Naming Angels: Victoria Hanna & Francesco Spagnolo Live in “Magic Spells”

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Performing a Hebrew Amulet

In class this week, we have been working on performance and compositional ideas stemming from our public class lab, Magic Spells. Next week, the lab will be centered on a shiviti birth amulet manuscript from Greece (dated 1871):

Amuletic Shiviti Manuscript [75.99]: ["Alef" or Birth Certificate Amulet] (Greece or Egypt, 1871)

The bottom section of this document lists biblical names of men and women on the right and left of the menorah shape:

adam ve-chavah
avraham ve-sarah
yitzchaq ve-rivqah
ya’aqov rachel ve-leah
mosheh ve-tziporah

Or (in English)

Adam | and Eve
Abraham | and Sarah
Isaac | and Rebecca
Jacob | Rachel and Leah
Moses | and Zipporah

A question lingered: where is Lilith (the female demon that the amulet is created to contain and cast off)?

Here is how the students in Jewish Nightlife performed this amulet with Victoria Hanna:

Jewish Nightlife: Student Paper Topics

 

It’s that time of the semester. Students are working on their research papers. The process was prepared by the submission, several weeks ahead of when the papers are due, of individual Abstracts, or paper proposals.

As I provided feedback to students about their abstracts, helping them in fine-tuning their sources, and choice of topics, I also tried to summarize their research topics under general headings.

This year, the focus has been on the relationship between music and ritual (by circa 50% of the students), and on the related topics of folk (mostly, paraliturgical) music, of piyyut (or the study of liturgical poetry), and of Jewish mysticism. A small but substantial group of students is instead focusing on the ever-slippery and ever-fascinating topic of “Jewish identity.”

As always, I created a simple pie chart with my summary:

Jewish Nightlife 2017 Paper Proposal Topics

As a note: if I divided the proposals by discipline, or area study, we would have a clear majority of students working on ethnography and ethnomusicology, followed by papers in anthropology, cultural history, and literature.

Jewish Nightlife | Midterm (10.19.2017)

Jewish Nightlife | Midterm Examination
Thursday, October 19, 2017

1. TEAMS

Form teams of 2, to work in “chavruta style.” (Use the memory card matching game to find your partner!). 

2. METHODS:

Each team must create one multi-media card (or research file) for each of the following 3 topics (choose one in each group, so that at the end you will have produced a total of 3 cards), using the Google Apps available to UC Berkeley students via the bConnected suite)

a) Cultural Identity & Cultural History (multi-dimensional notions of time, space, and language)

  • Sephardic
  • Ashkenazi
  • Lands of Islam  

b) Ritual and Material Culture (performances, texts, objects)

  • Prayer Book (Siddur)
  • piyyut
  • quasi-Hazzan
  • Simchat Torah

 

 

c) Music & Sound

  • chant (Psalmody; Biblical reading)
  • tune (melody; metered melody)
  • para-liturgical music

3. FORMS 

Each card must include the following elements:

  • Names and Student ID no. of each team member
  • Two short paragraphs representing different (possibly conflicting) points of view on each of the topics selected
  • Visual and sound elements (or video-with-audio)
  • Source citations (no specific style requested, as long as it is consistent in each card) for each of the elements above

COLLABORATION

Each team will share its three flash cards with the instructor for feedback:
spagnoloacht[at]berkeley.edu

Searching For (and Finding) Jewish Nightlife

A set of suggested discussion topics for a class debriefing session, following two field trips in Berkeley during the Sukkot Festival.

  1. Setting
  • Where (location, real estate, interiors)
  • How (to get there, to get inside)
  • Who (genders, ages, attires)
  • Languages (of prayer books, spoken, sung)
  • Atmosphere & relationship with locals (welcoming, unwelcoming, indifferent…)
  1. Music & Sound
  • Voices: gender, style
  • Instrumentation (yes, not, if yes: what kind/s?)
  • Melodies
  • Chants (and Modes)
  • Rhythm (clear beat; flowing rhythm)
  • Texts
  1. Body language(s)
  • Individual and group behavior
  • Dress codes and body language
  • Ritual body language (prayer leader/s vs. congregations)
  1. Food(and Drinking)
  1. Broader topics/questions
  • The “I” in the fieldwork (individual perspectives, emotions, etc.)
  • The “We” in the fieldwork (group visits)
  • Comparative approaches to fieldwork (visiting more than one site)
  • A sense of otherness
  • How it felt to be there with other students
  • The original assignment: nightlife
  • Holiday (festival of Sukkot/Simchat Torah vs. a “ regular” Shabbat evening)
  • Any other topics/questions/issues?

More on Synagogue Life (and a 360-degree panoramic view)

Samuel Heilman based his study on Synagogue Life on a participant-observer approach that combines “the ethnographic approach, which in its description embodies explanation, with the sociological one, which tends toward analytic generalization.” His research was based on a year-long fieldwork process, during which he assiduously frequented a “modern-Orthodox” synagogue in Queens, NY (which in the book he calls “Kehillat Kodesh,” or Holy Community, an alias designed to preserve the anonymity of the congregation and its members), describing what he experienced there according to a specific point of view.

Heilman considers synagogue life as “the interaction generated within and by the members of [a] synagogue.” (In the book, he refers to the synagogue with a Yiddish term, shul, that is popular among Ashkenazi Jews in the United States). Synagogues offer a specific “setting” for the interaction among individuals who, in the context of daily worship, study, and assembly, fulfill definite symbolic roles, acting within a space of “institutional sanctity.”

The symbolic roles are outlined by Heilman as those of a predefined “cast of characters.” The theatrical and performative connotations of this approach are obvious and inspiring in many ways. The characters that act on the stage of synagogue life include:

According to Heilman’s study, the characters that act on the stage of synagogue life include:

1. males and females
2. the gabbai (a dispenser of kibbudim, or ritual honors)
3. the synagogue’s lay leadership (the “President”)
4. the Chazan (cantor)
5. the “quasi-Chazan” (a figure that stands in a dynamic relationship with the cantor)
7. chiyuv and yartsayt (relating to those whose presence at services is mandated by prescribed ritual obligations, i.e., reciting a memorial prayer for deceased family members)
8. rabbinic authority [note: not necessarily a Rabbi]
9. strangers and guests
10. mendicants, beggars, shnorrers and meshulachim
11. children

The “cast of characters” moves in the architectural space of the synagogue, which is its “stage.” The website, synagogues360, provides access to synagogues across the world through 360 panoramic photographs. The closest one to Berkeley found on the site is Temple Sinai in Oakland.

Poetic Subversions: Piyyut (Hebrew poetry), Love, and Liturgy

Enter LOVE (as in, songs about).

At last!  (Follow the link for W’s entry on Etta James’ 1960 hit…)

This week, as we continue to visit Berkeley synagogues, we also focus on piyyut, aka, “Hebrew liturgical poetry.” This is the last, and crucial, “building block” in our construction of Jewish Nightlife as a research topic.

In class, we discussed the subversive nature of the addition of new poetry to the liturgy of the synagogue: a subversion carried out through language, interpretive takes on biblical narratives, a predominant focus on the ambiguous theme of divine/human love, and, of course, music.

We also focus on the history of one piyyut, with incipit (beginning words):

kol berue ma’ala umatah (“All creatures above and below” [in Heaven and on Earth])
Bakkashah with acrostic “shelomoh” (Solomon)
Attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (Malaga-Valencia, 11th ccenturyCE)

On bakkashot, see Idelsohn p. 157:

Among the Oriental and Levantine communities, there is an old custom to rise before sunset on Saturdays, to assemble in synagogues, and to sing religious songs. These songs are called BakkashothShevahoth, and Pizmonim. The authors of these songs are Jehuda Halevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Israel Najara, and many other Oriental poets who lived between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Find several musical versions of this poem (discussed by Idelsohn, p. 217), which celebrates the unity of all “creatures” in acknowledging the unity of the divine, at this link.

I published an Italian musical version of the poem in 2001. In recent years, a Jerusalem-based singer, Hadass Pal-Yarden, has popularized (in the best sense of the word) this poem according to a musical version she collected in Turkey:

But the poem has a long history, going back at least to the 17th century

Publication history (selection) of kol berue ma’ala unmatah, based on Davidson’s Thesaurus of Mediaeval Hebrew Poetry

Kol Berue publication history (Davidson no. 282)

Pay attention to the intersection between chronology and geographical span. For your convenience, I have arranged select entries (listed above and decrypted through the Thesaurus’ key) in chronological order.

1. Not dated
Bakkashot rash”ad, Ms. Bodleian Library (Oxford) n.d.

2. 17th century
Sidur tefilah, Mantua 1676

3. 18th century
Zavche shlemim, Constantinople 1728
Sidur ya’avatz (Italy), Altona (Germany) 1731
Z”Y Izmir, Smirne [Izmir] 1766
Arba’h ta’aniyot, Constantinople 1780
kapa, Mezhirov (Ukraine) 1793

4. 19th century
Yiztchaq yeranen, Jerusalem 1855
Ms. Tunis 1, Livorno 1861
Bet av, Livorno 1877
M. Argil 1, Livorno 1878
Liqute zvi hachadash, Warsaw 1879
Bet habechirah, Livorno 1880
Yigal, Jerusalem 1885
Bet ya’aqov, Tunis 1898

5. 20th century
Mishmeret hachadash, Baghdad 1908
Machzor Elohei Ya’aqov, Jerusalem 1908
Meshat Binyamin, Jerusalem 1909 (Persian)
Bakkashot yerushalayim, Jerusalem 1913
Otzar hatefilot, Vilnius 1914