Even though Attias’s name is generally associated with his collection of romansas (ballads, songs with stories), his published works also contain examples of the entire song repertoire of Spanish Jewry. Some of his findings are uniquely important since the songs that he uncovered, whether from sources, or in manuscripts, are still being sung by the descendants of the Balkan lands. Some of the songs have disappeared from the oral tradition and have been forgotten entirely. Therefore, the Moshe Attias collection that has now been received by the Music Archive and Song Collection at the National Library is invaluable.
Indeed, the acoustic documentation adds to the value of the collection, since it allows scholars to learn and understand the repertoire on two levels: text and music. Even though some of the recordings contain only fragments of songs- much shorter than the songs brought from 18th century manuscripts in Attias’s books- the mere fact of the vocal documentation allows the tune to be heard and in doing so brings out the immeasurable value of this collection of recordings.
The unique importance of this collections stems from, among other things, the date of the recordings (about two decades before my recordings). This collection contains songs that were not otherwise preserved for coming generations. It contains the rarest songs known in oral tradition and even songs that have disappeared entirely. I made sure to include some of these “rare” songs among the examples presented here.
[Dr. Shoshana Weich Shahak]