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Streaming Piyut: Invitation to Two Sites

By Denise Waxman | Issue Date: March 2011

Music is integral to BJ. This issue features stories about the awesome Invitation to Piyut Retreat that took place in November, and most of the articles touch on the many roles that music “plays” here. It is a most appropriate time to feature the Invitation to Piyut website and to announce that BJ’s own music is now available again to stream on the BJ website.

Invitation to Piyut site.The Invitation to Piyut site is a treasure trove for those who love music. Its goal is to give “the widest possible view into the world of piyut from the distant past until today.” It offers hundreds of piyutim and thousands of recordings from all the Jewish traditions, from East to West, in a searchable archive of piyutim and melodies as well as of texts and melodies not classically defined as piyutim—including selections from psalms or traditional Jewish prayers. Each piyut has two central pages: an in-depth look at the piyut (background, commentary, and explanation), and a range of melodies and performances of the piyut. For some a score is available.

You can find piyutim commemorating life-cycle events: wedding, birth of son and daughter, becoming bar or bat mitzvah, piyutim for holidays and festivals, and piyutim presented in contemporary performances and arrangements. There is a piyut of the week and the month, the top 12 piyutim, a “Send a Piyut” service, a website radio station that allows you to listen to the piyutim in uninterrupted succession, and more.

The downside is that only a limited selection of the content (which, in addition to the piyut texts, includes articles about traditions of the people of Israel, the music of the piyut world, personal commentary, and contemporary cultural criticism) is in English. Fortunately, the music speaks to the heart and does not require translation to move us. Fully translating the site is, I note, on their ambitious agenda.

You’ll be especially interested to visit when you learn that all 18 piyutim and mizmorim that were taught in the Invitation to Piyut in North America retreat can be found on the site right now! Eventually they will all be on the BJ site too, but if you want a peek into the future head to www.piyut.org.il/english.

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Piyut—a musical instrument, where the musician is the poet who strums on the words, and the listeners are drawn with bonds of love and grasp it as though it were a magic wand.
— Aviad Akiva

The piyut decorates the prayers, the life cycle and the yearly cycle, every place where the sigh of the heart overpowers the mind. When words do not suffice and the melody is called for, and where that which is fixed yields its place to that which is renewed.
— Avigdor Shinan

The piyut is the chain of heritage of the culture of the people of Israel from its foundations and throughout its layers. The melody of the heart and the longing for all that is good in the people of Israel and its tribes.
— Ephraim Hazan