The Nigun Project: At the Table

Jeremiah Lockwood Performs With Brian Chase of the 'Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs'

Together in Song: Brian Chase of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, left, and Jeremiah Lockwood of the Sway Machinery reinterpret a Hasidic nigun.
Getty, Courtesy of Jeremiah Lockwood
Together in Song: Brian Chase of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, left, and Jeremiah Lockwood of the Sway Machinery reinterpret a Hasidic nigun.

By Jeremiah Lockwood

Published April 14, 2010.
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Listen to Jeremiah Lockwood and Brian Chase perform the second installment of the Nigun Project, “At the Table”:

Part of my motivation for starting the Nigun Project — in which I reinterpret nigunim, with a range of musical collaborators — was to have a good reason to spend sizable chunks of time staring at old music manuscripts in the YIVO reading room; it’s a quiet and musty library housed in the Center for Jewish History on 16th Street in Manhattan. Being in the YIVO reading room feels like a fulfillment of that childhood fantasy of uncovering secrets in remote and obscure places. This second installment of the project is based on a melody I found in a collection from just after the war that was commissioned by the Lubavitch Hasidim.

My collaborator on this piece is Brian Chase, the brilliant drummer best known for his work with the great Brooklyn rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For this arrangement of the nigun, Brian employed his unique system of tuning and amplifying the drums to create drones and pedal pitches that wind through the piece, enveloping the melodies being sung played on the guitar in a bell like texture.

Read more about the Nigun Project and to listen to the first installment, Lockwood’s collaboration with Broadway star Sahr Nguajah, here. And listen to Lockwood discussing the Nigun Project here.

Jeremiah Lockwood, frontman for The Sway Machinery and the Forward’s artist-in-residence, is releasing in installments new works based on Hasidic nigunim, or songs without words. The melodies can be heard on the Forward Web site throughout 2010. This project continues the Forward’s tradition of commissioning new Jewish art in the spirit of its collaborations with great 20th-century Yiddish authors like Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Grade.


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