In an arts lead in today’s Daily Telegraph, I summarise a theme from my new book, Genius and Anxiety, demonstrating how Jews – and particularly Jewishness – transformed the arts between the middle of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The article is behind a paywall.
Here’s a short extract:
Jews created vast industries of mass music and visual illusion. Immigrant Jews in America established pop music as the soundtrack of our lives and movies as our most popular distraction. Russian pogrom refugees and African-Americans found aural affinities between minor synagogal modes and plantation blues from the Deep South. Inaugurating the jazz age, Jews found the talent (Louis Armstrong ran errands for a Jewish family) and founded the future major labels, Columbia and RCA. George Gershwin, composer of the African-American opera Porgy and Bess, named his mode of composition ‘freygish’ – a Yiddish word for asking a Talmudic question. The aria ‘Summertime’ that opens Porgy and Bess is an inversion of a Sabbath-morning synagogue trope. …
My book, Genius and Anxiety, is on sale in the UK edition from this week.
The US edition is published by Simon & Schuster on December 3.