Lecture on composer Stefan Wolpe at Jewish Music Forum, March 26th


Mar 26 2010 - 10:30am

Dr. Brigid Cohen will present a lecture entitled "'In a Land
Large as an Apple Tree': Stefan Wolpe's Avant-Garde Music, Pedagogy, and Pacifist Zionism in 1930's Palestine."
NYU Professor Michael Beckerman  will contribute a response.

The Jewish Music Forum, now in its sixth season, is a project of
The American Society for Jewish Music, with support from The
American Jewish Historical Society.
Event details are as follows:

March 26, 2010
10:30 A.M.
Center for Jewish History 

15 West 16th Street

New York, NY

All events are FREE and open to the public.

"'In a Land Large as an Apple Tree': Wolpe's Avant-Garde Music,
Pedagogy, and Pacifist Zionism in 1930's Palestine" 

Dr. Brigid Cohen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Respondent: Prof. Michael Beckerman, New York University
Moderator: Prof. Stephen Blum, CUNY Graduate Center

"'In a Land Large as an Apple Tree': Wolpe's Avant-Garde Music,
Pedagogy, and Pacifist Zionism in 1930's Palestine" In 1938, the
German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe, spokesman for Jerusalem's
nascent avant-garde and the kibbutz scene, delivered a
provocative series of lectures at the World Center for Jewish
Music in Jerusalem, in which he advocated a sweeping plan for
cross-cultural music education across the Mandate of Palestine.
Conceived with an acute sense of political urgency, during the
1936-39 Arab Revolt, on the eve of World War II, the dimensions
of his proposal were staggering. Wolpe envisioned a corps of
"flying" instructors to teach the musics of "different peoples"
and diverse compositional techniques across Jewish settlements;
he advocated hiring "master-practitioners" of non-Western musics
at the Palestine Conservatory; he suggested enlisting the
Palestine Broadcasting Service to help record Jewish and
non-Jewish musical traditions world-wide; he advocated the
promotion of comparative musicologist Robert Lachmann at Hebrew
University; and he proposed a national conference to debate the
implications of appropriating "folklore" in Western notated
composition. Drawing from existing literature (Bohlman, Hirshberg,
Katz, Seroussi, von der Lühe), interviews, and new archival
sources, this talk situates Wolpe's proposals in the context of
wider debates within the Yishuv about the role of musical culture
in nation-building.

A veteran of intensely idealistic movements
including the Bauhaus and Berlin agitprop, Wolpe envisioned the
preservation of a heterogeneous Jewish musical heritage as going
hand-in-hand with improving Arab-Jewish cultural understanding.
His ambitious proposals provide insight into cultural-political
contestations affecting many sectors of musical life in
Palestine, marking a moment when cross-cultural education was
seen as vital to national survival and reconciliation.

Dr. Brigid Cohen is Assistant Professor of Music at the
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D.
from Harvard University in 2007. Her research focuses on musical
avant-gardes, postcolonial studies, migration and diaspora,
cosmopolitanism, and intersections of music, the visual arts, and
literature. Her current book project, Modernism Untethered:
Wolpe, Music, and the Avant-Garde Diaspora, is forthcoming with
Cambridge University Press.

This work is both a study of the
émigré composer Stefan Wolpe and a critical history of modernism
that explores how experiences of migration shaped avant-garde
communities from the Bauhaus to bebop to Black Mountain College.
Her research has been supported by the Paul Sacher Foundation,
the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Getty Research
Institute, the Mellon Foundation, and the Harvard Center for
European Studies. In 2007-2008, she was an Andrew W. Mellon
Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wesleyan University Center for the

Prof. Michael Beckerman is Professor of Music at New York

Prof. Stephen Blum joined the CUNY Graduate Center faculty in
1987, when the concentration in ethnomusicology was initiated.
He has published several articles, books, and encyclopedia
articles on general topics (composition, improvisation, music
analysis, modern music history, cultural exchange) and on
specific musical practices of Iran, Kurdistan, Central Asia,
Europe, and North America. He has been active in the Society
for Ethnomusicology and currently serves on the editorial boards
of the British Journal for Ethnomusicology and the Journal of the
American Musicological Society.

The Jewish Music Forum is an organization devoted to the study of
music in Jewish life in all of its historical and contemporary
diversity. Founded in the fall of 2004 under the auspices of the
American Society for Jewish Music, with the support of the
American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish
History, the Jewish Music Forum seeks to provide a thriving
habitat for interdisciplinary dialogue and scholarly exchange
in the growing academic field of Jewish musical studies as well
as a critical intellectual resource for specialists across a
spectrum that includes cantors, composers, performers, students,
educators, artistic directors, journalists, and others from the
fields of musicology, anthropology, literature, Jewish studies,
and American studies. By linking together members of these
communities, the Forum serves as an academic professional
network and intellectual resource for all who are interested in
the role of music in Jewish life.