Buried Treasures of Art Works of all Genres in Surprising Places!

Riverview Park Review Arts Report

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This will be my first presentation on this topic, but will be the one of many, interspersed with interviews, and other approaches to this amazing issue.

The internet has become an essential source of learning for those who endeavour to ask questions and search for answers. When I find some solutions to questions I posed on my search engine, many more questions appear in my mind. When I discovered You Tube over ten years ago, I was amazed at the number of composers, visual artists, dramatists, choreographers and more, of which I had no knowledge. When I attended McGill for my music degree, the composers we studied were mainly German, Italian, French and English. We touched on a few Slavic ones and a couple of American composers. After I graduated, I sought out more, and soon after I focused on Canadian artists of all kinds.

I was trying to find my natural "place" within myself as a composer, but what continually became apparent to me, was what I discovered I was doing when I improvised at the piano, was the music to which I was introduced when I was thirteen years old, along with Scottish, Irish and Welsh music I discovered in my mother’s old high school music book.

When I was in CGIT, our leader got us invited to a Friday evening Shabbat service at Temple Emanuel in Montreal. I was enthralled by their music! I learned the beautiful, short “Baruch Ata Adonai” immediately by heart, and still sing it to myself every Friday evening. Both my Celtic genes and my attachment to Jewish music play a significant part in my own compositions. This has led me to research the music of many other under- represented women composers, not Northern or Western European or North American.

What makes Jewish women composers my first focus for this article?

First: Jewish culture being originally Asian, and like many other Asian societies, and over many centuries, spread over much of Europe, then the rest of the world. (The spread is similar to that of Celtic cultures, for similar reasons). Jewish melodic, harmonic rhythms and memes in all genres of their works, whether religious, classical, secular, klezmer, (folk), world, jazz, are iconic to their approach to their communities.

The rhythmic styles were originally based on their liturgical chants. Much of their melodic and harmonic usage was also derivative of sacred songs. During the Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque Periods, much more creative and expansive development was encouraged and expressed, along with a great widening and deepening of folk, dance, and ‘art’ music genres of Jewish Music. Because of wars, trade, and the burgeoning expansion of a prosperous business class, Jews were encapsulating the influences of Central, Eastern and Southern European cultures.

This is especially noticeable when listening to Romanian and Ashkenazic folk music.

A similar ‘fusion’ is noticeable when listening to Spanish, Gypsy, (Flamenco), Arabian and Sephardic music. Jewish composers musically ingested those ‘fusioned’ ‘memes’ into their compositions. Here are just a few examples: ‘typical Ashkenazic : ‘Raisins and Almonds’ (Roghenkis Mit Mandlen-You Tube); typical Sephardic: 1. You Tube-Yamma 2. Trio-‘Global Hebrew and Jewish Music’ & Montserrat Figueras –‘La Rosa Enflorece’. Jewish Temple Music: ‘Avinu Malkenu’-You Tube.

Most women artists of one kind or another were unable to practice their disciplines after they married. Medieval female artists could become ‘trobiarits’, (female troubadours), but had to be from the nobility or aristocracy. To have their own career, they had to leave their comfortable family estates and roam throughout the land, composing and performing. Most were not from the upper class, so had only two choices: marriage, (arranged), or nunnery. Renaissance and Baroque female composers could not perform or publish after they married. Very few had supportive husbands, so often their choice was not to marry. Jewish women artists had even a harder time of it, because of Talmudic laws and isolation; and in many countries, alienation from the rest of society, due to anti-Semitism. From the 16th C. to the 20th C., female Jewish composers have been quietly and consistently composing.

Leona Duarte, citizen of Antwerp, a Jewish Converso, born in 1610, to a prominent family of merchants and art collectors, was a violoist and composer of seven sinfonias for viol. Her works were very descriptive of the behaviors and nature of life in the early part of the 17th C.. Within these works, one can perceive contentment before a blazing fireplace, rustling leaves and more. Her sinfonias were recently recorded by the group: Sonnanmbula, a group based in NYC.

Alma Mahler, composer, born Alma Margaretha Maria Schindler, August31,1879, in Vienna, became a composer, author, poet, and socialite. She composed seventeen song cycles, became the wife of Gustav Mahler, famous composer, but seventeen years her senior. While he retained very conservative ideas of women, and discouraged her composing activities, he changed his perspective, when she became depressed for many months. After her seeking psychiatric help by whom the psychiatrist himself, blamed Mahler for his bias of her musically creative abilities, she returned to composing in earnest and became much happier. Gustav died soon after their reconciliation, (1911) In 1938,after the Anschluss, Alma was forced to flee Austria as it was unsafe for Jews. Eventually the couple settled in Los Angeles. In later years, her salon became part of the artistic scene, first in Vienna, then in Los Angeles and in New York.

Jane Marion Joseph, (1894-March1929), composer, arranger, librettist, performer, producer, music teacher and transcriber and active member of Society of Women Musicians, was a prodigious musician, whose compositions were admired not only by other female composers, but by Vaughn-Williams, Gustav Holst and the British public. Her life was cut short because of kidney failure.

Because my maximum word allowance is one thousand words, I must leave you with a small list of these amazing composers. They can be found on the ‘Net’:

Several were victims of the Holocaust, composed songs in the camps, but perished there. Their biographies can be found in Wikipedia, and a few samples of their music can be found on You Tube.

It is my deepest wish and highest hope that the voices in the many compositions which these women I cited, along with the many Jewish female composers, whose works were either destroyed or never published, will be discovered somehow, or re-created. I long to hear what is so far, those amazing harmonies which are symphonies of ‘sounds of silence.’

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