Stay up to date with the latest news and content from the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. Sign-up to our weekly newsletter.
For devout American Jews, all those Independence Day and summer celebration festivities were put on hold over the weekend as they observed Tzom Tammuz, or the fast of the 17th of Tammuz. One of the most ominous days in Jewish history, the fast commemorates the multiple calamities that befell the Jewish people on this day; among them being the day Moses descended from Mt. Sinai with the first set of tablets -- only to break them when he learned that his people had begun to worship the golden calf in his absence. Composer Kurt Weill depicted both Moses receiving the Commandments and the famous dance around the golden calf in scene 20 of his epic pageant The Eternal Road. Listen in.
To commemorate Bastille Day, the Milken Archive offers a tribute to one of France’s most famous composers, Darius Milhaud. While Milhaud is responsible for some of that nation’s finest music, he also has a significant catalog of Jewish works. Many of these were composed during his stay in the U.S., and make use of a liturgical music tradition unique to his place of birth, Comtat Venaissin, France. Milhaud’s Études sur des thèmes liturgiques du Comtat Venaissin (Études on Liturgical Themes for String Quartet) exemplifies his use of this tradition, also known as Minhag Carpentras (the custom of Carpentras). The work premiered originally in 1973 but was later lost, only to be rediscovered by the Milken Archive during an interview with the late composer’s widow in 2000. It is performed here by the revered Juilliard String Quartet. Listen in. Explore more of Milhaud’s music. (Photo credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust)
While a teenager in 1940, Ben Zion Shenker -- who would become a gifted composer of Hassidic niggunim -- had a life-changing experience at a prayer service led by Rabbi Saul Taub, rebbe of the Polish Modzitzer Hassidic dynasty in Brooklyn who was especially known for his charismatic delivery. Shenker was spellbound. He would soon become dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating the vast repertoire of Modzitzer niggunim, as well as the stories and anecdotes surrounding their origin. The Milken Archive’s newly released Volume 6 features an arrangement of Shenker’s Eshet ḥayil, one of his most revered niggunim, as well as a video of him discussing an early important experience with Modzitzer niggunim.