Francesco Spagnolo, a multidisciplinary scholar focusing on Jewish studies, music and digital media, is the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and a Lecturer in the Music Department at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a host for the cultural programs of Italian National Radio (RAI) in Rome. Intersecting textual, visual and musical cultures, he actively contributes to academic, cultural heritage and archival institutions, and live and electronic media in Europe, Israel and the United States, frequently lectures at academic institutions worldwide, publishes on a variety of subjects, and curates exhibitions and digital programs. Francesco holds a Laurea in Philosophy from the University of Milan (1994) and a PhD in Musicology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2007). He is the editor of the Italian edition of Imre Toth’s Palimpsest (1998 and 2003) and of the audio-anthology Italian Jewish Musical Traditions (Hebrew University, 2001 and 2006), the author of two books (Il ballo del camaleonte, 1999; Estetica delle situazioni estreme 2000), the co-author of The Jewish World (forthcoming in 2014), and has written numerous articles and essays on philosophy, music, film and literature in academic journals, books and encyclopedias, including Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, the Encyclopedia Judaica, and theEncyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. More at bit.ly/spagnoloacht.
Yair Harel received a traditional Jewish education in Israel before going on to study zarb (Persian drum) in Israel and France with Roger Yshay and Daghmeshid Chemirani, tar and Persian classical music with Peretz Eliyhau, improvisation with André Hajdu, and Jewish-Andalusian Vocal traditions with Rabbis Meir Atiyah and Haim Louk. Over the last twelve years, he has focused on exploring, teaching and performing traditional Jewish music from North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, taking a major part in numerous multimedia productions based on encounters between traditional and contemporary music, in Israel and abroad. He has been the artistic director of the Ben Zvi Piyut Vocal Ensemble since 2008, has led workshops and courses in traditional Jewish vocal music, Middle Eastern percussion and improvisation at The Hebrew University, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and The Jerusalem Academy High School for Music and Dance. In 2010 he created the New Jerusalem Orchestra. As one of the main figures behind the Piyyut scene that has revolutionized the face of Israeli musical culture, he is a founding member of the “Singing Communities Project,” the founder and the present Editor In chief of the “Invitation to Piyut” website, the artistic director of the Jerusalem Piyut Festival, and a co-founder of Piyyut North America. He is part of Tafillalt Ensemble, which in 2010 released a new album under John Zorn’s Tzadik label.