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På skive


«When You Speak of Times to Come (Ven Du Redst Fun Naye Tsaytn)»

New York-based guitarist-composer Ty Citerman, known from the punk-jazz Gutbucket quartet, began his Bop Kabbalah project in 2014 and released a self-titled, instrumental album on John Zorn’s Tzadik label’s Radical Jewish Culture series in 2014. «When You Speak of Times to Come» is an ambitious evolution of this project, a song-cycle that was inspired by more than century-old Yiddish labor songs and poems about the fight against capitalism. These texts originated during the time of Citerman’s grandparents’ escape from state-sponsored persecution in Ukraine and Russi, and resonate loudly with today’s American – and even global – political landscape. These songs ask the listeners to imagine and join the organized struggle for a more just, humane world. Accordingly, a portion of the profits from this project will support the immigrant justice work of New Sanctuary Coalition.

Bop Kabbalah+voices features Citerman on guitar and electronics plus jazz vocalist Sara Serpa and soprano-cantor-composer Judith Berkson, and was recorded in June 2019. «When You Speak of Times to Come» is divided into a nine-part suite of original Yiddish labor songs and the four-movement «Future Generations (Doyrus Fun Der Tsukunft)». Serpa and Berkson sing the leftist texts in Yiddish and in English, while Citerman offers subtle, lyrical and hypnotic soundscapes that embrace their acrobatic and passionate delivery.

The opening suite begins with a short Jewish prayer but soon demands «‘bread and human rights» from the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The revolutionary text «Mit Eyn Hant Hostu Undz Gegebn Di Konstitutsieh (With One Hand You Gave Us the Constitution)», from the Russian Revolution of 1905, repeats the message: «down with you, you executioner, you murderer, get off the throne! No one believes in you anymore! Only in the red flag», and its fierce cry against fascism and false promises by authoritarian rulers ring true today. Its arrangement charges the suggestive, operatic voices of Serpa and Berkson with a delicate 21st-century metal drone. «Es Rirt Zikh» ends this suite. It is a labor poem excerpt by Morris Winchevsky from 1886, and its lyrics («Do you hear, children, how it’s moving…?») propels a sense of musical and political possibility, even during our current, turbulent times. It blends vocal arrangements that nod to Meredith Monk’s works and a blues-tinged theme, spiced with a touch of dissonance that draws inspiration from another Monk, Thelonious.

The «Future Generations (Doyrus Fun Der Tsukunft)» addresses current, urgent issues as the climate crisis, but still speaks about the need for commitment for just, social change. This 23-minutes piece draws few motives from klezmer music and offers a lush, minimalistic guitar groove but often also noisy and unsettling eruptions – or a Citerman puts it: «our songs resonate with grief.. our melodies have a dismal longing and hidden rage». The last movement «Times to Come» marks that the struggle for a better, just world never ends, but we have plenty of models to reflect on and learn from. Symbolically, it ends with the humble, succinct repetition of the Yiddish phrase «onloshn», which translates simply as «silence» or «speechlessness».

Inspiring and moving, and beautifully arranged and delivered.

Eyal Hareuveni    

Ty Citerman (g, v, elec, prep.g, cracklebox), Sara Serpa (v), Judith Berkson (v, p)

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