Conference: Yiddish Music - Historically Informed Performance Practice

“Performers who lay any claim to historical practice should give full attention to new research findings, whether or not they choose to use them. […] While questions of performance practice should be the musician’s daily housekeeping alongside technical preparation, fundamental questions concerning the future of our research and performance must not be ignored. […].” 
(Trevor Pinnock: “Reflections of ‘Pioneer’,” in Early Music XVI/1 (2013): 21)

Trevor Pinnock, indeed a ‘pioneer” of the Early Music revival, wrote these sentences in 2013. By then, centuries had passed since the rediscovery of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music and the unprecedented development of a professional scene – both scholarly and in terms of performance. 

Yiddish musical cultures have been revived enthusiastically, too, since the 1970s in the US and Europe – with the fundamental difference that musicology was in no way prepared or ready to help and support their endeavors. Thus, most performers turned into ethnomusicologists – studying recordings and collections, conducting field-work and by way of traditional teaching methods passing on their knowledge to students and colleagues. 

Now, 40 years later and in an (arguably) post-revival stage, we might ask, reflecting Pinnock: do present-day Klezmorim or Yiddish singers consider questions of performance practice their “daily housekeeping”? Or go further and ask: is it even possible for them to do so? 

Therefore, this conference invites scholars and musicians alike to hand in abstracts for lectures related to the following subjects: 

  • Sources and resources: collections, accessibility of material and its edition; structures of support 
  • What has/is being revived: style, style-period, geography etc. and the taste-criteria
  • Analysis of repertoire: instrumental music, song and dance
  • Analysis of performance practices: ornamentation, micro-improvisation and stylistic features in instrumental music, song and dance 
  • Analysis of vocal techniques
  • Suggestions for the standardization of musical notation concerning Yiddish ornamentation practice
  • Relationship between Yiddish and different contemporary musical practices and repertoires (e.g. theatre, folk, popular, Chassidic, (para-) liturgical, jazz, urban & rural, gender-specific etc.)
  • Analysis of musical continuity between Ashkenaz I and II
  • Institutionalization and education: critical reflections

Attention shall be paid to Yiddish music between its inception in the Middle Ages and its expressions in 21st-century Europe, the Americas and elsewhere.

Following the conference, a handbook on Yiddish Music – Performance Practice (working title) will be published. All participants are obliged to agree to a publication of their contributions. We offer various possibilities and formats: a) an essay, b) a transcript of the presentation. All presentations will be recorded.

Stipends: For the time of the conference, hotel and catering will be provided. We offer assistance for travel costs as well as a small honorarium for those who cannot acquire aid via an institution. Please contact us about this individually after your paper has been accepted. 

Please send your abstracts of max. 200 words until the 31st of January 2016 to: Diana Matut ( 

Live performances as examples are welcome!

Conference Languages: English, German, Yiddish

The conference will also include an exciting program of evening performances and other events. 

We hope to see you in Weimar!
Diana Matut, Andreas Schmitges, Alan Bern

For questions and more information please refer to or conference organizers Diana Matut ( and Andreas Schmitges: (

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

19 July 2016 - 22 July 2016