Skip to main content

Eve Sicular

Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship 2017

Eve Sicular — drummer, composer/arranger, film scholar, and leader of both Isle of Klezbos sextet and Metropolitan Klezmer octet — joined the 2017 Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship in Poland. She and longtime Isle of Klezbos guest Natalia Zuckerman recently adapted and recorded FARLANGEN (LONGING), a lesser-known sewing song composed by Henekh Kon and performed by Lili Liliana in the 1937 screen classic Der dibek (The Dybbuk). For this newly haunting version, Eve switches the pronoun of desire, yet preserves the passionate yearning evoked through rhythmic suspensions both musical and visual. As co-arranged with performer/vocalist Natalia Zukerman, the melody reemerges in parallel lonesome sonic texture.

“My 2017 Helix Fellowship journey was my first visit to Poland. While I have long worked with archival materials from Jewish life in pre-WWII Eastern Europe, and particularly Poland, and while my grandfather owned a tannery in Warsaw, the journey with Helix re-focused my sense of the place and its complex cultural and social history.

Henekh Kon came from Łódź and lived in Warsaw and was involved in projects with Moyshe Broderzon, including the 1937 “Freylekhe kabtsonim” (Jolly Paupers). Kon’s “Dybbuk” soundtrack shared many motifs with his Jolly Paupers incidental music, as did his score for the semi-documentary “Mir kumen on” (Children Must Laugh) — combining modal sounds typical of the Hasidic music of his youth with modernist forms he learned through formal studies in Berlin.

Kon eventually emigrated to America, and is buried in my hometown, NYC: I feel the distance.

In creating an original adaptation and arrangement of “Farlangen,” I have reimagined the text to switch gender of the beloved — changing the pronoun from “der” [masculine] to “di” [feminine] to reflect this departed, one in an alternate identity consistent with queer lived experience.

The song’s emotion is delivered in an alternate traditional idiom: Lap steel guitar brings the influence of blues music to carry the essence of deep longing, newly paired with this Eastern European Jewish piece, yet carrying a completely familiar emotional charge to imbue this story of love and loss (chord progression analogous to the vintage soundtrack piece, while translated to a note-bending tonality). I also bring subtly altered odd-meter phrasing to a half dozen points of pause in the performance, reflecting fermada ballad stylistics heard in Lili Liliana’s 1937 performance, for a more pensive and less waltz-like feel.”

— Eve Sicular

Eve Sicular

Drummer & Bandleader
Watch the full recording of FARLANGEN here.
FARLANGEN is made possible with the support of Yiddishkayt’s David Shneer Memorial Grant of the Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship to foster new creative work rooted in Yiddish language, culture, and history.