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Excerpts from
Of Jewish Music:
Ancient and Modern

By Israel Rabinovitch
Translated from Yiddish by A. M. Klein
1952 The Book Center
Montreal

Page 312

He surmises that these influences made themselves felt through the Khazars. He discovers that in certain old Russian ballads known as byling, there are explicit references to "the songs of Jerusalem" and to "the Hebrew strophe"; and comes to the conclusion, supported by a series of arguments, that these allusions refer to Jewish melodies. Analyzing a certain old-Russian folk-song, of the so-called demestvenny character, Yesser finds passages based upon bible texts. All of which leads him to the belief that a number of these melodies are founded upon cantorial song.

This is a thesis of entrancing possibilities. It is generally accepted that much of the Jewish folksong in Eastern Europe has been borrowed from the Slavic. Should Yasser’s thesis prove to be well-founded, it will be discovered that these borrowings were not borrowings at all, but merely a belated repayment by the Slavs to the Jews of what the Slavs had themselves earlier borrowed from the selfsame people! We must confess that the burden of this loan does not lie heavily upon us; but for those to whom these accounts and counter-accounts are a matter of concern, it may perhaps be important to know that the debt was, after all, an illusion.

Page 72

Idelsohn holds firm to the view that not scale or mode alone, nor even manner, determine the specific character of a melody. Surely it would not be proof of Jewish lack of originality if a given scale is found also among the gypsies and the Hungarians.


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