12 Friday, June 25, 1982
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Detroiter Mark Slobin's Volume on Tenement Songs'
Reveals the History and. Sociology of Yiddish Music
body, such as the Work- back where he belongs, in
vet it here a lutvak zogn.
A Detroiter who can best violent social movements, linguistic. Slobin shows Lituak: in galitsey, vi yakh men's Circle Chorus of the the midst of the dancers.
be defined as an ethno-
"The last melodic flow
early 'teens . . .
musicologist has compiled a the way into the 20th Cen- nated, and the language zogt
"Only with the estab- of the 19th-Century Jews _
volume relating to immig-
lishment of Lefkowich's is being tapped from
styles are defined and the
rant experiences in this lantic.
Metro Music shop and pub- older folksingers. Revi-
"Despite this back- Americanization steps, by
country in the early decades
lishing house do we find a vals of Yiddish shows are
of this century with such a
commercial enterprise tak- increasing, fed not only
vast variety of details and being uprooted, some
by nostalgia but also by a
ing up the workers' cause.
human experiences, that
Galitsyaner: ven fraytik iz
"Nevertheless, allu- younger generation
his work merits description
gedekt der tish
sions to social move- studying Yiddish at some
authority in Yiddish
as a vital totality combining the happy lands of exile.
un s'iz vi tsuker zis;
ments do crop up, most three dozen college cam-
music with history and
often in comedy numbers puses. More than ever,
quely put it in 1907: 'In the
fresh from the Yiddish the group seems deter-
Mark Slobin accom- great palace of American the step-by-step sheet music mont er gor di fis .. .
mined to look back ani
plishes this challenging
measure the group. _
task in his "Tenement our own corner, which we
aykh nit smekt-
Sing, 0 Heavens, be joy- covered in the last 60
"Strangely, there are few
Songs" (University of Il- will decorate and beautify
it hot lutvakes gut in zinen,
break forth years.
linois Press). A native De- to the best of our taste and comic songs in the sheet ven kolombus hot nor ful, 0 Earth, and
"One hopes that this new
troiter, son of Judith and ability, and make it not only
awareness will flow directly
Norval Slobin, he is a
Isaiah 49:13. into the cross-ethnic inter-
hot er a lutvak shoyn,
member of the faculty of members of our family, but humorous tend to represent
est in musical roots now
Wesleyan University, also an object of admiration the low road . . . or `Mayn Galitsyaner: gey shoyn, gay.
The extent of Slobin's taking hold in such national
Middletown, Conn. He is
achievement, in such fash- institutions as the Library
Litvak: s'iz azey.
the author of "Music in the palace.' "
Galitsyaner: Lomir fun ion that his book must be of Congress and the Smith-
Slobin points to the state
Culture of Northern Af-
sonian Institution, and that
haynt beser • vern gute
ghanistan" and editor of of affluence reached by the
will soon trickle down to
"Old Jewish Folksongs and newcomers in the three
local studies across the
Beyde: Got git yidn guts a
Fiddle Tunes: The Writings
judge the culture of Ameri- country.
and Collections of Moshe America, and he em-
"The Jewish case is cer-
can Jews. What will be
un di goyim, makes;
phasizes the place of music
tainly a special one, and it
vayl bay got zaynen ale
He is also a consultant to
argued, though, is that
can shed a great deal of light
the Music Collections ing provided "a sense of
on general patterns of
Endowment of the Max identity. He describes it as a
ethnic expression and on
Weinreich Center for Ad-
the development of popular
"where if a guest visited,
vanced Jewish Studies.
un makhn bald fridn.
rants published, hawked, culture
The very title of Slo- everyone got together;
Shomel brider, zol shoy
bin's book immediately
played, sang, and finally songs of the immigrant era
introduces the reader to a brought songs . . ." There
Fe! A rikh in dayn tatn forgot, they poured the were not sung only in Yid-
very fascinating theme. It
arayn .. .
relates to the immigrants and the heritage continued,
Galitsianer: Listen to the
who lived in the tene- reaching its glorious role in
Litvak languagel"Khazer, can remember that era, but can only emerge when we
ments and sang there to this country.
its traces remain in the jointly reclaim our neg-
That's how folk drama
the glory of the America
family's activities. Rarely hunt, and vakhlaklakes."I memoirs of the musical ac- lected musical heritage."
where they found haven. developed, how the Yiddish does comedy rise above this "Vos iz dos tsu alde
Great historical signifi-
klogn,"IYou'll hear a Litvak tivists, in the hundreds of cance
It is the echo of the thea- theater rose to great influ- level.
attaches to the inclu-
ter and is therefore a very ence when it began in 1870
"One comic song re- say/Litvak: In Galitsia, as I columns of yellowed news- sion in the book of reprod-
valuable addendum to
flecting a purely in-group
uctions of title pages to the
say "gey shoyn, gey/ekh, papers.
the concern over the Yid- raham Goldfaden.
"We will follow the trail sheet music which pre-
Under Czarism the set of characters is worth mekh, fleysh un beyner"
dish language in which
quoting; it is a number
of the songmakers from dominated in the decades
theater was played for Yiddish theater was from a 1914 parody, Dos that a language, you the Old World to the New, under review.
the newcomers to this banned; in New York the meydl fun der vest ("The bastard?IG: When the table searching through the
This section of 30 re-
immigrants provided a Girl from the West'), a is set on Friday/And every-
is a combi-
takeoff on the popular thing's sugar-sweet/Instead trations of the songs of nation of history, a
musicologist who has de- liturgically, Goldfaden's Belasco-Puccini Girl of of calling for the "fish"IThe the messages of 40 years documentation of a mus-
voted five years of research aim at popularizing the the Golden West. The Litvak calls for "feet" (fis) of immigrants and re- ical record, a valuable
to compile the facts for theater accounts for the operetta plays on one of . . .IL: I know why you don't evaluating a legacy left in reminder of the deep
"Tenement Songs" derived belly laughs that at- the stock themes of Yid- like it—/You think a lot the piano bench."
interest in music stem-
much of the material from tracted the audiences.
dish humor: the conflict about Litvaks/Well, when
ming from the popularity
These facts are necessary
YIVO, the important Yid-
between warring Columbus first discovered note in Slobin's summation Prof.
America/He already found a
dish source of documen- for an understanding and dialects.
taries, where he is a consul-
by his appreciation of and
tant. He makes this in- "Tenement Songs." They nian (who cannot pronounce It's true./G:Well, let's be cinating subject. It is not love for Yiddish and Jewish
teresting observation in his stemmed from theater and sh, so he constantly hisses) good friends from now on, only optimism, it is also an culture normally. His par-
introduction to this volume: tenement. They gave power and the Galitsianer whose yes./Both: God give the Jews invitation to young Ameri- ents, both American
"Over the last 2,000 years to the Yiddish language. southern Polish accent a lot' And the Gentiles can Jews to embrace Yid- educators, are Jewish-
the Jews have lived in not Slobin's book is a history of gives vowels a special twist) plagues/Because before God, dish and the culture it re- Zionistically oriented.
presents anew, and with an "Tenement Songs" is dedi-
just one Diaspora, but both.
represent two cultural sub- everyone's the same-
many: Babylonia, Spain, • Slobin's analytical work types. Every ethnic group /Galitsyaners and appreciation of Yiddish and cated by the author to his
Germany, Eastern Europe, takes into account the im- seems to use such internal Litvaks./Look, God how what it produced. This is grandmother, Sema Liepah,
America . . . Some of these portant Yiddish theatrical regional/dialect differences Your Jews/Fight and bite how he presents his appeal: who was a pioneer in Labor
- "With this brief insight
`exiles' were favorable to the productions. He goes into as a base for comedy. Even each other./And then soon
the ethnic headliners, Zionism.
flowering of Jewish culture,
in today's Yiddish vau- make peace./Let's have
while others could only be one of the early stage prod- deville revues the Litvak- peace, brothers/Phooey! A we close our study of the
The loftier the religion or
graded on a sliding scale of
Galitsianer dichotomy is
great many archives need science, the more exalted is
Joseph Lateiner. He indi- good for a laugh."
A sociological note in unpacking, trunks and its music.
"This book deals with a cates that it was still pro- Song 12:
Slobin's "Tenement Songs"
period that saw massive duced in the Detroit Yiddish "Litvak un galitsyaner'"' is worth quoting for a proper piano benches need to yield
migration from one place of Theater in the mid-1920s.
In his dedication, Slobin
(Litvak and Galitsianer") understanding of the socio- perspective of many
With comments and
dispersion to another —
political influences of th'e
from Eastern Europe to explanatory evaluations of Galitsyaner: hert a losn fun era under discussion. He Jewish-Americans needs to linked his grandmother
be broadened before we can with music and states:
America. Both areas were immigrant life and the cul-
To my grandmotehr,
have a full and well-
in the state of extreme tur-
"In the sheet music world, balanced view of the ex- Sema Liepah (1889-1979)
moil at the time. Indus- Slobin's studies emerge as
social commentary rarely pressive side of music from who heard Mischa Elman
trialization, urbanization , sociological, ethnic and also vos iz dos tsu aide klogn
made direct reference to the 1880 to 1920.
grandfather play wedding
radical ferment of Jewish-
dances in the streets of
"Here we could only hope uman.,,
American politics. True
demonstrate the remark-
enough, there are editions
"Tenement Songs" is a
able richness and diversity literary enrichment, the
of `The Jewish Marseillaise'
and the 'Internationale,' the of the material, which is just notable literary contribu-
worldwide hymn of revolu- beginning to be noticed by tion emphasizing the im-
tion. But one finds few men- young Jewish musicians. portance of research and re-
tions of unions, strikes, or Bands reviving the old wed- tention of historical records.
socialism. These topics ding tunes are springing up Slobin's is a work of unusual
seem to have been relegated on both coasts, as the fiddler merit. -
to the appropriate political is taken off the roof and put
tr ttrr It ,