Jacques Attali and the State of Frum Rock
biz posted last week about the Big Event, but to recap briefly; a group of Charedi Rabbis signed a ban for a concert featuring the vocal ‘talents’ of singers like Sheya Mendlowitz, Shloime Gertner, and Lipa Schmeltzer. Well, today, the NY Times finally picked up the story. Suffice it to say; It doesn’t look particularly good. The last graph of the story says:
Assemblyman Hikind said he planned to meet with the rabbis involved. “Suddenly, when it comes to faith in the rabbis, there is this big question mark,” he said. “And when you don’t explain to the young people, you lose them, plain and simple.”
I couldn’t help but think of Jacques Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music. He writes:
Since it is a threat of death, noise is a concern of power; when power founds its legitimacy on the fear it inspires, on its capacity to create social order, on its univocal monopoly of violence, it monopolizes noise. Thus in most cultures, the theme of noise, its audition and endowment with form, lies at the origin of the religious idea.
But by rejecting that concern – by rejecting the use of noise, the authority is abdicating its own power. They should be embracing people like Schmeltzer and Gertner (because at least they aren’t Nirvana and Guns & Roses). But by delegitimizing even those Chassidic artists, the authorities are equivocating them with Kurt Cobain and Axel Rose. Why listen to Schmeltzer instead of Metallica if they are both banned? The distinctions disappear, as does the Rabbi’s monopoly on people’s listening. As someone who spent time in Charedi Yeshivas, I can attest to the fact that when you ban Soul Farm, they become just as contraband as the Sex Pistols. And you can’t keep people from trying to listen to music (unless you are the Taliban and have an actual physical authority over them).
Before I let this go on for too long, I just wanted to say how struck I was by another NY Times article this week that discussed the relationship between Orthodox Rabbis in Israel and the same in the USA:
A marriage registrar given a letter from an Orthodox rabbi abroad certifying that a person is Jewish is now expected to check with the office of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, which maintains a list of diaspora clergy whose letters are to be trusted. The list is not publicly available. If the rabbi who wrote the letter is not on the list, the applicant is asked for other proof or referred to the rabbinic courts… “The rabbinate in Israel has put the Orthodox rabbinate” — meaning Orthodox rabbis in the United States — “on the same level as Reform rabbis,” Angel said.
So there’s obviously some tension as well, as the United States Charedi Rabbinate attempt to compete and prove themselves to their Israel counterparts. This is going to get worse before it gets better, though, if Attali is right, banning music might completely backfire.