The Music Collection and Sound Archive
Photo: Hanan Cohen

The Music Collection and Sound Archive

The Bella & Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound & Song and The Suzie and Bruce Kovner National Music Archives document, preserve and offer public access to material relating to Israeli and Jewish music.
The collection is divided into three main fields: music of the Land of Israel, either written locally or written by Israelis, Jewish music, and music by Jewish composers.
The material includes:
- Printed material: books and scores
- Archival material: drafts of oeuvres, research notes, letters, pictures, certificates, announcements, programs, newspaper clippings, private recordings, etc.
- Audio-visual recordings: records, compact discs, cassettes, etc.
The archives of the Bella & Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound & Song contain material that is rare and of national and international importance. In addition there are also commercial publications both in print and sound format.

Pre-State and Contemporary Israeli Music

The collection includes the complete personal archives of several preeminent composers as well as the archives of a number of musical institutions in Israel. Among the notable archives of Israeli composers are those of Alexander (Sasha) Argov, Paul Ben-Haim, Andre Hajdu, Moshe Wilensky, Dov Seltzer, Emanuel Zamir, Mordechai Zeira, Marc Lavry, Daniel Sambursky, Mordecai Seter , Yair Rosenblum, Naomi Shemer  and Noam Sheriff.
Apart from written and recorded music, in draft and final form, the archives also include items related to the process of the composition and performance of the music, such as correspondence with colleagues and performers, concert recordings, announcements, programs, reviews and photographs.
In the field of Hebrew song, the National Sound Archive's recordings of Kol Yisrael (Israel Radio) from its earliest days, particularly stand out. The sound archive holds some 10,000 records of Hebrew songs, which were recorded for broadcasting, mainly from the 1950s. The records were transferred to the National Library in the 1970s. A digitization project, aimed at preserving this material, began two years ago and is scheduled for completion in another two years. On completion, the music and song clips will be accessible to listeners at the Bella and Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound and Song and on the  National Library of Israel website. Another 10,000 tapes of Hebrew songs, recorded by Kol Yisrael during the 1960s and 1970s, were transferred to the department a few years ago. They have all been copied onto compact discs and are accessible, both in the Library and on its website.​

Jewish Music

The National Sound Archive comprises tens of thousands of hours of recordings of prayers, liturgical poems, religious songs and music, rituals, and folksongs, deposited, since the beginning of the last century, by researchers and others from the field of music. The task of trying to document all the multicultural musical traditions of Israel, from primary sources, is a continuous and never-ending process. The execution of this undertaking is carried out at events all over the country, during interviews conducted in the participant's home, and in the recording studio of the sound archive. As part of this enterprise, great efforts have been made to document the beginnings of the Hebrew song.  The results of these efforts, as well as those of other research projects in the field, have been published by the Jewish Music Research Centre, which functions in close cooperation with the music department (e.g. Early Songs from Eretz Israel, edited by Yaakov Mazor).
The personal archives of researchers and collectors comprise, inter alia, notes and summaries, drafts, offprints, field recordings and photographs, which they accumulated while working on their musical projects.  The archives of Yaakov Michael and Meir Noy, collectors of Jewish music, are central in this field.  Meir Noy collected songs in Yiddish, as well as in Hebrew, and he is considered one of the fathers of the Hebrew Song and its origins. There is also material, used by a variety of performers, such as cantors' notebooks, scores of Hasidic songs, and songs in Ladino.

Jewish Composers

An integral part of the intellectual output of the Jews is the classical music that they wrote. Therefore, the music department selectively collects print editions and sound recordings of performances of their compositions. Their oeuvres are found in the department as printed commercial publications, as part of the composer's archive entrusted to the library, and also as original manuscripts.

The Music Department

The Music Department of the National Library operates according to the Library's concepts and organizational framework. The department documents, preserves and makes available to the public all materials relating to the music of the Land of Israel, and to Israeli and Jewish music. Its collection includes printed material (such as books and scores), video and audio recordings (including phonograph records, compact disks and cassettes), and archival material (drafts of oeuvres, research notes, correspondence, pictures, documents, announcements, programs, newspaper items, private recordings, etc.).

The National Sound Archives, part of the Music Department, contain the world's largest collection of ethnographic and commercial recordings of Israeli and Jewish music. The collection also includes non-Jewish music. Approximately half the recordings are commercial: most were purchased or donated to the Library, while some were received under the terms of the Books Law 2000 (5761) (Hebrew), the law of legal deposit. The other half of the collection comprises: recordings of interviews, made in a studio or in the home of the participant, and field recordings made at live events, such as weddings and festivals, which have been transferred to the archives by researchers (musicologists, ethno-musicologists, anthropologists, etc.), as well as Kol Yisrael (Israel Radio) recordings that have been deposited in the National Sound Archives.

It is the department's archival material, rather than its publications, that makes it unique in its field in Israel and the rest of the world.

We welcome the public's contributions and additions to the department's collections and knowledge database on any subject relating to Jewish or Israeli music.  We will be happy to receive songs, recordings, manuscripts and any other material relevant to this field of study.

The Staff

The Staff of the Music Department is comprised of musicologists and specialist catalogers in their respective fields.

Dr. Gila Flam
Head of Music Department: The Music Collection, Sound Archive and Music Reading Room. Specializes in Yiddish music. 074-7336-450; 054-8820878

Dr. Amalia Kedem
Coordinator of the digital collections, specializes in liturgical music. 074-7336-452

Gil Stein
Sound technician, studio and digitization expert. 074-7336-456

Dr. Tamar Zigman
Specializes in Hebrew Song in print, manuscripts and recordings and provides content to the web site. 074-7336-454.