Out of the Shadows—Rediscovering Jewish Music and Theatre
Performing the Jewish Archive, a $2.5 million global transdisciplinary (music education, musicology, theatre historiography, history, psychology) research project (Large Grant) awarded by the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), focuses on Jewish artists and their works c.1880–present that were either hidden or suppressed due to oppression and displacement, particularly vis-à-vis the Holocaust. The AHRC’s stated purpose for the grant, ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past,’ urges the researchers “to explore the dynamic relationship that exists between past, present and future, and how they interact with and shape each other, through a temporally inflected lens… encourag[ing] critical reflection upon:
· the concepts that are used to join together past, present and future;
· different creative, artistic and literary modes of engagement with the past and the passage of time;
· different emotions evoked by reflecting on the past; and
· the consequences of selectivity: whose voices are heard and whose are silenced by the past. (AHRC call, 2013)
In meeting the AHRC’s criteria, the Performing the Jewish Archive research team organized six international festivals (United States–2, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Australia, South Africa) to accomplish three principal objectives: (a) to seek out works by Jewish musicians, dramatists, and authors that reveal the knowledge, values, emotions, ideologies, and beliefs of the eras and communities in which they were created; (b) to engage performers, audiences, and other participants in works’ heritages by performing them within their historical, biographical, and political contexts; and (c) to devise ways of perpetuating those heritages in the future through renewable methods of responses to the artistic works and their contexts. Foundational to Performing the Jewish Archive’s success in meeting the AHRC’s call to Care for the Future is its intentional integration of theoretical perspectives that embrace cotexuality (Barry, 2010) and contextuality, both educationally and musicologically.
Hence, this paper shares the theoretical framework of the Performing the Jewish Archive grant; presents the over-arching scope of the project as realized through its global festivals and research symposia; and sets forth how the above-referenced objectives are met. Key to Prof. Dobbs’ contribution is the bringing to light and world-premieres of the heretofore unknown piano compositions (Yad Vashem Archives) of Josima Feldschuh, known as the “Prodigy of the Warsaw Ghetto.” Framed by the thinking of Agamben, Buber, and Levinas, she presents a philosophical and socio-political historical analysis of Josima’s brief life and creative work. She discusses the implications that one child’s creative musical life—pursued under state-sanctioned policies of racial oppression, terror, and extermination—holds for the understanding of the musical experience.