Biography

Joseph Dorfman's compositions encompass solo works, chamber and orchestral music, ballet, opera and oratorio. Many of his works have been performed in concerts, at festivals and on radio in Europe, Israel, and the USA.

His music was strongly influenced by his studies with Geinich Litinsky, a representative of the Moscow School, nevertheless he was not dedicated to any particular school or compositional technique. He had his reasons for this: "Non-musical theories, logically thought-out systems and detailed schemes drawing on mathematical and computer calculations have the ability to suppress music, and often create crisis in musical creation. The unlimited possibilities of musical creation inevitably collides with dogma, and dethrones them, regardless of how well constructed they are or how "ideal" they may appear." He also did not consider himself a revolutionary who destroys the old and builds something new. "I have not created a new system of composing, no new musical language. I have no pistol in my hand, I build no barricades and throw no torches through the windows of the future." Joseph Dorfman continually searched for his musical language: "I am constantly travelling and search for my world in art ... I learn to speak anew with each new composition." And this search lead him primarily to the music of his forefathers, who provided him with continual inspiration: liturgical singing, i.e. the melismatic and partially improvised synagogal recitative incorporated in the term "hazzanut", and the folk music of Eastern European Jews, so-called Klezmer music. Klezmer is a term used for a musician from the Ashkenazi community from Eastern Europe. The klezmorim were professional, but simple musicians who provided the music for such Jewish festivals and ceremonies as weddings, funerals, Passover and Purim. They usually did not have any formal training and often could not read musical notation. They overcame this shortcoming through a passionate love of music, mastering their instruments, a deep knowledge of the musical culture of their audience and a remarkable talent for improvisation.

It is therefore not surprising that Joseph Dorfman preferred the short lyrical musical poem, the melodic story or a dance motif, "simple or complicated, happy or sad, tragic or mystical, but told or sung by one instrument".
The most important components in his musical language include the linear-melismatic development of the melody, diatonic triads and tetrachords with ornamental chromatisation and the division in quarter tones based on the poly-modal technique. A further component is the rhythmic asymmetry, i.e. the irregular division in multi-voiced counterpoint with polymetric and polyrhythmic elements. His themes are treated with variable permutations and mosaic-like episodic changes.

Joseph Dorfman compared the process of musical creation to "polishing gems ...: the finer the work, the deeper and more comprehensive the penetration in the search of and revealing of all of the components, the more beautifully the flame of light inside the stone and its colours will be seen, the more perfectly the dynamics of its lines and form will be revealed."

Joseph Dorfman died on June 7th, 2006 in Los Angeles at the age of 65. On the occasion of the centennial of Dmitri Shostakovich he spoke to a 350-member audience at Valley Beth Shalom Temple about Shostakovich's kinship with Jewish culture birth and performed some of Shostakovich´s works. After the concert he collapsed of a sudden heart attack.

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