- Digital Programs
The music holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life comprise books, sound recording, sheet music and manuscripts, and constitute one of the most important repositories of Jewish musical memory in the Western United States. All aspects of Jewish music are represented in the collection: 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 personal the holdings of the Western Jewish Americana archives, as well as in other Bancroft and UC Berkeley Hargrove Music Library manuscript collections, especially in the personal papers of European-born Cantors Reuben R. Rinder (1887-1966), Roman Cykowsky (1901-1991) and Avram Wilkomirski (1927-1998), who were active in the Bay Area (at congregations Chevra Thilim, San Francisco, respectively), during the 20th century, and collections relating to composers Ernest Bloch (1880-1959), Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) and Albert Israel Elkus (1894-1962).
The potential of these holdings is incalculable. The most notable example of how the collection has been activated goes back to the mid-1970s, when members of the Bay Area band, "The Klezmorim," single-handedly jump-started the American revival of Klezmer music by issuing the first commercial recording in this genre thanks to the rare 78RPM records kept at the Magnes. In 2009, The Magnes created its first digital collection from the publicity materials of the Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley, one of the most celebrated of its kind in the world, by integrating digital archiving, database, website and social networking resources.