Why 'Jewry in Music'?
I have completed a PhD dissertation at University College, London, entitled 'Jewry in Music'. Its purpose is to study the entry of Jews into the musical professions in Europe in the period 1780-1850. The end-date, apart from being conveniently mid-century, is also the year in which Wagner published his infamous ' Das Judentum in der Musik', cited by many as a key document in the evolution of German anti-Semitism.
The title of Wagner's essay is normally (mis-)translated in English as 'Judaism in Music
', implying that it has something to do with the Jewish system of belief, about which in fact Wagner knew nothing and cared less. 'Judentum', in colloquial 19th-century German, also meant 'cheap haggling' (cf. the old usage of 'to jew' in English), and was used in this sense by Marx in his essay 'On the Jewish Question' (1844). I have no doubt that Wagner intended this resonance in his article, which he wrote ostensibly to condemn what he saw as the commercialisation of music by the then sensationally successful (but now profoundly neglected) Jewish composer, Giacomo Meyerbeer
, but which he also used to deploy a volley of crude and coarse anti-Jewish insult.
I have therefore taken up Wagner's challenge by adopting his title for my thesis, which will demonstrate something of the reasons why Jews were attracted to the musical professions, and what they brought to these professions which was new or different.
By the end of the nineteenth century, it was the conventional wisdom that the Jews were 'a musical race'. At the start of the century such a statement would have been met with amazement. I hope that I will demonstrate in my thesis something of what actually happened in-between. This site will however include off-cuts and a number of by-ways of varying, (sometimes startlingly little), relevance which I hope may amuse the reader/surfer.
I welcome all comments
on what I have or haven't included, as well as on what I should or shouldn't