Israeli Art Music By Shelleg, Assaf
Israeli Art Music concerns the study of art music penned in the Jewish community of mandatory Palestine, which since 14 May 1948 is the State of Israel. Having emerged before the year of statehood, the term “Israeli art music” is therefore a misnomer – the result of a national historical back shadowing attesting to its post-statehood coinage. Indeed, from a cultural-historical perspective, the emergence of art music in mandatory Palestine and later Israel involves larger confluences: the rise of Zionism, the political achievements of the Jewish community in Palestine, the Nazis ascent to power in the 1930s, and the various musical schools dislocated to Palestine during the different waves of immigrations to the country. Thus, the story of Israeli art music begins from the middle: it opens in the 1930s with the arrival of a critical mass of emigrant composers whose importations of a variety of twentieth-century compositional approaches triggered vast cultural chain reactions beyond the earmarks of a nationalistic style. The home of more than seventy nationalities, Israel’s most important cultural asset is its ethnic proximities. Using the melodic and harmonic characteristics of mostly non-western Jewish and non-Jewish oral musical traditions available in this region, composers have been able to re-localize universal compositional devices and create new musical hybrids that resist a fixed musical definition. Indeed, the constant proliferation of styles suggests that perhaps the procedure of local hybridization itself, beyond specific folkish or liturgical citations, is the very definition of Israeli art music.