Moshe Frumin: Ancient Instruments
Archaeological records inspire researcher and sculptor
The Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Epsten Gallery this year. The current exhibition Moshe Frumin: Ancient Instruments displays finely sculpted musical instruments by award-winning sculptor and professor Moshe Frumin. Frumin sculpted these contemporary pieces over the last few decades, drawing inspiration from his research into the music of the ancient Israelis.
Assembling this exhibition also involved research to track down Frumin. Dr. Karen York is Senior Curator at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the same exhibition of Moshe Frumin instruments was held October 15, 2009–January 25, 2010. The exhibition will be shown only in two locations in the United States, Tulsa and Overland Park.
Moshe Frumin: Ancient Instruments International Exhibit of Biblical Musical Instruments
Exhibit runs through May 2, 2010.
Curated by Marcus Cain, Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art
Dr. York’s story of locating Frumin began when she started her position at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. She went through a stack of brochures that had been left on the desk in her office, including one from Frumin. York looked everywhere to contact Frumin and finally found him on YouTube in a video produced by Frumin’s son, a video artist.
Moshe Frumin’s father was a Polish dissident who was killed in World War II. At the age of 6, Frumin joined his mother and sister and made the journey over the mountains into the Soviet Union. The family immigrated to Israel two years later in 1948. Frumin has a degree in Education and Creative Art and a Masters degree in Arts from the University of Haifa in Israel. He was professor at Haifa for twelve years and founded the Technology in Education program there. As a participant in a project at the Haifa Museum of Music and Ethnology, he investigated and reconstructed ancient musical instruments through the use of archeological evidence. Frumin has taught in many other institutions and lectures now at Western Galilee College. The work he helped to start–looking into ancient Israeli musical instruments–has directed one part of his career as a sculptor.
The Ancient Instruments exhibition features twenty-one instruments sculpted by Frumin. All of the instruments, and accompanying support structures for a few, are hand-crafted contemporary pieces. Frumin attempts to either reconstruct a modern version of an ancient instrument, or create a modern construction inspired by the investigation into ancient instruments. Frumin also incorporates Jewish symbolism and Hebrew language as well as modern conceptualization into his works.
Frumin explores as many aspects of ancient construction as he can to learn from the archaeological record. Most ancient instruments were not preserved in archeology. Instruments from the Bronze and Iron Age made from wood and animal hides have long since disintegrated. Only metal bells and cymbals comprise most of what survives. Frumin uses pictographic evidence, like images of ancient instruments on coins, or in architecture. He also studies references to music in the Bible, the Talmud, and Egyptian and Assyrian texts.
According to Frumin’s research, ancient instrument builders strung their stringed instruments in three distinct ways – by tying the strings to leather that winds around a yoke, winding the string directly around wooden pins, or stringing through pegs much in the same way modern instruments are strung. The exhibition displays examples of all three methods.
Frumin used resources from the Bible to discover context for his works. Some translations of Psalms 81 read this way: (2) Raise a song, sound the timbrel, the sweet lyre with the harp. (3) Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. Some other translations include words like “gittith” and “psaltery.” Timbrel, lyre, trumpet, gittith, and psaltery are all terms that describe forms of ancient instruments. The verse also implies that music is part of a reoccurring ceremony. Frumins works include timbrels, lyres, and gittiths.
One of the works in the exhibition is a harp/lyre based on the “Jasper seal, Jerusalem” in a relief found on a half shekel coin in the collections of the Israel Museum. The lyre is fashioned from horn, beechwood, pine, and walnut.
There are a few trimbrels in the exhibition. These are wood and hide drums. One is a reconstruction of a traditional form in pine, sheep skin, and rope and the other is a modern construction incorporating the female features of Bathsheba in mahogany and sheepskin. Frumin brought in the female form to pay tribute to the contribution that women made to music in ancient times. Women would not have functioned in the priestly capacity in ancient Israel, but they did play a major role in performing and teaching musical traditions in ancient Israel and throughout the Middle East and Egypt in antiquity.
Frumin also designed the female form into one other of the instruments in the exhibition. A gittith that features traditional and masculine (David) features such as flat surfaces and strong straight lines on the face of the instrument and female (Bathsheba) features on the back where the natural knot of the lemon tree is exposed. Notice the shape of the shadow cast by feminine features on the back of the neck.
Both Dr. York’s research into Moshe Frumin, and Frumin’s research into these ancient instruments, resulted in a fine exhibition of artful objects. While the source of inspiration for these instruments are drawn from archaeological records and obscure sources. Frumin's creations invite patrons to explore the music traditions of ancient Israel in an accessible, contemporary setting. Visit the Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art, Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom, through May 2, 2010 and examine the fine examples of masterfully crafted musical instruments by Moshe Frumin.
About the Museum and Gallery
Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art, Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom
5500 West 123rd Street, Overland Park, KS 66209
Curator Marcus Cain at the Kansas City Jewish Museum said the museum functions in two forums. One is a program called Museum Without Walls. In this project, the museum partners with other institutions to install exhibitions in a variety of venues.
The Jewish Museum also exhibits work at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom, where the Moshe Frumin exhibition opened Sunday, March 14, 2010. The museum and Village Shalom, a multifaceted senior care community in Overland Park, are nonprofit organizations that share a unique partnership. The museum contributes to the cultural events programmed for the residents. The exhibitions at the Jewish Museum are also open to the public.
The Jewish Museum has no standing collection of its own, although it has contributed to the collections of other institutions. The museum partners with organizations to promote exhibitions on Jewish cultural themes, as well as general contemporary art subjects, through its programs with other venues and its facility at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom. The museum sees about 7000 visitors per year. Viewing times to the public are Tuesday-Friday, 11 AM-4 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 PM.
Scott Easterday is the New Classical Contributor and VIDs Department Director for KCMetropolis.org and a contributor to PresentMagazine.com. He is a musician and singer/songwriter. He writes reviews and performs interviews for KCMetropolis in New Classical and explores new directions in the performing arts.