Yeshiva University News » 2011 » November » 22

A Conversation with Music Professor David Glaser

Professor and composer David Glaser has been sharing his passion for music with Yeshiva University students since 1996. His most recent work, Of Twilight, is a five-section piece scored for soprano, violin, bass-clarinet, percussion and piano. Inspired by texts from Charles Simic’s Dimestore Alchemy, a series of evocative poems about artist Joseph Cornell’s life and works, the piece will be performed at the New York New Music Ensemble’s opening concert on November 28. Below, Glaser reflects on his career as associate professor of music at Stern College for Women and his love of sound.

David Glaser

David Glaser

Can you talk a little bit about what it’s been like to teach music at Stern College?

Teaching music at Stern is very gratifying. Although most of my students will not be pursuing careers in music, they are as eager and curious as anyone who is planning on becoming a professional musician. The advantage of small classes means that I can give a lot of attention to our students, and I get to know most of them pretty well by the time they graduate. In my larger class, Sense of Music, the most rewarding thing is leading a nonmusician to that “Aha!” moment, when an abstract concept suddenly becomes audible. Our Sense of Music course is not taught as a survey, but rather as a class in developing listening skills. Although it is more difficult for both the students and me, I feel that in the end it is far more rewarding than a course that focuses on names and dates.

Where did your passion for music come from? How does it inform your teaching and your work?

I was always interested in music, and some of my earliest memories are of sitting directly in front of the speakers of our stereo listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I played French horn in junior high and some classical guitar after that but was always too lazy to practice. Oddly enough, it was a piece of music that I found confusing and unpleasant that led me to become a composer. Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire was a piece that I’d read was one of the seminal works of the early 20th century so I thought I’d give it a listen. I hated it, but at the same time, because it was so strange to me, I decided to listen again. Eventually it showed me that there was an entire sonic universe that I was unaware of and excited by. It is now one of the pieces that I couldn’t live without.

Are there any upcoming concerts with YU students?

There will be a concert on Monday, December 19, featuring our choral and chamber ensembles with a bit of support from me and Professor Marcia Young. It’s a student concert, prepared under the incredibly capable direction of Professor Young, and will feature pieces that highlight the skills of our student performers.

What is the most important lesson you would like your students to come away from your classes with?

Stay curious and try to keep an open mind. Realize that art, whether it is music, painting or a poem, is the result of hard work and plenty of revision, not inspiration. And please, don’t ever go to a see a movie about a composer or artist.


Renowned New York Artist Designs Textiles for the Altneuschul in Prague, Europe’s Oldest Synagogue

Before a series of richly designed new textiles is installed in one of the most iconic, oldest and continually active synagogues in Europe, it will be unveiled at Yeshiva University Museum in the exhibition Old and the New: Mark Podwal’s Textiles for the Altneuschul in Prague from November 27, 2011–January 15, 2012.

Old and the New will be on display at the YU Museum from Nov. 27 –Jan. 15.

The textiles, which include a Torah ark cover, three Torah mantles and covers for the Torah reading and cantor’s desks represent the first major commission for the sanctuary of Prague’s Altneuschul in over 70 years. Built in 1270, the Altneuschul, or “Old-New Synagogue,” is celebrated for its architectural beauty and legendary provenance–myth has it its stones were brought by angels. It is one of the few Gothic synagogues in existence and sits at the center of Prague’s Jewish Quarter, a vibrant community famed for its scholars, mystics, writers and intellectuals. Perhaps the most famous of the synagogue’s legends is the Prague Golem, believed to lie dormant in the attic of the building to be restored again, if needed, to defend the Jews.

Mark Podwal, an internationally recognized New York-based artist, author and physician, has long been engaged with Prague and its famed Jewish Quarter. The textiles are the latest and most ambitious of his works relating to Prague’s Jewish Community.

“With its history, mystical legends and remarkable beauty, the Altneuschul is one of the world’s great Jewish monuments–and a living one,” said Podwal, who is known for his drawings on The New York Times Op-Ed page and is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Jewish Museum in Prague and many others. “To be able to contribute to the ongoing religious and communal function of the synagogue is a humbling honor. It was daunting but exciting to make works that reflect and speak to the character of Prague’s broad and rich Jewish fabric.”

Complementing the textiles in the exhibition is a detailed historic model of the Altneuschul (part of YU Museum’s permanent collection), a selection of complimentary graphic work by the artist, and a short original film that charts Podwal’s artistic engagement with Prague and features a behind-the-scenes look at the textiles’ creation.

“We are delighted and privileged to unveil Mark’s striking textiles and to give a New York audience the opportunity to appreciate their beauty as objects as well as their rich liturgical and cultural context,” said Jacob Wisse, director of the YU Museum. “We think viewers should, and will, appreciate the way a fresh aesthetic vision has been used to complement a historic site, and how the magic of the synagogue’s and its city’s story are brought to life through the exhibition.”

In collaboration with renowned New York textile designers Penn & Fletcher, Podwal used modern technology to create vignettes of the centuries-old Jewish Community. The six embroidered velvet pieces, which will be shipped for their dedication at the synagogue in March of 2012, are presented in the exhibition as they will appear in the Altneuschul sanctuary.

Old and the New: Mark Podwal’s Textiles for the Altneuschul in Prague is presented by Yeshiva University Museum in conjunction with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York.

Public Programs and Gallery Talks

Wednesday December 14, 2011 (5-6 p.m.)

Curator’s tour in the exhibition gallery.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 (2-3 p.m.)

Artist’s talk in the exhibition gallery.

Monday, December 19, 2011 (6-8 p.m.)

Public program featuring the artist on the historic, religious and cultural context of the Altneuschul and the Prague Jewish Community.

Wednesday January 11, 2012 (5-6 p.m.)

Curator’s tour in the exhibition gallery.

Yeshiva University Museum, 15 W. 16th Street, New York, NY 10011, 212.294.8330,

Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Monday: 5–8 p.m. (FREE); Wednesday: 11 a.m.–8 p.m. (FREE 5–8 p.m.); Friday: 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. (FREE).

Adults: $8; Seniors and Students: $6; Members and Children under 5: Free; YU Faculty, Administration and Students: Free with valid ID.