The meaning and impact of a good song depends upon the delicate interdependence of music and words. Melody carries and nuances a text’s meaning, and words can influence how we hear music. We explore this relationship in our latest virtual exhibit: The Art of Jewish Song: Yiddish and Hebrew—the first installment of which is available now on our website.
Of course, the genre of art song depends on the existence of a body of poetry that lends itself to musical settings. So, in an attempt to look more broadly at the milieu in which the majority of these songs and the poems were composed, the exhibit has been organized according to themes expressed in the poems.
What ideas occupied the minds of the poets whose words found new expression in the songs they inspired? Which composers were drawn to which themes? And as the majority of the poems were written during the height of Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe, what can they tell us about Jewish life during this period of great upheaval?
Though not exhaustive, a thematic approach can shed light on such questions, or at least compel us to view the repertoire in a new light. This first installment features songs on themes of Jewishness, longing, and lullabies.
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