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A History of Jewish-Israeli Music, 1940-2010
Ronit Seter, Unaffiliated Independent Scholar

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Israelism: Nationalism, Orientalism, and the Israeli Five (Article)
Title: Israelism: Nationalism, Orientalism, and the Israeli Five
Author: Ronit Seter
Abstract: This article looks at the early history of art music in Israel. “Israelism” is best introduced by showing how, paradoxically, it influenced several core American works. This in turn contextualizes Israelism in Israeli music. Focusing on the nationalist ideology that shaped the choices of leading Israeli composers, I suggest that Israel's composers treat Mizrahi (literally Eastern or Oriental, mostly Middle Eastern) musical sources as the Other—but simultaneously also as their ancient Self. Moreover, I also argue that folklorism in Israel means the use of local traditional tunes that are simultaneously international. Following a section on the meanings of the Mizrah (Orient) in Israel, I present composers' views, from St. Petersburg, where Jewish nationalism in music began, to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where it has endured in distinct opposition to the Russian Jewish School. Three composers’ writings constitute the core of the ideological analysis: Paul Ben-Haim's 1953 interview on his Israeli identity in music; Mordecai Seter's 1960 essay on the East–West synthesis in Israeli music; and Josef Tal's 1960 essay, in which he opposes nationalistic works based on folklore, but reveals no less nationalistic undertones in his own approach to writing contemporary music. These hermeneutic analyses serve as representative samples for the discussion of prevalent attitudes. The article looks at these composers' ideological essays to show their Zionist biases, utopian aspirations, and the construction of national styles. The article also examines the idea that music made in Israel is different from contemporary music in Europe and America, yet avoids the traps of essentialism and Israeli exceptionalism, comparable to American exceptionalism.
Year: 2014
Primary URL:
Access Model: Subscription only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: The Musical Quarterly
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Israeli Art Music (Article)
Title: Israeli Art Music
Author: Ronit Seter
Abstract: This 70-page, 32,000-word bibliographical article presents—throughout its approximately sixty condensed introductions (up to 400 words each)—the historiography of Israeli art music, specified in about two hundred annotated bibliographical items. These introductions provide overviews of a selection of the most prevalent themes. The first part (about half) of the article presents selective lists of writings, including general overviews on art music and on ethnic and popular musics, reference works, archives, anthologies, and Journals. This part also presents thematic writings on art and popular musics, on Arabic and Mizrahi music, on nationalism and orientalism, the Mediterranean style, and interviews with composers. It concludes with analyses and a section on performers. The second part focuses on writings about and by composers. It begins with writings by and about three of the founders of Israeli art music, Paul Ben-Haim, Josef Tal, and Mordecai Seter, and continues with several of their peers. The article concludes with writings by and about eleven Israeli composers born after 1920, about whom there is significant scholarship.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Access Model: Open access
Format: Other
Periodical Title: Oxford Bibliographies Online - Music
Publisher: Oxford University Press