Museum Judenplatz: “Walls of Sound – Jewish Music Worlds“

Austrian Federal Chancellery (02/01/2010)

Up to 30 May 2010 the Vienna Jewish Museum Judenplatz presents the exhibition “Walls of Sound – Jewish Music Worlds“ featuring Jewish music and Jewish musicians. Only very few people are aware of the fact that many popular melodies and compositions such as “God bless America“, “The Christmas Song“, “Edelweiß“, “An der schönen blauen Donau“, “Hello Dolly“ or “My Funny Valentine“ are of Jewish origin or that some of the most beautiful gospel songs of Christian Afro-American music were composed by George Gershwin.

Israeli-Austrian artist Oz Almog provides a glimpse behind the Walls of Sound to highlight the importance of Jews in the world of music. With a very extensive picture gallery, he makes the vision of Jubal come true. As the “father of all those who play the lyre and the pipe“ (Genesis 4:21), he is said to have given music to humankind as a gift.Ever since then, music has been an important stimulus for Jewish spirituality and a guide to the gates of heaven.

The torah is not merely “read”, it is sung in daily sections, and each text passage has its own melody changing seasonally. The important role played by music in every-day Jewish life combined with early literacy has made Jewish people pioneers in three music genres: instrumentation, modality and notation.

Many scholars agree that both Byzantine chant from the East and Western pre-Gregorian chorales – and the music of the Occident derived from it – had their origins in the churches of Syria and Palestine, where the synagogal music tradition was omnipresent.

After Jewish music left the ghettos in the past two centuries (or was displaced from them), Jewish virtuosos, conductors, composers and librettists have come to play a leading role in the music and show business.

This is impressively demonstrated by Oz Almog in his exhibition presenting some of these wandering children of Jubal on the Walls of Sound.