‘Fate Leads the Willing, and Drags the Unwilling’

Eric Werner, Wissenschaft des Judenthums, and the Postwar Reconstruction of Jewish Music Study

in European Judaism
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  • 1 Indiana University, USA
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In this article, I explore the role that Austrian-born musicologist/composer Eric Werner (1901–1988) cultivated as a representative of musical Wissenschaft des Judenthums in postwar America. I focus here on the diary that Werner kept between 1955 and 1957 – a heretofore untapped resource – which chronicles his efforts to build intellectual refugee networks while simultaneously helping to restart an international network of Jewish music discourse spanning America, Europe and Israel. Music, in Werner's view, required a scientific basis for study from which authentic practices could be rebuilt. Thus, while Werner relied on revitalising cantors as vessels of Jewish music, he viewed musicology as the core discipline from which Jewish music ‘tradition’ could arise.

Contributor Notes

Judah M. Cohen is the Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor of Jewish Culture and Professor of Musicology at Indiana University. He has authored The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment (2009), Sounding Jewish Tradition: The Music of Central Synagogue (2011) and Jewish Religious Music in Nineteenth Century America (2019). His current projects explore World War II-era narratives in musical theatre, nineteenth-century American synagogue music, and the life of American Jewish singer/songwriter/liturgist Debbie Friedman.

European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe


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