Composer Yotam Haber finds inspiration in a dusty Roman archive
Yotam Haber and others at the world premiere of death will come and she will have your eyes at the Villa Aurelia in Rome, 2008
Thirty years before the common era—a century before the destruction of the Second Temple—some Jews left Jerusalem for Rome. There, they established a community whose cantors chanted Torah in the tradition they brought with them from the land of ancient Israel. It was an insular community and over subsequent generations, that insularity helped preserve the community’s distinctiveness. Over the ensuing centuries, the Roman cantorial style remained relatively unchanged, impervious to the flourishes and innovations of newer traditions that arose in the Sephardic and Ashkenazic worlds.
Fast forward two-plus millennia, to the year 2007. That’s when New York-based composer Yotam Haber went to Italy and discovered in some archives dusty old recordings of Roman cantors chanting the Torah in the age-old local style. The recordings were made more than 50 years ago by an ethnomusicologist named Leo Levi.
So taken was Haber with the unadulterated singing of the Roman cantors, that he decided to use the recordings, along with verses from the Book of Lamentations and poetry by Jorie Graham, in a song cycle of his own, called death will come and she shall have your eyes.
He speaks with Nextbook about his own composition, about what makes Roman liturgy unique, and about his plans for the future.
Listen to “Cum Nimis Absurdum, the first movement of death will come and she shall have your eyes
Listen to “Bereshit the fourth movement of death will come and she shall have your eyes
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.