The full-width of vocal music has been explored by New York-based a capella group, Western Wind. While their early albums focused on traditional New England vocal music and Southern folk hymns, their subsequent releases have included extended series of Jewish holiday and Christmas songs and American pop music. The Judiaca series, which included A Musical Sabbath, The Birthday of the World, The Chanukah Story, The Passover Story and Mazel Bueno: A Portrait in Song of the Spanish Jews, featured guest narration by Leonard Nimoy, Theodore Bikel, and Tovah Feldshuh. Western Wind's ability to interpret avant-garde material has resulted in several groundbreaking recordings. Their album, Birth of the War God Aztec, featuring the vocal music of Charles Darrow, marked one of the first uses of the EMU Emulator digital sampler, while their album, Blessings and Batey featured their interpretations of David Darling's "Blessings: A Prayer for the Planet" and Michel Camilo and Tania Leon's Afro-Cuban composition "Batey." Their soundtrack for the Philip Glass 1983 film, Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance, was re-recorded and reissued in 1998.
Formed in 1969, Western Wind represents the combined vision of baritone vocalist Elliott Z. Levine and countertenor and executive producer of the group's Western Wind Records, William Zukof. Levine, who holds a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music, teaches at City College, Upsala College, Lighthouse Music School, and Hebrew Arts School. The composer-in-residence at St. Thomas More Church, Levine also serves as cantor at Temple Emmanuel in Great Neck, NY. A native of New York, Zukof has appeared as a soloist with the Richard Wagner Chorale, Gregg Smith Singers, Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, and Music Sacra of New York. His operatic performances includes appearances with the Washington Opera, Eastern Opera Company, and the Eastman School. Since 1989, Western Wind has produced a series of radio programs for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. The New York Times praised the ensemble for delivering a "music of astonishing directness, iridescence and spiritual depth." ~ Craig Harris