Conflicts & War

Ukrainians scramble to save musical heritage amid war

By Isaac J. Martin

Lviv, Ukraine, Mar 23 (EFE).- As Russia continues to shell its western neighbor, Ukrainians are working against the clock to digitize the works of local composers to save their country’s musical heritage from destruction.

“When the bombardment of the country began, we launched an initiative across Ukraine to digitize all the old scores and preserve the work of Ukrainian composers, especially from the 20th century,” says Ostap Manulyak, a composer and a member of the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra.

On the second floor of the philharmonic located in the medieval city of Lviv, western Ukraine, there is a small room where old musical scores are stacked in boxes and on shelves, with only one computer taking care of the digitization process.

“Digitizing is a difficult process that requires hiring people, but due to the current circumstances, those in charge are volunteers. I, as a composition teacher at the music academy, am helping with this transcription,” Manulyak tells Efe.

In only one week, Manulyak adds they managed to digitize the works of at least 16 composers, noting that some musicians are jumping in to help since they no longer have jobs.

“The volunteers also have another priority: helping refugees or protecting museums and heritage.”

Lviv’s historic center, which has been listed as a Unesco world heritage site since 1998, is being protected from possible attacks, but music sheet transcription is slowing down, a work Manulyak considers vitally important.

In addition to preserving these works, digitization has another objective: to be able to distribute the musical works by Ukrainian composers to all the orchestras that request it, especially those in the European Union.

“Now these scores that are digitized will be available for concerts as many European artists want to play Ukrainian music,” explains Manulyak.

However, “there are not many people who are available to digitize every day,” Lviv Philharmonic director Volodymyr Syvokhip regretted, although he understands that these volunteers are prioritizing assisting those most in need.

The Lviv National Philharmonic building has become a refuge for people and musicians from the cities that have been devastated in the east and southeast of Ukraine.

“It is impossible to think about playing now, it is a very strong psychological shock and it is not an appropriate situation in which concerts can be held,” says Syvokhip.

So far, 15 female musicians out of the orchestra’s 200-member team have fled the country in the wake of the invasion that was launched on February 24, according to the director.

“Our objective now is to resist Russian aggression and survive. If we succeed, we will have the possibility of expanding our cultural collaborations.”

“But now, what we can do is share and digitize the scores, and give them permission to play these pieces of music if they organize concerts,” concludes Syvokhip. EFE


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