The Fifteenth World Congress Of Jewish Studies Jerusalem
Special panel (Plenary of Literatures, Languages and Arts Section) In collaboration with the Jewish Music Forum, USA
Assessing Abraham Zvi Idelsohn’s Legacy: Eighty Years after the Publication of Jewish Music in its Historical Development
Respondent: Prof. Edwin Seroussi
Abraham Zvi Idelsohn arrived in Jerusalem some time in early 1907. He had been told that the true oriental source of his nation's music could be found in this multi ethnic enclave. My paper will address his work on "the most Jewish and most Arab of all Jews", those hailing from the Yemen, and anchor it within some of the broader currents prevalent in Jewish cultural discourse at the time.
Naturally, Idelsohn's primary interest was Yemenite Jewish music, as the first volume of his Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies will attest. However I will also examine his attempt to write a sort of Yemenite Jewish ethnography, capturing what he thought was the entirety of this exotic culture. This was no doubt a result of ardent national consciousness on his part, as well as sheer intellectual curiosity. The paper will conclude by addressing the question of Yemenite agency in his multi-faceted legacy.