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Toward an Analysis of Rhythm in Yiddish Song, with Josh Waletzky
Lecture #37 in Joshua Horowitz’s series, The Promiscuous World of Jewish Music
Monday, February 22, 11am Pacific Time/2pm New York/ 7pm UK/ 8pm most of Europe/ 9pm Israel
Length: 1 – 2 hours
Donations to Josh Horowitz are accepted and appreciated, but not required.
Zoom Meeting ID: 967 8901 9038
There is a Zoom limit of 100 participants. You do not need to register; simply use the sign-in info above.
Josh Waletzky will present his recently published paper,”Toward an Analysis of Rhythm in Yiddish Song,” which first proposes a theoretical framework for analyzing rhythmic structure and then takes a deep dive into the rhythmic complexities of a 90-second Yiddish folk song, “Fun groys dasad (Out of Great Anguish).” The paper proposes some novel versions of basic rhythmic concepts such as polyvalent grouping, non-hierarchical accent, unsigned time, the Yiddish back beat, and piebald rhythm. Examples are drawn from diverse sources: Shakespeare, Jewish liturgy, movie theme songs, limericks, Leonard Bernstein on conducting, double Dutch jump roping, and on and on. Unwinding the many-faceted rhythmic structures of this short unaccompanied solo song is a true journey of discovery. By resisting the temptation to normalize the oddities, one comes to appreciate the multitude of rhythmic development in this short musical form. Dozens of visual aids and, of course, the indelible audio recording of the song (from the Ruth Rubin collection now housed at the YIVO Institute and available online).
Josh Waletzky has sung, taught and composed Yiddish music all his life. He co-produced the Grammy-nominated CD Partisans of Vilna (1989), and his groundbreaking CD of original Yiddish songs, Crossing the Shadows (2001), was greeted as “a classic of the American-Jewish folk revival.” Upon the release of his newest album of original Yiddish songs, PASAZHIRN/Passengers (2017), Waletzky was hailed as “the poet-laureate of new Yiddish songwriting.” Waletzky has taught Yiddish song internationally, including at Yiddish Summer Weimar and Yiddish New York.
He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. He sound-edited the Academy Award-winning film Harlan County, USA (1976); directed the films Image Before My Eyes (1981) and Partisans of Vilna (1986); directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary film Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann (1992) and edited the Emmy Award-winning Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House (1995). Since 2005, he has directed and written the music for four documentaries on Yiddish writers, most recently With Pen and Paintbrush: Yonia Fain (2018)