In print, the Middle East is a political hotspot of clashing ideologies. The music streaming out of the region, however, reveals that a harmonious cross-cultural interchange is also at work there and in countries to the west along the Mediterranean coast.
“Israel and the Bomb.” By Avner Cohen, Columbia University Press, 470 pages, $27.50.
Cohen’s book should properly be labeled “Israel and the Bomb and Israeli-American Diplomacy Concerning the Bomb.”
The bomb, of course, is the nuclear bomb, which the world suspects Israel has, but whose existence Israel has never admitted.
The shop down the block from the Eldridge Street Synagogue specializes in fish balls, not matzah balls, and the closest house of worship is the Pechau Buddhist temple. But the Lower East Side still reverberates with the energy and concerns of a century ago, when Russian Jewish immigrants built the neighborhood synagogue.
"That's pretty much the nature of a city," says filmmaker Pearl Gluck. "The identity of a space changes, but its history stays. There's always a remnant."
Legend has it that Johann Sebastian Bach composed the Baroque masterpiece known as the "Goldberg Variations" for an insomniac ambassador to be played on sleepless nights by the diplomat's teenage harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756).
The clarinetist Andy Biskin had Bach's work in mind when he playfully named his latest composition "Goldberg's Variations." But the only person losing sleep in this case was the composer himself.
When two Jewish songwriters teamed up with a former “Shabbos goy” in 1956, it helped change the face of popular music.
The “Shabbos goy” was Elvis Presley (who died 24 years ago last week).
When Elvis covered “Hound Dog,” a rhythm-and-blues song composed by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber — originally recorded in 1953 by Big Mama Thornton — it propelled the young Presley’s career to new heights.
But perhaps equally as important, it brought Leiber and Stoller to the attention of top music executives.