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Ukrainian Jewish Culture CD #1 Liner Notes

The Ukraine's Vernadsky National Library is the world's foremost repository 
of Jewish folk music recorded on Edison wax cylinders. Comprising over one 
thousand cylinders with two to seven minutes of music  each, the collection 
contains historical recordings made from 1912 to 1947 in Jewish areas of 
the Ukraine and Belarus. These recordings represent the painstaking work of 
two generations of Eastern European Jewish Folklorists and chronicle the 
achievements of folk musicians during the Pre- and Post-Revolutionary 
periods of Ukrainian history.

The concept of ethnographic expeditions aimed at the collecting these 
valuable materials originated with the well-known Jewish folklorist and 
writer S.An-sky (pen-name of Shlomo Rappoport) who lived in 1863-1920. 
Initiated by the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society in St. 
Petersburg, and funded by patron of the arts Goratsii Ginsburg, the project 
saw its genesis in folkloric expeditions from 1911 to 1914. Besides 
S.An-sky, many outstanding representatives of 
Jewish  culture  participated  in  these expeditions, including Julli 
Engel, composer and music expert (1867-1927),  Zinovii  Kiselhof, 
folklorist (1878-1939), and Solomon  Judovin,  artist (1892-1954), to name 
but a few. 1n1912and1913, just prior to World War I, the 
expedition  managed  to explore and ethnographically examine the Voihynian 
and Podolian regions, then bring together and classify the enormous and 
invaluable collection of data.

The participants in these expeditions were able to execute recordings, on 
Edison wax  cylinders,  of  various genres  of traditional Jewish music: 
wordless chants, instrumental performances,  songs  and synagogal 
liturgies. Today, these recordings make up a virtually inexhaustible source 
for approaching the art and traditions of the early twentieth-century 
Ashkenasi Jews. The majority of these wax cylinder recordings have been 
preserved perfectly up to the present day, adding greatly to the value of 
the collection.

After the Revolution, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet 
authorities seemed to adopt a rather more benevolent stance toward the 
eternally persecuted people, and once again, opportunities opened to the 
Jewish folklorists to continue the work of their predecessors. The period 
saw the organization of the Cabinet for Musical Folklore of the 
Ethnographic Section of the Institute  for Jewish Culture in 
Kyiv,  with  phonographic archives contributed by numerous ethnographic 
expeditions. The expedition work had come to be regular,  comprehensive and 
wide-ranging,  primarily due to the  efforts of the prominent 
folklorist,  Moisei Beregovskii. As well, efforts  toward deciphering, 
cataloging and archiving the voluminous research  material achieved high 
standards.  Beregovskii and  his  colleagues visited  Kyiv  and Odessa, 
main centers of Jewish culture in the Ukraine, as well as  such  diverse 
places  of  Jewish residence in Volhynia, Podolia and the Western Ukraine.

In 1930,  the collection of the Ethnographic Section of the Institute for 
Jewish Culture in Kyiv was expanded with several valuable contributions. 
The Phonographic Archive of the Museum for Jewish History and Ethnography 
was transferred to Kyiv; at the same time Julli Engels' daughter presented 
the Institute with her father's personal collection of wax cylinders.

In 1936,  the Institute was transformed into the Cabinet for Jewish Culture 
of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, and in 1940, Antonina Kisselhof, 
daughter of the late Zinovii Kisselhof, generously donated her father's 
private collection of musical records to the Cabinet.

During World War II, the phonographic archives of the Cabinet for Jewish 
Culture (as well as the holdings of various other academic institutions) 
was evacuated to the city of Ufa in the Urals region. After the war, the 
archives were returned to Kyiv and, henceforth, housed at the Vernadsky 
National Library of the Ukraine. Unfortunately, the phonographic archives 
did not see the light of cultural exposure or research work for almost 
fifty years.

In November 1995, Professor Oleksii S. Onyshchenko (Director of the 
National Library) and Professor Vjacheslav V. Petrov (Director of the 
Institute for Information Recording) undertook a

vast and comprehensive re-recording project, made possible by the advent of 
a new breed of audio technology developed by the Institute for Information 
Recording. This new technology represents a 
nondestructive  opto-electronical method of reproducing the original wax 
cylinders without physical damage to the delicate and valuable antiques.

The Compact Disc you now hold in your hands is the first experimental CD. 
It represents the culmination of many years of work by both folklorists 
from days gone by and contemporary recording information engineers. Using 
state-of-the-art technology, this recording preserves all of the nuances of 
the original performances, and provides the contemporary listener with a 
rare and fine glimpse in to the past. We hope you will enjoy this 
pioneering audio archives of a rich repository of folkloric heritage.

Cantor Sam Weiss === Jewish Community Center of Paramus, NJ
Cantor Sam Weiss === Jewish Community Center of Paramus, NJ

---------------------- jewish-music (at) shamash(dot)org ---------------------+

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