Keeping Musical History

January 22, 2010

FAU project committee saves Judaic music from extinction

Keeping historical cultural music from being erased from time, The Judaic Sound Archives (JSA) project committee on FAU’s Boca Raton campus has taken charge of recording and digitalizing Judaic music for preservation for people to hear it.

            “By 2002, FloridaAtlanticUniversity’s Wimberly Library had accumulated about a thousand recordings of Jewish music. When [founder and director] Nathan Tinanoff took over responsibility for these recordings that collection became the foundation for the Judaica Music Rescue Project. The idea was to find and rescue vintage Judaic recordings that were in danger of being lost, discarded or broken with the goal of creating a central repository. In 2005 the project was expanded to include all types of audio recordings, including CDs and was renamed the Judaica Sound Archives, with Mr. Tinanoff as director,” explained Dr. Maxine Schackman, JSA’s assistant director.

            Terry Lee Stone, writer for Dynamic Graphics and Create magazine claimed that Judaica is a term referring to expressing Jewish heritage ideals.

            “The diverse movements, practices, and customs in Judaism inspire a range of ideas and expressions in art and design. Books, papers, and objects having to do with the Jews and Judaism are often referred to as Judaica,” he said.

            The purpose of this project is to preserve and restore historical music before it’s gone. Using specially designed software, the JSA at FAU Libraries created the JSA-Research Station, a search engine for anyone of Judaic relations. Since the research station’s inception, centers in Israel, Canada, England and the U.S. have signed agreements to use it.

            The process of restoring and hearing the music is simple. With online technology, the JSA Research Station features a database search tool for finding song titles, performers, genre and language. Discography and recording information can be viewed while the selection is being played.

            The recordings contain Jewish popular music like, art songs and instrumental pieces and selections by Jewish performers, composers and conductors. Also includes Yiddish theater, comedy, children’s music, classical music, Israeli and Yiddish folk.

            “Many of these recordings are rare or historic,” said Nathan Tinanoff, JSA’s founder and director. “Never before has so much Judaic music and voice been so easily accessible and so beautifully reproduced.”

            Students are encouraged to learn more about Judaic music and explore it threw the JSA project.

            “These recordings are important for they breathe life into the history of the Yiddish-speaking Jews in America during the first half of the 20th century. Hearing the music of the immigrants, as it was actually recorded is an experience that cannot be duplicated with modern sounds,” Schackman said.

            Using the library as a great reference, the JSA committee, located on the 5th floor of the Wimberly Library on FAU’s Boca Raton campus, is welcomed to new students who are interested in the music or volunteering to help with the project.

            “We are always looking for more recordings.  All the recordings in the JSA’s collection are donated. We have no budget to buy recordings. So if you know anyone who has Judaic recordings (old or new) we would be most happy to accept them. If anyone knows any Jewish performers, conductors or composers who have made a number of recordings we would be interested in reviewing these recordings for possible inclusion in our online collection on our web site http://www.fau.edu/jsa. Anyone with computer skills is especially welcome to volunteer. Also, financial contributions can be made online through our web site,” expressed Nathan Tinanoff.

            The JSA began collecting and preserving Judaic audio recordings since 2002 and now has more than 100,000 tracks of music and voice recorded on several digital formats. The collection continues to grow annually at a rate of 10,000 donated recordings.

            “It’s great to go on and hear such music! Being Jewish allows me to connect deep with the music and hear my ancestors explore their heritage with such emotion,” said senior engineering major Robert Eustice.

            JSA’s web site, http://www.fau.edu/jsa, features all the Judaic music collected from the committee. It features more than 60 performers who have given JSA permission to air their recordings on the Internet. Listeners can tune in to more than 8,500 audio tracks in a searchable, non-downloadable format. The web site is highly successful and in the last year, had more than 23,000 visits from 77 countries.

            “From then and now, our goals are to continue to aggressively seek out phonograph recordings, tapes and CDs. To expand the number of online music selections by encouraging the co-operation and assistance of bona fide copyright holders. To continue development of JSA Research Stations, off-site extensions of the FAU Library. Research stations will eventually have access to all of the digital assets of the Judaica Sound Archives.  To continue to reach out to university and community resources in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to optimize the use and appreciation of JSA assets. To secure funding for an endowment which will ensure the future of the Judaica Sound Archives collection. And to foster a spirit of ownership and belonging by providing a place at FAU Libraries for visitors to experience and enjoy the archives,” stated both Schackman and Tinanoff.

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January 22, 2010

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