Monday, December 25, 2006

The Excitement is Spreading

This morning, Henry Sapoznik and I gave the first session of our class introducing Living Traditions' online digital archive project to the world, and it was a great experience. We told the story of how the project came to be, which is also contained in an excellent article in this year's KlezKamp Zhurnal. One of the best moments was when I played "before" and "after" clips of a couple of tunes. The "before" clip was from the kind of transfer of a 78 rpm record that is commonly circulated among interested parties who don't have access to professionally remastered reissues; the after clip was from the transfer made by the engineer for this project, Chris King, who is a genious at making both words and music intelligible. Jaws dropped in a very gratifying fashion.

I was also able to share images of some of the beautiful labels on these old records. Here's an example of one particular colorful image from a recording of Belf's Rumanian Orchestra made in Rumania about 1908. The writing is in cyrillic, which is the alphabet used by Russian and Ukrainian.

This project, which will make as many extant Yiddish recordings as I can locate widely available at nominal cost, feels almost as important a contribution to the preservation and dissemination of Yiddish culture as KlezKamp itself, and it was clear from the reactions of the students in class today that they immediately "got" this. There can be nothing more gratifying. I can't wait till tomorrow's class, where we're going to be playing examples of Eastern European khazns (cantors) accompanied by choruses.

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