6. Climate and Environment in Idelsohn’s History of Hebrew Music

Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

Shai Burstyn [+-]
Tel Aviv University (retired)
Shai Burstyn, Ph.D., was professor and senior faculty member of the department of musicology at Tel-Aviv University (1974-2007) and chaired it three terms. He also taught at the Mannes College of Music (New York) and was a research Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. Burstyn served on the board of ESEM (European Seminar of Ethnomusicology) and chaired the Israeli Society of Musicology. He has published extensively on various aspects of late medieval and early Renaissance music, notably medieval oral polyphony and Arab influence on medieval European music. His interest in oral music practices led him to research the early Israeli folksong (1925-1960), primarily its ambiguous relations with the music of the Middle-East and its national-ideological constraints. Burstyn is a founding member of Zemereshet, an Internet project dedicated to collecting and preserving the early Hebrew song repertory.


In this article I focus attention on A.Z. Idelsohn's views on climate and nature as shaping forces of national musics in general and of Hebrew music in particular. Idelsohn, the foremost ethnomusicologist of Jewish music in the early 20th century, completed a three-volume History of Hebrew Music, the first volume of which appeared in 1924 in Hebrew. It showed him to be very much a man of his time: on the one hand he held conservative anthropological views current in the two preceding centuries, but on the other hand he adopted positions typical to the modern thinking of his time. His rather selective use of theoretical writers such as Pitta, Buckle and Jabotinsky, served his main purpose: to form a solid foundation to his claim for the survival of ancient Hebrew music in Biblical cantillation.

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Burstyn, Shai. 6. Climate and Environment in Idelsohn’s History of Hebrew Music. Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Mar 2020. ISBN 9781781797594. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35829. Date accessed: 27 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35829. Mar 2020

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