The music holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life is one of the most important repositories of Jewish musical memory in the Western United States. All aspects of Jewish music are represented: ethnographic evidence, cantorial music, early Zionist songs, popular American Jewish hits.
The collection includes:
- Over five hundred volumes, including first editions of important milestones in Jewish ethnomusicology (such as several volumes of A.Z. Idelsohn’s Thesaurus), and other reference publications in English, German and Yiddish.
- Over one thousand early 78RPM records, kept in excellent conditions, documenting early American Klezmer (East European Jewish instrumental music) recordings, synagogue song, Yiddish folk and theater song, and spoken word.
- Circa two hundred LP (33RPM) albums, documenting the American Klezmer revival since the 1970’s, the revival of Judeo-Spanish song, Israeli popular music, and cantorial music in America.
- A small manuscript collection including six boxes of manuscript synagogue songs arranged for choir, certainly originating from an unidentified Bay Area congregation.
The music holdings of The Magnes go beyond the library collection, and find a correspondence in the Western Jewish Americana archives, as well as in the Bancroft and Hargrove Music libraries at UC Berkeley.
The potential of these holdings is incalculable. In the mid 1970s, members of the Bay Area band, “The Klezmorim,” spearheaded the revival of Klezmer music by issuing the first commercial recording in this genre. They used a rare 78RPM records kept at the Magnes. In 2009, The Magnes created its first digital collection from the publicity materials of the world renowned Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley by integrating digital archiving, database, website, and social networking resources.