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Music in Lubavitcher Life cover
  • ISBN: 9780252025914
  • ISBN10: 0252025911

Music in Lubavitcher Life

by Ellen Koskoff

  • List Price: $39.95
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
  • Publish date: 10/01/2000
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Music in Lubavitcher Life illuminates the world of the Lubavitcher Hasidim, a community of ultra-orthodox Jews centered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. Drawing primarily on twenty years of close study of the Lubavitcher community, Ellen Koskoff combines lively anecdotes with historical background and musical analysis to reveal music making among the Lubavitchers as a gateway to their ideas about the nature of human spirituality, human social interaction, and God.

Lubavitcher music centers on nigunim, a body of paraliturgical melodies that Lubavitchers regard as a primary form of spiritual communication with the divine. For a song to be included in the repertory of nigunim, it must conform to Hasidic religious and aesthetic principles. If brought in from the outside, it must be purified: stripped of its coarse outer shell (usually the text) and recomposed in accordance with coded musical structures (including certain melody types, ornamentation, and formal organization). Performance of nigunim adheres, among other things, to a process associated with the spirituality of the great Hasidic leaders of the past.

Along with vivid descriptions of musical performance in religious contexts and private gatherings, Koskoff details the musical sounds and structures that symbolize Lubavitcher social relations. In particular, she examines the differences between Lubavitcher women's and men's music making and the underlying beliefs and assumptions that give rise to gendered musical behaviors, such as the dictum that prohibits men from hearing a woman sing.

An insightful portrait of a distinctive community's musical and religious life, this volume is also a candid view ofethnographic research and of fieldwork's illusory objectivity.

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