Berkeley, CA – Continuing a centuries-old dialogue between Jewish and Islamic musical traditions, guest curator Lawrence Rinder stages a multichannel sound installation incorporating a new musical composition by Shahrokh Yadegari, presented by the Judah L. Magnes Museum as part of its REVISIONS series, from September 10, 2007, through July 6, 2008.
Extending the work of Rinder’s grandfather, Cantor Reuben R. Rinder (1887-1966), the composition blends singing in Hebrew, Farsi and English with classical Persian and electronic music. The piece incorporates such diverse elements as the melody from one of Cantor Rinder’s scores, text from the ancient Jewish priestly benediction, and two poems by the Sufi philosopher Rumi.
“My grandfather believed in the power of art and music to convey spiritual experiences that transcended cultural and religious boundaries,” Rinder says. “By working with a composer and musicians who draw on Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions-as well as classical Persian and European, contemporary avant-garde and Ashkenazi musical styles-this project exemplifies the kind of cultural rapport that was so important to him and that is so crucial to our survival today.”
Reuben Rinder was the cantor of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco from 1915 to 1959 and is recognized as one of the most important figures in the development of 20th-century Jewish musical culture. He helped launch the careers of violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern, and commissioned new music for the temple by Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud, Frederick Jacobi, Paul Ben-Haim and Marc Lavry, among others.
Cantor Rinder’s archive-which includes musical scores, correspondence with world-renowned composers, photographs and documents from the 1955 Festival of Faith at San Francisco’s Cow Palace celebrating the 10th anniversary of the United Nations-is housed in the Western Jewish History Center (WJHC) at the Magnes.
“While we tend to think of the mingling of Jewish and Islamic cultures as controversial or provocative, there is a tradition of crossover and exchange between the two dating back for centuries,” says Francesco Spagnolo, head of research at the Magnes. “This project reminds us how much we still have to learn from history, even as it speaks to the reality of what is going on in the world today.”