4.64. Osvaldo Golijov, instrumental composition ‘Tekyah’ (2004)

At the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, four broadcasting corporations: the British BBC, the Canadian CBC, the Polish TVP and the German ZDF released the film Holocaust – A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz (2005). As discussed in Chapter 4.66 on Stefan Heucke’s opera, musical performances were part of daily life in the extermination camp Auschwitz. In a number of internment camps, there was even music composed, and from this repertoire, the filmmakers chose Viktor Ullmann’s opera The Emperor of Atlantis (1944) and Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (1941). From later compositions about concentration camps they chose Steve Reich’s Different Trains: mvt. II “Europe During The War” (1988) and Iva Bittová’s Gypsy Lament (2005). The other compositions are not directly linked to the concentration camps or the Shoah. The location of the film was Auschwitz and all narratives were told by three artists who survived the camp: the cello player Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, *who became one of the characters in Stefan Heucke’s opera Das Frauenorchester von Auschwitz. Cf. Chapter 4.66 the singer Eva Adam and the actor and director August Kowalczyk.

The only new music, written for this film, was Tekyah by the Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov (born 1960); it was composed for the film, even for a special chronotope: the wood where prisoners had to wait before their transport into the gas chambers. “I wrote the piece with that location in mind,” stated Golijov. “I wanted it to be an expression in sound of that place. As if the trees were witnesses.” *Golijov in Aspden, “Orchestrating the Holocaust.” Michael Ward-Bergeman, the accordion player in the composition, added: “We performed Golijov’s Tekyah in a small forest . . . that Thanksgiving Day. A freshly fallen snow had left the ground and trees white. When the breeze blew, snow fell lightly from the branches. It was quiet.” *Ward-Bergeman, “Gratitude.”

Although the film adds an important dimension to the composition, as it visualizes the chronotope of the wood, Tekyah can be performed without the film, in a concert hall. The ensemble consists of a clarinet, a “hyper-accordion” with added electronics, a brass ensemble of three French horns, three trumpets and two trombones, all players doubling on shofar, and four shofarot.

The Present of the composition was directed by the Past, as the musical material was taken from various Jewish traditions. Golijov subjected it to both stylization and hybridization, the shofar blasts serving as a model. Just as the shofar parts, the clarinet part has the range of a perfect 5th: F5-C6 (real pitch), and alternate fingerings on the same pitch suggest the characteristic tone repetition of the teruʿah or trill. *The trill, used in Sephardi tradition instead of tone repetition, is discussed in Montagu, Musical Instruments of the Bible 140, Music Example 2; and in Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel 356. The technique of alternate fingering is also used in Castaglioni’s bassoon solo Shofar. Chapter 4.58. The horns, trumpets and trombones play tone repetitions as well, and so does the accordion player by rapid movements of the bellows causing a “shiver-shake” effect. The usual portamento from the low to the high shofar note is imitated in the accordion, which reaches every chord through a slow glissando, made ​​possible by the electronics, controlled by a pedal. In contrast to this stylization after the model of the shofar blasts, there is hybridization, putting together elements from different musical traditions. As Ex. 15 shows, the clarinet player uses the Klezmer technique of kvetsh, the stressed, squeezed, plaintive tone, and the synagogal chanting style, here on a C6 (real pitch, written as D6) with the performance indication davenen (“praying”), always.

 

Tekya

Ex. 15. Osvaldo Golijov, Tekyah, mm. 1-3. B♭ clarinet and hyper-accordion. The + and o in the clarinet part indicate alternate fingerings for the same pitch. The symbol between the D6 and the C♯6 indicates a “Klezmer gracenote or ‘kvetsh.’” © 2004 by Imagem CV. Administered by Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.

According to the composer, the brass choir refers to a “naming litany, with a trumpet and trombone choir acting as the ‘chorus of the dead unsilenced.’” *Golijov in Aspden, “Orchestrating the Holocaust.” The shofar blasts also allude to non-musical sounds and attitudes, because to Golijov, they are “a primal howl of pain and at the same time the affirmation of Hitler’s defeat.” *Ibid. The “wailing” of the shofar is already found in the Musaf of Yom Kippur, in the lament for ten rabbis who went to their deaths as martyrs, killed by the Romans: “They hastened to spill his blood like a bullock offered up, / and when his head was severed, / [Rabbi Yishmael] seized it and wailed over him bitterly, in a voice like a shofar[.]” *The Koren Yom Kippur Maḥzor 932. The accordion refers not only to the musical sphere of Klezmer, but its upward glissando might also allude to the non-musical instrument of the siren, which sounded air-raid warnings in the concentration camps, and announces the two minutes silence on Yom Ha-Shoah (“Shoah Remembrance Day”) in Israel.

Tekyah consists of 41 measures with a total duration of 6 minutes. It has five sections, indicated by the rehearsal marks A to E. The development of the composition is linear, with a “qualitative leap” between sections D and E. In sections A, B, C, and E, there is a tonic pedal F2 or F3 in the accordion, horn or trombone or a combination of these instruments; in section D, the pedal is a C2. The clarinet plays the “chanting tone” C6 (real pitch), sometimes going to the lower 2nd B5 or the lower 5th F5; in section E, it goes to A♭5. The accordion and trombone play the drone F-C, while the brass instruments add other tones, the result being seventh chords, which become increasingly dissonant from section A to Section C: from F2 (accordion)/A♭/E♭/C6 (clarinet) through F/A♭/B♭/D/C to a pendulum movement between G♭ maj7 with a C6 in the clarinet and Fm7 with the same C in the clarinet. Section C is enriched with suspensions in the brass and ornaments in trumpet 1. In section D, the clarinet continues “davening” on a C6, whereas the tonic pedal in the accordion goes to C and the brass instruments alternate between G/D/F and G/B♭. The harmonically static final E section again has the tonic pedal F2, above which the clarinet and the shofarot blow the four traditional shofar blasts, the pitches of which depend on the pitches of the actual animal horns.

In rhythm, timbre and volume, the development is linear as well; the rhythms sound more and more like shofar rhythms, while more and more instruments join in, and the composition is in fact a long crescendo from pianissimo to fortissimo. Section E has a large number of non-synchronized shofar blasts and ends with a tekiʿah gedolah, blown by all instruments. Golijov called his work “a powerful, ugly blast of sound” and stated “I did not want it to be pretty.” *Golijov in “Orchestrating the Holocaust.”

In the film Holocaust, the shofarot, the “minyan” of ten musicians and the snow in the film turn the secular chronotope of the concentration camp into a sacred chronotope, just as the single shofar does in Heucke’s opera The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. *Chapter 4.66. As Bakhtin puts it, “space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history.” *Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope” 84. The change from brass instruments to shofarot by the end of Tekyah is a qualitative leap, like the change from the prayer to the shofar blasts in the Rosh Ha-Shanah service. The camera does not show how the musicians put down their modern brass instruments and take the shofarot, and therefore the entrance of the shofarot is an impressive effect.

With its davening clarinet and shofar blasts, Tekyah is the musical equivalent of a prayer and it is perhaps no coincidence that until the last section the ensemble consists of ten players, the equivalent of a minyan, the required ten men for reciting a common prayer. As stated above, Golijov compares his composition with a “naming litany,” the Yizkor (“May [God] Remember”) service, *The Koren Yom Kippur Maḥzor 756-66 which is part of the Yom Kippur service and contains prayers in which the names of the deceased are called, and the El Male Raḥamim (“God, full of Mercy”), a plea for the dead, with a special version for Holocaust victims, which begins as follows:

God, full of mercy, Justice of widows and Father of orphans, please do not be silent and hold Your peace for the blood of Israel that was shed like water. Grant fitting rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, in the heights of the holy and the pure who shine and radiate light like the radiance of heaven, to the souls of the millions of Jews, men, women and children, who were murdered, slaughtered, burned, strangled, and buried alive, in the lands touched by the German enemy and its followers. *The Koren Siddur 802. This prayer is recited separately in the film Holocaust.

The El Male Raḥamim ends with the wish that the deceased may find eternal refuge under God’s wings and that their souls may be bundled in the bundle of life. A reference to this same passage is found in Abel Herzberg’s story about the personified shofar, which accompanied him in the concentration camp as a wise old man, who eventually died in the fire: “if a thing can have a soul, then he had a soul. May this soul remain what it always had been, bundled in the bundle of life.” *Herzberg, The History of My Shofar. Chapter 4.39. In three other works, the role of the shofar in the concentration camp is a much more abstract one. In Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man, a passage about human dignity from Dante’s Divine Comedy is compared to a divine trumpet blast; *Levi, If This Is a Man 119. Chapter 4.28. Nelly Sachs’ poem Someone Blew the Shofar emphasizes continuity in Jewish history: “And round the Shofar the ashes rest— / And someone blows—” *Sachs, Someone Blew the Shofar. Chapter 4.26 and just as in Sachs’ poem, the shofar blasts in Stefan Heucke’s opera The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz are structure-defining elements.

 

Next Chapter

Contents

Glossary