An Online Thesaurus of Jewish-Italian Liturgical Music

The resource you are browsing is web-based Thesaurus, that contains audio and written music documents, fully searchable by community of origin, informant, year of recording, ritualistic variant, position in the liturgy, and incipit of the text. The Thesaurus includes written music and recordings from public and private collections, placing the melodies into a wider context that will enable comparative study, offer a comprehensive perspective of local traditions and the connective network of inter-community relationships, and permit more complete study materials than have been hitherto available. The Thesaurus is an open project, susceptible to additions and expansions, still in the process of reaching a first degree of completion, regularly updated and enriched with the inclusion of well known sources, and the identification and study of new materials.

Judeo-Italian music repertoires represent a wealth of material of historical, ethnomusicological and ritualistic interest. The repertoires themselves are available today in an extremely fragmented form, reflecting also the inherent fragmentation of a memory that was present in a much more cohesive and consistent form only a century ago, and that has survived with difficulty the challenges of time, deurbanization of small centres, assimilation and secularization, and obviously the deep gash in the collective fabric caused by the Shoah. Such local repertoires survive today in very diverse formats and different levels of preservation – spanning communities that have completely disappeared and whose music is to be found only in a few transcriptions and selection of individual tunes recorded in the '50s and '60s, to communities where the liturgical tradition is still very much alive, vibrant, and transmitted to the younger generation; to many instances in between these two standards. It is worth noting here that we are not referring to one major tradition, declined in local variants: the particular history of Jewish settlements in the Italian peninsula makes for the existence of an array of local traditions, musical as well as ritualistic. The Thesaurus will be an invaluable instrument for studying their interrelations, their differences and similarities, their connection with other repertoires, their evolution.

The Thesaurus is a project of the “Centro Internazionale Leo Levi”, created through the vision and insight of rabbi Joseph Levi, son of Leo Levi z.l.; its ideation and framework owe a particular debt to the work, counsel inspiration and collaboration of prof. Edwin Seroussi.