Saturday, December 02, 2006

Yiddish Xmas



Some amazing Hebrew & Roman typography from Oded Ezer, the link courtesy of Sharon Harris.

I learned how to read Hebrew as a child -- in Hebrew school and for my Bar Mitzvah. Of course, I have hardly any idea what most of it means. Though it would be fantastic to be able to have access to another language & its literature, I also really relish the fact that I can 'read' this script, pronounce it, even have a strong emotional attachment to it, but don't have any idea what it says. I guess I should get out my "Negative Capability" t-shirt and bumper sticker for this one. In the synagogue, I find the mysterious, heterophonic chanting completely captivating, the non-Gregorian scales, the melismatic singing style with its origin in a tradition outside the West, a in opposition to the chorale/hymn model that we know from churches and Bach/Western common practice. In both the chanting and the text, I prefer not knowing what it actually means, allowing the mysterious allure of the sounds and shapes to conjure for me all types of numinous associations.

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And while we're on the subject of things Jewish, check out this amazing CD, "Oy to the World." It is traditional Christmas songs performed in Klezmer style (Jingle Bells is even sung in Yiddish.) They also throw in a few surf guitar licks, some Cream, and a few other anomalies. Thing is, the playing and the arrangments are brilliant and are not actually parodies, but just other versions. The cognitive/culture dissonance is entrancing, not to mention hilarious. The band is the Klezmonauts. The site and playable examples are here.

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