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Migrations of a Melody: synopsis

Hebrew preface || French preface || Kolnik statement || Table of contents

chapters I II III :: IV V VI :: VII VIII IX :: X XI XII

Migrations of a Melody

A melody has a soul -- it is the feeling of a human being that brings it to life.

To prove this, the story-teller relates a story about the Migrations (or re-incarnation) of a Melody.

Khaiml, a poor musician has been asked to bring a new composition, a requiem for a wealthy but miserly man, Berl Katzner. The melody's first migration comes when it is used to help a poor bride collect money to pay for her wedding.

This song is played during the wedding of Katzner's daughter, and the musician and one of the guests enter into a competition, in which the melody is again changed, and loses its soul.

Years later, the melody is played in the Yiddish theater, with all the sexual suggestiveness of a burlesque stage.

When the theater is closed, the melody is taken over by street acrobats and a poor homeless girl. The girl becomes sick, is abandoned by the acrobats who leave her in a small village (shtetl). She has typhus and eventually goes blind.

The blind girl now uses the melody to beg, and the melody, through her suffering, begins to arouse the solidarity of the people.

A Talmud scholar is annoyed by the melody at first. The girl's singing disturbes his study. The song stays in his head and prevents him from studying and praying. He grows angry, and decides to seek the advice of a wise rabbi.

Sitting at the Sabbath meal, the rabbi asks the scholar to sing. He does so, but the only melody he knows is the one the blind girl sang. The melody is transformed once more by his singing, because he adds to it the dedication of the religious scholar.

The rabbi asks the scholar to help the blind girl get married, and the melody reverts to its original purpose, that is, to be a wedding song.

Bringing the story full circle, it turns out that the blind girl was the granddaughter of Berl Katzner, the miserly rich man. She had been kidnapped from her home one evening when her parents went to the theater.