On October 20, 1988, a large part of western Europe heard a unique radio concert -- CRYSTAL PSALMS -- a concerto for musicians in six nations, simultaneously performed, mixed and broadcast live in stereo to listeners from Palermo to Helsinki.
This special event, composed and coordinated by myself, while part of a worldwide series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), was, through its unusual concept, one which demanded and demonstrated an exceptional quality of international artistic and technological collaboration -- the bringing together groups of musicians and technicians (some 300 in all, in six major European cities) who neither saw nor heard one another, yet performed as one unified ensemble to realize this complex score.
The score was composed to be played by complementary ensembles in each of the six locations. These consisted of: a mixed chorus (16-32 voices), a quartet of strings or winds, a percussionist and accordionist. While each group of musicians was conducted independently, a recorded time track -- heard by each conductor -- was used to synchronize all six ensembles.
A pre-recorded tape containing sounds of many aspects of Jewish life was often employed together with the live sounds. Hence, the archaic sounds of the shofar (ritual ram's horn), the Yemenite Jews praying at the Western ("Wailing") Wall, famous Eastern European cantors taken from old sound archives; children in a Roman Jewish orphanage; my young niece singing her Bat Mitzvah prayers and my father singing in Yiddish at a family gathering. Ship horns, trains, crows and breaking glass, too. To this sonic panorama one hears live choral fragments of the Renaissance Jewish composers Salomone Rossi from Italy and Caceres of the famous Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam, as well as from the renowned 19th Century composers of the Jewish liturgy, Lewandowski and Sulzer.
This event -- for me a very special form of human artistic collaboration -- now exists, along side the memory of the inhuman pogrom of 1938 which inspired it. One can only wish that it had been otherwise that instead we could be remembering and celebrating some noble acts of humanity and love.
Reviews"An extraordinary, moving and disturbing meditation" - The Wire