Zev Feldman. Interview || Зев Фелдман. Интервью
Zev Feldman. Interview || Зев Фелдман. Интервью


[Music] I took complicate matters I’m let’s say I’m born in America and my parents both come from history both came from Eastern Europe from little communities some shettles and they spoke Yiddish at home I spoke English although I understood unis most of my mom’s family lived in Montreal so in a sense I’m one with a few Americans in the whole extended mishpocha and I have a bunch of names so as a child I was called velvel I answered to Valvo when I went to yeshiva I was called Zev and officially I was called Walter so on the passport I’m Walter Robert Feldman in the shul I was ever asked me you know or velvel rough meal right so oddly enough I spent in Israel I’m called Walter because it’s obvious that I wasn’t born in Israel although I speak Hebrew and I was not I did not serve in the Israeli army so Israelis usually when they know me a little bit understand that I couldn’t possibly be in this really so I’m Walter in Turkey I’m also Walter some other Zev is a strange very strange name over there in the States though I’m usually Zev to most people and even in in Abu Dhabi because I was teaching for New York University in the United Arab Emirates or as we say in Yiddish they found a nick terrible shame that often I usually would be called Zev by my colleagues there although my students would call me professor Walter right so that’s that’s several ways to introduce myself as far as what might want to ask what do I do okay what do I do so giving some background I was trained as a visual artist okay since I was a student at the Art Students League in New York since I was 11 years old and but I ended up by 19 years old lights was gradually switching from from visual arts to music and became kind of a apprentice myself in the oral tradition to some masters from initially not not Jewish not Jewish music initially Caucasian and Greek music and and eventually came around to Jewish music the closing music but Sena meanwhile I was becoming an Orientalist officially so I decided to oh I should also little detail I grew up in the Bronx north of Manhattan where we had an extremely Jewish neighborhood which was but the addition English speaking but we had a substantial minority of ladino-speaking Sephardic from Turkey and Greece and Macedonia and it happened that since the son of the rabbi of that community went to my Shiva I was invited to become a member of their community as well so I was sort of the only Ashkenaz in this entirely Sephardic community since I was 10 years old I became also Turkish speaking since I was about 15 or 16 and of course I grew up with Russian I had a governess in Kishinev she spoke Russian he began to teach myself Romanian which was my father second language and of course Hebrew was what I learned at school so I was sort of involved with this Ottoman social I mean both the society and the music there was a groups of people of Greek origin and other backgrounds who like Turkish music understand Ottoman music and so I was sort of drawn into that group and I began visiting Turkey since I was 19 sold and I had the good fortune that very good musicians would sort of adopt me and invited me to their circles so I came to know the very best musicians in Istanbul the classical ottoman musicians and I was studying I became fascinated with Turks with the culture of Turkic people’s not only Ottoman Turks but Turks coming from Central Asia so my university degree from Columbia was actually a Central Asian Turkish literature ottoman was my hobby and as it turned out my first teaching position was teaching ottoman at Princeton University so I was 29 years old I found myself teaching at Princeton teaching my hobby it wasn’t really you know what was my primary study and I began working more and more in the musicology of Ottoman music you know study once I understood that there were written sources so I could combine my linguistic knowledge with my musical knowledge and in the mid 80s I had a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities to translate Prince Demetrius containers book of the science of music from Ottoman Turkish into English and I became a Tambor player to say the Ottoman Lutz Tambor studying with Netanyahu was the greatest lute player in Turkey and somewhere actually even before that when I’m jumping ahead in the mid 70s I began studying with Dave tarus who was sort of a household name in my family I come from let’s put it this way I come from a Landsman shot culture let’s just say the culture of the immigrant societies of different Jews so my father came from yet in it which is a little town in North Moldova and it happened that Dave Terrace studied any other nights when he left Russia left Ukraine and because as I learned many years later yet the Nets had a very high reputation for klezmer music so he was proud that he learned from the musicians evidence and when I met him and he learned that I was a yet in a Circe this was my passport it’s a klezmer music and oh yes I should mention I like to dance since I was quite young and I was a regular at the Greek clubs at the Armenian nightclub in New York ha roots I think I was also the only odd are the only going going through hundreds for a long time and we normal white people didn’t go in there and yeah I was a member of a Greek band when I was 16 that’s right I was playing around the Greek Catskills there’s a little known fact that the Greeks had their own country clubs near where the Jews we had our bungalow colonies every summer we went up to the to the mountains as we said but one summer I spent playing with the Greek musicians in their areas so this sort of let gradually led me into again they all knew about pleasure in music I didn’t understand why but these Greek musicians they all died classroom music a new Dave Terrace they knew his music and when I studied I started studying the Persian some tour which is a dulcimer I had an Iranian teacher named NASA rested our and then I understood that I couldn’t really play Jewish music on that instrument didn’t have the right notes for me so I studied with I was directed to a Greek symbol employer Bhavan embarrass was a great virtuoso and I would study with him in Queens and sure enough he also played closing music he had a copy of NAT Costa coughs keys hebrew wedding melodies and he’d made beautiful arrangements of some of the frail assembled ours that he played for greek audience I think he never played for Jews I played for a Greek audience and so and most of my gradually shifted from becoming a scholar of literature and I have a number of articles on Ottoman literature and modern Turkish literature and I gradually decided to shift more and more into music illogical study and the performance so I was working both with Ottoman Turkish music and with klezmer music you know much at the same time although I’d say I probably made up there was some temporal difference that I spent about 10 years working with klezmer music from mid 70s to mid 80s and then I began to concentrate on Ottoman music and then I did got the grant from the National Endowment and wrote my book on music of the Ottoman Court and eventually I was teaching in Israel and I’ve taught it at bar-ilan University and it’s smaller institutions at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem where I also led student ensembles at the Rubin Academy and the last teaching I did was in the file in Excel Arabic a maratton where I was invited to teach music for the New York University at NYU and I still have an affiliation with I’ve just published one book on klezmer music and I’m I’ve written another short book and I’m looking to write and publish a third about this Ottoman Moldavian connection question music and as a lot of work in Ottoman Turkish music I still have to do in 2008 Allen Byrne had a grant from the European Union to work with the connection of Jewish klezmer and gypsy music and I pretty much convinced him that the only place in Europe where you can find that as a living tradition was Moldova and so we a whole bunch of us went to Moldova in 2008 first Turkish you know and then to to my father shtetl again I explained to him that that is the place to go is togetherness so we went together Nance which is a beautiful little place much as my father had described physically it hasn’t changed very much since before the war because he went back seven 30s and took pictures and I can testify that it’s still very much like it was in those days physically but and we met a whole bunch of that Saigon lout are is that professional word for them but with the Muslim conditions to really do serious research so when I the next year I was teaching at NYU and then after that I was in Abu Dhabi and we had the opportunity to to apply for funding to do field work or research somewhere I could have worked with Ottoman Turkish music I had things I wanted to do but I felt well this is urgent because I only very old people know anything about this I realized that when I was in the other Nets in 2008 and also in mines we went to Germany to meet the the father of a Moldovan fiddler remember graduate to Germany and we knew about this through through a meal orator whom I knew from tel aviv he’s a great probably the last jewish Moldavian composer and folk folk composer listen tel aviv and he explained that this family the commands were living in germany and these are elderly people so I said this this was urgent so I applied to anyway Abu Dhabi to do research on this connection of gypsy and Jewish music and not over and lo and behold they accepted this and I had this accepted once and then extend it again then applied for another grant so altogether I had about five years to travel to Moldova with my friend and his sister Christina Crowder who’s a very good musician and speaks Romanian quite well and it drives which I don’t so uh and ended up that we gradually won the trust of the the old generation that’s to say people my age and up who were the sons of band leaders and who had played Jewish weddings when they were young one of them still understands you actually quite well and I was uncovering a whole world of music and of culture among the professional musicians which I had only a very vague idea before and we came to meet a scholar from from Moldova named Vasily kiss ELISA who is the only scholar who understood this was a problem he grew up in northern bukovina and he knew that the Gypsy musicians in his region played a whole repertoire of music that was not Moldavia which often had names like lucid and Fralick so he also since the 1980s he was documenting this and so when I finally met him he just begun to publish about this and the post-soviet period he was able to publish in Romanian on this connection of Jewish music and gypsy Moldavian gypsy music so it’s let’s say I found that a richer and richer topic I was at the same time writing my book on classroom use a klezmer music history and memory which is mostly based on the fieldwork of moisture better Gorsky the great Ukrainian Jewish a famous ecologist so it was dealing primarily with the grain with Belarus says that all the key Slavs work in Belarus and Garcia partly my own field work with yummier Shoeless who was the prodigal last known klezmer band leader from Europe whom I interviewed extensively in 1998 in New York I have a little bit about Moldova in this first class my book but as as I was doing the work I mean I was writing the book in abu-dhabi then periodically going to Moldova and I understood that the Moldavia material was so rich and coming from a really different society than the other Ashkenazic societies in Eastern Europe for a couple of reasons one let’s say unlike most of the Jews in Eastern Europe who historically were being ruled by the Polish Lithuanian State our people were ruled by the Ottoman state and my family was there already times so this created a different and actually much more favorable social situation for the Jews and there also was another professional musicians class namely the it’s Iran the gypsies that we didn’t have in other parts of Eastern Europe and they were very well organized and established there so from the get-go you’re dealing with a kind of by cultural phenomenon where both groups are contributing to it and learning from each other which is not not the case for the other parts of Eastern Europe where the Jews were much more in isolation from their non-jewish cultures so in a way it took a it demanded a different methodology and I was looking for different things that and what I was looking for in the rest of the classical world but it just so happened that that tradition is the one that came to America most strongly and again they’ve terraced my teacher was the very important link between the Madhavi and close for music and what became American classroom music so anyway that’s hopefully I’ll live long enough to complete this book in public yet well I first of all I should say and I didn’t mention this I briefly mentioned something about dancing at the beginning but it’s interesting that when you know and e-statement a wonderful clarinet is he and I were working with taro-san in mid 70s and we were activists sort of recreating reimagining and learning recreating reimagining classroom music but and by the way I popularized that term in English because the music it first appeared on the concert poster that we did for Dave terrorists but we my father was a dancer and he liked to dance I grew up in the lensman shops seeing Jewish dance and Moldavia and the Jewish dance but somehow no I was too young to fully appreciate your stance in some ways it’s it’s more geared to a more mature person it really is because as I just explained about hosted oh it’s meant for people over 40 so when I was 20 I didn’t quite get it I didn’t understand what this was and in fact I’ve talked to another well-known scholar of Jewish music who I just learned from from his brother when he saw me dancing on stage presentation I did in California came up to me afterwards and said you know that’s what my father used to do that’s how we used to dance but we didn’t know what he was doing because by the by the categories of non Jewish culture what the Jews did wasn’t even dancing it was some kind of strange big expressivity but you know was it dancing so I was as done as the other Americans and I didn’t quite understand what was in front of me but then I began to realize that oh yes this was this is a very important issue and I have to thank barbecue but Gilbert who back in 2008 she when she went to Poland to open the Jewish Museum in Warsaw she asked me to teach her course at NYU in Jewish performance and she advised me to read David Aaron’s book on gesture race and culture and when I read the book I had really clicked I understood that oh that’s what those Jews were doing that’s what my father was doing that’s what they Ferris was doing so it was connected which would speech gesture with this confluence of music gesture dance so I was teaching this first in New York and then in Abu Dhabi for three years and Abu Dhabi was the best place in the world to teach this subject because we had students from many parts of Asia and Africa most of whom had a very rich gestural language and so they got it immediately my American students almost never instead what I was about but the Africans and the Indians and the Arabs and the Iranians they definitely got it and they were very creative with it so I understood oh this is a very different way to look at yudish culture Jewish culture that actually connects Ashkenazim with with the Eastern world and it’s it’s a crucial points in fact so I emphasize that a lot in this current book but since then I’ve been this with we have a very good evolutionary biologist at NYU who’s very interested in this and with it with a neuroscientist of Israel so this is another direction that that is both within Jewish culture and outside of Jewish culture and also connects to dance so that’s one thing other points is that in the first chapter of my book I briefly go through the different repertoires of Jewish music in Eastern Europe because I feel what one has to look at the class or music in the context of the other repertoire and lo and behold then Oxford University asked me to compile the bibliography of Jewish music in Eastern Europe they said Jewish folk music and I answered only if we deal with Eastern Europe exclusively because that’s the richest area so Michael I’m excited looking in Jerusalem and I did this together and then we understood what has been done and what hasn’t been done and actually very little has been done that much as I complain about how little we know about klezmer music when I look at your song and I want to look at Hasidic music I have to say we know even less there’s much less research about Hasidic music much less research about Yiddish song and I see that say the principles of instrumental music are fundamental in many genres of Hasidic music and they also appear in many types of yiddish folk song in fact whereas the converse is not true the folk song does not appear in there in the klezmer repertoire so we’re now now I’m working with several people also through the on ski Institute that I’m directing in New York for the Center for Jewish music and dance to try to get some movement in the study first of all you do song and to define what are the repertoire of either song and in the book I came up with over 8 or 9 separate repertoires the other song that don’t relate to each other all that well so that that’s something for us to understand work work work class where music fits in with the culture of Easter beans yes we have to know also the you know the vocal repertoires so that’s a lot of where I see that direction moving [Music] you you

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