Jewlia Eisenberg and Jeremiah Lockwood are both scholars and musicians who will work with LA Archivera, the archive where the work of Emily Sene, who collected music from Jewish immigrants from Turkey in Los Angeles, is held. The archive documents and illuminates the experience of Sephardic Jewish immigrants to California through music. This collaboration benefitted from the work of CU Boulder historian, Phoebe Young, a historian of Los Angeles, who helped contextualize the life and work of Sene. Eisenberg and Lockwood’s collaboration, in conjunction with scholarly support from CU Boulder historians David Shneer and Phoebe Young, will expose Sene’s work through the study and performance of songs from her collection.
Photo by David T. Coons
Photo by David T. Coons
LA Archivera is an exploration of the recordings of archivist Emily Sene, held in the UCLA Sephardic Archive, by scholar Jeremiah Lockwood and musician Jewlia Eisenberg.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, Emily Sene gathered music without institutional support or academic background. Her informants were from her family and community in Los Angeles, mostly Jewish immigrants from Turkey whose native tongue was Judeo-Spanish (also known as Ladino). Her collection is a revelation: It documents and illuminates the experience of Sephardic Jewish immigrants to California through music. There are religious songs sung in Hebrew and bawdy songs sung in Turkish. But the songs we will focus on in LA Archivera reflect the social and political events of the time, such as “Los Japones,” about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; or “El Baile de Amazli,” about the seductive behaviors of Jewish musicians.
The UCLA Sephardic Archive is dedicated to preserving material on the migration of Sephardic Jews (Spanish-speakers who kept the language alive after being exiled from Iberia and settling all around the Mediterranean). This rich archive holds hundreds of hours of Sene’s recordings. Few have heard any of it, no one has heard all of it. LA Archivera will expose Sene’s work through the study and performance of songs from her collection, celebrating the threads of migration and language diversity that weave so many Californians together.
Lockwood and Eisenberg will each work as both musicians and scholars. With digital support from UCLA, they will blog and podcast about the process of preparing the music for performance. Antena (a language arts and justice group based in Los Angeles) will work with UCLA to do outreach and help present Lockwood and Eisenberg’s work-in-progress, as part of their conversation series on the multi-lingual city. LA Archivera: The Sonic Archive of Emily Sene will be premiered as part of the 2019 Antena Festival.
The UCLA Sephardic Archive believes that audio archives come to life through contemporary encounter with the archival materials—through study, public access and performance. They know Lockwood and Eisenberg can help make that happen. They also want to build more relationships with local groups like Antena, and to contextualize their work as part of the tapestry of multi-lingual LA. They believe LA Archivera Project can further this goal.
Lockwood is part of a larger discussion in ethnomusicology on the role of gender in transmission. Eisenberg has been performing Sephardic women’s music for years. She would be pleased to return to CU to incubate this new work; she has incubated two other projects at CU (The Ginzburg Geography, 2013; The Bowls Project, 2009). She has also been an Artist-In-Residence at UCLA, and looks forward to renewing that connection. Both Lockwood and Eisenberg are eager to help expose songs from this important but neglected collection and to collaborate with UCLA and Antena to transform the archive into a public space animated by contemporary voices.
Eisenberg and Lockwood have been working together for three years in their duo Book of J. They are both musicians and both scholars; Lockwood at Stanford, and Eisenberg independently (she has been an Artist-In-Residence at the University of Colorado and UCLA, among others). The New Yorker describes their work as “Affecting, covering an expansive musical landscape that encompasses gothic Yiddish songs, Piedmont blues, and queer politics. Both musicians have deep roots in Jewish music: Lockwood grew up singing in the High Holidays choir of his grandfather, a renowned cantor, while Eisenberg continues to lead the experimental, politically minded Jewish vocal group Charming Hostess.” LA Archivera would provide opportunities to deepen their work reinterpreting traditional material. Through podcast, blog, social media strategy and community conversations, they will render their creative process public and interactive. It sounds challenging…and thrilling! And the chance to kickstart all this at CU, where they can brainstorm with each other and cross-polinate with a diverse group of likeminded people? That would be amazing!
We have the archive itself and digital support from UCLA for the blog, podcast, and social media outreach. We have space to work and community support from Antena. We need budget to pay ourselves and any technical assistance not provided by UCLA.
The Emily Sene collection is connected to the past, present and future—in California, in the United States, and in the world. From the little we know so far, it features fierce politics, joyous sensuality, exuberant expression and deep commitment to multi-lingual culture—our world NEEDS to know this archive!