Scope and arrangement
Reflecting upon the materials in this song book collection, one finds a wide ranging assortment, from recent issues to early editions of this genre as available in past decades. Perusal of this variety provides a wide sweep of musical and poetic contents. Changes in melodic and literary styles indicate socio-ethnic and historic influences upon the tastes of a singing people - young and adult, amateur and professional. Some of the song books, notably collections by Harry Coopersmith and the gifted brothers Israel and Samuel Goldfarb, are prime examples of the early use of music in developing pedagogical methods for Jewish religious education in America. A group of songsters, nos. 55-75, in their totality provide a particularly unique view of songs that mirror the growth of modern Hebraic expression over the first fifty years of the 20th century. This early music was essentially European in style and influence. It was unshaped by the later influx of non-European ethnic expressions derived from ingatherings to the State of Israel during the 1950s onward, and it was undiluted or altered by an inter-mingling with contemporaneous musical sounds from world-wide influences. Consequently, this collection of song books may provide insights into the process by which melodies and poetics/lyrics partner in the cultural devopment of a particular people over a relatively short period of time.
As the guidance tool for reference and research use, this inventory is an alphabetical listing of all the song books by one main entry, the name of an attributed collector-source (a compiler, editor, composer, arranger, etc.) as indicated in the printed matter of each publication. Further annotative aid is provided for every song book as to the full publication data, as well as a detailed description of text matter, music contents, editing, and style of published presentation. In many cases, relevant additional information serves to round out all those details. To assure uniformity in description of materials, all Hebrew and Yiddish words (except for actual titles of songs as given in the books) are presented in a specially standardized transliteration (romanization). Some song books which are entirely in Hebrew or Yiddish text open and read from right to left in the traditional Hebrew text style, and this fact has been properly noted. Furthermore, it must be recognized by readers that where Hebrew or Yiddish lyric words appear under the melody lines in the original Hebrew/Yiddish print or script styles, those vocal syllables read from left to right in order to properly accommodate to the music itself.
This collection is not an exhaustively complete compilation of what has been sung and notated, composed and arranged, collected and edited, and issued in Jewish music publications. However, it is a good sampling, and in totality provides interesting musical selections along with unique insights applicable to comparative studies of other ethnic materials. Often, ethnomusicological attention focuses more upon the what, where and how, than upon the issues of when and why people sing. Moreover, musicologists ought consider whether too much distinction is made between high art and folk-popularism in music. After all, those are terms of reference that vary with time and human circumstances. People want to sing about their life-long experiences, their hopes and fears, aspirations and beliefs. As we enter into the 21st century, historians ought to acknowledge that songs, along with the other creative arts, constitute valuable documentary resource materials. I am pleased to donate these song books to the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Irene Heskes, March 1995