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It may not be associated with this image now, but when the Hassidic movement first got underway in Eastern Europe in the 18th century, it was genuinely radical. Hassidic Jews rejected the studious, bookish bent of conventional Jewish orthodoxy in favor of joyful communion with the Divine. And music was central to their ecstatic pursuit of spiritual fulfillment. To Hassidic Jews, melodies were tools for elevating the spirit and "cleaving to God," while words only got in the way. The Milken Archive offers an appreciation of this culture with Tuesday's release of Volume 6: Echoes of Ecstasy: Hassidic Inspiration. Here, composers Leon Stein, Abraham Ellstein and more offer music inspired by Hassidic life and culture. Listen in.
Everyone who has ever spent a summer of their youth welcoming Shabbat under the stars amid bug spray and sunburns have Paul Ben-Haim -- who was born July 5, 1897 -- partially to thank. The composer’s Kabbalat shabbat sacred service -- which was intentionally set in "as simple and modest a style as possible" and combines elements of the Reform kabbalat shabbat and Sabbath eve liturgies -- was commissioned by NFTY (the North American Federation of Temple Youth) during the composer's artist residency at summer camp in 1966. Listen in. (Photo credit: Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Composer George Rochberg -- born on July 5, 1918 -- was known for his initial embrace of post-serialist techniques and later for largely rejecting them in favor of a neo-Romantic approach. He was often quoted for his conviction that “there can be no justification for music, ultimately, if it does not convey eloquently and elegantly the passions of the human heart.” Rochberg’s setting of Psalm 150 (excerpted from his Three Psalms), the text of which calls for the praise of God with musical instruments, was composed during his earlier “cerebral” period and reflects his attraction to compositional techniques advanced by Arnold Schoenberg. Listen in.