Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keli Tzion, demystified (oops--Eli Tzion*)

I've long wondered why on earth a dirge like Keli Tzion, traditionally sung on Tisha B'Av, is sung in a major key. Here's the answer, from Cantor Bernard Beer, of Belz School of Jewish Music, Yeshiva University: It's based on a German Jewish tune. My understanding is that traditional German Jewish melodies are often written in the major mode. Why, I don't know. Some Sefardi songs are also written in the major mode, while others are written in the minor mode. My impression is that most Eastern European Ashkenazi melodies were written in the minor mode until the late twentieth century.

*Oops--I wish I'd remembered this DovBear post before I named this post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Major mode isn't considered happy in Jewish music. The Vidui is also in major, as is the first half of each verse of Eicha. Eli Tzion starts with a major mode for the first half of each verse, and ends in a minor mode for the second half. So it starts happy and ends sad, if you take the traditional European view of modes.

Sat Aug 20, 03:53:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Major mode isn't considered happy in Jewish music." You probably have a point. I guess I'm too "European."

Sun Aug 21, 08:12:00 PM 2011  

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