The National Sound Archives, part of the Music Department, has 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.
Activities for the General Public
In addition to collecting and preserving these treasures, the National Library strives to open them to the general public. The material undergoes a lengthy process from the time that it arrives in the department until it becomes accessible to the public. It begins with cataloguing and indexing of the material and concludes with the material becoming available for loan, for study in the Reading Room and for display on the internet site. In addition, concerts are held, based on the works in the archive, some of which are premiere performances. All of this is offered free of charge in line with National Library's policy for all of its collections. Among the concerts organized by the National Library are those dedicated to composers who donated, or whose families donated, their collections. Recent examples are Alexander (Sasha) Argov, Moshe Wilensky, Marc Lavry, and Emanuel Zamir. In addition, there have been concerts devoted to Hebrew songs such as “First Tunes of the Homeland” and “Fields in the Valley” which were dedicated to the composers of the Kibbutz movement, and “Praises to Jerusalem” which was dedicated to the city of Jerusalem.The Music Department organizes forums and seminars on the Hebrew song and on Israeli music.
The department caters to school children and teachers, as well as to students and lecturers, who are studying and researching the musical memory of the Jewish people.