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When composer Bruce Adolphe was commissioned to compose a work for soprano, French horn, and guitar, he was inspired to compose something folk-oriented. When a student gave him a CD of Ladino folk songs, he found his source material. From that CD, Adolphe -- who turned 57 on May 31 -- chose six evocative song texts and set them to new, original music. The finished result, Ladino Songs for Love and Suffering, is a moving treatment that respects the beauty and simplicity of the poetry, but adds a contemporary classical sound.
A passionate advocate for contemporary music -- who celebrated his own birthday a day after his former teacher, Bruce Adolphe -- Bruce Craig Roter's music explores both American and Jewish themes, and employs eclectic styles and techniques. His Three Short Songs on Poems of Judah al-Ha'rizzi are based on the works of the important medieval poet and groundbreaking translator of Arabic-language Jewish texts into Hebrew. Roter, who thought of these poems as “almost haiku-like in their brevity,” was attracted to them as powerful and diverse images that offered him a vehicle for exploring various aspects of his own musical language.
Rounding out our look at Sephardi-influenced music brings us to musical Renaissance man David Amram, a composer and musician who works across genres and firmly believes that music should be a spiritual, participatory activity. Incorporating Yemenite, Sephardi, klezmer and cantorial motifs, Amram’s Symphony: Songs of the Soul serves as a tribute to world Jewry’s cultural diversity. The melodic foundation of the final movement is the Ladino folksong, Morena Me Llaman. This Monday, Amram will be at New York City’s famous jazz spot, Cornelia St. Café, performing and discussing the music he’s composed over more than 50 years of collaborating with playwrights, choreographers, authors, poets and musicians. In a 1998 oral history interview with the Milken Archive, he discussed some of his Jewish-oriented music. It’s a captivating and enlightening discussion.