Organisers of Europe’s top Yiddish culture festival have said this summer’s theme is integrating the past, as a mammoth initiative to digitise 1,400 handwritten klezmer records gains momentum.
Yiddish Summer Weimar (YSW) 2021, in collaboration with the Klezmer Institute New York, takes place in Germany from 21 July to 21 August and showcases the new project to digitise hundreds of melodies and text notes from klezmer manuscripts.
Much of the material had been stored in the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, contained in notebooks created during expeditions through Eastern Europe before the outbreak of war in 1914.
Those expeditions, which in hindsight proved far-sighted, sought to document and protect Jewish music and culture of the era by capturing sound recordings, transcriptions of performed instrumental and vocal melodies, and photographs.
The digitisation is funded by crowdsourcing, but audio algorithms cannot recognise and interpret musical characters, so notation must be done by hand by experts in klezmer, Yiddish scholars and Russian speakers.
So far, volunteers have engraved around 450 melodies, about a third of the entire corpus. Institute director Christina Crowder said the project “was developed on open-source principles”.
An international community of around 200 volunteers have signed up to engrave, transcribe and translate the music and notes in the manuscripts.
“This approach reflects the creative impulse behind the act of ethnographic collection, which we hope to channel into the concert hall,” she said.
Historical sources as active ingredients in the creative process is a key focus of YSW 2021, held in locations around the city of Weimar, and festival workshops will explore ways to work with material from the past, including rediscovered melodies.
“For 20 years YSW has pursued a hands-on, project-based approach to learning and transmitting Yiddish and related musical cultures through co-creation that brings together scholars, performers, and audiences,” says YSW founder Dr Alan Bern. “Engaging with this largely oral culture means acquiring a range of skills that are not yet part of a standard western musical education.”
Crowder added that klezmer was “more than just a musical style, it is an element of a larger fabric linking the Yiddish language, prayer, dance and vocal and instrumental repertoires”.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.