4.63. Tsippi Fleischer, orchestral composition ‘Symphony No. 5 “Israeli-Jewish Collage”’ (2003)

Simfoniah Ms. 5 “Kolazh Yisraeli-yehudi” (“Symphony No. 5 ‘Israeli-Jewish Collage’”) is the musical answer to three “own questions” of the Israeli composer Tsippi Fleischer (born 1946). First, a personal question: how to come to terms with the death of a friend, who was also a former student and a colleague? “This symphony was composed in memory of Noa Jefet, a pedagogue and musician who loved all the communities in Israel, its scenery, its Jewish cantors . . . the music of the churches and mosques.” *Fleischer, Symphony No. 5, Preface to the score. Second, a political question: is it possible to reconcile population groups in the polarized Israeli society? Third, a cultural question: which values do these groups have in common?

The symphonic collage is composed of four very different musical layers, the first and second of which are played live, whereas the third and fourth are recorded on tape. The first layer was composed by Fleischer and consists of tonal music for a symphony orchestra with added “concrete” percussion instruments like twigs, stones, shells and a bottle filled with sand. The second layer consists of traditional shofar blasts, most of which are blown by a group of five players. The third layer consists of modal music, namely regional versions of the Kol Nidrei (“Every vow”) *The Koren Yom Kippur Maḥzor 68 from the Yom Kippur service, which states “that all kinds of vows made before God unwittingly or rashly during the year (and hence unfulfilled) shall be considered null and void.” *The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion 404. In the symphony, the Kol Nidrei is recited successively by cantors from the Ashkenazi tradition, Cochin (South India), Iran, Aleppo (Syria), Kurdistan, and Morocco. The fourth layer is an exclamation of the Israeli rock singer Shalom Ḥanokh: “Ken, ken, ken, ken, ha-maẓav kasheh” (“Yes, yes, yes, yes, the situation is difficult”); in Israel, ha-maẓav is the political situation, and in particular the relationship between Jews and Palestinians.

Electronic technology has an important function in this symphony; however, it does not sound itself in a fifth musical layer, but instead controls, manipulates and connects the other musical layers: “Techniques at the extremes of digital ability are called for in order to satisfy the crazy desire to create a single wholeness out of all of this[,]” *Preface to the score states Fleischer, and “all of this” refers not only to the heterogeneous musical material, but also to the heterogeneous social groups from which the material originates.

The symphony consists of an introduction and five sections. In the introduction, four musical elements are exposed: the exclamation by Shalom Ḥanokh; the melodious voice of the Ashkenazi cantor; a loud and bluesy chord of the symphony orchestra; and a tekiʿah blown by one shofar. Musically, this introduction is a primitive sort of exposition and the listener may wonder how the composer should build a symphony from these disparate blocks. Two of them (the recited prayers and the shofar blasts) are formally not even music; three of them are not composed but found, even outside the concert hall, and all four are created according to completely different standards. The listener may also wonder how the suppliers of these blocks—believers and non-believers, traditionally-oriented and modern-thinking people, Jews from widely separated regions and cultures—should cooperate in building their national home. The five sections can be connected to different chronotopes: the synagogue, the concert hall, the electronic studio, the beach (in the last section), Israel (the rock singer) and various countries and continents (Israel, Europe, Morocco, Syria, Kurdistan, Iran, India).

The Kol Nidrei, just as in the Yom Kippur service, is introduced by the Bishivah Shel Malah (“In the heavenly council”), a prayer enabling the congregation to pray together with transgressors of the Law: “With the agreement of God / and of the community, / in the heavenly council, / and in the council of man, / we give leave to pray / with the transgressors among us.” *The Koren Yom Kippur Maḥzor 70. Shalom Ḥanokh’s exclamation about the “difficult situation” is not contrary to the fundamental idea of Yom Kippur, that is, confession and atonement, and in combination with the tekiʿah, it even arouses associations with Jer. 6:16-17: “Which is the road to happiness? / Travel it, and find tranquility for yourselves . . . 17 and I raised watchmen for you: / ‘Hearken to the sound of the horn!’ / But they said, ‘We will not.’” After the introduction, Ḥanokh’s exclamation sounds two times, in section 1 and in section 4, and both times his internally persuasive discourse turns into authoritative discourse which interrupts the music.

At the end of section 2, the five shofar blowers are heard for 20 seconds, without the other musical layers, in an improvisation “with lots of movement.” Fleischer calls the shofar “lyrical, elegant, one might say, regal, even when it pleads,” *Preface to the score which fits the description of coronations in the Bible *Cf. Chapter 2 and in the Malkhuyyot (“Kingship”) section in the Rosh Ha-Shanah service. *Cf. Chapter 3.2. Section 5 is a finale, in which the percussion starts a dance, that becomes more and more excited:

[I]t becomes a merging without a loss of individuality. We are confronted with a transparency of the elements, the interrelationships in a new organism giving rise to the co-existence of all the various strands. This is the message of the whole symphony, conveyed to the listener in the fifth section – an extensive Finale, as it were. The exotic, concrete percussion instruments [the above-mentioned tree branches, stones, shells and bottle filled with sand] enhance this sensation in the concluding Dance: this is exhilaration in the everyday world, in the field, at the seaside, merging with the ecstatic prayers of the synagogue. All this is evoked by the sensitive singing of the Moroccan cantor. The section begins and ends in introspective chords of the fourth and a wide spectrum of pitches; they embody power, tranquility, hope. *Preface to the score.

After section 5, in which the desire “to create a single wholeness out of all of this” is realized in music, while remaining utopian in society, the symphony is concluded by the Codetta. It consists of one single measure with five shofarot blowing a tekiʿah gedolah in unison. The shofar blast in the introduction of the symphony confirms Jewish religious identity; the five shofarot after the introduction express religious emotions; and the shofar blast in the Codetta is a promise of unity among the nation. “Contemplated heroism, cool happiness” is Fleischer’s comment on this Codetta; the orchestra members, shofar blowers, cantors and rock singer have made ​​music together, which is a reason for pride and gratitude, but not for delirious joy. The Yom Kippur service ends as well with a tekiʿah gedolah and a prayer of the cantor and the congregation; this conclusion symbolizes God’s acceptance of the prayers and a new beginning for every member of the congregation: *The Koren Yom Kippur Maḥzor 1198-1200

May He who makes peace in His high places,
make peace for us and all Israel –
and say: Amen.

The shofar is sounded.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Congregation aloud:
Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt!
The Ark is closed.

The symphony in the Present is directed by the traditional shofar blasts from the Past. At the same time, the Past is altered by the Present, because Fleischer’s point of departure was to create a personal memorial for her friend Noa Yefet and a general monument drawing attention to three social values​​, above all to love of nature, which makes human life possible. Fleischer stated, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing we all love is nature. The piece ends with people dancing at the seashore… I had to collect seashells, stones and dry branches and bring them to percussionists in Jerusalem.” *Reider, Interview in “Orchestrating an Identity.” There are other works in A Tool of Remembrance in which love for nature is important; the protagonist of Yitskhok Leybush Perets’ short story The Shofar, *Chapter 4.4 who lives in a modern city, feels a nostalgic longing for unspoilt nature; and Sarah Lindsay’s poem Zucchini Shofar *Chapter 4.69 is determined by modern ecological ideas. The only other work about love for nature—in this case, the sun—as the precondition for human life is Shaul Tshernikhovski’s sonnet cycle To the Sun: *Chapter 4.12 “And all existence becomes a voice of prayer, the prayer of all: / To you the mother jackals call as they litter their welps, / To you the battle trumpet as light breaks in the camp[.]” The difference is that Tsippi Fleisher considers love of nature as a means to bridge social differences.

The second social value mentioned by Fleischer is recognition of the fundamental equality of men; and the third—just as in Normandeau’s Chorus, discussed in the preceding chapter—reconciliation, to be able to live with other people. The question of who these other people are, is not unambiguously answered by Fleischer. The subtitle Israeli-Jewish Collage suggests that the symphony is about the Jewish Israelis, and this impression is reinforced by the use of the Kol Nidrei and the shofar blasts. In an interview about the symphony, however, Fleischer refers not only to Jewish Israelis, but also to Palestinian Israelis and in the Preface to the score she also mentions both Jews and Palestinians:

This music expresses my thirst for a new Israeli identity. Trying to answer the existential question of how one can live here in peace with himself and with the others, I reached a state of despair . . . And for an artist, peace of mind is essential. Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, secular and religious[.] *Reider, Interview in “Orchestrating an Identity.”
Most of the compositional process of Symphony No. 5 took place in May 2002, at a time I was feeling strongly that I’d had enough of ‘Jewish as such’ and ‘Arab as such’ in the State of Israel. I was searching for the exact definition of Israeli existence. This country is for two nations. Let them live together in it courageously. It must be reestablished. *Preface to the score.

The reason for this discrepancy between subtitle and comment—inaccuracy, increasing understanding, or tactical considerations—is not clear. The qualification Collage, however, leaves nothing to the imagination; this is a work made up of bits and pieces, collected by the artist and playfully glued together; moreover, the glue should connect bits and pieces which do not fit together but still belong in the same frame, and it should restore what has been broken.


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