Week 2 Musical Traditions in Israel: Treasures of the National Sound Archives
This compilation of ethnomusicological field recordings highlights the collection of the National Sound Archives (NSA), established in 1964 at the National Library of Israel ( The collection houses hundreds of thousands of recorded items, documenting a host of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other musical traditions represented in modern Israel. This compilation (originally issued on audio cassette, then on CD, and now available online: constitutes a veritable “audio tour” of Israel, presenting an intensely diverse traditional musical landscape through the performances of original culture bearers (or informants). Most recordings were collected in Israel. Some were collected by Israeli researchers who conducted their fieldwork abroad. The booklet that accompanied the publication (available on bSpace) gives specific details about the following traits: • • • • • Title or incipit (beginning words of a song) of the piece recorded Typology and occasion of the performance (i.e., vocal, instrumental, for the liturgy, for weddings, etc.) Informants’ names and other biographical information Name of the researcher/s who conducted the fieldwork, date and place of recording NSA Call number

a) Tracks 4, 5 and 6 highlight the role of music in the transmission of traditional lore in Judaism: from father to son, from teacher to pupils, as well as in individual study. b) Tracks 2, 3, 8, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21 and 22 offer the diverse sounds of liturgical music from the synagogue traditions of Europe, Asia and Africa. They represent Ashkenazi (center and east Europe), Sephardic (originally from the Iberian peninsula) and other Jewish musical traditions. c) Tracks 1, 7 and 23 are Jewish wedding tunes (from Morocco, Yemen and Eastern Europe). d) Tracks 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 19 represent some of the most important non-Jewish musical traditions that are rooted in the region of modern Israel (Bedouin, Greek-Orthodox, Palestinian-Arab and Samaritan). While listening to these tracks (choose at least one from each group), you may want to focus on different aspects: 1. 2. 3. 4. Soundscape: what kind of musical world (European, Asian, African, etc.) does the music represent? Performance style: solo or group singing, instrumental accompaniment, etc. Language: Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, a Jewish language (Judeo-Spanish, Yiddish, etc.), other. Context: What occasion is the music destined to? Who is/was the audience? Why was it recorded?

It may well be that the only common cultural characteristic to all these musical examples is that they are all transmitted by oral tradition. In terms of sound, they indeed are extremely diverse… Who would want to define this mosaic of diverse sounds as “Jewish Music”? (Ideas about these issues are found in this week’s readings: in the Grove Dictionary of Music Online, “Jewish Music” Part I; and in Bohlman’s or Seroussi’s article, which you had the option of reading last week). Who would want to define these sounds as “Musical Traditions in Israel” (as in the title of the anthology)? How does the cultural establishment of Modern Israel manage such a variety of traditions? In next week’s readings, we will begin to answer these crucial questions. Use this compilation again and again during the Semester, as a source of inspiration when you need to look for the “traditional sounds” of Israel. Also, note that this compilation and the one assigned for next week are essential companions for the two field trips planned this semester.

Note: All required sound files and CD booklets available on bSpace.

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