Music ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-17-2017


In secular Jewish American music, the 1950s through 1970s are often viewed by scholars and musicians as a period of discontinuity. Building on Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s (2002) call for a greater understanding of music from this time, I show that the work of second generation klezmorim, the children of immigrant klezmorim, maintained the traditional characteristics of their predecessors and foreshadowed the creative innovations of the klezmer revitalization beginning in the late 1970s. Drawing from recordings of select second generation klezmorim- Ray and Sammy Musiker, Sidney Beckerman, and Marty Levitt- and from interviews with Pete Sokolow, Dave Levitt, Margot Leverett, and other contemporary klezmorim, I will present the repertoire of the selected performers that demonstrates the trends in mid-century Jewish instrumental music. The mid-century klezmorim did not merely preserve a waning tradition, they primed the scene for the changes to follow, through the continued development of the bulgar genre, incorporation of popular American dance styles, more rapidly changing and complex harmonic progressions, and increased use chromaticism and the major scale. These klezmorim inhabited an audiotopia, a social space and time of musical contradiction, where the seemingly opposite binaries of Jewish cultural tradition and American popular culture, religious and profane, English and Yiddish coexisted. Their careers, repertoire, and musical advancements are evidence of the shifting sensibilities in Jewish music and the increasing fluidity of Jewish American identity throughout the twentieth century.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Music

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Kristina Jacobsen

Second Committee Member

Mr. Keith Lemmons

Third Committee Member

Dr. Ana Alonso-Minutti

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Walter Zev Feldman


Jewish Music, Klezmer Music, Jewish American Identity

Document Type


Included in

Music Commons