rigbi gave herself too much liberty in commenting on the comments of others, something that took too much time of the session.

This session, was however, successful. It was interesting for me to hear the comments that some of them I have mentioned above. One of the fascinating comments in this session and the one before, were made my Prof. Ruth Katz. She stressed again and again that we must define our goals before we take action. It is useless to speak about low attendance of members and that fact that there are almost no students who find it important to attend the IMS conference (I agree that they must be forced to attend by making their presence obligatory for finishing their studies), if the IMS in general and Min-Ad in particular do not define their goals. With goals well-defined much can be achieved with limited energy. Without it, one is lost. It was wonderful to hear that an evening is organized in honor of her 80th birthday.

The conference, it seems to me, was successful. I wounder if any practical points for action were defined during the last session. It would be useful that in future conference smaller groups will be organized in round tables so that there will be more space for interaction. In any case, it is wonderful that Elisheva Rigbi, Rivka Elkushi and others initiated and organized this conference on around this important theme.

I will be glad if anyone who attended the conference will comment on it or on what I have written above. I am especially interested in knowing what happened in the last part that I could not attend. One of the reasons that I opened this blog is to attribute to the Israeli discourse on music. My assumption is that if we want a discourse to occur we must actively contribute to it. So please take a few minutes and comment by filling the form below or by sending me your comment for publication in this forum.

Related posts:
Here it comes מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית
Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”
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

See also
Article on the conference published in Achbar Ha-Ir

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Here it comes מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית

The program of the conference מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית? “What is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew” was announced today. The program has some papers that seem very interesting. מושב ב’\1: מוסיקה “אחרת” seems especially interesting. Alona Sagi will speak about the improvisation of Miles Davis in the recordings of “Walkin’” and Shulamit Marom will speak about Tel-Aviv songs during the British Mandat (1920-1948). Another promising paper will be given by Asaf Sheleg titled “פוליפוניות אונטולוגיות: בין היהודי לישראלי במוסיקה הישראלית האומנותית” (Ontological polyphonies: between the Jewish and the Israeli in Israeli art music).

It is always the second part
The second part of the conference which is devoted to the burning question of Hebrew literature (scholarly, semi-scholarly and non-scholarly) is unclear. Gila Flamm will give a report of what exists in the library. This has potential to be very interesting, providing that the information will be more than descriptive. It would be very interesting to know not only what books exists but also what books are being read all the time and what books simply gather dust on the shelves. This could be valuable information that could help publishers and “decision makers” decide where to invest their money.

I wrote that the second part is unclear since the titles of the papers/discussions do not say too much about the content. What does “education” stand for? Is it only to educate the two and a half students that study music today, or are we speaking about educating the government, academy, book publishers, the rich people who donate money, and the general public?

What seems as a potential problem, is that the answer to the acute problem of almost no books in Hebrew on music, seems to be known to the conference organizers. It would be perhaps better to wait and see what comes out of the conference and research of others before one jumps into conclusion. Most important, I hope that the conference will result not only with interesting papers and conversations, but also with operative actions in order to change this miserable situation.

A tale of two women
I was once invited by Áine Heneghan to give a paper in the 2005 Dublin International Conference on Music Analysis, in Ireland. Since it was an international conference with important participants from around the world (Carl Schachter, Jonathan Dunsby, and many others), Áine was very busy (she was one of the two people that I know of, who organized the conference). I asked her “are you also giving a paper in the conference?” She answered “We decided that the organizers of the conference will not give papers in this conference so that people will no say that it has bad taste that we give papers while other people are rejected from speaking in the conference”. I felt that this is indeed an admirable behavior (a year or two before I was present in a UK conference where the organizer gave two papers!). We have much to learn from Áine Heneghan.

Related posts:
Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”
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
Next post: Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

Musicology, Science and Postmodernism

There is something annoying about being a musicologist and a postmodernist. As a musicologist one is expected to be a scientist, to reach an objective truth and to say things with authority. As a postmodernist, one is expected to doubt the idea of one truth, to show various perspectives of a phenomenon and to deal with the elusive thing called: meaning. Being a musicologist and a postmodernist may seem a contradiction in terms.

There is something extremely attractive about science. It tells us stories about the truth: one truth. It gives us a sense of revelation, almost a religious one. It gives us miraculous power to control the world and to dominate it. It cures illness (often creating new ones) and promotes technological progress (are we happier?). For me, the notion of “progress” is nothing more than a superstition. Glenn Gould was aware of it, as are many others.

In the realm of music, many are still worshiping idols. It may be the romantic notion of the composer-idol. It may be a cold notion of cognition, by seeking the “grammar” behind the music. The common act of this idol worshipping is that it bypasses the concept that music meaning is something that is affected by performers, listeners and the social and cultural contexts that they live in.

Dr Flora Jersonsky-Margalit kindly pointed out an article that is relevant to this discussion. Avshlom Alizur wrote what seems to me as a simplistic article about postmodernism. I will not spend my time demonstrating why it is simplistic. Who ever is interested in reading a more comprehensive understanding of postmodernism in welcome to read first chapter of Religion Without Illusion (in Hebrew) by Dr. Gili Zivan. דת ללא אשליה

It is shocking how much time is spent on teaching how music is built while ignoring how it is experienced. A music student learns hours of harmony, counterpoint, and ear training (of the type that teaches you how to identify simple building blocks of music). The music student learns about the history of the composers (less about the history of music). Music analysis often focuses on analyzing what the composer did in his score. A better way to do things is to teach how harmonic grammar changes its meaning in different contexts. How context affects the meaning of counterpoint rules in the music of Bach and others (yes, also other composers used counterpoint…). How the same chord receives different meaning in different contexts and how very different chords sound the same in certain contexts (the music theorist Edward T. Cone wrote in 1967 a wonderful article called “Beyond analysis”).

It is true that some students start learning music with the aim of becoming composers. Yet, others simply want to play music or learn more about it in order to further enjoy it. As Eric Clark suggests in his recent articles, the crucial question is what music means. In order to deal with this question one needs to speak about performance. Performance is something social. It is a scene where certain things become more important than others. Performers, no matter whether they admit it or not, no matter whether they are conscious about it or not, always emphasize things in their performance.

Dealing with performance is one of the ways to deal with musical meaning. It is not by chance that performance studies became such a vibrant and important field in the world, when much of the academic world is increasingly influenced by postmodern thought.

Why does one cry from music? Is it because of Schenker? Is it because of the score? The score has something to do with it. However, it is only one important factor among many that play a role in the creation of musical meaning in performance.

It seems to me much more reasonable that students should compare recordings with the score and discuss the issue of interpretation. Why one interpretation is good and one is bad (the postmodernists will not like this…). Not only whether the performer is “faithful” to the score, but whether the score is “faithful” to the performer. I find both questions slightly ridiculous.

Musical meaning is a negotiation between cultural signs that are interpreted and reinterpreted. The scene is fluctuating and the “truth” depends on the performers and listeners. We can write all day about the “structure” and the “rules” of perceiving it. Yet, if one redefines in performance what in fact the structure is, than how “objective” can one be a priory to performance?

So what is the difference between a poor musical critic, who may speak about food when writing about music, and a musicologist who is supposed to transcend personal subjective metaphors and speak with slightly more authority? I will deal with this question in one of my forthcoming posts.

Finding a university post in Israel - poor government investments in the academy

Forgive me if the following will not sound modest. I write this since I think that this post deals with a serious problem that is important to many Israeli musicologists.

An important musicologist from America wrote to me: “I am happy that all is working out. Let’s hope you get the grant! I also think that you should apply for American jobs this year. The Oxford project should help your chances of securing a position. I am happy to write a recommendation for you.”

I wrote back: “Thank you very much for suggesting to write a recommendation for me.
I’m in a hard position. On the one hand my profession is very important to me and I plan to do musicological research whatever happens.
On the other hand, it is important for me at the moment to live in Israel. This is because of my family, but not only due to this reason.
Perhaps in the future I will change my mind and then possibilities will expand. The sad truth is that the chance to find a university post in Israel in music is zero in the next few years. However, one must stay optimistic!”

I am aware that I am not the only one in this position. It is very sad that there are many talented Israeli people who returned to Israel after several years of studying abroad, and found that the scene here is disappointing. In musicology it is extremely disappointing.

The department in the Tel-Aviv University is closed. Nothing offered in Haifa or Beer-Sheva. A very small department in the Hebrew University (with 4 scholars). All universities are very poor. Is there any wonder that there is so little scholarship in Hebrew in music?

People think that music research is luxurious and should be done in better times. In USA and England they pay foreign students to live there and make research of music. Why? What is their interest?

They understand that music research builds a culture and culture is power. Much of the current research on music spreads cultural values that are important for these countries. Such research changes not only the way people listen and think about music, it changes they way they think about the world in general.

Music research deals with things that are important to many people: identity, gender, sexuality, race, popular music, politics and much more. People read the books that musicologists write and are influenced by them.

Many Israelis complain that “the world does not understand us”. That “the world” often takes the side of the Arabs when it is not always clear that they are right - or even when it is clear (at least to the Israelis) that they are not. Israelis blame themselves for not being able to explain to the world our position.

This is not surprising. Israel invests huge amounts of money in its army yet so little in education and academy. However, culture and political views are defined by education and academy. Articles and books change they people think. I do not suggest that the Israeli academy must populate nationalistic views through research on music (often Israeli academy can be highly critical to the acts of the Israeli government). However, silencing Israeli musicology by financially starving it avoids it from saying anything at all!

The sad truth is that the money goes to the army since it helps certain people who work there of people who gain personal profit from this act. Actually, much of the Arab-Israeli conflict is due to the financial or other profit the people from all sides make from it (politicians, weapon reproducers and dealers, etc.).

So if Israel is interested in spreading Israeli culture and views it must divert 10% of the money that goes to the army to the academy. The army will only be stronger from this act (they will have less money to waste) and the higher education will flourish. If you think that this is nonsense then do not be surprised that no one hears the Israeli side anymore, and that young Israeli minds prefer to leave Israel and go elsewhere in order to have an academic future.

Have any thoughts on this subject? Please comments on this post.

Performance and Analysis: a response to Zecharia

Shalom Zecharia. Thank you for your interesting comment. You wrote that Roger Kamien “organizes his Beethovenian thought and music according to Schenker. It does not matter that nobody […] understands what the Schenker formulas are about. […] Kamien knows Schenker intimately and very well, and apparently understands Beethoven through him. No doubt his excellent and convincing performances are a product of this knowledge […]. Everyone hears Kamien’s convincing Beethoven, therefore Kamien’s argument for Schenker’s necessity is passively corroborated by everyone who listens to Kamiens’ Beethoven. The opinions of other musicologists or commentators do not constitute any sound argument in this regard. Would Kamien’s Beethoven sound less convincingly – and Kamien would nonetheless argue for Schenker’s necessity - then we could start citing other musicologists. Kamien is right in his position (it does not mean that his truth is the only one).”

I am not sure that Kamien’s performance (I am speaking about the one I heard in his lecture in the Tel-Aviv University about three years ago) sounded ‘convincing’ to everyone. Moreover, I am not convinced that it sounded so to everyone from the same reasons. You assume that if Kamien ‘understands’ Beethoven’s music via Schenker and plays ‘convincingly’ than it is necessarily due to a Schenkerian analysis. What about the other things originating from performers? These are also an integral part of the performance. Why do you assume that ‘the’ structure that is analyzed from the score is more influential on the listener’s experience than other things such as performer’s character, mood, performance tradition, and interaction with the audience (etc.) that influence the flow of time, articulation, tension, body language (etc.)?

The fact that Kamien relates his achievements in musical performance to the composer and to a certain analytical method does not mean that we must accept his explanation. We might, instead, choose to give him more credit than he gives himself, and to assume that Kamien is more than a faithful messenger or a tool in the hands of others. Perhaps there is something in his personality or momentary choices that make his performances as they are.

Recent post-structural research in music and in other fields demonstrates that from the point of view of perception, score originated structure (there are other structures are you know) is an important factor. Yet it is only one factor in a large net of factors that create musical meaning in the heart of the listeners.

If you are interested to read something I wrote on the subject in Hebrew you are welcome to look at my publications and press the link on a review I wrote on Eric Clarke that deals exactly with such issues.

Copyright Avior Byron 2017 .