Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Treasure Trove of Nigunim

One of the regular posters on the Shamash.Org Jewish Music mailing list shared a pointer to an amazing collection of Chassidic niguninim. The collection, which also includes audio lessons on a variety of Chassidic topics, includes both versions with Yiddish and English introductions and commentary. The collection is hosted by Heichel Menachem, a non-profit organization, "established in 1994 to spread the teachings of Chassidus (Hassidism)."

I've had an interest in nigun for a while, but this is the first place I've run across that not only has a good collection but does a great a job of leaving them situated in their religious context. I'll be listening to these for weeks and learning a lot about Chassidus from the comments.

I'm particularly happy to run across this site right now. As I mentioned in a previous post I've been trying to get my head around the frum music scene. While I read the blogs and listen to the podcasts, I've had a hard time really getting into the music. My theory has been that I just don't have the basic reference points to know how to listen to music (I also hate the perky, glossy production, but that's a different issue). I've come to understand that the driving energy of the frum music community is Chassidus, which has a long and deep musical tradition.

One of my goals right now is to get my head (and ears) into that musical tradition. Nigun is an important part of that and provides a basis (I think) for a lot of the currently popular chassidic music. And this collection of nigun has the raw, authentic, unproduced field recording sound that I can appreciate.

One thing I'm trying to find right now are some good essays (hopefully with accompanying recordings) that talk about the role of music in Chassidus. I'm aware of a highly regarded one called "Song in Hassidic Life" by the prolific Jewish music author Velvel Pasternak. Unfortunately, the article doesn't seem to be online anymore. I've emailed Pasternak's publishing company, Tara Music, to see if they can provide a copy. If I can get the article or can round up any other good references or nigun collections, I'll let everyone know.

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