PRI's The World introduces "Music of the Book"

Monday, April 14, 2014

On the first day of Passover host Marco Werner sits down with Merima Ključo at WGBH's studio in Boston to talk and hear more about Merima's personal story and the musical story behind her new work:

View this segment on "The World"'s website

See a list of all upcoming performances of The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book

Learn more about Merima's Artist Residency at Yellow Barn

PBS explores The Sarajevo Haggadah

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kim Lawton interviews Merima Ključo at the Boston premiere of The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book for this segment of WGBH's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly" with excerpts from the performance:

From one book, many stories

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

(Photo by Michele McDonald)

Ted Weesner writes about the Boston premiere of Merima Ključo's new work The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book, and her first encounter with author Geraldine Brooks, whose People of the Book inspired Merima to embark on this musical journey:

To the untrained eye, the Sarajevo Haggadah might seem like something one would pass over on first glance. The cover is battered, the binding beat up; the thing looks like it’s been through the war. In an era when the book as a material object has begun to recede from view, we may well move on to something shinier, more readily accessible: a gently used copy of “The Hunger Games,” perhaps, or a download of the latest, hottest book for our e-reader.

But in passing over the worn, delicate volume, we’d be missing something extraordinary: the opportunity to come face to face with a medieval codex, the calfskin pages of which vibrate like a series of hallucinations, adorned with scenes from the Old Testament and illuminated with copper and gold. It’s the sort of beauty, found in unexpected places and times, that takes your breath away. And while we’re on the subject, it has been through the war. The story of this book inspired Geraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, to trace the tortuous and terrifying travels of the Sarajevo Haggadah in her 2008 novel “People of the Book”. Created in Barcelona sometime during the mid-14th century, the Haggadah becomes, in Brooks’s work, the main character in a quest to safeguard and transmit the beautiful and sacred.

And now, with Passover soon upon us, the haggadah — the text recited on the first two nights of the Jewish holiday — is back in the air. Sure, most Seder celebrants will be unboxing the classic utilitarian version first published by Maxwell House Coffee in 1932. But a Bosnian composer and accordionist named Merima Kljuco, inspired by Brooks’s much-loved historical account, has dropped the Sarajevo version back into the art-loving zeitgeist. Her hourlong musical piece, “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book,” which includes Kljuco on accordion, Seth Knopp on piano, and video work by Bart Woodstrup, was performed last week under the auspices of the Boston Jewish Music Festival and The New Center for Arts and Culture. The production is now traveling the country.

In 1994, Geraldine Brooks was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal reporting on the siege of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia-Herzogovina. The climate of this formerly thriving multi-ethnic city was almost universally grim. She and her compatriot wartime journalists, living in the rather inaptly named Holiday Inn, were encountering one horrifying story after another when something considerably brighter surfaced. The Sarajevo Haggadah, invaluable masterpiece of the Bosnian collections, had been located.

Only later would it emerge that a Muslim librarian, Enver Imamovic, had rescued the codex and deposited it in a Sarajevo bank vault. Seven years later, in 2001, Brooks was on hand, along with many armed guards, when the book was restored in the European Union Bank. As Brooks describes it, the haggadah meant — and means — so much to Sarajevans across ethnicities that, during the siege, she heard stories of natives spending their last coins on replicas of the book, even as they subsisted on grass soup.

At the time, dedicated to her work as a journalist, and soon moving on to cover the strife in Somalia, she filed away the experience. Yet she understood the innate power of the story, sensing how very implausible and incredible it was that the Sarajevo Haggadah had been created in Spain at a time when Jews, Muslims, and Christians coexisted peacefully, even fertilely; how the Inquisition and expulsion of the Jews landed the codex in Venice, where a Catholic priest apparently saved it — his signature is inside the book — from the pope’s book burnings; how it landed in Sarajevo and Vienna in 1894 after a faltering Jewish family was forced to sell it; and finally, how a renowned Muslim scholar, Dervis Korkut, spirited the manuscript out of the National Museum in his waistband under the nose of the Nazis, who had hoped to showcase it in their Museum of an Extinct Race in Prague. The book’s itinerary feels so unlikely that its fate often smacks of fiction — and fiction it became in Brooks’s novel, where facts meld with the creative imagination that grants flesh and bone to people, places, and artifacts alike. As Brooks has come to see it, “The book embodies the story that what unites us is always stronger than what divides us.”

Four years ago, “People of the Book” was pressed upon Merima Kljuco by a determined friend, who thought it brought to mind Kljuco’s difficult journey. “My own Exodus,” as she calls it. When Brooks’s novel fell into her hands, [Merima] felt compelled to make something out of the book. As with Brooks, incandescent art inspired at least an attempt at making more art. In creating the piece, Kljuco called upon the Sephardic traditions of the different countries where the haggadah landed, but also, in the style of Bela Bartok, she added harmonies and clusters to more traditional melodies. The new composition was created in a residency at Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music in Putney, Vt., with added invaluable support from the pianist Seth Knopp and the video artist Bart Woodstrup.

Kljuco did not meet Brooks until last week when “The Sarajevo Haggadah” was performed for the first time in Boston. And yet having read her novel four years ago, Kljuco was not surprised upon being introduced to the author of “People of the Book” that it felt like a reunion with an old friend.

Read the full article

See a list of all upcoming performances of The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book

On tour with The Sarajevo Haggadah

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Yellow Barn is proud to have developed and presented the world premiere performances of The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book, a new composition by accordionist Merima Ključo with animation by Bart Woodstrup. With funding from the New Jewish Culture Network of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, this new work has embarked on a North American tour. If you, friends, or family members are in one of these cities we encourage you to spread the word.

Read the program notes

October 28, 2015
Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art

September 4, 2015
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina

April 15, 2015
New York, NY
The Morgan Library & Museum

April 13, 2015
Los Angeles, CA
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Department of Ethnomusicology

January 13, 2015
Chicago, IL
UChicago Arts

November 19 and 20, 2014
Austin, TX
Texas Performing Arts

October 20, 2014
Washington, DC
Jewish Literary Festival
Presented by the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s
Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts

August 31
Toronto, Canada
Ashkenaz Festival

June 14, 2014
Putney, VT
Yellow Barn

May 22, 2014
San Francisco, CA
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
Co-presented by The Contemporary Jewish Museum and the JCC of San Francisco

April 4, 2014
Dallas, TX
Nasher Sculpture Center

March 26, 2014
Watertown, MA
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Co-presented by the Boston Jewish Music Festival
and the New Center for Arts and Culture

March 20 - 22, 2014
Putney, VT
Yellow Barn

The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book trailer

Friday, February 28, 2014

Video artist Bart Woodstrup, previously at Yellow Barn for the Crumb Madrigals Project, returns to Putney to collaborate with composer/accordionist Merima Ključo and pianist Seth Knopp on the creation of The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book. The following trailer introduces their work in advance of the world premiere performances on March 20th and 22nd at Sandglass Theater in Putney.

Trio Cleonice shares their syllabus

Friday, January 17, 2014

With guidance from Thomas Hodge, Professor of Russian at Wellesley College, Trio Cleonice developed an ambitious curriculum in preparation for their upcoming Artist Residency, The Russian Soul—The Russian Voice, taking place this May and culminating with a performance of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich on May 10th at Next Stage in Putney, VT.

On May 4th at 7pm at the Putney Public Library Professor Hodge will introduce their project, which aims to draw connections between Russian literature and language and Russian music. We invite you to explore these works along with the Trio, and then bring your curiosity on May 4th, wherever you are in your journey.

Related reading for Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace. (Vintage Classics), translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Il’ich and “Master and Man,” in Tolstoy’s Short Fiction, 2nd edn. (Norton Critical Edition), translated by Michael Katz

Selected elegiac poetry by Afanasii Fet

Related reading for Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67

Mikhail Zoshchenko, Nervous People and Other Satires and Berfore Sunrise (excerpts)

William Shakespeare, Sonnet No. 66, translated by Boris Pasternak.

Anton Chekhov, “Rothschild’s Violin” in Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories (Norton Critical Edition).

Learn more about Trio Cleonice's residency

Read cellist Gwen Krosnick's introduction to their project