The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

February 2nd, Rachel Adelstein


Please join us at the Ethnoise! workshop this Thursday, February 2nd at 4:30, in Goodspeed Hall room 205.  We will welcome Rachel Adelstein (PhD Candidate, U Chicago, Ethnomusicology) as she presents “Kol Isha:  Jewish Women’s Voices In Prayer And Song”

Abstract: This presentation traces the paths by which women’s singing voices found their way into the contemporary non-Orthodox synagogue.  I address the sources of traditional Jewish cultural objections to women singing in public, many of which are still in force in traditional societies today.  I draw on historical sources to demonstrate how women gradually claimed space and presence in public sonic spaces so that their eventual emergence as cantors occurred with relatively little resistance.  I discuss the physical challenges that women liturgical singers faced upon encountering a beloved repertoire composed specifically for the male voice, and I draw on ethnographic research to show some of the ways that women have adapted to the vocal challenges of the contemporary cantorate.

Rachel Adelstein, PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she wrote her thesis on music as a carrier of Holocaust memory. Her current research interests include contemporary Jewish liturgical music, American vernacular music, and issues of gender and women’s agency. In her spare time, she is a shape-note singer and a Scottish country dancer, and has recently taken up the gaohu (the soprano Chinese violin).

We look forward to seeing you there.

Photos: Hazzan Arlyne Unger (top) and performing khaznte Bas Sheva in the film Catskill Honeymoon (bottom)


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