Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rohan Kriwaczek, Klezmer, Art Music, and the Guild of Funerary Violinists

Rohan KriwaczekThere are some pretty odd and interesting corners to be explored in the Jewish music world. And in one of them you'll find Rohan Kriwaczek perched, violin in hand and bowler had jammed down over his eyes, sitting on a barrel. Kriswaczek is most famously known (and profiled on NPR) for his book "An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin." The book, which I understand to be a wonderfully spun, but completely fictitious, tale chronicles the history of the guild...
"From its origins in the Elizabethan Protestant Reformation, to its final extinction amidst the guns of the First World War, the Art of Funerary Violin was characterised by many unique and frequently misunderstood qualities that set it quite apart from all other forms of music. Indeed it is these distinctive characteristics that make it a truly unique genre, with its own specific concerns, aesthetic and function. Throughout the many changes in culture and society between the foundation of the Guild of Funerary Violinists in 1580 and the death of Niklaus Friedhaber (the last of the practicing official Funerary Violinists) in 1915, it retained a trueness to its origins and function, and a commitment to purity of form and mode, unparalleled in any other Western European musical tradition: due, in part, to the exclusive social role it played in relating the greatness of the higher classes directly to the ears of the lower classes."
(I haven't read the book yet, but it's on my wishlist.)

Wandering Jew album coverKriwaczek, himself, is a composer and performer. He has a series of darkly theatrical recordings that draw on "Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Jewish folk music," has scored TV, radio and theater and performed under a variety of names including Infamous Reverend Rohan K., "Dr. Asperger's Klezmer Tonic", and The Guild of Funerary Violinists. I'd love get my hands on some of his recordings but he's not on eMusic and I've used up my music budget for June already. He's top on the list for July.

The Keening, from The Wandering Jew

A Fistful of Klezmer, from Looking Back

The Hall of Magic Words and God’s Great Flood, from Ritual Dark Music

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