Charles Davidson & Noah Schall Part 2- Interview with Mark Slobin

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"You're not interpreting music, you're interpreting prayer." (Charles Davidson on nusach) Davidson felt that prayer isn't only about begging and thanking God. It's also about our history and the connections we have to it. Noah Schall said that any listener can tell if it's real or a show. The melody is just notes. It's the delivery, the mood. Davidson also said that the mode and the mood are different. The mode is about the time, the mood is the context. The language can also affect the prayer. Musically, there should be connections between prayers and rubrics, the end of the former section should be an introduction to the next section by changing the key and even the mood. Nusach motives can transition a singer quickly.

They discussed different nusach rites. Their professors taught from the books that were available at the times. Katchko and Alter were prevalent in all schools. They discussed different cantors, grouped them loosely by styles and areas, and discussed the styles. Schnipolitsky (sp?) and Tucker wrote music for each of his his students by hand. There was an influence from opera, but Davidson and Shall both agreed that it wasn't totally positive.

Davidson was disturbed that cantors were giving concerts and making recordings. They couldn't come up with a good cantor from the era they were in. They felt the cantorate, as it was, was over. They think the performers and the audiences are not there any more. Schall thinks the music is now simplified. With less "tricks" the listener could figure out what the tune is. They both agreed that the generation of the natural ba'al t'fillah is gone. The chazzan is now a ba'al t'fillah. If he's going to be a combination of a bunch of jobs, he needs to be good enough. They agreed there wasn't much different between the curricula between the different schools of chazzunut in NYC.

Summary by Nancy Dubin (April 2014), 4th year cantorial student in Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, HUC--JIR, NY


Access to archival quality sound files is restricted. For permission to obtain copies of these, please contact Mark Slobin at mslobin@wesleyan.edu.

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