Virtual Sound Archives

All right, so it’s not one of those fancy computer-y things with cool 3d visual perspective and such. But I thought it might be fun to show you a little of what the Sound Archives looks like. One thing I’ll spare you is the current lack of ventilation here on the library floor – we’ve been assured that it’s only temporary – hmmm…

So, once you go through the double glass doors, you turn left, and in the corner there are two wood doors. But before you get there, you’ll see a small exhibit with a plaque (the building houses five Jewish non-profits, so what do you expect?) – The YIVO Sidney Krum Yiddish Theater and Music Collection Gallery (it’s a   l o n g   plaque).

Of particular interest is the disc behind glass. Red shellac, too…

Looking closer,

it’s an Aaron Lebedeff recording from 1923 (not that I have that information in my head, mind you – I found it in our database…)

I suppose you’d like to hear it… well, ok…

Oy iz dos a rebetsn

Shh, shh be quiet, the Rabbi is coming from shul… see the Rabbi’s wife and how she smiles… she’s like a lovely Purim cake… she shines like a menorah… she’s like a cheese blintz… a Passover wine-vessel… a noodle kugl…

All this talk about food is making me hungry. Pret it is. Be right back…

OK, so here’s our modest little plaque…

And if you go through the door on the right, you’ll find our listening facility (hint, hint).

But if you go through the other door you’ll find my office and the bulk of the Sound Archives’ holdings. Behind the door is the piano that was in Herman Yablokoff’s apartment.

Unfortunately it has a cracked pin block. And, unfortunately, it’s still in my office.

But let’s take a look inside. Here’s some parts of the collection – the commercial 78rpm discs, all 6,404 (and counting) sides of them

The lps, all nice and neat in their shiny new sleeves…

and my assistant, Matt Temkin, cataloging them on the Mac

I used to have hair like that…

And the fancy sliding shelves with cds and cassettes…

I bet you’re just hankering for some more music right about now. So that gives me an excuse to show you our custom-made Diapason turntable (plays just about anything)…

and styli with scientifically calibrated tracking weights…

Oh, yeah, what was that disc on the turntable? Could it be an artist test-pressing of an unissued recording by Isa Kremer and accompanist Leon Rosenbloom of Moniuszko’s song Kozak made in 1924?

Isa Kremer

Why, yes it could. Let’s listen…

Kozak (Moniuszko) – in Polish

Nice!

What else do I have left to show you – our mixing board and tower of audio power…

…and the reel-to-reel tape deck and other stuff.

BTW, that doll sitting on the printer was a present from Israel from my friend Margaret. If you squeeze one hand it says the Shma, the other Moyde ani. That’s our people…

And that’s all I have time for now.

Come visit…

xo Lorin

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Speaking of Buenos Aires…

First of all, thanks to all of you for your kind comments and words of encouragement <g>. Makes me happy…

Up early this morning, so I got to work at the crack o’ dawn to work on the blog.

Since my last post was about my trip to Buenos Aires, I thought I would continue on that theme from a slightly different angle, specifically songs that came out of the experiences of young women abducted by the notorious Zwi Migdal Society, an organization of Jewish gangsters who ran a world-wide prostitution ring. These can be found in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archives, published by Wayne State University Press in cooperation with YIVO in 2007.

But first, let’s see and hear Ruth Rubin herself, accompanied by Pete Seeger(!):

Ruth and Pete: Tum balalayke

I came across these songs while working on Saints and Tzadiks, my Irish-Yiddish project with Dublin-born chanteuse Susan McKeown. We took all the Yiddish material from Ruth’s book, including one tale of a young woman being lured to Buenos Aires with promises of nice places to sleep, beautiful jewels to wear and gite tshekolyade tsi nashn.

Lucky too, for us, that all of Ruth’s original field recordings are housed here at YIVO. Here is Charles Leiken performing the song in 1947, accompanying himself on the mandolin…

Fin mayn mamelyu hot men mikh aroysgenimen

In the same section of the book (Songs of the Underworld), there’s another piece from the same period. Rubin’s informant, Harry Ary (recorded in Montréal in 1955), sings it here:

Oy, unter dem himl ligt di shtot Bunos-ayres

Oh, under the sky lies the city of Buenos Aires, where no God exists in the world. Where such beautiful young girls are taken away to Buenos Aires, and they are sold for so many millions…

I am looking forward to attending KlezKanada for the first time this coming August, where I will be teaching a song repertoire class using material drawn exclusively from this incredible treasure trove of Yiddish song.

Lorin

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Dulce de Leche

Greetings from New York!

I recently returned from my third trip to Buenos Aires with the Klezmatics. As in the past, I visited General Director Miguel (Mickey) Steuermann and on-air host Danny Saltzman at Radio Jai (the only full-time Jewish radio station in the Americas), and, as on my last visit some eight years ago, they were kind enough to donate some more rare Argentine 78rpm and lp discs to YIVO. Then, on a tip from bandmate Frank London about a bookstore where he saw “a few Yiddish lps” I made my there and, instead, found albums stuffed with more Yiddish records, bringing the total to 45 78s and 25 lps. After spending a futile morning attempting to ship everything home (with no help from the Katisha-like customs officer at Correi0 Argentino), I lugged it all back to NYC on our flight from BA. Thanks to Lisa and Matt’s running interference and help, the precious pile of shellac, vinyl and crumbling cardboard has arrived intact.

One of the many perks of this job is making new discoveries virtually every day. On Tuesday as I was beginning to catalog the new acquisitions, among the new titles by our now-old friends Max Zalkind, Rosita Londner and Sam Liberman I came across this:

Cili Tex? So naturally I gave it a spin.

Avreml Marvijer

Aha! The Argentine-Yiddish Piaf? Who knew?

What strikes me about this performance is its spotaneity – much like a live performance. What’s not to like?

The song is a well-known one by the Yiddish bard of Krakow, Mordecai Gebirtig (1877-1942). Avreml der marvikher (Little Avram, the Pickpocket) is a slice of the underworld story of a teenaged thief, who begins his tale by bragging of his expertise. He then goes on to predict his own demise from the vestiges of living the tough life of a street kid, which he feels he would have been spared had he not been orphaned at an early age.

This is definitely one of the earliest-known recordings of Avreml, (the other is by Elwira Boczkowska, which, coincidentally, was in this pile of discs, too. She also recorded it for a European label, issued [illegally?] by Stinson in the U.S. with the first verse cut off).

Anyhow, enjoy this, my first posting – hopefully the first of many more to come…

Lorin

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