Mayrent Collection: A New Recording (Nearly) Every Day

April 5th, 2018
Label for Banner 78rpm side B-547 A, "Beit mich a bissele"

The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture has launched a new project to highlight a new recording from the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings nearly every day of the year on their Collection page.

Label for 78rpm record Columbia E5145, "A Brief Tin"

Today’s recording is A Brief Fin, recorded in 1916 by Jacob Silbert, who was born April 5, 1871, in Lutsk, Volyn Gubernia. Follow the Mayrent Institute on Facebook and Twitter to see all of their latest posts.

Scott Carter, Mayrent Institute Assistant Director, explains the approach for choosing recordings to be featured in a post on the Institute’s website: drawing on original genealogical and historical research conducted by Institute staff and utilizing Zalmen Zylbercweig’s seven-volume Lexicon of the Yiddish Theater, we’ve identified and confirmed (as best we can) birth dates for over 70 performers featured in the Collection. On these dates, we’ll provide a brief biography and a recording from the performer’s career. For the remaining posts, we’ll feature a performance recorded on that day in history with discographic information provided by Richard Spottswood’s invaluable Ethnic Music on Records. Our goal with this project is to feature the full breadth of the Mayrent Collection, from early klezmer and theater recordings to cantorial hymns and comedic sketches. With that in mind, we’ve selected recordings from world-famous singers like Molly Picon and Yoselle Rosenblatt to less heralded performers like actor Morris Tuchband (born March 15, 1885), who recorded only two sides for Victor in 1918 before retiring from the stage.

The Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings is unique in its comprehensive scale and scope. Over 9,000 recorded performances on 78-rpm discs and cylinders include Yiddish theater, popular and traditional music, cantorial songs, klezmer music, poetry, drama, and event ballads from locations as diverse as the United States, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Israel. The contents offer an unparalleled audio entrée into the vibrant, fascinating cultural practices of early- to mid-20th century Yiddish life. It is an ongoing project, with several hundred recordings yet to be digitized. Cataloging is nearly complete, and we currently host 2200+ recordings—complete with discographic information and metadata—at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Digital Collections website.