Substack exclusive: The Klezmommies "Running Out of Time"

Substack exclusive: The Klezmommies "Running Out of Time"

To be released by the end of the month!

This week’s installment of Oyer is a little audio exclusive, sneak peak, of one of the singles from The Klezmommies’ (my band!) forthcoming album “Running Out of Time.”

Our group isn’t currently playing together, but this album is a culmination of our time playing together at Lawrence University (most of us graduated last year). All of these recordings are deep in my heart and remind me of so many people I love to make music with.

This song in particular was an adaptation I made (comment if you know which song it’s based off!) The album will also include two song parodies titled “If I were a rich trans" and “YIVO“ along with a handful of live recordings of our takes on classic klezmer tunes.

I have so many beautiful feelings, so much pride about this group and the wonderful people in it (some of which I outlined in this article and some which were featured in this spotlight by our university).

One idea which is pertinent to the artistry in this album and part of my own personal credo as a musician is that you always have to be figuring out something. I do not care what the setting is, for me music is always about courageous exploration rather than precise recitation.

When I started this group, I could not play the keyboard to save my life. Yet, I was the one teaching most of the music. Even as all of my bandmates were more proficient on their instruments than I on keyboard, we made it work because we were all dedicated to that process of figuring out.

We figured out how to play together. We figured out how to play the music. We figured out how to accompany. We figured out how to listen. We figured out a group style. Many of these things happened not through strict directions, but from the implicit agreement that we’d all just try some stuff out. Maybe some of it would work, maybe it wouldn’t.

We trusted each others’ artistic inclinations enough that we arrived at arrangements that may not seem too special on the face of it. There is no historically pre-ordained instrumentation or musical stylizing which is reminiscent of genre anachronism x or making an explicit commentary on topic y using extended traditional techniques z. It was just us, our instruments, what felt good to us, and what we thought would make the audience excited.

I’ve listened to a lot of klezmer music and a lot of different performances/arrangements of the same standards from the klezmer canon. Regardless of my obvious bias, I do think from a certain angle, my groups’ intuitive arrangements, which are on a surface level unremarkable, feel imbued with such energy and originality that can only come from these two years of some of the most beautiful community I’ve had the privilege to be a part of in my time on haShem’s grine velt — two years of this group trusting each other to figure it out and to have a good time.

(Also, I’m referring, confusingly, more so to most of the other tracks on the album, the one included in this article is one of the more intensely cultivated/arranged)

So often, advanced and professional musicians are technically proficient enough that they can truly just walk into a gig, play the notes and leave. Practically for many, music is a full-time job where constant mistakes don’t get you anywhere. I have endless respect for this. I also believe that true creativity and truly progressive music comes from embracing inaccuracies, mistakes and amateurishness while you’re figuring it out.

If there are a million Fabergé eggs out there, the most creative thing to do in my opinion isn’t spending years painstakingly making your own Fabergé egg with little personal design details you can point out to anyone who cares. Creativity for me is tossing some expired eggs onto a canvas, something you’ve never known anyone to do, just because you had the wild thought to do so. Then do that about a thousand more times till you’ve figured out that way to do it that’s emotionally satisfying to you. Then without realizing it, presto-chango, you’ve pioneered an art form.

Nobody in the Klezmommies held their nose high (like many “jazz jocks“ who need you to “get on their level“), nobody quit in frustration. We learned to not just play notes on a page, but to explore pieces together. We had hard days, we had easy days. We cancelled rehearsals during finals week, we got out the string and cork board before a performance. I got wired off of cold brew and manically explained screeds of nonsense. Thanks to my bandmates’ patience and sincere honesty, I learned a lot about how to lead with respect, thought and care.

College was a hard time for many reasons (socially, directionally, academically, emotionally, communally, personally etc, etc, etc). I always knew, however, that if I’d had a hard day. If I felt I had no energy left. If I felt I had no love or joy in me to express, a rehearsal with my Klezmommies would leave me in stitches and with a heart so incredibly full. I have no doubt their friendship and our two years of shared memories will forever be an unmatched privilege. I miss it and them so incredibly much.

People who know our trombonist, Mikayla, know that it is incredibly ironic and hilarious that she is the one person who looks really done with this goofy tableau (also pictured: Sela Dombrower, substitute accoridon/keys)


Georgia Chau - Clarinet
Alex DeBello - Fiddle
Mikayla Frank-Martin - Trombone
Celia Goldstein - Viola
Zemirah Willow Higgins XIV - Vocals
Ryan Saladin - Percussion
Eviatar Shlosberg - Trumpet
Miri Villerius - Piano
Marya Wydra - Bass
Miri Villerius