The predominantly electronic composition, called the The Kaunas Requiem, is being written by the young Ukrainian composer Anton Degtiariov and will be premiered in Kaunas over an uninterrupted, seven-day period, ending on the evening of September 23, Lithuanian Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Played in its entirety, The Kaunas Requiem would take 75 years to perform.
The event is inspired by the family photographs that were smuggled out of the Kaunas Ghetto in 1944. The rare photographs will be used in an experimental print/digital installation to be showcased alongside the performance. In 2013, Richard Schofield, an English photographer and curator living and working in Lithuania for the past 15 years, uncovered a collection of 111 Litvak (Lithuanian Jewish) family photographs and other documents that had been smuggled out of the Kaunas Ghetto by a family whose identity and fate remain unknown.
In danger of being damaged, lost or even sold into private hands, the photographs, taken during the first four decades of the 20th century, were scanned on Richard’s recommendation with the assistance and financial help of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.
Together with the photographs were other documents showing evidence of musical connections within the unidentified family. Richard decided that commissioning a piece of music would be the best way to honour and respect the archive whilst attracting and engaging today’s almost exclusively ethnic Lithuanian population of Kaunas who know little about Lithuania’s rich and diverse Litvak past.
Between 1941 and 1944 around 95 percent of Lithuania’s pre-war Litvak population of over 200,000 men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis and their willing Lithuanian collaborators. The project is part of a series of events organised by the International Centre for Litvak Photography aimed at helping Lithuania come to terms with its past.
The project is seeking €7,500 (US$8,200/£6,000) in crowd-funded donations to cover production costs.
Five facts about the project
- The Kaunas Requiem will be ‘performed’ by a computer and will be comprised of three overlapping layers, namely an original musical composition inspired by the photographs and other documents that were smuggled out of the Kaunas Ghetto, recordings from various sites in Kaunas with connections to traditional Litvak industries and the ‘reading’ of a list of names of Kaunas Holocaust victims in which the letters are converted into musical sounds.
- The installation will be simultaneously broadcast online and will close with a live Reading of the Names event attended by ordinary members of the public.
- Composer Anton Degtiariov graduated from Kiev Music Academy and has completed many experimental musical projects and performances in his native Ukraine. He will work with the Lithuanian programmer Rokas Anisas who will teach a computer how to ‘perform’ the Requiem.
- All individuals who make a financial donation to the project will receive a reward ranging from having their name associated with The Kaunas Requiem to a very special VIP package. More information can be found on the project crowdfunding page on www.indiegogo.com.
- All 111 photographs can be viewed on the International Centre for Litvak Photography’s Facebook page.