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Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. Played by professional musicians called klezmorim, the genre originally consisted largely of dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations. The genre has its origins in Eastern Europe. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 the genre morphed considerably as Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, who arrived between 1880 and 1924, met and assimilated American Jazz. During the initial decades after the "Klezmer Revival," this was what most people knew as klezmer, although in the current century musicians have begun paying attention to the "original" pre-jazz traditions as some original revivialists (e.g., Josh Horowitz, Yale Strom, Bob Cohen) spent years doing field research in Eastern/Central Europe. Additionally, late immigrants from the Soviet Union such as German Goldenshtayn brought their surviving repertoires to the United States and Israel in the 1980s.

Compared to most other European folk music styles, very little is known about the history of klezmer music, and much of what is said about it must be seen as conjecture. Starting in 2008, "The Other Europeans" project, funded by several EU cultural institutions, spent a year doing intensive field research in Moldavia under the leadership of Alan Bern and scholar Zev Feldman. Their object was to explore Klezmer and Lautari
Lautari
The Romanian word Lăutar denotes a class of traditional musicians. Most often, and by tradition, Lăutari are members of a professional clan of Romani musicians , also called Ţigani lăutari. The term is derived from Lăută the name of a string instrument...

 roots and to fuse the music of the two "other European" groups. The resulting band now performs internationally.

Origins of the term klezmer


The term klezmer comes from a combination of Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 words: kley, meaning "a useful or prepared instrument, tool, or utensil" and zemer, meaning "to make music"; leading to k'li zemer כְּלִי זֶמֶר, literally "vessels of song" = "musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

".

Originally, klezmer referred to musical instruments, and was later extended to refer, as a pejorative, to musicians themselves. From the 16th to 18th centuries older terms such as leyts (clown) gave way.. It was not until the late 20th Century that the word was used to identify a musical genre. Early twentieth century recordings and writings most often refer to the style as "Yiddish" music, although it is also sometimes called Freilech music (Yiddish, literally "Happy music"). The first recording to use the term "klezmer" to refer to the music was Andy Statman and Zev Feldman's seminal Jewish Klezmer Music.

Style


Klezmer is easily identifiable by its characteristic expressive melodies, reminiscent of the human voice, complete with laughing and weeping. This is not a coincidence; the style is meant to imitate khazone and paraliturgical singing. A number of dreydlekh
Dreydlekh
Dreydlekh or "spins" are musical ornaments of klezmer music, particularly violin, used to produce its characteristic "tear in the voice" sound....

(a Yiddish word for musical ornaments
Ornament (music)
In music, ornaments or embellishments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody , but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note...

), such as krekhts
Krekhts
Krekhts or krekhtsn are kind of dreydlekh in klezmer music, especially on the violin.In an article about , Bob Cohen of Di Naye Kapelye describes krekhts as "a sort of weeping or hiccoughing combination of backwards slide and flick of the little finger high above the base note, while the bow...

 ('sobs') are used to produce this style.

Above all the musical styles which influenced the traditional Klezmer musicians, the Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n influence seems to be the strongest and most enduring. Traditional Romanian music was heard, adopted and adapted by Klezmer musicians. This fact is reflected in the dance forms found throughout the entire surviving Klezmer music repertoire (e.g., Horas, Doina
Doina
The Doina is a Romanian musical tune style, with Middle Eastern roots, that can be found in Romanian peasant music, as well as in Lăutărească and Klezmer music.-Origins and characteristics:...

s, Sirbas and Bulgars etc.).

History


The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 has several descriptions of orchestras and Levites making music, but after the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in 70 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, many Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s discouraged musical instruments. However, the importance of merrymaking at weddings was not diminished, and musicians came forth to fill that niche, klezmorim. The first klezmer known by name was Yakobius ben Yakobius, a player of the aulos
Aulos
An aulos or tibia was an ancient Greek wind instrument, depicted often in art and also attested by archaeology.An aulete was the musician who performed on an aulos...

 in Samaria
Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

 in the 2nd century CE. The earliest written record of the klezmorim is in the 15th century. It should be noted that it is unlikely that they played music recognizable as klezmer today since the style and structure of klezmer as we know it today is thought to have come largely from 19th century Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

, where the bulk of today's traditional repertoire was written.

Klezmorim based their secular instrumental music upon the devotional vocal music of the synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

, in particular cantor
Hazzan
A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish cantor, a musician trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources...

ial music. Even so, klezmorim — along with other entertainers — were typically looked down on by Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s because of their secular traveling lifestyle. Klezmorim often travelled and played with Roma musicians ("lăutari"), since they occupied similar social positions. They had a great influence on each other musically and linguistically (the extensive klezmer argot in Yiddish includes some Roma borrowings).
Klezmorim were respected for their musical abilities and diverse repertoire but they were by no means restricted to playing klezmer. Christian churches would sometimes ask for their services, and some Italian classical violin virtuosos received their instruction. Local aristocracy held the best klezmer in high regard and often used their services.

Like other professional musicians, klezmorim were often limited by authorities. Ukrainian restrictions lasting into the 19th century banned them from playing loud instruments. Hence musicians took up the violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

, tsimbl (or cymbalom), and other string instruments. The first musician to bring klezmer to European concert audiences, Josef Gusikov
Josef Gusikov
thumb|right|Joseph Gusikov, from Lewald's 'Europa' . Engraving by [[Josef Kriehuber]]Michal Josef Gusikov was a klezmer who gave the first performances of klezmer music to West European concert audiences on his 'wood and straw instrument'.- Gusikov and his instrument :thumb|left|Gusikow's...

, played a type of xylophone
Xylophone
The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...

 of his own invention, which he called a 'wood and straw instrument', laid out like a cymbalom, and attracted comments from Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 (highly favourable) and Liszt
Liszt
Liszt is a Hungarian surname. Notable persons with that surname include:* Franz Liszt , Hungarian composer and pianist* Adam Liszt , father of Franz Liszt* Anna Liszt , mother of Franz Liszt...

 (condemnatory). Later, around 1855 under the reign of Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

, Ukraine permitted loud instruments. The clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 started to replace the violin as the instrument of choice. Also, a shift towards brass and percussion happened when klezmorim were conscripted into military bands.

As Jews left Eastern Europe and the shtetl
Shtetl
A shtetl was typically a small town with a large Jewish population in Central and Eastern Europe until The Holocaust. Shtetls were mainly found in the areas which constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia and Romania...

s, klezmer has spread throughout the globe, especially to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Initially, not much of the klezmer tradition was maintained by U.S. Jews, there were only a few Yiddish folk singers. In the 1920s the clarinetists Dave Tarras
Dave Tarras
Dave Tarras was possibly the most famous 20th century klezmer musician. He is known for his long career and his very skilled clarinet playing.-Biography:...

 and Naftule Brandwein
Naftule Brandwein
Naftule Brandwein, or Naftuli Brandwine, was a Jewish clarinetist and influential klezmer musician.- Early life :Brandwein was born in Przemyslany, Poland-Galicia , into a family of klezmer musicians, part of the Stretiner Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Yehuda Hirsch Brandwein of Stratin...

 caused a brief, influential revival, although it has been noted by Hankus Netsky
Hankus Netsky
Hankus Netsky is an American klezmer musician, teacher, composer, and researcher. He is a founding member and director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band as well as research directory for the Klezmer Conservatory Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching and perpetuating Jewish...

 that "few of the performers of this era actually referred to themselves as klezmorim, and the term is found nowhere in any Jewish instrumental recording of the time." The soprano Isa Kremer
Isa Kremer
Isa Kremer: The People's Diva, is a documentary produced in 2000 and directed by Nina Baker Feinberg and Ted Schillinger. It focuses on Isa Kremer, an international singing sensation.-Summary:...

 was a popular exponent of Yiddish song internationally during the first half of the 20th century; notably making several recordings with Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 and appearing often at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 and other major venues in the United states from 1922-1950. But as U.S. Jews began to adopt mainstream culture, the popularity of klezmer slowly waned, and Jewish celebrations were increasingly accompanied by non-Jewish music.

While traditional performances may have been on the decline, many Jewish composers who had secured mainstream success, such as Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

 and Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers"...

, continued to be influenced by the klezmeric idioms heard during their youth (as Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

 had been). Many believe that Gershwin was influenced by the Yiddish of his youth, and that the opening of "Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue is a musical composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band written in 1924, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects....

" was a nod to klezmer clarinetting. And, much of Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

's clarinet style can be interpreted as having been derived from klezmer.

At the same time, non-Jewish composers were also turning to klezmer for a prolific source of fascinating thematic material. Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

, in particular, admired klezmer music for embracing both the ecstasy and the despair of human life and quoted several melodies in his chamber
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 masterpieces, the Piano Quintet in G minor, op. 57
Piano Quintet (Shostakovich)
The Piano Quintet in G Minor, opus 57, by Dmitri Shostakovich is one of his best known chamber works. Like most piano quintets, it is written for piano and string quartet ....

 (1940), the Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, op. 67
Piano Trio No. 2 (Shostakovich)
The Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67, by Dmitri Shostakovich was written in 1944, in the midst of World War II.-Composition history:The composition was dedicated to Shostakovich's good friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, a Russian polymath and avid musician, who had recently died at age 41. The work...

 (1944), and the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, op. 110
String Quartet No. 8 (Shostakovich)
Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 in C minor was written in three days . It was premiered that year in Leningrad by the Beethoven Quartet....

 (1960).

In the late 1970s there was a klezmer revival in the United States and Europe, led by Giora Feidman
Giora Feidman
Giora Feidman is an Argentinian-born Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music.-Biography:Giora Feidman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where his Bessarabian Jewish parents immigrated to escape persecution. Feidman comes from a family of klezmer musicians...

, Zev Feldman, Andy Statman
Andy Statman
Andy Statman is a noted Klezmer clarinetist and bluegrass/newgrass mandolinist.Andy Statman was born in Brooklyn, New York City. He first gained acclaim as a mandolinist in pioneering bluegrass bands Country Cookin' and Breakfast Special. Statman, who grew up in a traditional but secular Jewish...

, The Klezmorim
The Klezmorim
The Klezmorim was a klezmer band formed in 1975. They are widely credited with spearheading the worldwide revival of klezmer music in the 1970s and 1980s....

, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band
Klezmer Conservatory Band
The Klezmer Conservatory Band is an Boston-based group which performs traditional klezmer music; it was formed by Hankus Netsky of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1980. Originally formed for a single concert, they have gone on to release eleven albums....

. They drew their repertoire from recordings and surviving musicians of U.S. klezmer. In 1985 Henry Sapoznik
Henry Sapoznik
Henry "Hank" Sapoznik העניק סאַפאַזשניק is an award winning author, record and radio producer and performer of traditional Yiddish and American music. With MacArthur Fellow David Isay, he produced the 10-week radio series the on the history of Jewish broadcasting for NPR’s All Things Considered...

 and Adrienne Cooper founded KlezKamp
KlezKamp
KlezKamp is a yearly Klezmer music and Yiddish culture festival which takes place in late December in New York State. Founded in 1984, participants come from all over the world, but especially the East Coast of the United States and Canada, for a week of immersion in the culture and the chance to...

 to teach klezmer and other Yiddish music.

Shortly thereafter, in the 1980s, there was a second revival as interest grew in more traditionally inspired performances with string instruments, largely with non-Jews of the United States and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Musicians began to track down older European klezmer, by listening to recordings, finding transcriptions, and making field recordings of the few klezmorim left in Eastern Europe. Key performers in this style are Joel Rubin
Joel Rubin
Joel Rubin is a Jewish musician known for being a leading performer of klezmer music.He studied with Richard Stoltzman and Kalmen Opperman, attended the California Institute of the Arts and received a BFA from the State University of New York at Purchase. Rubin holds a Ph.D...

, Budowitz
Budowitz
Budowitz are a klezmer band incorporating 19th century instruments and themes from the folk music of Bessarabia, Galicia and Bukovina, into their music. Its members live in Hungary, Germany and the United States...

, Khevrisa, Di Naye Kapelye
Di Naye Kapelye
Di Naye Kapelye is a Hungarian klezmer music group. The band formed in Budapest in 1993, and perform frequently throughout Europe. Their lyrics are primarily in Yiddish and Hungarian.-Members:...

, The Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, the violinists Alicia Svigals
Alicia Svigals
Alicia Svigals is an American violinist and composer, is a founder of the Grammy-winning band The Klezmatics and is considered by many to be the world's foremost living klezmer fiddler.-Life and career:...

, Steven Greenmanhttp://www.stevengreenman.com and Cookie Segelstein, the flutist Adrianne Greenbaum, and the tsimbl player Pete Rushefsky. Other artists, like Yale Strom
Yale Strom
Yale Strom is a pioneer among klezmer revivalists in conducting extensive field research in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans among the Jewish and Rom communities since 1981. Initially, his work focused primarily on the use and performance of klezmer music between these two groups...

 used their first-hand research as a foundation for more of a fusion between traditional repertoire and original compositions, as well as incorporating the Rom (Gypsy) music element into the Jewish style. Bands like Brave Old World, Hot Pstromi and the Klezmatics also emerged during this period.

In the 1990s, musicians from the San Francisco Bay Area also helped revive interest in Klezmer music by taking it into new territory. Clarinetist Ben Goldberg played in Bay Area-based Klezmorim, and formed the critically acclaimed New Klezmer Trio with drummer Kenny Wollesen. The New Klezmer trio kicked open the door for radical experiments with Ashkenazi music and paved the way for John Zorn's Masada, Naftule's Dream, Don Byron's Mickey Katz project and violinist Daniel Hoffman's band Davka. The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars http://www.klezmers.com also formed in 1991 with a mixture of New Orleans Funk, Jazz, and Klezmer styles.

Interest in klezmer was sustained and supported by well-known avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 musicians like John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Zorn is a prolific artist: he has hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, or producer...

 and Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist. He primarily plays clarinet, but has also used bass clarinet and saxophones....

, who sometimes blend klezmer with jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

. Klezmer melodies have also more recently been incorporated into songs by third-wave Ska
Ska
Ska |Jamaican]] ) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues...

 band Streetlight Manifesto
Streetlight Manifesto
Streetlight Manifesto is an American punk band with many influences from different genres including ska, from New Brunswick, New Jersey fronted by Tomas Kalnoky....

. Singer/songwriter Tomas Kalnoky
Tomas Kalnoky
Tomas Kalnoky is a Czech-born American musician. He is the lead singer/guitarist and songwriter of the bands Streetlight Manifesto and Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, and goes by the pseudonym Toh Kay as a solo performer...

 frequently slips in horn licks with Russian and Jewish origins.

Repertoire


According to Walter Zev Feldman, the klezmer dance repertoire seems to have been relatively uniform across the areas of Jewish settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

 in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

.
Much of the traditional klezmer repertoire was written by professional klezmer musicians in the style of their region or tradition, and a lot of co-territorial music such as non-Jewish folksongs, especially Romanian music (mainly from Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

), as well as Ukrainian music and Ottoman music, and the musics of other minorities living in the same areas as Jews in Southeastern Europe such as Crimean Tatars
Crimean Tatars
Crimean Tatars or Crimeans are a Turkic ethnic group that originally resided in Crimea. They speak the Crimean Tatar language...

.

Historically, young klezmorim learned songs from their family and their elders in bands. However, there were several breaks in history where this transmission broke down, including mass emigration but especially the Holocaust which destroyed most of Jewish life and culture in Europe. Few scions of klezmer dynasties remained in Europe, one notable exception being Leopold Kozlowski of Poland.

Undoubtedly, a lot has been lost of whatever repertoire they played in different regions, especially wedding repertoire, since Jewish wedding
Jewish wedding
A Jewish wedding is a wedding ceremony that follows Jewish law and traditions.While wedding ceremonies vary, common features of a Jewish wedding include a ketuba signed by two witnesses, a wedding canopy , a ring owned by the groom that is given to the bride under the canopy, and the breaking of a...

s would last several days, but technology of the time could only record a few minutes at a time. As well, some recordings may have been made from one area which did not at all represent the klezmer repertoire from other parts of the region. Fortunately, there remained a few older klezmorim, such as Leon Schwartz
Leon Schwartz
Leon Schwartz was a klezmer and classical music violinist who was born in Karapchiv, Ukrainian Bukovina and lived most of his life in New York City...

, Dave Tarras
Dave Tarras
Dave Tarras was possibly the most famous 20th century klezmer musician. He is known for his long career and his very skilled clarinet playing.-Biography:...

 and German Goldenshtayn, who were able to recall some of this repertoire. Also, some transcriptions were done in the 19th century. As well, some ethnomusicological work from Jewish Eastern Europe is still available in print, notably the work of Ukrainian
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 Jewish field researcher Moshe Beregovski
Moshe Beregovski
Moshe Beregovski, or Moisei Iakovlevich Beregovskii , was a Ukrainian Jewish folklorist and ethnomusicologist. He has been called the "foremost ethnomusicologist of Eastern European Jewry"...

.

In the 21st century, klezmer is typically learned from "fake book
Fake book
A fake book is a collection of musical lead sheets intended to help a performer quickly learn new songs. Each song in a fake book contains the melody line, basic chords, and lyrics - the minimal information needed by a musician to make an impromptu arrangement of a song, or "fake it."The fake book...

s" and transcriptions
Transcription (music)
In music, transcription can mean notating a piece or a sound which was previously unnotated, as, for example, an improvised jazz solo. Further examples include ethnomusicological notation of oral traditions of folk music, such as Béla Bartók's and Ralph Vaughan Williams' collections of the national...

 of old recordings, although the music was traditionally transmitted and learned by ear.

Song types


Most klezmer pieces are intended to be danced to, from fast to slow tempo:
  • Freylekhs (also Bulgar, bulgarish — literally "Bulgaria
    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

    n", volekhl/vulekhl — literally "Wallachian", or "Romanian") is a (3+3+2 = 8)/8
    Time signature
    The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

     circle dance, usually in the Ahava Rabboh
    Phrygian dominant scale
    In music, the altered Phrygian scale or Freygish scale , featuring an unusual key signature and a distinctive augmented second interval, is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant...

     melodic mode. Typically piano, accordion, or bass plays a duple oom-pah beat. These are by far the most popular klezmer dances. The name "Bulgar" (Yiddish "bulgarish") comes from the Romanian traditional song/dance (Romanian
    Romanian language
    Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

     "bulgarească"). "Freylekh" is the Yiddish word for "festive."
  • Sher
    Sher (dance)
    A sher or sherele is a dance and musical form in Eastern European Jewish folk music, notably Klezmer music.The sher is a set dance in 4/4 march-like tempo. The set is made up of four couples in a square formation, similar to a quadrille or square dance formation...

     is a set dance
    Set dance
    Set dancing, sometimes called "country sets", are a popular form of folk dancing in Ireland. Set dances are based on quadrilles. The latter were court dances which were transformed by the Irish into a unique folk dance of the Irish rural communities...

     in 2/4. It is one of the most common klezmer dances. Its name comes from the straight-legged, quick movements of the legs, reminiscent of the shears (Yiddish: sher) of tailors.
  • Khosidl, or khusidl, named after the Hasidic Jews who danced it, is a more dignified embellished dance in 2/4 or 4/4. The dance steps can be performed in a circle or in a line.
  • Hora or zhok is a Romanian
    Romanians
    The Romanians are an ethnic group native to Romania, who speak Romanian; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania....

    -style dance in a hobbling 3/8 time with beats on 1 and 3, and is even more embellished. The Israeli
    Culture of Israel
    The culture of Israel developed long before the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 and combines the heritage of secular and religious lives. Much of the diversity in Israel's culture comes from the diversity of its population...

     hora
    Hora
    Hora is a type of circle dance originating in the Balkans but also found in other countries. The name is cognate to the Greek χορός : 'dance' which is cognate with the ancient Greek art form of χορεία; see Chorea. The original meaning of the Greek word χορός may have been 'circle'...

     derives its roots from the Romania
    Romania
    Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

    n hora. The Yiddish name "zhok" comes from the Romanian term "joc" (literally "dance")
  • Kolomeike
    Kolomyjka
    The kolomyjka is a Ukrainian folk dance especially popular in southwestern Ukraine. It originated in the eastern Galician town of Kolomyia...

     is a fast and catchy dance in 2/4 time, which originated in Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

    , and is prominent in the folk music of that country.
  • Terkish is a 4/4 dance like the habanera
    Habanera
    Habanera may refer to:*"Habanera" , an aria from Bizet's Carmen*Habanera , a 1984 Cuban film*La Habanera , a 1937 German movie...

    . Terk in America is one famous arrangement by Naftule Brandwein
    Naftule Brandwein
    Naftule Brandwein, or Naftuli Brandwine, was a Jewish clarinetist and influential klezmer musician.- Early life :Brandwein was born in Przemyslany, Poland-Galicia , into a family of klezmer musicians, part of the Stretiner Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Yehuda Hirsch Brandwein of Stratin...

    , who used this form extensively. As its name indicates, it recalls Turkish styles.
  • Skotshne ("hopping") could be an instrumental display piece, but also a dance piece, like a more elaborate freylekhs.
  • Nigun
    Nigun
    A nigun or niggun is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as "bim-bim-bam" or "ai-ai-ai!" instead of formal lyrics. Sometimes, Bible verses or quotes from other classical Jewish texts are sung repetitively to form a nigun...

     means "melody
    Melody
    A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

    " in both Yiddish and Hebrew
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

    , a mid-paced song in 2/4.
  • Waltz
    Waltz
    The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

    es were very popular, whether classical, Russian, or Polish. A padespan was a sort of Russian/Spanish waltz known to klezmers.
  • Mazurka
    Mazurka
    The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the third or second beat.-History:The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow machine...

     and polka
    Polka
    The polka is a Central European dance and also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia...

    , Polish and Czech dances, respectively, were often played for both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Csárdás
    Csárdás
    Csárdás is a traditional Hungarian folk dance, the name derived from csárda . It originated in Hungary and was popularized by Roma music bands in Hungary and neighboring lands of Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Burgenland, Croatia, Ukraine, Transylvania and Moravia, as well as among the Banat...

     is a Hungarian
    Hungary
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

     dance popular among the Jews of Hungary
    Hungary
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

    , Slovakia
    Slovakia
    The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

    , and the Carpathians
    Carpathian Mountains
    The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe...

    . It started off slowly and gradually increased in tempo.
  • Sirba — a Romania
    Romania
    Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

    n dance in 2/2 or 2/4 (Romanian "sârbă
    Sârba
    A Sârba or Sîrba is a Romanian dance normally played in 2/2 or 2/4 time. It can be danced in a circle, line, or couple formations and was historically popular not only among Romanians, but also Ukrainians, Hungarians, East European Jews, and the Poles of the Tatra Mountains...

    ". It features hopping steps and short bursts of running, accompanied by triplets in the melody
    Melody
    A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

    .
  • Humoresque
    Humoresque
    Humoresque is a genre of romantic music characterized by pieces with fanciful humor in the sense of mood rather than wit. The name refers to the German term Humoreske, which was given from the 1800s onward to humorous tales....

     'Halaka' dance, a traditional Israeli dance from Safed
    Safed
    Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

     in Galilee
    Galilee
    Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

    ; it has an ancient melody handed down from generation to generation.
  • Tango
    Tango (dance)
    Tango dance originated in the area of the Rio de la Plata , and spread to the rest of the world soon after....

     — well-known dance that originated in Argentina
    Argentina
    Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

    . These were extremely popular around the world in the 1930s, and many Eastern European tangos were originally written by Jews.


Additionally, there are types not designed for dance:
  • Doina
    Doina
    The Doina is a Romanian musical tune style, with Middle Eastern roots, that can be found in Romanian peasant music, as well as in Lăutărească and Klezmer music.-Origins and characteristics:...

     is an improvisational lament usually performed solo, and is extremely important in weddings. Its basis is the Romanian shepherd's lament, so it has an expressive vocal quality, like the singing of the khazn. Although it has no form, it is not just random sounds in a Jewish mode
    Musical mode
    In the theory of Western music since the ninth century, mode generally refers to a type of scale. This usage, still the most common in recent years, reflects a tradition dating to the middle ages, itself inspired by the theory of ancient Greek music.The word encompasses several additional...

    —the musician works with very particular references to Jewish prayer and East European laments. Often these references might occur in the form of harmonic movements or modal maneuvers which quote or otherwise invoke traditional Jewish cantorial practices. Typically it is performed on violin, cymbalom or clarinet, though has been done on everything from banjo
    Banjo
    In the 1830s Sweeney became the first white man to play the banjo on stage. His version of the instrument replaced the gourd with a drum-like sound box and included four full-length strings alongside a short fifth-string. There is no proof, however, that Sweeney invented either innovation. This new...

    es to xylophone
    Xylophone
    The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...

    s. Often it is the first of a 3-part set, followed by a hora
    Hora
    Hora is a type of circle dance originating in the Balkans but also found in other countries. The name is cognate to the Greek χορός : 'dance' which is cognate with the ancient Greek art form of χορεία; see Chorea. The original meaning of the Greek word χορός may have been 'circle'...

    , then either a freylekhs or khusidl. One can hear recordings of contemporary vocalists singing the doina, including Michael Alpert and Elizabeth Schwartz.
  • Taksim
    Taksim
    Taksim was the objective of Turkish Cypriots who supported a partition of the island of Cyprus into Turkish and Greek portions, a concept declared as early as 1957 by Dr. Fazil Küçük...

     is a freeform prelude that introduces the motifs of the following piece, which is usually a freylekhs; it was largely supplanted by the doina.
  • Fantazi or fantasy is a freeform song, traditionally played at Jewish weddings to the guests as they dined. It resembles the fantasia
    Fantasia (music)
    The fantasia is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form ....

     of "light" classical music.

Song structure


Most klezmer songs are in several sections, sometimes with each in a different key
Key (music)
In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a specific key, such as in the key of C major or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the...

. Frequently sections alternate between major
Major scale
In music theory, the major scale or Ionian scale is one of the diatonic scales. It is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher. In solfege these notes correspond to the syllables "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, ", the "Do" in the parenthesis at...

 and minor
Minor scale
A minor scale in Western music theory includes any scale that contains, in its tonic triad, at least three essential scale degrees: 1) the tonic , 2) a minor-third, or an interval of a minor third above the tonic, and 3) a perfect-fifth, or an interval of a perfect fifth above the tonic, altogether...

 keys. Klezmer music often uses "folk scales," or scales commonly found in folk music, such as the harmonic minor and modified phrygian. Instrumental songs often follow the type of chord progressions found in Middle Eastern and Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 music, whereas vocal Yiddish songs are often much simpler, and follow a style and chord progressions similar to Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n folk songs.

Freylekhs are often in the form ABCB, which is rare in music. Having a third distinct section is a relatively unique aspect of klezmer music.

A common ending for songs is an upwards chromatic
Chromatic scale
The chromatic scale is a musical scale with twelve pitches, each a semitone apart. On a modern piano or other equal-tempered instrument, all the half steps are the same size...

 run or glissando
Glissando
In music, a glissando is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, to glide. In some contexts it is distinguished from the continuous portamento...

, followed by a slow staccato
Staccato
Staccato is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation it signifies a note of shortened duration and separated from the note that may follow by silence...

 8-5-1. They may also end with a Coda, a new melodic line that is accompanied by a change in the percussion rhythm and an increase in tempo. It is played all over the world.

Orchestration


Klezmer is generally instrumental, although at weddings klezmorim traditionally accompany the wedding entertainer. A typical 19th century European orchestra would have included a first violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

, a contra-violin (or modified 3-stringed viola
Viola
The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

 also called Groyse Fidl [Yid. Big Fiddle], Sekund, Kontra or Zsidó Bratsch [Hun.]), a tsimbl (cimbalom or hammered dulcimer
Hammered dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over a trapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand, at an angle, before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings...

), a bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

 or cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

, and sometimes a flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

. The melody is generally assigned to the lead violin, while the remainder providing harmony, rhythm and some counterpoint (the latter usually coming from the second violin or viola). The inclusion of Jews in tsarist army bands during the 19th century led to the introduction of typical military band instruments into klezmer. Brass instruments eventually inherited a counter-voice role, amongst which the French valved cornet
Cornet
The cornet is a brass instrument very similar to the trumpet, distinguished by its conical bore, compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B. It is not related to the renaissance and early baroque cornett or cornetto.-History:The cornet was...

 and the keyed German trumpet
Trumpet
The trumpet is the musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BCE. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound which starts a standing wave vibration in the air...

. Modern klezmer instrumentation is more commonly influenced by the instruments of the 19th century military bands than the earlier orchestras.The orchestration employed by Joel Rubin
Joel Rubin
Joel Rubin is a Jewish musician known for being a leading performer of klezmer music.He studied with Richard Stoltzman and Kalmen Opperman, attended the California Institute of the Arts and received a BFA from the State University of New York at Purchase. Rubin holds a Ph.D...

 – one of the most experienced and knowledgeable contemporary klezmer musicians – represents a historically justified link with that of contemporary ethnic music ensembles of Romania and Hungary.

Klezmer percussion tended, in early 20th Century recordings, to be minimal, no more than a wood block
Wood block
A woodblock is essentially a small piece of slit drum made from a single piece of wood and used as a percussion instrument. It is struck with a stick, making a characteristically percussive sound....

 or snare drum
Snare drum
The snare drum or side drum is a melodic percussion instrument with strands of snares made of curled metal wire, metal cable, plastic cable, or gut cords stretched across the drumhead, typically the bottom. Pipe and tabor and some military snare drums often have a second set of snares on the bottom...

. (The snare drum is the more "authentic" of the two. The use of a wood block by modern klezmorim is the result of an attempt to imitate recordings from the early 20th Century, in which snare drums, whose volume tended to overwhelm the primitive recording equipment of the time, were replaced with quieter instruments.) In Eastern Europe percussion was often provided by a drummer who played a frame drum
Frame drum
A frame drum is a drum that has a drumhead width greater than its depth. Usually the single drumhead is made of rawhide or man-made materials. Shells are traditionally constructed of bent wood scarf jointed together; plywood and man-made materials are also used. Some frame drums have mechanical...

, or a poyk, sometimes called baraban. A poyk is similar to a bass drum
Bass drum
Bass drums are percussion instruments that can vary in size and are used in several musical genres. Three major types of bass drums can be distinguished. The type usually seen or heard in orchestral, ensemble or concert band music is the orchestral, or concert bass drum . It is the largest drum of...

, and often has a cymbal or piece of metal mounted on top. In Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia, sometimes the pikeler would also play in the tapan style, i.e., with a switch in one hand on a thin tight head, and a mallet in the other, on a thicker, looser head.
Some Klezmer revival bands look to loud-instrument klezmer, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, and Dixieland
Dixieland
Dixieland music, sometimes referred to as Hot jazz, Early Jazz or New Orleans jazz, is a style of jazz music which developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, and was spread to Chicago and New York City by New Orleans bands in the 1910s.Well-known jazz standard songs from the...

 for inspiration. Their band is similar to a typical jazz band, with some differences. They use a clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 for the melody, and make great use of the trombone
Trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

 for slides and other flourishes. When a cymbalom sound is called for, a piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 is played with sustain. There is usually a brass instrument
Brass instrument
A brass instrument is a musical instrument whose sound is produced by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips...

 ensemble, and sometimes there is a tuba for a bass. Performers in this style include The Klezmatics
The Klezmatics
The Klezmatics are a Grammy Award-winning American klezmer music group based in New York City, who have achieved fame singing in several languages, most notably mixing older Yiddish tunes with other types of more contemporary music of differing origins...

, Klezmer Conservatory Band
Klezmer Conservatory Band
The Klezmer Conservatory Band is an Boston-based group which performs traditional klezmer music; it was formed by Hankus Netsky of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1980. Originally formed for a single concert, they have gone on to release eleven albums....

 and The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. Other klezmer bands look back to different eras or regions, and attempt to recreate specific styles of klezmer—for example, Budowitz
Budowitz
Budowitz are a klezmer band incorporating 19th century instruments and themes from the folk music of Bessarabia, Galicia and Bukovina, into their music. Its members live in Hungary, Germany and the United States...

, the Chicago Klezmer Band, Veretski Pass, and the album "Maramoros: the Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania" by the Hungarian band Muzsikas
Muzsikás
Muzsikás is a Hungarian musical group playing mainly folk music of Hungary and other countries and peoples of the region. Established in 1973, it has also played works by classical composers, especially Béla Bartók, who himself collected folk tunes...

.

Klezmer instrument choices were based, by necessity, on an instrument's portability. Music was required for several parts of the wedding ceremony, which took place in different rooms or courtyards, and the band would be required to relocate quickly from space to space. Further, klezmorim were usually itinerant musicians, who would move from town to town as their services were required. Therefore, instruments which could be held in the hands (clarinet, violin, trumpet) or supported by a neck or shoulder strap (accordion, cimbalom, drum) were favored over those which rested on the ground (cello, bass violin) or needed several people to move (piano).

In America, this trend continued, with hand- or strap-held instruments like guitars, saxophones, and even harmonicas being integrated into klezmer ensembles more than larger instruments. The average American klezmeer wedding band, for instance, uses a portable electronic synthesizer, not a piano.

Time


In its historic form, klezmer was live music designed to facilitate dancing. Hence, the tempo would be altered as dancers tired — or better dancers joined in. Trying to maintain a steady tempo was counterproductive. Vocal songs would also come to a near-halt as the bandleader sang a particularly sad part, perhaps picking up slowly and eventually bursting into happy song once more (this is a feature of many Rom and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n folk songs as well).

Like other musicians of their time, and many modern Jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 performers, early klezmorim did not rigidly follow the beat. Often they would slightly lead or trail it, giving a lilting sound.

Melodic modes


Klezmer is usually played in shteygerim, prayer modes of the synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

. They are closely related to Greek, Turkish, and other "co-territorial" modes of Southeastern and Central Europe. The following are the names of these modes; the names are taken from the names of familiar prayers that use that mode (imagine an American composer referring to a piece as "a Grand Old Flag" instead of as "a march").

Ahavo Rabboh


Ahavo Rabboh means "Abounding Love" in Hebrew, and refers to a prayer from the daily morning prayer
Jewish services
Jewish prayer are the prayer recitations that form part of the observance of Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book....

 service (shacharis). It is built on the fifth degree of the harmonic minor scale, with a descending tetrachord
Descending tetrachord
In music theory, the descending tetrachord is a series of four notes from a scale, or tetrachord, arranged in order from highest to lowest, or descending order. For example --- , as created by the Andalusian cadence. The descending tetrachord may fill a perfect fourth or a chromatic...

 to the tonic being the most characteristic final cadence. It is also called the "Freygish
Phrygian dominant scale
In music, the altered Phrygian scale or Freygish scale , featuring an unusual key signature and a distinctive augmented second interval, is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant...

", a Yiddish term derived from the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 "Phrygisch", or Phrygian mode
Phrygian mode
The Phrygian mode can refer to three different musical modes: the ancient Greek tonos or harmonia sometimes called Phrygian, formed on a particular set octave species or scales; the Medieval Phrygian mode, and the modern conception of the Phrygian mode as a diatonic scale, based on the latter...

 (specifically, the Phrygian dominant scale
Phrygian dominant scale
In music, the altered Phrygian scale or Freygish scale , featuring an unusual key signature and a distinctive augmented second interval, is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant...

). It is considered the mode of supplication. It is similar to the Arabic Hijaz maqam
Arabic maqam
Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

. Most Klezmer makes use of the D Ahavah Rabboh scale (such as Nigun Rikud, Tish Nigun and numerous freylekhs), although there exist some that use other scales.

Mi Shebeirach


Mi Shebeirach means "He who blessed" in Hebrew, from the Mi Shebeirach prayer, recited after the honor of being called to the Torah reading. It is also called the Ukrainian, Altered Ukrainian, Doina, or Altered Dorian
Dorian mode
Due to historical confusion, Dorian mode or Doric mode can refer to three very different musical modes or diatonic scales, the Greek, the medieval, and the modern.- Greek Dorian mode :...

. It has a raised fourth, and is used often for the doina
Doina
The Doina is a Romanian musical tune style, with Middle Eastern roots, that can be found in Romanian peasant music, as well as in Lăutărească and Klezmer music.-Origins and characteristics:...

 or dance pieces, like the Odessa Bulgar. When used in combination with the Ahavoh Rabboh scale in the same piece (as in Mayn Shtetl Yas), the Mi Shebeirach section is usually a whole tone below the Ahavoh Rabboh scale (for example, D Ahavoh Rabboh changes to C Mi Shebeirach or vice versa).

Adoyn-y Moloch


Adoyn-y Moloch means "my Lord reigns" in Hebrew. It is common in traditional synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 services (they are the beginning words of many of the Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

). It is similar to the Western Mixolydian mode and the Arabic Maqam Sigah.

Mogen Ovoys


Mogen Ovoys means "our forebears' shield" in Hebrew. It is an older mode from the synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

, derived from the Friday night prayers. It is similar to the Western natural minor scale
Minor scale
A minor scale in Western music theory includes any scale that contains, in its tonic triad, at least three essential scale degrees: 1) the tonic , 2) a minor-third, or an interval of a minor third above the tonic, and 3) a perfect-fifth, or an interval of a perfect fifth above the tonic, altogether...

 and the Arabic Bayati Maqam
Bayati (maqam)
Bayātī , AKA Bayat and Uşşâk , is the name of a maqam in Arabic, Turkish, and related systems of music.Boyati the word is come from Ariabic word Bayatiبياتي).Some of Islamic caste of people are known on this name.It is also use as a name of home.In Bangla language has a word name 'Boyati' is known...

 and Bayat-Nava.

Yishtabach



Yishtabach
Yishtabach
Yishtabach is a prayer in the final portion of the Pesukei Dezimra morning prayers of Judaism known as shacharit, recited before the second kaddish leading to the Shema prayers....

 means "it shall become superb" in Hebrew (from the daily morning services). It has a frequent lowering of the 2nd and 5th. It is related to Mogein Ovoys, above.

Films featuring Klezmer music

  • Yidl Mitn Fidl
    Yidl Mitn Fidl
    -History:After the success of Joseph in the Land of Egypt, a silent film dubbed into the Yiddish language by Joseph Green, met with success, he decided to create an entirely Yiddish film, and returned to his native Poland to do so...

    (1936) directed by Joseph Green
    Joseph Green
    Joseph Green, Joe Green or Joey Green may refer to:*Joseph Green , English Colonial American clergyman and poet*Joseph Green , American film director The Brain That Wouldn't Die*Joseph L...

  • Fiddler on the Roof
    Fiddler on the Roof (film)
    Fiddler on the Roof is the 1971 film adaptation of the 1964 Broadway musical of the same name, with music composed by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, about Tevye and his Daughters. It was directed by Norman Jewison. The film won three...

    (1971) Directed by Norman Jewison
    Norman Jewison
    Norman Frederick Jewison, CC, O.Ont is a Canadian film director, producer, actor and founder of the Canadian Film Centre. Highlights of his directing career include In the Heat of the Night , The Thomas Crown Affair , Fiddler on the Roof , Jesus Christ Superstar , Moonstruck , The Hurricane and The...

    .
  • Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob
    The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob
    The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob is a 1973 French comedy film directed by Gérard Oury, starring Louis de Funès and Claude Giraud.-Plot:...

    (1973) Directed by Gérard Oury
    Gérard Oury
    Gérard Oury was a French film director, actor and writer. His real name was Max-Gérard Houry Tannenbaum.- A commercially successful French filmmaker :...

  • Jewish Soul Music: The Art of Giora Feidman (1980). Directed by Uri Barbash.
  • A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden (1988). Directed by Michal Goldman.
  • Fiddlers on the Hoof (1989). Directed by Simon Broughton.
  • The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski: His Life and Music (1994). Directed by Yale Strom
    Yale Strom
    Yale Strom is a pioneer among klezmer revivalists in conducting extensive field research in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans among the Jewish and Rom communities since 1981. Initially, his work focused primarily on the use and performance of klezmer music between these two groups...

    .
  • A Tickle in the Heart (1996). Directed by Stefan Schwietert.
  • Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler's House (1996). Aired 29 June 1996 on Great Performances (PBS/WNET television series).
  • L'homme est une femme comme les autres
    Man Is a Woman
    Man Is a Woman is a 1998 French film directed by Jean-Jacques Zilbermann.-Synopsis:...

     (1998). Directed by Jean-Jacques Zilbermann.
  • Dummy
    Dummy (film)
    Dummy is a 2002 comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Pritikin. It stars Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Illeana Douglas, Vera Farmiga and Jared Harris. It was released to home media by Lionsgate Home Entertainment on February 17, 2004....

     (2002). Directed by Greg Pritikin
    Greg Pritikin
    -Biography:According to his official biography, Pritikin inherited a love of film from his father, who had an extensive collection of 16mm prints. Pritikin watched them religiously before starting to make his own 8mm films at the age of eight.-Movie career:...

    .
  • Klezmer on Fish Street (2003). Directed by Yale Strom.
  • Klezmer in Germany (2007). Directed by K. Zanussi and C. Goldie.
  • "A Great Day on Eldridge Street" (2008). Directed by Yale Strom.
  • "The Reluctant Infidel" (2010). Directed by Josh Appignanesi.

See also

  • List of klezmer bands
  • List of klezmer musicians
  • Lautari
    Lautari
    The Romanian word Lăutar denotes a class of traditional musicians. Most often, and by tradition, Lăutari are members of a professional clan of Romani musicians , also called Ţigani lăutari. The term is derived from Lăută the name of a string instrument...

  • Polka
    Polka
    The polka is a Central European dance and also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia...

  • Shlemiel the First
  • Klezmer fiddle
    Klezmer fiddle
    Klezmer Klezmer Klezmer (Yiddish: Klezmer (כליזמר or קלעזמער, pl. כליזמר ,כליזמרים, from the Hebrew כלי זמר meaning "vessel of song") is a genre of fiddle music rooted in the medieval shtetl (villages) of Eastern Europe, where wandering Ashkenazi musicians (Klezmorim) played at bar mitzvahs,...


External links