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.

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Jewish Nightlife | (Un)Announced Response Exercise #3 | 12.1.2014

On the occasion of the final response exercise for Jewish Nightlife this Fall Semester, all students are asked to reflect on and practice FIELD WORK, by completing the following:

  1. Work in chavruta (pairs) by re-composing the same pairs of students already created on the occasion of our Mid-term exam
  2. Access this document via bDrive (you already know the drill…) at this shortened URL: http://bit.ly/JNLResponse4
  3. Formulate the three extremely focused questions:
    1. Jewish music and art: one question for Yair Harel (investigate his personal/artistic background, his knowledge and skills)
    2. Jewish music and research: one question for Francesco Spagnolo (investigate his personal/academic background, his knowledge and skills)
    3. Fieldwork of the Self: one question addressing your personal relationship with the specific piyyut that is assigned to your chavruta on the basis of the following parameters
      • text of piyyut
      • music of piyyut
      • culture of origin of piyyut
      • own culture(s) of chavruta partners
  4. Post your three questions (preceded by the names of each chavruta partners) on this document no later than Tuesday, December 2nd, at Noon

Select questions will be discussed and answered by the instructors on the last day of class, on Wednesday, December 3rd.

The Biography of Piyyut | PopUp Test #3

As we have discussed in class, both during lectures and during the music section, piyyutim (Hebrew liturgical poems) have many dimensions.

Moreover, each piyyut has a distinctive biography, which at the very list includes:

  • a literary history and a publication history
  • an intellectual agenda (involving the interpretation of the Bible, theology, and more)
  • a political dimension (how its performance may bring certain segments of a community together, or not)
  • a spiritual dimension (how its text and performance concur to create a defined link among those who perform it)
  • a musical dimension (how the many musical settings of each piyyut may reflect all of the above)

For today’s assignment, select one piyyut from the ones we have explored in class (also listed below), and write three short paragraphs (max 1 page) describing the following:

  1. Biography and character of the piyyut in as many dimensions possible
  2. How you believe these dimensions come together to create a spiritual impact on those who perform it and on those who participate in its ritual performance
  3. How you would describe the “essence” of the piyyut you choose? (I.e., what is the specific piyyut, text, music, and all, really about?)

As usual, create a document on bDrive and share it with your instructors (spagnoloacht[at]berkeley and yairharel[at]berkeley). Please, include your name in the title of the document. If you do not have a way to post this during class time, do so by midnight tonight.

For your convenience, here is a list of the incipits of the piyyutim that have been performed by the class during the music sections thus far:

  • Kol beruei
  • Shema’ qoli
  • Adon ‘olam
  • Ben adam
  • Rachamana de’anei
  • El eliyahu
  • Amar adonai leya’aqov
  • Qarev yom
  • Simu lev ‘al haneshamah

Planning Research: A Summer of Student Paper Proposals

Almost all abstracts/proposals for this semester’s research papers are in (as planned according to the course syllabus). As it is often the case when empowering students to select research topics according to their interests and strengths, the variety of the subjects that will be researched by the class is stunning.

From the aesthetics of 18th-century Kabbalistic musical rituals to the development of synagogue music in South India, from the cultural origins of Israeli secular shirah be-tzibur (communal singing) in nocturnal liturgies to the roles of women in the synagogue, from comparative fieldwork in UC Berkeley Jewish and Catholic student religious gatherings to the study of (religious) nightlife in Israel, Korea, and Las Vegas, our semester seems to be producing a lot of original thinking.

In the midst of this diversity, however, are some core and consistent disciplinary approaches. As outlined since the beginning of the semester, the study of (Jewish) nightlife is necessarily a multi-disciplinary endeavor, and the approaches adopted by the students in the class seems to confirm just that. (Phew!).

Below is a graph the summarizes the disciplinary trends expressed in the abstracts submitted this week:

Jewish Nightlife 2014 Research Paper Topics

There are seven groups of papers, listed in order of magnitude:

  1. Religious studies and ethnomusicology (liturgy and piyyut)
  2. Area studies (Jewish communities in the global diaspora)
  3. Musicology (Jews and popular music in America and beyond)
  4. Musicology (Jews and art music in the synagogue, 18th-20th centuries)
  5. Comparative studies (ritual and nightlife in Jewish and non-Jewish communities)
  6. Gender studies (women in Jewish ritual)
  7. Intellectual history

Now, I guess we will have to wait for the papers to flow in to see the results of this semester’s work. Looking forward…

In Search of Jewish Nightlife: Class Fieldwork in Berkeley Synagogues

Guidelines for a class debriefing session after two field trips in Berkeley at the end of 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)
  1. Food
  1. Main Topics / Big(ger) Pictures

– 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

– The original assignment: holiday (festival of Sukkot/Simchat Torah vs. a “ regular” Shabbat evening)

– Any other topics