Intercultural musicking: Reflection, in, on and for situated klezmer ensemble performance

Richard Fay, Daniel J Mawson, Nahielly Palacios

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is informed by the experiences of the authors as reflective practitioners over the last decade teaching klezmer ensemble performance in a UK university music department. It explores the processes and roles of various types of, and moments for, reflection in students' experience of klezmer
performance, and how such reflective practices contribute to their developing performative confidence and purposefulness. As informed by the work of Schön (himself a musician who illustrated his reflective processes with reference to musicians), as extended by Farrell, it is observed how the students frame their experience and intentions in terms of reflection in, on, and for situated
performance. With a significant push during the online teaching of the Covid pandemic, this framing has become increasingly foregrounded over the years of the klezmer ensemble performance teaching of the first two authors, a trend continuing now as they further embed processes and roles of reflection in their
resumed onsite teaching.

The term klezmer, from the Hebrew klei zemer (vessel of song), originally referred to a musician rather than a music culture. Such musicians (plural form, klezmorim) were essential in the largely dance-based music culture of Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and the Pale of
Settlement. In the (translated) words of the Yiddish proverb “a wedding without a klezmer is worse than a funeral without tears”. This Jewish music culture dating back to the Middle Ages has been shaped variously by: the persecution, progrom, and genocide experienced by those communities; a rich migratory history and experience of musical-cultural assimilation; and declining interest followed by
revival in the 1970s/80s. That revival has generated substantial interest in, and a growing literature about, klezmer.

The klezmer ensemble under study (founded in 2011) is linked to an assessed module in ensemble performance taken by music undergraduates in a department with ‘Western’ music theory and practice at its core despite becoming more diverse in recent years. The ensemble provides opportunities for performance both within the university and the local community. It functions as a space for
intercultural ‘musicking’ and ‘performing ethnomusicology’ through which students develop transmusicality and intercultural awareness. Above all, the module provides a space for students to not only become familiar with a Musical Other but also develop a sense of situated performance. The aspiration is for the teaching and learning to be critically underpinned, alert to the need for appropriacy and to avoid being appropriative. Accordingly, the students learn to perform klezmer in a culturally- and historically-informed way but also with a keen eye on the situatedness of their contemporary performances.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching music performance in higher education
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the potential of artistic research
EditorsJ. Salgado Correia, G. Dalagna, H.J. Minors, S. Ostersjo
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 2023


  • intercultural musicking
  • transmusicality
  • situated performance
  • klezmer
  • klezmer ensemble performance
  • reflective performance
  • reflection in, on, and for performance


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