Radical Jewish Culture

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Radical Jewish Culture (RJC; German Radical Jewish Culture ) is a musical and cultural movement that originated in the so-called New York downtown scene of the 1990s. The movement's protagonist is the Jewish-American avant-garde musician John Zorn . Moreover Radical Jewish Culture , the name of a number of music labels Tzadik .


Even before the beginning of the RJC movement, individual musicians from the downtown scene dealt with the Jewish tradition, documented in the Jewish Alternative Movement series by Knitting Factory Records . Furthermore, there were occasional exchanges with representatives of the Klezmer Revival or Neo-Klezmer , especially Don Byron , David Krakauer and Mark Feldman .

The Festival for Radical New Jewish Culture , which was organized by John Zorn and was actually a two-day part of the Art Projekt Festival in Munich in September 1992, is considered to be the trigger or catalyst of the RJC movement . Many New York musicians took part in the partial festival, most of whom had not put their Jewish origins in the foreground up until then, including Lou Reed , Tim Berne , John Lurie , Zeena Parkins and Ben Goldberg, who had already appeared explicitly as Jewish , Gary Lucas , Marc Ribot , Anthony Coleman , Elliott Sharp , Roy Nathanson , Shelley Hirsch , Richard Teitelbaum and Alvin Curran . The musical part was accompanied by film screenings (by David Cronenberg among others ) and discussions. The festival was accompanied by the publication of a Radical Jewish Culture Manifesto written by Zorn and Ribot. Zorn later said:

“I don't know why it is, but suddenly it was a strange kind of inspiration. Suddenly I realized that most of the musicians I was closely connected to were Jewish (...). That started to interest me. And I still don't know if I have an answer to that. "

The premiere of Zorn's composition Kristallnacht , the title of which refers to the November pogroms of 1938, which are often referred to in the same way, was of central importance for Radical Jewish Culture .

In the years that followed, the RJC organized other festivals, especially in New York. Furthermore, music albums close to the RJC idea were released as part of a series of the same name by Zorn's Tzadik label. The music in the series combines very different musical genres, such as B. Klezmer , free jazz , rock music , blues , punk , experimental music and improvisation . The musicians involved are not necessarily Jews either. Another significant development in the RJC context is Zorn's longstanding Masada project.

The most important and well-known representatives of Radical Jewish Culture include, besides Zorn, Anthony Coleman , Sharon Topper and Craig Flanagin from the band G – d Is My Co-Pilot , Marc Ribot , Shelley Hirsch , David Krakauer and Frank London .


The aim of the movement is to find the answer to the question of what constitutes modern Jewish culture , especially music, and to shape its development. A quote from the Kabbalah historian and Jewish mystic Gerschom Scholem is the leitmotif of Radical Jewish Culture :

“There is a life of tradition in which it is not just about conservative preservation, about the constant continuation of the spiritual and cultural goods of a community. There is also such a thing as a treasure hunt in tradition, which establishes a living relationship with tradition and to which much of what is best in contemporary Jewish consciousness is committed - even when it has been and is being expressed outside of the orthodox framework. "

Zorn's concept of Radical Jewish Culture was rejected by some Jewish musicians and artists because of its radicalism and exclusivity. It is just a marketing phrase to boost record sales. Adam Shatz said in the New York Times that Zorn uses a racist definition of Jewish music, pushes Jews into the role of the permanently persecuted outsider or pariah and thus separates them from the rest of society, what his musical work, the Shatz, as “radical kitsch “Designated, overshadowed.

Although there are connections to the Klezmer Revival , also personally (Don Byron, Mark Feldman, Frank London), many protagonists of the RJC refuse to understand Klezmer as the basis of “radical new Jewish music”. Klezmer elements are rather weakly represented in many publications from the RJC environment and are often only hinted at.

RJC participants named the Beat Generation as well as Jewish thinkers such as Hannah Arendt , Walter Benjamin , Paul Celan , Heinrich Heine and Jacques Derrida as important non-musical influences .


  • Tamar Barzel: New York Noise: Radical Jewish Music and the Downtown Scene . Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indianapolis 2015, ISBN 978-0-253-01557-0 .
  • Joachim-Ernst Berendt, Günther Huesmann: The Jazz Book: From New Orleans to the 21st Century . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-596-15964-2 , pp. 238-241 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Barzel (2015), p. 57.
  2. Berendt, Huesmann (2011), p. 238.
  3. Barzel (2015).
  4. ^ A b Radical Jewish Culture - The New York Music Scene Since 1990. jmberlin.de
  5. Berendt, Huesmann (2011), p. 241.
  6. Barzel (2015).
  7. ^ John Zorn: Radical Jewish Culture. New York City, 2006
  8. German version based on Berendt / Huesmann (2011), p. 239. English original at tzadik.com .
  9. Jeff Janeczko: Negotiating Boundaries - Musical Hybridity in Tzadik`s Radical Jewish Culture Series ; in Bruce Zuckerman, Josh Kun and Lisa Ansell: The Song is Not the Same - Jews and American Popular Music , University of Southern California, 2011, p. 140
  10. ^ Adam Shatz: Crossing Music's Borders in Search of Identity - Downtown, a Reach for Ethnicity ; in the New York Times on October 3, 1999
  11. Barzel (2015), p. 48, names Coleman, Nathanson, Ribot and Sharp, among others.
  12. Barzel (2015), p. 15.