Music > News > Amnon Shiloah (1928-2014)

Amnon Shiloah (1928-2014)

​The Music Department of the National Library deeply regrets to announce the death of Prof. Amnon Shiloah who passed away last week after a brave battle with severe illness. He was buried in Jerusalem on Sunday, July 13, 2014.

Prof. Shiloah was a pioneering musicologist in the field of Arab music, its ancient theory and culture, as well as in the wide fields of Jewish Musical Traditions and the Music in Israel. From 1965 until his retirement in 1997 he served as a lecturer and professor in the Musicology Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Along the years he was invited to lecture in various universities and research institutions around the world. He was a prolific researcher, who published hundreds of articles and several books on various topics – some of them granted him with international recognition and awards.

​Picture copyrights:
Hezi Hojesta, Hebrew Wikipedia, cc-by-sa-2.5
By the end of the 1960's he led the Department of Folklore at the Israel Broadcasting Service (Kol Israel). Prof. Shiloah edited and contributed entries on music and dance to encyclopedias in several languages, including hundreds of entries in the 2006 edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica. His ethnomusicological work documents various types of Jewish and Arab music which he recorded in Israel, the Mediterranean and in Arab countries. In his documentary work he made it a point to expose and acknowledge the contribution of Israeli musicians whose roots were in Arab countries, many of whom were never considered as part of main-stream Israeli music. In his writing, Prof. Shiloah expressed a critical position regarding the musical and cultural consensus of Israel in its early years.
For a full biography in the JMRC website, see here
Many of Shiloah's field recordings were deposited along the years in the Phonotheque – the Sound Archive of the National Library of Israel. In the past two years (2013-2014), as the Sound Archive was undergoing a massive digitization project, Prof. Shiloah joined in the effort and transferred the rest of his recordings – approximately 120 audio cassettes and about 150 reel tapes – to the Library. These were deposited together with detailed lists of contents. Despite of his deteriorating health, Shiloah insisted on carrying out a painstaking review of the digitized materials.

His field recordings, made between the 1960s and the beginning of the 21st century, document music from a vast geographical area: Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, North Africa, Yemen, Egypt, the Sinai Desert, Israel, Greece, Georgia, Bukhara and Iraq. One may find in them a large variety of musical traditions and genres, such as religious songs, women's songs, dirges, wedding music of the Druze, Sufi Dhikr ceremonies, liturgical chanting from the Bible and the Quran, instrumental music among Jews and Bedouins, etc.

The staff of the Music Department of the National Library had the privilege of working with Prof. Shiloah on his recordings and their documentation. Unfortunately, he passed away before completing this undertaking, but the process of preservation, registration and provision of access to these recordings, as part of our entire digital collection, will be completed with appreciation to and acknowledgement of his standards and devotion.

May his memory be blessed.

Written by Dr. Amalia Kedem