Israeli Music History

Music in modern-day Israel has a rich history reaching back to the years before the founding of the State.

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The second generation, most of them direct and indirect students of the first, have worked towards a musical expression which integrates the Hebrew language, with its consonants and intonation, its relevance to Jewish liturgy and tradition, and its incorporation into the Eastern world. The third and most recent group of composers manifest a desire to participate in international composition with no national profile, to grapple with the Holocaust through music and to break down barriers within music, merging Eastern and Western traditions and incorporating some innovations from popular music genres.

Music Education

Talented young Israelis begin their training by attending one of the many conservatories or by studying with one of hundreds of private teachers; many gain experience by joining one of the country's youth orchestras. Further study is provided at the degree-granting academies for music and dance in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Master classes for singers, instrumentalists, and chamber groups are frequently conducted by visiting international artists at the academies, as well as at the Jerusalem Music Center.

Music education and research at institutions of higher learning were inaugurated at the beginning of the 1960s with the establishment of the Artur Rubinstein Chair of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since then, musicology departments have been added at Tel Aviv University and Bar llan University. Two major areas of specialization are offered: Jewish music and the music of Israel's various ethnic groups, with particular emphasis on the music of the Eastern/Sephardic communities.

"The songs and I are friends for life" is not just a line in a lyric, but expresses the proprietary attitude of Israelis towards their songs.

The early pioneers brought their songs with them, translating the original lyrics into Hebrew or setting new Hebrew words to treasured tunes. Since then, thousands of songs have been written, with melodies incorporating elements of the musical styles brought by consecutive waves of immigrants, ranging from Arab and Yemenite traditions to modern rock and pop, sometimes set to biblical or traditional texts or to the modern verses of Israeli poets and lyricists.

While it is difficult to define a typical Hebrew song, Israelis differentiate between songs written in Hebrew, on various themes and in a variety of styles, and the Shir Ivri ("Hebrew Song"), whose words transmit the voices, values and moods of the country and whose melodies are dominated by Slavic influences.

Accompanying the major historical events in the national life of the Jewish people over the past century, these songs have recorded the nation's dreams, pains and hopes. While expressing universal sentiments like all folk songs, they also articulate strongly Israeli feelings such as love of the country and its landscape. These are the songs everyone knows, the songs which have become an integral part of the nation's cultural legacy.

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