The Tao of Jewish Music (and the Hebrew Alphabet)

The new issue of the Blue Jew Yorker is out and, as far as literary magazines go, this one couldn’t be more out of left field. In so many different directions. Beyond the conspiracy theory poems and odes to chicken soup that one would expect to find in the publication — and non-New Yorkers needn’t be afraid; the most New Yorky thing about the ‘zine is its name — there’s also the odd piece Joy, Pt. 1 by Alan Jay Sufrin. The writer is better known for his work with the band Stereo Sinai, but here, he delves into literary theory — and he couldn’t have picked a better place to start. An article begins, “When it suddenly occurs to you that Stevie Wonder had it right, and the cabbalists had it wrong. That’s when it’s time to face the firing squad,” and you know it’s going to be good…or else the author is one hell of a braggart.

It holds its own. The piece is a charming, offbeat, and mythologically sound treatise on the intersection of soul music, from Stevie Wonder to Rabbi Akiva, delving into the worlds of both. And then he drops a G-bomb — that’s right, the creation of the golem:

So you take the example of the letter Aleph. ×? – an unpronounceable symbol – shaped as though it were simultaneously reaching for the highest squawks, and for the White-hot basses, all in the hopes of escaping the dybbuks possessing its greedy and overbearing record company executives.

You take the Mem. × calming and soothing vibrations between your lips – built for the horn section and formed clearly to visually represent the highest ideal of the beynoni, which is to get down on it.

And you take the Sof. × which is no less than the Jazz guitar now more percussion than string, reclaimed in modern times for the purpose of funking up our palates.


Can’t wait for Pt. 2. And hoping there is a Pt. 2.

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