This spring, Ashkenaz partners with the Canadian Language Museum to present a multi-media celebration of oral and written Yiddish. Berlin-based composer Paul Brody has created an exciting sound installation for the CLM based on the voice-melodies of Toronto Yiddish speakers. To create The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses Brody interviewed eight Yiddish speakers to explore their favorite curses and blessings, as well as the stories and memories behind them. He discovered that as the Yiddish speakers, young and old, invoked the traditional Yiddish sayings, the emotion in their voices revealed the musicality of speaking Yiddish. Brody recalls: “I became fascinated by how my interviewee’s voice-melody often shifted from conversational to a melodic, almost singing voice, through the uttering of a blessing or a curse. “
Yiddish blessings and curses reveal a musical language that is uniquely Yiddish. Drawing on his work with both contemporary Jewish music and radio documentaries, Brody has created a five-part suite for his sound installation: Talking Yiddish, Bagel Hell, Curse Composition, Feeling Family and Belly Blessing. A musical response supplements this 15-minute composition: Brody invited outstanding klezmer musicians from around the world to respond with their own short musical improvisations based on the voice-melodies in his piece.
Complementing this audio installation, there will be a visual exhibit about Yiddish on the Museum’s walls. Komets-Alef-O! Back to School at the Yiddish Kheyder is an introduction to the Yiddish language, created by Yiddish doctoral student Miriam Borden. A kheyder is a traditional elementary classroom, and this exhibit introduces visitors to speaking, writing and reading Yiddish. There will be interactive activities set up in the museum as well: visitors will be able to record their own favourite curses or blessings, try their hand at writing Yiddish, leaf through a Yiddish newspaper, or peruse one of the classics of Yiddish literature. Whether you are an absolute newcomer to Yiddish or a Yiddish maven there will be something in this lively exhibit to interest you!