Abby Rabinovitz's Flute Story
Fusing Her Jewish Roots with the Sounds of the World
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• Part 4: Musical Influences
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Paula: What inspired you to do a Klezmer-oriented CD?

Abby: I started writing and the music developed on its own. I was surprised by it sometimes. Klezmer influences would pop out when I didn't expect them or a klezmer tune might veer off into a totally different direction and end up not a klezmer tune at all. (But the klezmer was still there, just in a different form.)

I grew up hearing---and loving---many different kinds of music but one kind of music that moved me deeply was Jewish cantoral music. I have early memories of hearing the cantor at our synagogue sing and feeling almost transported. His singing, and this sense of yearning touched me in a very profound way. I've studied cantoral music as well as klezmer music and I find that these Jewish influences come into almost everything I write. Sometimes it's intentional and sometimes it's not. It's a very basic part of who I am.

In 1993 I received a grant to write some pieces "New Directions in Klezmer Music" from the New England Foundation for the Arts. This was followed a year later by another grant in composition from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. To actually have money to compose was incredibly liberating. I had been playing traditional klezmer music for years and had written some new pieces but it was always a struggle to find the time in between eeking out a living as a working musician. These grants gave me the opportunity to explore and it was a very creative time for me.

I believe strongly that the vitality of any tradition depends not on recreating the past but rather on writing new music and interpreting and rearranging the old pieces in new ways. Critics have coined the phrase "the klezmer revival" and to me this term means more than just playing the same old tunes the same old way. If I'm going to listen to traditional klezmer music I'll almost always choose the old masters like Dave Tarras or Naftule Brandwein. If I'm going to listen to a current klezmer artist I want to hear something personal---their unique take on the music, what makes it real to them. It can be subtle (a question of interpretation) or more radical, but either way I'm listening for the artist's own voice, how he or she is speaking through the tradition.

There is some amazing music being created right now. Musicians are writing new klezmer compositions and klezmer music is influencing other genres also. I am part of this movement. I have been inspired by it and I also believe that I bring a strong and unique voice to it.

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