dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:24am on 2012-07-28

From "The Kitchen", by Alfred Kazin (in A Walker in the City, 1951, Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc):

You could melt their hearts with it; the effect of the violin on almost everyone I knew was uncanny. I could watch them softening, easing, already on the brink of tears -- yet with their hands at rest in their laps, they stared straight ahead at the wall, breathing hard, an unforeseen smile of rapture on their mouths. Any slow movement, if only it were played lingeringly and sagely enough, seemed to come at them as a reminiscence of a reminiscence. It seemed to have something to do with our being Jews. The depths of Jewish memory the violin could throw open apparently had no limit -- for every slow movement was based on something "Russian," every plaintive melody even in Beethoven or Mozart was "Jewish." I could skip from composer to composer, from theme to theme, without any fear, ever, of being detected, for all slow movements fell into a single chant of der heym and of the great Kol Nidre sung in the first evening hours of the Day of Atonement, in whose long rending cry -- of contrition? of grief? of hopeless love for the Creator? -- I relived all of the Jews' bitter intimacy with death."

[I recently stumbled across this passage in The Uses of Prose (Ernest Earnest, 1956, Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.), and it remined me of a recent conversation regarding the number of Jewish world-class violinists. Not seeing anything in my quotes-file more appropriate for "the saddest day" in the Jewish calendar (Tisha B'Av, which starts tonight at sundown), I figured I'd use this today. I hope it's a reasonable choice -- I'm always afraid I'll miss some crucial nuance when dealing with holidays from traditions other than my own.]

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