Episode 13 of American Jewish Music from the Milken Archive with Leonard Nimoy concludes the marathon series with a journey to the heart of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music itself. In addition to five full-length works, multiple interviews with Founder Lowell Milken explore why he initiated this ambitious project and what he hopes the world will gain from it.
As a pantheon of composers from many corners of the world, the music in the Milken Archive represents much more than any one background or religion. Yes, its story is uniquely American and distinctly Jewish, but it has far more to do with the power of freedom and the freedom of expression than religion, national pride, or ethnic identity.
Emblematic of the Milken Archive as a whole, the works assembled in this two-part, two-hour episode exemplify the breadth, depth, and promise of Jewish music in America. Frederick Jacobi’s Concerto for Cello, Ernst Toch’s Symphony No. 5 “Jephta,” Palestine Suite by Walter Scharf, Gimpel the Fool by David Schiff, and David Amram’s Symphony: Songs of the Soul. They echo from biblical times to the present era, invoking along the way the sounds of the Near East, the Hasidic world of Eastern Europe, the sardonic wit of Isaac Bashevis Singer, and the soundstages of Hollywood.
As the final composition of this final episode, Amram’s work is a fitting way to conclude the series, echoing Archive Founder Lowell Milken’s vision for the project as a whole:
“I think music really transcends the boundaries of origins of individual cultures. I think that’s what so powerful about music – is that it has the ability to speak to each of us in a very personal way. And one of the most gratifying aspects of the Archive has actually been the interest in the non-Jewish world of what we have recorded. I think that confirms the universal qualities of the music, and how it speaks to people of all faiths and cultures.”