Oral histories are a means of producing an aural portrait; they preserve the inflection, emotion, and intimacy of a subject’s voice. By transporting us to a specific time and place, these recordings paint a fuller, more nuanced picture of a person than is possible through more traditional written histories.
OHAM began in 1969 with the pioneering work of Vivian Perlis, who conducted a series of interviews with those who knew Charles Ives. After the success of the Ives project in the early 1970s, Perlis recognized the value of oral histories to musicological research. For forty years, she conducted interviews with a remarkable range of leading musical figures.
Today, the OHAM collection is divided into several series. The archive’s core unit is the Major Figures in American Music collection, consisting of over 1,100 interviews, primarily with classical and jazz composers. Included in the series are interviews with early 20th century luminaries such as Nadia Boulanger, Aaron Copland, and Eubie Blake; mid-century mavericks like John Cage and George Crumb; and present-day icons such as John Adams, Philip Glass, and Julia Wolfe. This collection also documents young musicians, with the intention of tracking their careers as they develop. Many of those included in this collection have since become celebrated, including David Lang, Michael Torke, and Aaron Kernis. Each story in this collection is fascinating in and of itself; taken together, they evoke a particular generation’s musical attitudes and aesthetics.
OHAM’s collection also includes several units focused on secondary source interviews. These include the aforementioned Ives project, the Duke Ellington series, the Paul Hindemith series, and the oral history of Steinway & Sons. The archive also includes acquisitions from donors interested in preserving their holdings. These include the WQXR Great Artists Series, selections from the GRAMMY® Foundation Living Histories, the Margaret Fairbank Jory interviews, the Connor and Neff Blues Collection, the Varèse Oral History, and others.
OHAM recently embarked on a new project: the Yale Student Composers project documents the rising stars in our own community. These young artists are interviewed on video at the outset of their studies, and are asked about their work, education, and musical inspirations.
Gregg Bendian is a composer/percussionist/
The first opportunity to read—and hear—interviews with and about great American composers and musicians of the early twentieth century
The first decades of the twentieth century were a fertile and fascinating period in American musical history. This book and the two CDs that accompany it present an exceptional collection of interviews with and about the most significant musical figures of the era. Tapping the unparalleled materials contained in the Oral History American Music archive at Yale University, Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington is a unique account of what it was like for musicians and composers to live and work in those years. It is also the story of the making of the archive, as told by Vivian Perlis, who personally conducted many of the interviews.
Music aficionados can now hear Eubie Blake describe the birth of ragtime or listen to a firsthand account of how Ira Gershwin came to write those famous lines in “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off." In-depth interviews with such figures as Henry Cowell, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington are included in the book, which also features chapter introductions and fascinating sidebars, illustrations, and anecdotes throughout. Two CDs complete the set, enabling today’s listener to enjoy the remarkable experience of hearing the actual voices and the music of American composers of the early twentieth century.
Vivian is founder and Libby Van Cleve is Director of Oral History American Music at the Yale School of Music and Library.
Music: Aaron Copland, Music for the Theatre; Yale Philharmonia
Perlis: Welcome to Composers' Voices from Ives to Ellington. I am Vivian Perlis, founding Director of Oral History American Music, an archive of hundreds of recorded interviews with the creative figures of our times. Composers' Voices is a series of books and CDs derived from materials in the Oral History archive. You are about to hear a sample from the wide range of voices that are preserved in this unique collection. We begin with Aaron Copland.
Copland: Music needn't be so high-falutin' that it becomes abstract and just pure notes, you know. I was very anxious in some way to express the kind of life I knew in Brooklyn, or American life, you might say, in our serious music. You see, we had done it in the jazz field and ragtime; that was absolutely American. But we hadn't had any American composers who had reflected the kind of serious music I was interested in, in terms of our American experience.
Music: Copland, Appalachian Spring; New Music New Haven, Yale School of Music
Perlis: Duke Ellington.
Ellington: "Jazz"? We don't use the word jazz. As a matter of fact, we haven't used it since 1943. Everything is so highly personalized that you just can't find a category big enough, and jazz certainly isn't big enough a category to combine so many wonderful people in it. Everybody's got his own individual style. Like the Diz [Dizzy Gillespie] has got his "ding," and Hawk's [Coleman Hawkins] got his "hing," and Bird [Charlie Parker] had his "bing," and Rabbit [Billy Strayhorn] has his "ring."
Music: Duke Ellington, Jubilee Stomp
Perlis: Mel Powell.
Powell: I've come to think of Europe now as a great museum that has all the Rembrandts you'll ever want to see, but it's no longer my home. You see, Europe was my home musically. At that time I think I was immature enough to devalue my own jazz experience. It, however, has come back and said, "Now Melvin, wouldn't it be nice if you could just play 'Honeysuckle Rose'?" Europe doesn't need me. I don't need to write for the Leipzig Archive, more fugues, more passacaglias. They've got all they need.
Music: Mel Powell, Etude; Robert Helps, piano
Perlis: David Lang.
Lang: What's really great for me is that there is no place in the world you can go and say, "Here's an easy living." There's no place you can go and say, "This will make my future." There's no composer working in the world where you can look at him or her and say, "That composer has the idea I have to steal because it's the best idea in the world." To me these are incredibly liberating things. Everybody who makes it is going to be self-made. Everybody.
Music: David Lang, Anvil Chorus; Steve Schick, percussion
Perlis: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.
Zwilich: There's a certain self-conscious modernity that's a peculiar product of our age, where we kind of think that because we have space travel and computers and all of these things that we're very different. Now, I think our world is very different. Absolutely. There are ways in which music has been irrevocably changed because of the electronic revolution, but we're not different. We're still people. We're still faced with what amount to the mysteries of life. And, I think it's about time for us realize that our precious twentieth century, which is almost over, has had advances but that the basic issues still have to be addressed. And, I would like to be a part of the—not just the musical community, but the human community as a composer.
Music: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Chamber Symphony; Boston Musica Viva; Richard Pittman, conductor
Van Cleve: These are some of the voices of America's musical century. I am Libby Van Cleve, Associate Director of Oral History American Music. The aim of this project is to collect and preserve materials directly in the voices of the composers. We'll begin with excerpts from an interview with Vivian Perlis about her first oral history project—on Charles Ives.
Music: Charles Ives, Piano Trio, Movement III; The Monticello Trio
Perlis: There was not a grand plan for the Ives oral history project. It just very naturally came about that Julian Myrick, Ives' insurance partner, called and said that he had some materials to give to the Library. I had some sense that I was going to see somebody who had been very close to Ives, and that if I was going to see him, it would be a good idea to try to capture some material in his voice. I had not done interviewing. I did not know that the act that I was about to commit was even called "oral history," or how it was spelled!
Van Cleve: Julian Myrick died soon after these interviews, and it was then that Vivian Perlis sensed the urgent need to search for other people who had known or worked with Charles Ives. John Kirkpatrick, the great Ives scholar, editor and performer knew both Charles Ives and his wife Harmony.
John Kirkpatrick: I asked Mrs. Ives whether he had consciously modeled his life on [Ralph Waldo] Emerson's and she thought a moment and said, something like that she didn't think he would ever have thought of it that way because he would have thought that he was a little unworthy to set out to model his life on Emerson's. He had such an exalted idea of Emerson, but that of course he was very intimately and deeply influenced by him.
Music: Ives, "Emerson" from Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass. ; Charles Ives, piano
John Kirkpatrick: In one way Ives even went beyond Emerson, because Ives always invited his performers to take some part in the actual formulation of the music as it went along. He would imagine a performer actually improvising certain aspects of the texture, just as he would have himself. He was just naive enough in that department of his being to presume that other people had the same talents as he had. Of course, for ordinary mortals it's a little beyond them, and I explained to him various times that for me the only kind of freedom that I could imagine in connection with a work like the Concord Sonata was a freedom in choosing the various ways that had occurred to him at various times. I told him that I was the kind of pianist that had to play what he'd practiced.
Music: Ives, "Emerson" from Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass.; Charles Ives, piano
Perlis: The important thing a biographer can do is to make an earlier period of time come alive, and with the oral history interviews there were at least people who knew Ives not only during the later years—he had been ill for many, many, many years. So to be able to collect material that would bring a Charles Ives at the time he wrote his music during the mature and productive years was a real challenge.
Van Cleve: Here's a nephew, Chester Ives.
Chester Ives: My first recollection is when the family would get together, and Uncle Charlie would come up to Danbury. We had a piano—upright—and I can remember—I was at I don't know what age—but he started playing so expressively! You can't help it; any child would respond to it.
Music: Ives, "Alcotts" from Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass.; Charles Ives, piano
Chester Ives: I can remember going up on top of hill alongside of the barn, and he'd show us how to pitch. So, he'd wind up. He really had a classic way of wind-up just as any professional player does it. Well, he'd talk you out of being—I remember I said I played second base, "Oh no, no! You want to go to shortstop. Everybody goes to sleep on second."
Music: Ives, "Some South-Paw Pitching" (Study No. 21); Donald Berman, piano
Van Cleve: Few people survived who knew Charlie Ives when he was growing up in Danbury. Vivian Perlis searched for and found the 98-year-old Philip Sunderland.
Perlis: That interview with Philip Sunderland was an incredible eye opener because he said to me, "Well, you know, I was three years older than Charles Ives, and I knew not only Charlie Ives, but I knew his father George." I never thought that there would be the opportunity to talk to anyone who would have known or remembered George Ives.
Philip Sunderland: Well, I think that he wasn't taken very seriously. He was the bandleader, and he led the band with his coronet. He was a great coronet player. He used to march up by here going one way with the band and another band going the other way around the park here, and the two would clash, you know. I don't think anybody thought it was very interesting to see the two bands blending and playing different tunes.
Music: Ives, Washington's Birthday; Imperial Philharmonic of Tokyo, William Strickland, conductor
Van Cleve: John Kirkpatrick also described the relationship between father and son.
Kirkpatrick: He talked of his father as if he were still living, with great reverence and with great intellectual interest in his father's curiosity about everything, and of course, with great fondness for his father's character, as if he was still a member of the household. It was that immediate. That side of him lived almost in a state of Chinese ancestor worship. Like what he says in the Memos, that "[Horatio] Parker was a famous musician and a composer and father wasn't a famous musician nor a composer, but I would say, of the two, father was by far the greatest man."
Music: Ives, "The Greatest Man;" Helen Boatwright, soprano; John Kirkpatrick, piano
My teacher said us boys should write about some great man,
so I thought last night 'n thought about heroes and men
that had done great things, 'n then
I got to thinkin' 'bout my pa;
he ain't a hero 'r anything but pshaw!
Say! He can ride the wildest hoss 'n find minners near the moss by the creek; 'n he can swim and fish. . .
–poem by Anne Collins
Perlis: One of things I always felt was so touching about Harmony and Charles Ives' relationship was that she read to him. His eyes became very bad, and she read to him after dinner every night, particularly Dickens and sometimes for hours at a time. The housekeeper who worked for them [was] Carrie Blackwell. When I talked to her she said she'll never forget Mrs. Ives calling her into the parlor to read from the Bible every Sunday afternoon. I have felt that the quality, the sound of a voice is so different and so meaningful, and touching sometimes, more so than when it is in writing.
Music: Ives, Washington's Birthday (violin and piano version)
Van Cleve: Charles Ives divided his life between composing and a demanding and successful career in the insurance business. One of the young clerks in the Ives & Myrick Agency was Charles J. Buesing.
Buesing: I believe that ninety percent of the success of the agency was due to Mr. Ives. Not only his genius, his planning, his teaching, but also the kind, gentle soul that he was. Mr. Ives would be around there on a Saturday afternoon, and put his arm around someone's shoulder and talk with them.
Charles Ives walked up to this man's desk. He thought he looked rather dejected. He said, "Do me a personal favor. Would you take out your wallet? No one can ever make a sale of anything with an empty wallet." "Now," he said, "I want you to take this as a business loan. I know you'll pay me back, and I know you'll have so much confidence with what I'm going to put in that wallet, and I don't want any IOU or anything else.'" He put fifty dollars in there. And it just made such a difference. He hadn't seen that much income in the past couple months. This is the kind of a man that Ives was.
Music: Ives, Thanksgiving; Iceland Symphony Orchestra; William Strickland, conductor
Van Cleve: Ives had a wide range of contacts, all the way from colleagues in the insurance business to celebrated composers to someone like his barber, Babe LaPine, in Bethel, Connecticut.
Babe LaPine: Never saw him with a business suit, just great big farmer shoes—whatever you want to call them—and the old overalls with a bib. You don't see any of those around no more. And a great big brim hat. One time I was trimming his beard. He was looking in the mirror, and he says, "You know, Babe, your work reminds me of mine." Well I says, "Gee whiz, Charlie"—I called him Charlie—"How does my work remind you of yours?" I didn't want to go into it. "Well," he says, "The way you're trimming my beard, you're shading it. That goes into my work." When he said the shading, naturally I took him for a painter, you know, an artist. I never, never took him for a musician.
But, one day I'll never forget. I had the apron over him, you know, and the radio was playing, and I'd pay no attention to the radio. I'm cutting his hair. And all of a sudden, gee, like a shot out of a gun, he lifted up the apron like that, and he says, "Will you shut that damn thing off?!!" I'll never forget that. Well, has that got anything to do with him being a musician? Of course not. He didn't like what was being played! Well, I shut it off, I wasn't paying no attention to it at all, period.
Van Cleve: Of course composers were included in the Ives oral history project. Elliott Carter's recollections were particularly interesting.
Elliott Carter: He was obviously a very talented and kind of a genius of a composer, and yet at other times he wrote music that was of a coarseness, and of almost an unimaginative quality which is hard to believe. And it's hard to understand how all of this fits together. In a way, Americans have to invent their own aesthetics, their own relationships with the public.
I can remember very, very vividly a day on 74th Street going up to the attic where Ives had a little upright piano. He was working at a score for publication, and there was an old score and a new score. He was adding more parts and confusing the whole thing, and particularly changing consonances into dissonances. I've often wondered exactly when a lot of the music that is purported to be very early got its last dose of dissonance. I think that he constantly was jacking up the level of dissonance in all of his works as time went on, right to the very end, and I wonder whether he was as early a precursor of dissonant music as people make out.
Music: Ives, Central Park in the Dark; Yale Philharmonia; Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor
Van Cleve: These comments caused a few scholars and journalists to question Ives' intentions. Others reacted by emphatically supporting his integrity. Elliott Carter was interviewed again in 1999, thirty years later.
Perlis: Did you follow what happened after the interview was published in Charles Ives Remembered? Are you aware of what you caused?
Carter: Yes, I certainly was, and I felt that I will never talk about Ives again because I didn't like to be treated as if I was always either not telling the truth or misunderstanding what Mr. Ives said. It made me rather unhappy because I thought I was telling exactly what I had heard and in the tone that he said it. All these people who didn't know him, who didn't know anything about him or were not interested in him during the time when he was alive, as I was, were suddenly proving that I was wrong about almost everything. And I found that hurt me, and I decided maybe I better just shut up about the whole thing.
Music: Ives, String Quartet No. 1, First Movement; Armadillo String Quartet
Carter: I claim that the First String Quartet has that movement, which he later used in the Fourth Symphony with considerable changes and considerable modernization, and that proved my point.
Music: Ives, Fourth Symphony; Yale Philharmonia
Van Cleve: Nicolas Slonimsky, conductor, composer, and lexicographer, was very much on the scene during the early years when modern music was new and exciting.
Slonimsky: Ives was completely uninterested in projecting himself in any kind of a selfish way. People were still saying that Ives was an amateur who really didn't know what he was writing, that he was writing just any kind of music. Now, nothing could be more wrong. As a matter of fact, Ives was a professional musician.
All of his trailblazing music was written early in the century, and there are all kinds of prophetic vistas: polytonality, polyharmony, atonality, even the use of twelve different notes in one of his works.
Music: Ives, Study No. 22; Donald Berman, piano
Slonimsky: Varèse wrote Amériques, and Carl Ruggles wrote his ultra-romantic basically American scores, but all of the works of Ives belong to America. He felt free to interpolate any kind of musical material that he felt related to the subject. The Fifth Symphony of Beethoven was a favorite composition in nineteenth century America, and of course his music really was the portrait of nineteenth century America, not new America at all.
Music: Ives, "Alcotts" from Sonata No. 2 for Piano: Concord, Mass.; Charles Ives, piano
Van Cleve: One of the first to discover and appreciate Ives' music was composer Henry Cowell.
Henry Cowell: I'm reminded of a true story of a Beethoven sonata. He took this sonata into the publisher and the publisher said, "Look here, Mr. Beethoven, don't you know the piano doesn't go to this note at all? It can't be played." Beethoven said, "The piano will soon go there; they'll have to play this sonata."
Henry Cowell: Some composers write for instruments as they find them. Other composers write music, and if they don't have the instrument at hand they insist that one be built in order to play the music that they have in mind. Mr. Ives, for instance, at one time said that he didn't propose to have a thorax stand in the way of writing the songs that he heard in his own mind. Since this time singers sing all of his songs without any great trouble. Again, when Ives at one point with full brass, full steam ahead fortissimo, wrote a very charming little passage for celesta, which of course couldn't be heard in the least, he had a footnote to the effect that he heard this as a great choiring of beaten, chime-like tones which would go over and above the brass. Now of course all you have to do is amplify this, and you have it.
Music: Ives, Fourth Symphony; Yale Philharmonia
Van Cleve: It was Henry Cowell who introduced his colleague Lou Harrison to Ives.
Harrison: Over the years I did, off and on, a fair amount of work with Mr. Ives' scores, and for him at his request or at Henry [Cowell's] request. Sometimes Henry would be asked to do something and he didn't have time, and then he would ask me to do it and I, of course, was delighted to do this. I think you must remember that my relation to him was profoundly reverent. It's an old-fashioned word, but it is that. When I went to meet him, the only images I could think of was that he looks like the images of God the Father as done by William Blake. And there's just no getting round it. One could see through an alabaster skin, and the pulse of life in the very blood was literally there visible to you, and the beautiful, bright sharp eyes. And yes, he was old, of course, and there was a translucency in his very skin, but he did look like Blake, irradiated and suffused. And again, it was like a meeting with Divine Presence.
Music: Ives, "The Housatonic at Stockbridge"; Yale Philharmonia
Perlis: There were recordings at the library of Ives playing his own music. They were in very bad condition and could not be played. It was terribly tantalizing that here were the only recordings of Ives playing his own music and that they were in such bad condition. There was a label saying "Mary Howard Recordings." So, of course, one of the people I was looking for over a long period of time was Mary Howard. I searched for Mary Howard for several years and couldn't find her, and when I did find her she was close by in up in Connecticut and by the next day I was there.
Mary Howard: Well, Mrs. Ives called and made an appointment for him the first time. The reason he came was he got letters from orchestras or conductors who were going to perform something, saying, how should they interpret this? And they'd call him and he'd say, "Oh, I'll send you a recording. I can't bother to sing to you on the telephone." He would come storming into the studio: "Interpret, interpret!" He was very dynamic. He'd say he had an awful lot of stupid questions today, so it would take a long time. So, he'd sit down at the piano and play it very loudly, and sing and make running commentary while he was doing it, saying, "This is how you do it. Now, you're stupid. Don't you know? This is how you do it. I'll play it again in case you didn't get it this time." It wasn't bad temper, it was just excitement. And I'd just be in hysterics and Mrs. Ives would be in hysterics. Of course, her whole interest was on the recording and on the music, and once in a while she would correct him. Then, if she'd say too loudly, "That's not what you said this morning," I'd have to dig through all the tapes and find out what he said that morning.
I remember, he sang one phrase over and over: "Da, dada, da, da, da, dee, deeeee, dee!" which I should know the words of, but I don't. And he'd scream that out. "Now, do you get that?!" And he'd pound and pound. Mrs. Ives would come out and say, "Now, please take a rest." And he drank quantities of iced tea. He'd calm down, then he'd go back at it again. He'd say, "I've got to make them understand!"
Music: Ives, "They Are There!"; Charles Ives, voice and piano
Let's build a people's world nation. Hooray!
Every honest country free to live its own native life.
They will struggle for the right, but when it comes to might,
They'll be there.
They'll be there.
They'll be there.
(You goddam thief!)
Then the people, not just politicians
Will rule their own lands and lives
And you'll hear the whole universe
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom!
Tenting on a new campground.
Tenting on a new campground.
For let's rally 'round the flag of the people's new free world,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom!
Perlis: Following the success of the Ives project, we realized the need to preserve material that would soon disappear. One of the people interviewed next was Eubie Blake, the only survivor of the original ragtime craze. At first he hesitated about doing the interviews because here I was, a white lady from the great elite Yale University. Once he got to know me he was very open, but no matter how friendly we became Eubie still would not say certain things—the word "jazz," for example. It wasn't proper, and it had certain sexual connotations. He would never say that word in front of a lady. He was truly a gentleman in every sense of the word, but he was also so much fun.
Music: Eubie Blake, "Classical Rag"; Eubie Blake, piano
Blake: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 1883. So, I'm eighty-eight years old now. And I was born of parent slaves. My mother and father were slaves until slavery was over. When my father used to tell me about slavery I was four or five years old, and he'd take off his shirt in the wintertime and show me the stripes on his back. My mother says, "Don't tell that boy about slavery." He says, "Yes, I want him to know about slavery." Then he'd turn to me and he'd say to me, "Don't you hate white people," because he could see the scowl on my face. Now, I couldn't understand. He'd been telling me about—see, they picked cotton, you know. From sunup to sundown they weren't supposed to talk. See, I want people to know this, so I'm going to say it like it is. I said, "Poppa, I don't like white people. I don't care what you tell me, Poppa. I don't like them." And he looked at me for about five seconds without saying anything, just looked at me. He says, "Don't you never let me hear you say that again." He says, "The people in the South, the majority of people were almost as ignorant as we were because they were told that we weren't nothing. A man can only go by his convictions. All the people aren't bad." Once he said, "When you hate anybody, you suffer more than the person that you hate."
This is the first tune I played: [sings] Da, daa, da, daa. "Marching Through Georgia." But, as a kid, I could always hear something else. I'd play a song and when I played them I'd play them different, but I never changed the man's harmony. But all the tricks and things, I would put my own and people used to say, "Gee, when that guy plays it sounds different from other people." That's because they're playing according to what Beethoven and Mozart told them. I didn't like it anyhow, so I'd play it my way. See? So, I stood out. Now, people ask me, "Where did the word ragtime come from?" Well, I'll be eighty-nine years old next month and I don't know who—I don't know where it come from.
The first time I ever heard the word: I'm there playing my music: [sings] ya pa da, pa dee da dee... Bass and all, see. And my mother is standing there with my back to her. I don't know she's in the house. "Take that ragtime out of my house! Take it out of my house!"
Ragtime was supposed to be nothing. It wasn't art. Do you know why it wasn't art? Because the powers-that-be couldn't do it, so they cried it down. They cried down Columbus. They cried down Lindbergh, they said he was nuts. Now ragtime is fine now. Now they know how to play it, now.
I'm going to play "The Charleston Rag." I wrote this in 1899. The same year that Scott Joplin wrote "The Maple Leaf Rag."
Music: Blake, "Charleston Rag"; Eubie Blake, piano
Blake: A big time Negro died and they'd go to the funeral. [Sings Chopin's "Marche funèbre."] Slow like that. Now they come back. [Sings ragtime version of "Marche funèbre."] The same thing what they played going out to bury this guy, they'd play the same thing coming back in ragtime. See!?
Music: Blake, "Baltimore Buzz"; Eubie Blake, piano
Blake: This is called "Baltimore Buzz". This is where I was raised.
My actually first job was with a medicine man, but I only stayed one week. But when I went to play for Aggie Shelton—that's a house of ill repute. So, one of the sisters came through of my mother's church saying, "I heard somebody playing in Aggie Shelton's that sounded just like Little Hubie." I always used to meet my father when he come in from work, but this time I don't meet him. I'm in trouble. So, he goes, "Hi, Bully." "How 'do, sir." "What's the matter with him?" "Well, I'll tell you about Mr. Blake. Do you know where Mr. Blake is playing the piano? In a place called Aggie Shelton's." He says, "What?!" "Yes, that's what Sister Rae told me." He says, "How much do you get a week there?" I said, "I make sometimes ten, twelve dollars a night." He says, "What?!" I says, "yeah." "Where's the money?" So, I take him up and show him the money. So my father said, "Now, listen. That boy's got to work." He saw all that money now. "That boy's got to work somewhere. Let him stay up there." And I told him, I said, "If you'll let me work I can stop you from working. I'm making good money now." So, he never worked any more after that. And I bought a house. This sounds ridiculous—I did, I bought a house, a six room house—eight hundred dollars—for my mother and father.
Music: Blake and Andy Razaf, "Lucky To Me"; Eubie Blake, piano and voice
No harm can happen to me anymore.
I'm writing thirteens all over my door.
My mom and my dad, do you know what they say?
They say, "Eubie, that gal ain't the gal for you."
But they don't know that gal like I do!
That gal is lucky to me, and she's a brown skinned baby.
That gal is lucky to me.
Blake: When I come to New York and played for James Reese Europe, they had a white band at the Astor Hotel. They had twenty-one pieces, and we had not over ten or eleven—colored. And they'd play "Millicent," a beautiful waltz [plays "Millicent"]. And we'd play it—[plays ragtime version of "Millicent"].
Paul Whiteman first put jazz in the Carnegie Hall? No, it wasn't him. James Reese Europe was the first one. See how they fixed the history? Maybe we would do the same thing if we had the chance.
Jim Europe was one of the greatest men I ever met personally. Jim Europe had an academic education and a musical education. He was a conductor, an arranger, and everything, in the class with Dr. Martin Luther King and Booker T. Washington. He was the savior of Negro musicians in that day, because the musicians at that day—they would go in a bar room, play guitars, and sing, and take their hats around. That's how they made a living before James Reese Europe.
When Jim went to war he was talking to Sissle and I: "When we get out of the war we're going to do a Broadway show." But he was killed when he came back in 1919. His drummer killed him. But Sissle and Blake carried out the idea.
Music: Blake and Noble Sissle, "I'm Just Wild About Harry"; Eubie Blake, piano
Blake: The only songs that I wrote and Sissle wrote for Shuffle Along that hadn't been written before and hadn't been taken to the publishers were: "Love Will Find a Way," "Bandana Days," and "I'm Just Wild About Harry." When we got to "Love Will Find a Way" we were trembling because Negroes in this country wasn't supposed to have any romance. So, you don't put it in a show. We had romance the same as anybody else, but the powers that be didn't want to think that way.
Love will find a way,
Though the skies are gray.
Love like ours can never be ruled.
Cupid's not schooled that way.
Dry each tear-dimmed eye.
Clouds will soon roll by.
(And I can't remember the rest.)
Da, da, da, da, da, dum.
Love will find a way.
I want this picture to be laid out to your audience. I want them to know what not only Sissle and Blake, but every Negro act went through. We're dressed in grotesque clothes, ragged clothes. We've got big shoes and everything on, and cork on our faces. So, now we play the music for them to come on. (Sings) "Dixie," see. Bring them on with "Dixie." "Well, what?! Hey 'der! What 'dat?! What is 'dat thing over 'der?" I said, "I-I-I don't know what 'tis." I would go over. I'd touch the piano. "Bing!" Not a chord just one finger. I said, "That's a pie-anna." He says, "It sho' is. Sho' is a pie-anna." And then I sit down and play it. I never saw a piano before. I didn't even know what it was. See how ridiculous it is? Then it's—[nonsense sounds] All that stuff, see.
Pat Casey was our Sissle and Blake agent. He says, "Gentlemen, are you all finished? They're not going to wear any grotesque clothes. They're going to wear tux. And they're not going to say they don't know what it is. They're going to walk right out to the piano and play it. These men played with James Reese Europe in the millionaire's homes of the whole United States. You either take them as they is or you won't get Sissle and Blake." And that's how we went on as gentlemen, not as Southern ignoramus Negroes.
Music: Blake and Razaf, "Memories of You;" Eubie Blake, piano
Music: Leo Ornstein, String Quartet No 3, Movement I; Lydian Quartet
Van Cleve: At the same period that ragtime was the most popular American music, a few composers were so experimental and outside the traditional musical establishment that they were hardly performed or known by the public at all. This was the first sign in America of modernism, a movement which would affect the entire twentieth century. The futurist composer Leo Ornstein was one of the next to be interviewed. Vivian Perlis described her search for Ornstein.
Perlis: "What ever happened to Leo Ornstein?" That's a question I heard over and over again in the early days of the Oral History project. At one time Ornstein was as famous as Schoenberg and Stravinsky. He disappeared from the world of music at the height of a career as a celebrated concert pianist and composer. I was determined to find him. My long search finally revealed that he was traveling around the country with his wife Pauline in a trailer. He was very difficult to pin down, but an interview was eventually arranged in Boston at the home of his son. I arrived and a young lady answered the door holding a note. Sure enough, the note read, "Snow coming. Must get back home. I've left a few things for you in the dining room." As I entered, I saw that the room was filled with brown paper bags and boxes containing sixty years of music manuscripts. It was a moment I will never forget. With the snow coming, the air was very still; it was as though time itself was standing still.
Two weeks later I was back—I had not yet set eyes on Leo Ornstein. This time he opened the door bowed low, and began to talk excitedly. Ornstein had not spoken to anyone in the music world for over forty years. Once he began, he didn't stop for hours.
Ornstein: I was brought up, of course, in the most orthodox way you can imagine. I had heard almost nothing at all of new music. I think I knew one or two pieces of Debussy and a piece of Max Reger, and that was really, actually, literally among the so-called current music that I knew. Otherwise I had been brought up on the classics, pure and simple.
I went to Paris and there I really suddenly began to write things that obviously had very little connection between the earlier few pieces that I had written. Also, you must understand, I did not have any theory about the way music ought to be written. I simply heard those things, and I put down what I heard. Really, as a matter of fact, I simply said to myself, "Well, obviously, if you're thinking in terms of a Wild Men's Dance, these harmonies and these percussion sort of effects obviously would be appropriate to express what it is that the title itself would indicate." Get it?
Music: Ornstein, Wild Mens' Dance
Ornstein: As far as my family was concerned, they, of course, didn't understand it at all because I was this wonder child, and they saw visions of my bringing in huge sums of money and so on, playing these Liszt rhapsodies and the Chopin ballades and scherzi and all the standard works. Then suddenly, I veered off and went into a channel that they did not understand and that obviously was not going to lead to fabulous sums of money at all. When I actually gave up playing, they couldn't figure it out.
Essentially, really, performing was never anything like the center of my life in any way. No. I must admit that, of course, it was very remunerative at a certain period, when I happened to be quite a good deal in the limelight.
Even as young as I was, even at fourteen and fifteen I already understood the grave danger of bogging yourself down in your own style. It's very easy to do that. I almost made an effort to see that I avoided stylizing myself. I don't need the sort of exotic stimulus of some kind or another. I never ever have. Either a musical idea came into your head, or it didn't. And why it came into my head, I do not know, and why it did not come into my head, I do not know. I simply do not pretend to understand it. All I can say is that I can only be grateful that some things have come into my head that at least I thought were worthwhile putting down.
Music: Ornstein, Piano Quintette; Janice Weber, piano; Lydian Quartet
Ornstein: I must say that I must have had quite a fairly good, decent memory because I was able to remember a piece of music that would last twenty minutes, or twenty-five. With The Three Moods, for a long time I played them again and again and again, and for a long time I never put them down until finally I was cornered.
Music: Ornstein, "Joy" from The Three Moods; William Westney, piano
Ornstein: There was a tremendous amount of adverse reaction. Some were terribly stimulated by the things, you see. And some were stimulated by the general sound of the thing, and some were outraged altogether, where they would throw things at me and so on, where they got completely sort of beside themselves. They had been accustomed to music, what they considered music ought to be, that is, to soothe them and everything else, and here were these things that did just the very opposite. The Three Moods just got some people so stirred up.
Music: Ornstein, "Anger" from The Three Moods; William Westney, piano
Ornstein: You see, there is the limitation—while theoretically there may be no limitation, there is actually the limitation of what our ear will take in. Even assuming you have the most developed ears, there is a point at which you can only take in so much. I came to the point where I had to finally make a decision as to how far I could carry it or how far it would be sufficiently audible to the listener, because there was obviously no sense in writing something where he could not differentiate things any longer. So, you see, it has its natural limit. I hate terribly to set any limit and simply say you cannot go beyond that, but a certain amount of, just, common sense dictated.
Music: Ornstein, "Tarantelle"; Leo Ornstein, piano. From a private recording
Perlis: Leo Ornstein and I corresponded for many years. At age one-hundred he wrote, "I am beginning to feel my age." But, he was still composing.
Music: Edgard Varèse, Density 21.5; Thomas Nyfenger, flute
Van Cleve: Another European-born composer, the Frenchman Edgard Varèse, was among the century's most innovative and influential musical figures. He was known for his pioneering use of percussion and electronics and his unique forms.
Varèse: For years, professional musicians looked upon me as a freak, and critics frankly called me a charlatan, and had a wonderful time laughing at me. As a matter of fact, I have been called much worse than experimental, and my works at one time were treated not even as experiments, but as excrement.
Music: Varèse, Offrandes; Yale Contemporary Ensemble; Arthur Weisberg, conductor
Varèse: Very early musical ideas came to me, which I realized would be difficult or impossible to express with the means available, and my thinking even then began turning around the idea of liberating music from the tempered system, from the limitations of musical instruments, and from years of bad habit erroneously called tradition. Later, I made some modest experiments of my own and found that I could obtain beautiful parabolic and hyperbolic curves of sound. Much later I used sirens as musical instruments in two of my scores: in 1924 in Aériques for large orchestra, and again in 1932 in Ionisation for percussion ensemble. In Poéme électronique in 1958, I got the same effect, but produced it this time entirely by electronic means.
Music: Varèse, Poéme électronique
Varèse: My fight for the liberation of sound and for my right to make music with any sound and all sounds, has sometime been construed as a desire to disparage and even to discard the great music of the past. But, that is where my roots are. No matter how original, how different a composer may seem, he has only grafted a little bit of himself on the old plant. This he should be allowed to do without being accused of wanting to kill the plant. He only wants to produce a new flower. It doesn't matter if at first it seems to some people more like a cactus than a rose. Many of the old masters are my intimate friends. All are respected colleagues. None of them are dead saints. In fact, none of them are dead. Music written in the manner of another century is the result of culture, and as desirable and comfortable as culture may be, an artist should not lie down in it.
Music: Varèse, Octandre; Yale Contemporary Ensemble; Arthur Weisberg, conductor
Varèse: I became a sort of diabolic Parsifal: looking, not for a holy grail, but for a bomb that could blow wide open the musical world and let in sound, all sounds.
Music: Varèse, Integrales; Yale Contemporary Ensemble; Arthur Weisberg, conductor
Van Cleve: Among the inventive minds of the early century was a true original, Dane Rudhyar. He came to America from France before World War I, and embraced American ways. Eventually he linked musical concepts and astrological ideas. As interest in astrology has increased, Rudhyar has become something of a guru.
Perlis: Yes, and Rudhyar played the part of a guru naturally with his long beard and white robe. At least it seemed that way when I interviewed him in San Jacinto, California in 1970. He did not disappoint those who made the pilgrimage to see him. Rudhyar was a genuine bohemian, what later came to be called a "downtown" composer long before that term was invented.
Music: Dane Rudhyar, Paeans; William Masselos, piano
Rudhyar: I stayed in California a great deal of the time, coming very often during the winter in New York. I met Henry Cowell in 1921 in that little group called Halcyon, which was the Temple of the People, to which his mother had belonged. And he was very much interested in it at the time.
I was one of the first members of the International Composers Guild. The ones who did the most [work] was Varèse and Salzedo. I was in California at the time and so Varèse wrote me a letter that they were starting the thing and [asked] if I wanted to be a member of it. And I said, "Of course." And a year after, I think, I came to New York and I played some of my piano pieces there.
It was a very interesting time. I mean, it was a time when America became conscious that there was something else beside German Classical music, which was practically all there was when I came to America.
Music: Rudhyar, Five Stanzas; Colonial Symphony; Paul Zukofsky, conductor
Rudhyar: So, I got very much interested in India and all that more and more, which of course to some extent broke my life away in two because I got more involved in that and trying to understand what music was from a world point of view. I tried to start a World Music Society and all sorts of things, but it was much too soon.
I began to read avidly anything on the Oriental music and Oriental philosophy. I have written a lot about it, but it's amazing how you can write things and nobody pay attention to it if they are not ready to get it.
I had studied a little about astrology in 1922, but I never used it very much. Mostly I was interested in the symbolism of it and the planets and all that. And then at the time I got very interested in psychology, Jung psychology, 1933. And during the summer I was in New Mexico and I suddenly realized that it would be very interesting to correlate the two because they seemed to compliment each other. One gave an objective picture and the other one was a purely subjective thing.
Music: Rudhyar, "Tumult of the Soul" from Advent; Kronos Quartet
Rudhyar: You have to find something if you do not agree with your culture. That's why I came to America. The idea that European civilization was breaking down and that as a kind of seed of the past I could plant myself, as it were, into a virgin soil. All my life work has been to try to build up a foundation for a new civilization. My feeling is that there are people, of course, who are the destroyer and they have to do it. It's good to destroy if you have something that you are going towards. I mean, the leaves die and they fall into the ground and rot and all that, but the seeds are there, and it is those seeds, which will become the foundation of the future. So, one of the main ideas that I have had is the idea of what I call the seed-man, the man who refused to be caught into the decay of the days. So, that's why I was very much interested in music and trying to go back to the study of intervals and the symbolism of sound, and the vibration—to try to have a new kind of music which would be kind of magical music in a certain sense, magical in the sense that it would release power. It would do something to people.
Music: Rudhyar, "Stars" from Pentagram No. 3, "Release"; William Masselos, piano
Rudhyar: Varèse used to say that music is sound. I say music is tone. And, I think there is a great difference between tone and sound. Now sound is—anything makes sound, but tone is something which is quite a different thing. Tone: you speak of the tone of the life, the tone of the body, the tone of the morale of things like that. It is something, which is related to a whole, to a living whole, to a living organism. It has tone. And a sound is a tone when it is a living thing.
Music: Rudhyar, Granites; William Masselos, piano
Perlis: Henry Cowell was a prolific and imaginative composer, and was responsible for the publication and performance of many other composers' works through the New Music Society, which he founded. Cowell was one of the first to study and teach world music.
Henry Cowell: When I was between seven and ten, I hummed Japanese and Chinese and Tahitian tunes, just as normally as I hummed the British tunes carried through the Tennessee mountains from my mother, and more directly, Irish tunes from my father, and also fairly directly, Classical melodies of Haydn and Mozart from my old Royal College teacher, who was about seventy-five in San Francisco when I was seven. Between all of them I think that we got an idea of music in which the Orient and the Occident were not separated, but all fused into one and the same thing. It just seemed like normal music. Obviously, what happened to me at this time, happened to a certain extent also with Lou Harrison and John Cage. They don't self-consciously go out and say, "I will now use a Chinese-type scale." What happens is that they hear Chinese music all the time, and this is part of their environment, and so it happens to be a part of their music. In this country, it seems to me that our best composers have succeeded quite naturally, and without conscious strain of any sort, in putting together the cultures of different peoples as they come together in this country.
Music: Henry Cowell, Ostinato Pianissimo; New Jersey Percussion Ensemble; Raymond DesRoches, conductor
Henry Cowell: You've just been hearing a percussion orchestra piece called Ostinato Pianissimo. It's by Henry Cowell, and I'm Henry Cowell.
Perlis: Sidney Cowell, Henry's wife, spoke further about Ostinato Pianissimo.
Sidney Cowell: I don't know whether or not Ostinato Pianissimo was composed for a dancer, but in any case it has been played many times alone in concert. I think it was composed about 1934. It demonstrates the appeal that the music of Indonesia had for Mr. Cowell. The long phrase structures and the apparent repetitiveness prevented Western musicians from noting the exquisite tiny variations of detail that you hear if you listen enough. This piece created great indignation among Cowell's colleagues when it was first played. Well, he was surprised because that he thought that the indignation over tone clusters was rather worn down, and that from now on he'd be let alone, but it wasn't the case.
Music: Cowell, "The Tides of Manaunaun"; Henry Cowell, piano
Henry Cowell: You've just heard Deep Tides. When I was fifteen years old I was invited to write music for an Irish play, which would introduce the home of Manaunaun, the god of the sea. I had to write some music that would put you in the mood of the deep tides, as well as the waves of the sea. This was rather a big job for a fifteen-year-old boy. I tried a couple of low octaves in a certain rhythm. They sounded just a little too definite, so then I tried a couple of chords, which were better than the bare octaves, with the same low tidal rhythm, but this wasn't quite enough. So then I got the idea of having all thirteen of the lowest tones of the piano played together at the same time, but since I didn't have thirteen fingers in the left hand, I played this with the flat of the hand, being very careful to get all of the notes exactly equal and to have what I considered a reasonable tone quality there. In other words, I was inventing a new musical sound later to be called "tone clusters."
Music: Cowell, "Tiger"; Anthony De Mare, piano
Henry Cowell: I find myself being a friend of music, and this means that I am a friend of all music, and it means that I like every direction I have ever heard that music has taken at the present time. You have the vast world of the people who don't belong in the small Western cultivated musical countries. Formerly and erroneously it was thought that this was primitive music, and people felt, in what seemed to me to be the height of egotism, that all such music was headed in the direction of our own music. I think that if we head in the direction of their music in some respects, we'll be doing ourselves an awful lot of good.
Music: Cowell, Persian Set; Leopold Stokowsi, conductor; with members of his orchestra
Perlis: It seems Henry Cowell knew everyone in the world of new music. His wide ranging interests and enthusiasm made him an ideal teacher for Lou Harrison.
Harrison: Henry Cowell arranged, as part of the New Music Society, a concert of the works of Schoenberg to be done in the chamber hall of the complex of the opera house. I was attending the New Music Society concerts. These were pretty far out concerts for the period. They were attended by small but very knowing groups. In those days it was always called "ultra-modern" music.
Harrison: I remember one point in New York, when I was writing a twelve tone piece, Henry Cowell was very upset about that. He looked at me with scorn. He said, "Oh, make up your own system. Make it an eleven tone piece or a seven tone piece, or make up a whole new system." Don't do that!
Music: Cowell, Variation for Orchestra; Polish National Radio Orchestra, William Strickland, conductor
Harrison: He was altogether extraordinary. He was the general information booth for all of American music for so long. His approach to music, both as composition and as talk was that there were lots of humanistic ways of viewing it and of doing it. It was wonderfully American in the sense that it was the backyard putterer, you know, at the same time carrying with it a weight of knowledge that was quite enormous. Almost anything could be backed up, but in good cheer.
Music: Cowell, "Aeolian Harp"; Henry Cowell, piano
Perlis: Another young California composer influenced by the music and ideas of Henry Cowell was John Cage.
Cage: I'm indebted to him for his work primarily, but besides that, his unbiased enthusiasm about music in general. Not only all modern music was to his liking, but all folk music was to his liking. Music of all cultures was to his liking. In fact, I don't recall every hearing anything with him that he didn't like.
Cage: He clearly made connections where connections hadn't been made, so that he gave us the example again of fructifying information by means of not obviously connected information. I think Wittgenstein in Philosophy did this too when he said the meaning of something is not fixed, but is in the use that we give it. If, for instance, spaghetti is used not to eat, but to decorate a room, then its meaning changes. Henry had that kind of straightforward seeing of things and the straightforward faith that things could be other than what we conventionally felt they were. Certainly my own prepared piano is unthinkable without the example of his string piano.
Music: Cowell, "Sinister Resonance"; Henry Cowell, piano
Cage: I think that when one thought of Henry there was a tendency to smile rather than to look sad. His openness of mind was cheering, and yet it was inherent in him, and from a very early age. I don't know how old he was when he began playing the piano with his arms and with his fists, but it needed a very open-minded person to do that. And nobody taught him to do it, so he was, so to speak, born with this lively, adventurous, cheerful mind.
Music: Cowell, "Exultation"; Anthony de Mare, piano
Armadillo String Quartet
Composers' Recordings, Inc.
Eubie Blake Music
New World Records
Yale Music Library, Historical Sound Recordings
Yale School of Music
Additional label and catalogue information can be found in the credits portion of the book that accompanies this CD.
Music: George Gershwin, An American in Paris; Wei-Yi Ying and Indhuon Srikaranonda, pianos; Yale School of Music
Perlis: It was called the "Roaring Twenties"—glamorous, fast moving, full of creativity and vitality. The arts were exploding with new and experimental ideas: ultra-modernism, dadaism, surrealism, serialism, futurism—and at the same time, jazz was everywhere. Young American composers were in Paris absorbing the lively artistic scene, and Gershwin's songs and Ellington's Cotton Club Orchestra were broadcast by radio, reaching households across the USA.
George Gershwin personified the ebullient spirit of the times. His was a natural talent resulting in an outpouring of memorable songs and musicals that have become classics, unprecedented concert works incorporating jazz elements, and the great American opera, Porgy and Bess. Gershwin became a tremendous success when he was only twenty with a Tin Pan Alley song, "Swanee," composed with lyricist Irving Caesar.
Irving Caesar: He blazed a trail of his own. You just cannot in all honesty put him in with the classic composers, or what we consider the classic composers. He was in a class by himself! Isn't that enough? Of course, "Swanee" happens to be, I think, George's outstanding song. We wrote "Swanee" in about fifteen minutes or less, so it was sheer inspiration, you know. You could write very fast with George. One day [Al] Jolson gave a midnight party. At that party George played "Swanee." And Jolson at once adopted it, and introduced it within three or four days. And the rest is history.
Music: Gershwin and Irving Caesar, "Swanee"; Al Jolson, voice; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Young, conductor
Perlis: George's Aunt Kate Wolpin was a close family member and occasional babysitter.
Kate Wolpin: George was very outgoing and he was a wild little boy. He was the one that used to get punished by the father. And, Ira was always very quiet and very loving. George was very sporty as he grew up, a very fine dancer. He'd sit down at the piano and sing, although his voice wasn't much, but everybody was hypnotized by this man. But, I must tell you one thing about him that stood out with me. He was a kind of person, if he took to you at all, when you left him you felt ten feet tall. He made you feel so important unto yourself, and that was a gift that so few people in this world have. He made everybody that he cared for feel good about themselves.
Music: Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue; George Gershwin, piano; Paul Whiteman and his concert orchestra
Perlis: George had two brothers, Ira and Arthur, and one sister Frances, who had a brief career as singer and dancer before marrying Leopold Godowsky II. She was known to one and all as Frankie.
Frankie Gershwin: Oh, my father was very proud of George; in fact, first I must tell you that my father had a very sweet, naïve and disarming kind of personality. When we'd go to concerts where George was playing or openings of shows, my father would sense if someone was approving of George. He'd go up to someone and say, "You know, I'm George Gershwin's father," just beaming, he was so proud of this. I recall when George was writing the Rhapsody [in Blue], he said to him, "George, make it good. This might be important."
I remember when George wrote the music of "Fascinating Rhythm," and we all listened to it, and we heard this very intricate and very new kind of rhythm at that time. Ira said to George, "My goodness, he said, what kind of a lyric can I write to a tune of that sort?" Well, it turned out very well. He did get around it very well.
Music: Gershwin, "Fascinating Rhythm"; Fred and Adele Astaire, vocalists; George Gershwin, piano
Frankie Gershwin: I remember when Fred Astaire would be rehearsing a show, George would come home and he would show me steps that Fred did, and he did them so ably. It was really wonderful to see the coordination of the way he moved.
The last time I saw George was in California. My husband and I were visiting out there. He was in great spirits. This was about six months, actually, before he died. He said to us, "You know, I don't feel I've really scratched the surface of what I want to do. I'm just out here in California to make enough money that I don't have to think about it, and I want to do all sorts of things, more American opera. I want to do chamber music, all kinds of things." It's amazing that he was so well at that time, and he looked wonderful. And six months later he was gone.
Perlis: Frankie was the first to sing Gershwin's songs in public.
Music: Gershwin, "Someone to Watch Over Me" Frankie Gershwin, voice; Alfred Simon, piano
Frankie Gershwin: He was delighted with what he did; he loved his work, but he wasn't happy, really, I'd say, otherwise. He felt so much music in him, and so much creativeness. But he really wasn't happy. He wanted more from life, in a personal way, but he didn't get it.
Perlis: Ira Gershwin married Leonore Strunsky in 1926. Her brother English, or "Engie," stayed close to the family, and was one of the very few people still alive who knew George Gershwin. Engie was interviewed at age ninety-two.
Strunsky: It was in 1933 that I bought a factory in a small town in New Jersey. Our business was to make tomato juice, ketchup, chili sauce, and some other food products. I was visiting Ira, and Ira said, "But, why are you saying to-MAY-toes? You've always said to-MAH-toes." I said, "Ira, if I said to-MAH-toes to my farmers, they wouldn't know what I was talking about." At which point he said, "Oh, you're just like your sister. I say EE-thur, but she has to say EYE-thur." Sometime later he used that conversation in a song which so many people are familiar with. I think Ira has had a very definite influence on the English language.
Music: Gershwin, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
Strunsky: George was a genius, and he wasn't shy about recognizing that he was. George always had to be the center of attention. Ira always wanted to sit in the background and not be up there at all. He was even too shy to mention his name when he wanted a restaurant reservation.
Perlis: Here is Ira Gershwin, speaking and singing.
Ira Gershwin: "Hi-Ho" by George and Ira Gershwin, the pianist is Harold Arlen.
Music: Gershwin, "Hi-Ho" Ira Gershwin, voice; Harold Arlen, piano (Recorded 1937 or 38 "at an impromptu gathering")
Perlis: Alfred Simon, author and radio personality, worked with Gershwin and later wrote, together with Robert Kimball, an important book on George and Ira called The Gershwins.
Alfred Simon: I was out of a job in 1931, so I went to the Music Box Theater in New York. I spoke to George in the theater and he said they already had a rehearsal pianist, but if I would like to sit in and watch I might learn a lot, which I did. He knew how I felt about him, that he was kind of my hero. In those days I don't think that the musical theater was thought of as a significant part of Americana. The fact that Of Thee I Sing got the Pulitzer Prize, I think, really awakened people to the fact that it's a very important form.
Music: Gershwin, Of Thee I Sing; Recorded 9 November 1933 from live broadcast of Rudy Vallee Show
Perlis: Gershwin was generous to younger composers. He gave them opportunities to move ahead with their careers. Among them was a child prodigy, Morton Gould. He worked in the music business when only a teenager. Like Gershwin, his career included popular and concert music.
Morton Gould: I think I met him at one of the parties that used to take place. There were wonderful social events, where you would find George and Ira Gershwin, and you might—Jerry Kern. Everybody was there, including people from Hollywood, from the theater, and society people. What I remember is he had a stand-up writing desk for Porgy and Bess, so that he could write standing up. He was showing me parts of Porgy and Bess as he was writing it. But what he showed me were not the songs—were all the contrapuntal passages. I remember his once saying to me, "I want you to listen to this. There are three voices going at the same time." And he demonstrated it to me. See, I was much younger, very young, and a serious student, grim, and all that. And here was this effervescent genius who—when I say that he showed it to me, he would show it to the elevator operator, as I recall. He was always making music, and he was outgoing, extroverted in the best sense of the word. I was at the first reading of Porgy and Bess when George conducted it. I was playing piano. That was the first time I heard these songs. I mean, I was amazed because I knew some of the complicated passages, and suddenly here were these wonderful songs coming out. You don't realize, especially at my age at that time, that you're participating in an historic event.
Perlis: A sample of George Gershwin's voice. First, the announcer.
Announcer: Mr. George Gershwin is conducting and will announce these portions of his new opera Porgy, recorded for the first time and played for the first time.
George Gershwin: And now we'll have the duet from the first scene of Act II of Porgy, sung by Todd Duncan and Bess, who is played by Ann Brown.
Music: Gershwin, "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" from Porgy and Bess
Perlis: There have been many Porgies through the years, but the first holds a special place in the history of Porgy and Bess. Todd Duncan was Gershwin's choice to be the original Porgy.
Todd Duncan: He had heard a hundred Negro baritones over a year. He said they all sang "Shortnin' Bread" or "Ol' Man River" or something like that, or Negro spirituals. Well, I sang an old Italian aria. He looked up at me and said, "This is strange. Why are you singing this?" I said, "Because I love it." So, he said, "Well, would you sing ten bars of that again?" And he said, "Look straight in my eye as you sing it." And I did. I looked straight at him and sang it. We got through ten measures, that's all, and he looked up at me and said, "Will you be my Porgy?" That's when I said to him, "Well, I've got to hear your music first. I don't know your music." He laughed. He said, "Well, I think we can arrange that."
He and Ira Gershwin played and performed the whole opera, the whole thing. They both sang everybody's parts. That first part, I thought, "Oh my, this is awful. This is not music." And then when it segued into "Summertime," I thought a little bit of heaven had opened up.
Music: Gershwin, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess; Arthur Gershwin, piano
Perlis: On another occasion, Todd Duncan spoke about his preparation for the role.
Todd Duncan: I went down to South Carolina. I went with Gershwin. I stayed with a wonderful family, a Negro family. Gershwin wanted to stay there too, but he didn't. You know the races were too far apart then. They didn't want him, but Gershwin wanted to stay there because he didn't have any of that in him. And I couldn't stay at the white hotel. He used to say, "You're more Jewish than I am, Todd." I said, "Yes, and you're more Negro than I am." There was a kinship. Oh, there was a kinship.
Music: Todd Duncan singing "Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way" from Porgy and Bess
Perlis: Kay Swift, composer and pianist, was a close collaborator and one of Gershwin's most intimate friends.
Kay Swift: I was lucky enough to be around when George was writing and also when he was orchestrating Porgy and Bess, and he needed people to play it back to him. I'd play it back, and he'd play an involved accompaniment or a counterpoint, and so on. Often, I took it down in pencil, so I did become terribly familiar with it.
One song, for instance, that I think of, which he was very fond of and that we all loved, was called "I Loves You, Porgy," a beautiful flowing melody sung by Bess in the last act. And this he always spoke of as "my Italianate song" from Porgy and Bess because it is so melodic and so flowing.
Music: Gershwin, "I Loves You, Porgy" from Porgy and Bess; Cynthia Haymon, soprano; London Philharmonic; Simon Rattle, conductor
Kay Swift: Last summer, when I got to Los Angeles, I found that this was the number one hit on the "Hit Parade" in a terrifically jazzed up, almost unrecognizable version. I think George would have been extremely tolerant of this and other jazz versions because he would have said, "Well, then perhaps it has a universal quality that reaches out to everyone." And I do believe this is true.
Music: Paul Bley performing solo piano version of "I Loves You Porgy"
Kay Swift: "Love Is Here to Stay" points up the fact that Gershwin is here to stay, that as long as there's a radio station anywhere there will be a program with Gershwin music. I do believe that it is as perfect as his last song should be.
Music: Gershwin, "Love is Here to Stay"; Joan Morris, mezzo-soprano; William Bolcolm, piano
Music: Nadia Boulanger, Vers la Vie Nouvelle; Angela Gassenhuber, piano
Van Cleve: While Gershwin was taking the New York concert world by surprise with his jazz-oriented works, a few young composers discovered the talented teacher Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Among her earliest students were Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Louise Talma, and Roy Harris. They became known as the Boulangerie. This young Frenchwoman became the most influential composition teacher of the twentieth century. On the occasion of her 90th birthday, she was interviewed by Vivian Perlis in her legendary apartment on Rue Ballu where she taught for decades.
Boulanger: I am good when I give a lesson. I talk with the student, or listen to the student. I can make him see. I can be exacting for the quality of the effort he will make to progress, not to become great, but to be a little more himself, a little better, a little more understanding. And so I say to my student, "Pay attention. Do what you do with great attention."
If the student asks me, "Is this want you want?" I will always say, "No, I want nothing. I want to answer your questions. The teacher who becomes influencing the student is, I think, very dangerous. One must respect the personality of the other, and the other must submit to what makes life possible: order, rigor, and freedom.
You remember what say Stravinsky: "If everything would be permitted to me, I would feel lost in this abyss of freedom." So, we have all through education, through religion, through art, through everything we have limits. And it is in limits that we must find our freedom.
Music: Boulanger, Three Compositions for Violoncello and Piano; Friedemann Kupsa, cello; Angela Gassenhuber, piano
Boulanger: You must be aware, that [the] more the student is gifted, [the] more you must be careful not to invade his self. To let him develop was my great concern when [a] very long time ago Copland was my student. And since have come generation after generation. Copland is such [a] faithful human being. That we knew in 1921. And we have not remained one year without to have one connection or another, but always something. He is today as warm as he was when he was a youngster.
You know the words of St. Paul remain always true whatever we are, if we are practicing religion or not: "Even if you have hope and faith, if you have no love, you have seen nothing." We have not organized a society where life of the spirit counts.
I don't believe that [it] is too easy to express in words what is felt with feelings because I am unable to explain anything. Because I cannot explain love, I cannot explain music, I cannot explain art. I feel it, but I can't explain it. I can explain the means employed to do what we do.
Music: Boulanger, "Soir d'Hiver" from Sept Mélodies; Melinda Paulsen, mezzo-soprano; Angela Gassenhuber, piano
|Text by Nadia Boulanger|
| Une jeune femme berce son enfant
Elle est seule, elle pleure,
Mais elle chante,
Car il faut bien qu'il entende la chanson douce et tendre...
|A young woman is rocking her child.
She is alone, she cries,
but she sings,
for he needs to hear the song, sweet and tender...
Music: Virgil Thomson, Symphony No. 3, Movement II; New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra; James Bolle, conductor
Perlis: Virgil Thomson was one of the first American students of Nadia Boulanger. He would go on to become a celebrated composer particularly known for his operas and vocal settings. Here is a taped excerpt from a seminar entitled "Words and Music," which he conducted at Yale University in 1980.
Virgil Thomson: [Sings "Tiger! Tiger!" Text by William Blake]
Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
You see, it's just as dramatic as you can make it, because it's a very dramatic text.
Music: Thomson, "Tiger! Tiger!" from Fives Songs of William Blake; Mack Harrell, baritone; The Philadelphia Orchestra; Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Perlis: Virgil Thomson lived in Paris until the Second World War. After his return to New York, he became music critic for the Herald Tribune. His unique qualities of personality, wit, and intellect made him an integral part of the New York music scene and an unforgettable character.
Thomson: Composition isn't something you decide. Composition is something you have a compulsion about. You can decide that you're going to learn to play the piano because that requires a method and work. You can decide that you are going to master the techniques of composition. But you cannot decide that you are going to be a composer because the inspiration or the development may not occur.
If it doesn't come, you're out of luck. But you have to keep on waiting, and if it keeps on not coming, then you give up the profession.
What am I in business for except to do good work? And by good work I mean work that pleases me. There is no point in being more or less poor all your life if you have to be also bored.
Music: Thomson, Solitude: A Portrait of Lou Harrison; David Del Tredici, piano
Thomson: Everybody, I think, has to learn his own best working methods. People don't have the same kind of working methods, and they don't have the same kind of lives. The reason, I think, why artists of all kinds are most at home in great art centers is because there they see other artists all the time, and find out what the various methods of work are; what kind of food life, exercise life, sex life, reading life, boozing or not boozing, drugs or not drugs. You have to find out for yourself what is a good creative hygiene.
You have to do your practice, keep your health, keep your inspiration, keep your intellectual contents and your energies, and above all keep relaxed because it can't come through unless you've relaxed.
When I was younger I found that I worked awfully well in bed. As they say in France, the nervous system is only in repose in bed. I can work either in bed or sitting at a table, but I wait for the moment when I sort of automatically reach for a pencil.
Music: Thomson, "Before Sleeping"; Betty Allen, mezzo-soprano; Virgil Thomson, piano
Thomson: If you can put the surface of your mind at rest and let the deeper parts come up spontaneously then you get a deeper and more vivid result. Any poet knows that, and any composer knows it. I am not a theologian. It might be the Holy Ghost. It might be your unconscious memory of all the music you ever heard in your life. In any case, it's something a little deeper than the surface of your mind.
I've been something of an éminence gris. I haven't invented anything. Well, yes, maybe I have. I haven't created the career of Philip Glass, but as he pointed out to me, I was doing minimalist music fifty years before he did.
Music: Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach; The Philip Glass Ensemble
One, two, three, four.
One, two, three, four, five, six.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
One, two, three, four
One, two, three, four, five, six ...
Thomson: I also pointed out to him, as a joke, that he'd had considerable success at writing operas in Sanskrit, and I'd done perfectly well writing operas in Gertrude Stein.
Music: Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts; Orchestra of Our Time; Joel Thome, conductor
Text by Gertrude Stein
One, two, three as one, one and one
One, one to be,
One with them, one with them, one with them.
With are with are with with it.
Thomson: Gertrude Stein said it so simply—she said, "If you remember the history of your art while you are working, your work comes out dead. If you can keep your mind on what you're writing about, then it comes out live." Well, it's as simple as that, really as simple as that.
Music: Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts; Orchestra of Our Time; Joel Thome, conductor
Text by Gertrude Stein
There are as many saints as there are saints in it.
How many saints are there in it?
There are saints in it.
Saint Celestine, Saint Lawrence.
There are as many saints
There are as many saints as there are as many saints as there are in it.
Thank you very much.
Music: Aaron Copland, Latin American Sketches; New Music New Haven, Yale School of Music
Perlis: It was Virgil Thomson who introduced Aaron Copland to Nadia Boulanger. Copland became the most celebrated of her students. He was one of the first major figures to be included in the Yale oral history archive, and the extensive interviews I made with him became the basis of his autobiography. While working together, we examined his sketches and early studies for his teacher, Rubin Goldmark. Copland's reactions, preserved on this unique tape, capture the composer in an informal moment.
Copland: [Sings] Too much "dee da dee da dum" I'm sorry to say. [Laughs] Too late now. [Reading] "Avoid parallel fourths. Do not let voices be more than an octave apart. Avoid unisons and octaves as much as possible."
Perlis: This is Goldmark?
Copland: That's Goldmark. You realize that I did a lot of that stuff with tongue in cheek. That is to say, I did it 'cause I thought I had to, in order to get a—acquire a technique. And, he said it was necessary, so I took his word for it.
Oh, that I published. That's one of the blues. [Sings] This thing keeps coming back all the time. [Sings] I was apparently fascinated with that little tune!
And this is Four Motets. [Sings] There it is again. It's everywhere! [Laughs] These are the Four Motets.
That's pretty wild. Gee Lucifer, I haven't looked at this in sixty years. It's wild to have kept all these things.
Music: Copland, "Jazzy" from Three Moods; Ramon Salvatore, piano
Perlis: "Holy Moses!", as Copland might say, what was accomplished in those sixty years was extraordinary. He had two main goals in life — to write the best works he could, and to establish and promote contemporary American music. His success is demonstrated by works such as Lincoln Portrait and Appalachian Spring which helped to define an American sound, as well as compositions such as Piano Variations and the Short Symphony, recognized as masterworks of the twentieth century.
Copland: I had the idea of going to Paris around 1919 or '20. I went to Paris because that's where the new thing was happening. You see, the old thing was Brahms and [Max] Reger—they were the German composers—and Wagner of course. But, the new music was being written by Debussy and Ravel, and that's where I wanted to be, where the new stuff was coming from.
I had sensed that in music we could reflect in some way the life that we had lived, that music needn't be so high-falutin' that it becomes abstract and just pure notes, you know. I was very anxious in some way to express the kind of life I knew in Brooklyn, or American life, you might say, in our serious music. You see, we had done it in the jazz field and ragtime. That was absolutely American, but we hadn't had any American composers—Gershwin wasn't known yet, don't forget—who had reflected the kind of serious music that I was interested in, in terms of our American experience.
Music: Copland, Piano Concerto
Copland: Jazz was hopelessly American, and to use elements from jazz in a more—what I thought of as a more serious context was almost—well, it was automatic that the music would sound American because there were jazz rhythms we always connected with America; they were invented here.
Perlis: Copland's teacher, Nadia Boulanger, recognized the vitality of Copland's jazz rhythms and encouraged his modernist tendencies.
Aaron Copland: I took a lot of battling with myself to convince myself that I ought to study composition with her because the idea was just too revolutionary. I couldn't think of a single composer in the history of music who had ever studied composition with a woman teacher. One had the feeling in her studio, and being her student that you were sitting in the center of the live musical life of Paris, 1921. You weren't just studying a thing that had happened in the past. You'd find the latest score of Stravinsky on her piano, still in manuscript, or of Milhaud, or of Honegger. Paris, from the standpoint of Brooklyn, seemed to be where all of the new things were happening in music.
Music: Copland, Dance Symphony; Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra; Akeo Watanabe, conductor
Copland: I had won over a real friend in Koussevitzky. The kind of enthusiasm with which he surrounded any performance of my new work was the really exciting thing of the event for me. Perhaps Leonard Bernstein could create something of the same excitement. But, Koussevitzky took this attitude that you're the coming thing, and every piece you write is going to create excitement. You see, he had gone through the whole Stravinsky period in Paris and he just carried that over to Boston.
We were very rhythm-conscious in the twenties, I'd say. Stravinsky was partly responsible. He was writing rhythms that were not familiar, and the jazz thing was very present in our minds. That was enough. Those two things were enough to make you think about rhythms in a kind of fresh way, or hope to think about them in a fresh way.
"Polyrhythms" was a magic word—having more than one rhythm at the same time—juxtaposing them, mixing them. That seemed very fascinating because it gave a whole piece a rhythmic life that you wouldn't find in Chopin.
Music: Copland, Music for the Theatre; Yale Philharmonia
Copland: I was always much more sympathetic to Stravinsky than to Schoenberg. You see, the trouble with Schoenberg from my standpoint was that though I realized the twelve-tone thing was an important development, the feeling behind the music still seemed to be that old German Weltschmertzy kind of expression, which was exactly what we were trying to get away from.
The Piano Quartet is rather twelve-toney. By lending oneself to the twelve semitones rather than the diatonic scale you'd dream new up tunes and new harmonies, and enlarge one's possibilities. But I was intent on staying away from that romantic afflatus that it seemed always to have.
Music: Copland, Piano Quartet; Gilbert Kalish, piano; Boston Symphony Chamber Players
Copland: Most music is based on kind of a kernel of ideas—musical ideas, not mental ones, musical ones—that occur to you without your having felt that you in any way forced it. Naturally, if you accept a commission to do a work for a certain orchestra and you're pressed for time, then you sort of force yourself to think musically whether you feel in the mood or not. But, the really good pieces are those which are based, I think, on a kind of spontaneous combustion.
You have to be pretty convinced about what you're doing, otherwise there are many, many reasons for not doing it: no financial gain, no good criticisms in the paper the next morning. You really have to be brave in that sense, and really the bravery comes from the conviction. If you are absolutely sure this is what you want to do and it's meaningful to you, then you just assume it's going to take time before other people get around to it. That's been the history of new efforts in music. It doesn't always—people don't fall in love with a new thing. If they do, it's a rare event.
Music: Copland, Piano Sonata; Sara Laimon, piano
Copland: I think I got the idea of writing a piece using the text from Lincoln from a biography by an English Lord. Can you imagine that? I remember one performance very vividly; this was, I think, in Venezuela. The speaker was a Venezuelan actress, and she was a fiery thing. About five minutes before the concert was to start there was an announcement that the local dictator was coming to the concert. This amazed everybody because he had always been afraid to appear in public for fear that someone would take a shot at him. He was well hated, particularly by this fiery actress, and boy she was going to give it to him. When she got to the end of the piece with the lines, "A government of the people. Por el pueblo, e para—" I never heard the end of The Lincoln Portrait. The whole audience of about six thousand people stood up and started screaming and yelling and applauding. Then, they told me six months later, he was out. [Laughs] Deposed. I was given credit for helping that revolution. I'm sorry to say that they also told me that two years later, he was back! [Laughs]
Music: Copland, Lincoln Portrait
And that this nation, under God,
Shall have a new birth of freedom,
And that government of the people,
By the people, and for the people,
Shall not perish from the earth.
Perlis: Copland often described composing as a lonely business. He enjoyed working with artists in other fields, particularly film and dance.
Copland: A composer is in a special position to appreciate what music does to a film, because you see it without the music. You realize how much more human the screen seems when there is music going on, even if nobody is paying any attention to it. It just seems to warm up the whole atmosphere around you.
I enjoyed doing "The Heiress," of course, because it was a very well done picture. There's a scene in the film where the young lovers decide they're going to suddenly go and get married right there and then, so he dashes off in a carriage. When that scene was played and she walked back into the house dejected with the idea that he is not coming, the audience burst into laughter. They just thought it was funny that she'd been jilted. That was murder! The director came up to me after the show and said, "Copland, you've got to stop the audience from laughing." I wrote a completely different sort of music, much more dissonant than you normally hear in a moving picture theater. They played the same scene. There wasn't a sound in the house. And I am sure the audience didn't know they were listening to music, but it worked on them anyhow. Nothing could have been funny with this rather dissonant, unpleasant-sounding music going on. There was nothing to laugh at. [Laughs]
Music: Copland, The Heiress
Copland: I certainly remember when I had a telephone call from Martha Graham, and she said, "I have an idea for a ballet that I'd like to discuss with you." I went down there to her studio and we had a long discussion. I was always anxious to write for her, of course. I'd always admired her dancing, and I knew her personally; she's a wonderful gal. So, I was very pleased. She gave me an outline of what the ballet was supposed to represent, more or less, not in a realistic sense, but rather in a sort of general artistic sense. Some would be a very bright and exciting and somewhat athletic dance, others would be more moody. Then, at the end of that summer season I came back to town and I went and played it for her. The ballet had no name, and of course the first thing I said to her when I saw her and the thing was finished—I said, "What have you called the ballet?" She said, "Appalachian Spring." "Oh," I said, "What a nice name. Where did you get it?" She said, "It's the name of a poem by Hart Crane." I said, "Does your ballet action have anything to do with the poem?" She said, "No, I just like the title." But I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, "When I hear your score for Appalachian Spring, I just see the Appalachians and feel spring." They naturally assume I had that in mind when I was writing the work.
Music: Copland, Appalachian Spring; New Music New Haven, Yale School of Music
I think basically you compose because you want to somehow summarize in some permanent form your most basic feelings about being alive. Life seems so transitory that it seems very attractive to be able to set down in either words, or tones, or paint, or some way some sort of permanent statement about the way it feels to live now today. So, that when it's all gone people will be able to go to the art work of the time and get some sense of what it felt like to be alive.
Music: Roy Harris, Third Symphony
Van Cleve: Born on a farm in Oklahoma, Roy Harris was an unlikely character to study in Paris and to be included in the Boulangerie. He shared Copland's determination to find an American sound. The bold musical gestures and open harmonies of his Third Symphony were thought to epitomize the American west. He often incorporated folk music into his compositions.
Roy Harris: [Sings]
Oh, there was a moaning lady,
who lived in a moaning land.
And she had a moaning daughter,
who played in a moaning band.
That's what some of the pioneers used to tease their wives with when they were getting a little sorry for themselves because they had a rough time. There's no doubt that folk songs of any country are better than the melodies which are made by individual composers. There's a much greater creative process in the making of folk songs. They are sung in many different places and are changed a little bit here and there as they are developed over the years.
[Sings] La da la dadada... I chose that folksong for sort of a little "Pastorale" in my Violin Sonata. [Sings]
Music: Harris, Violin Sonata
Harris: I didn't decide to be a composer. I don't think any of us can decide to be a composer any more than Sandy Koufax could decide he was going to be a pitcher. I was a truck driver, so I used to whistle tunes and stuff. Then, I started writing them down. First thing I knew I'd written a piece. One thing leads to another.
My wife and I were sitting behind two of these little old ladies on a Friday afternoon, and one of them said, "It says here in the program notes that the man who wrote this symphony was a truck driver. What possible emotions could a truck driver have?" [Laughs]
Music: Harris, "Elegy" from Elegy and Dance; Portland Youth Philharmonic; Jacob Avshalomov, conductor
Harris: You know, a creative artist doesn't examine himself. It'd be sort of like digging up the potatoes to see if they're growing. He must not examine his own processes.
In 1933, I made a decision that I wouldn't write anything that wasn't commissioned, that I would not write works into the air and not know whether they were going to be performed, or what groups would perform them. All these commissions came because the people wanted them, and because they were willing to pay money for them: good, solid, cash.
Music: Harris, "Dance" from Elegy and Dance; Portland Youth Philharmonic; Jacob Avshalomov, conductor
Harris: I would have to say that the Third Symphony is a war symphony. It was at a time—1939—when Hitler was taking over one country after another. Things looked bad for democracy. I was deeply depressed, and I felt that I want to write a work which would be maybe my last work and probably would never be performed. And so I wrote the highest, best that I knew how. There was this terrific excitement in the time period in which we were living. We all felt that we were sort of living on a volcano.
Music: Harris, Third Symphony
Harris: My father and I brought in a beautiful wagonload of potatoes, which we had grown. I'd helped plant these potatoes; I'd seen them grow in beautiful green foliage, and helped dig them up and sack them. And we brought them in to the Los Angeles market. I remember stopping and watering the horses. And then coming on through the hills and getting in there about five in the morning. And we were offered such a little price that the old man loaded them up and took them back home. I don't by any means believe that my music is as good as those potatoes were, but I had better luck.
Music: Harris, Contemplation; Johana Harris, piano
Music: Duke Ellington, "The Mooche"; Dwike Mitchell, piano, Willie Ruff, horn
Van Cleve: Duke Ellington was born in 1899, one year after Gershwin and one year before Copland. Elegant, refined, witty and charming, he is one of the most appealing personalities in the history of American music. He wrote hundreds of tunes, many of which have become jazz standards, and he led one of the most legendary and long-lasting bands of the century. Audiences adored the man and his music, and believed it when he told them, "We love you madly."
Ellington: When I was a kid I became interested in this jazz and ragtime bit, and I tried to get a lot of people to teach me what they were doing around Washington, but I never could learn anything anybody taught me. And so, I was sick and had to stay in the house for a couple of weeks and I finally came up with this out of my head.
Music: Ellington, "Soda Fountain Rag"; Duke Ellington, piano
Ellington: Then, it got around that I was playing the piano, and when you play the piano you get exposed to the ladies, girls. You become aware of them. A lot of people think I got bags under my eyes writing music late at night, but it's not really true. No, actually what the bags under the eyes are, that's an accumulation of virtues.
Music: Ellington, Mitchell Parish, and Irving Mills, " Sophisticated Lady"
Ellington: I'm extremely partial to extremely pretty people
Edgar McEntree, he was a boyhood pal of mine, and he was a pretty elegant cat. He was very well dressed, you know, and I'm naturally the sloppy type. But then I had to keep up with him, so I began to tag on little things when dressing and so on. And I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship that I should have a title, and so with that he called me "Duke." And it sort of stayed there.
Music: Ellington, "Informal Blues"
Ellington: I think our first recording was on a Gennett Record. But the first one I think that we have a record of since that was when we started with Brunswick in 1925 or '6 when we recorded the "East St. Louis Toodle-o."
Music: Ellington and Bubber Miley, "East St. Louis Toodle-o"
Ellington: "Todalo," you know, is a broken walk. Practically everything we wrote was supposed to be a picture of something, or it represented a character or something. We were walking up Broadway one night after playing the Kentucky Club, and we were talking about, "This is an old man after a hard day's work in the field. He and his broken walk are coming up the road."
They were having auditions for a band to go in the Cotton Club. About five or six bands or so auditioned. I think the audition was set for noon. When we got there about two o'clock everybody else had auditioned and gone home. So, we went on with our audition and when we got through the man said, "You're hired." I later discovered that the man who said that was the big boss, and he wasn't there when the other guys were there. He only heard us. [Laughs] So, some of the fellows around there didn't have very high hopes for our staying there. The waiters were giving odds on us getting thrown out after three or four days. And we stayed there five years.
Music: Ellington, "Tootin' Through the Roof"
Ellington: Radio was first catching on and we had a transcontinental wire out of the Cotton Club. We were broadcasting almost every night across the country. And, at the same time all the other big bands in the world were imitating Paul Whiteman and playing big grandiose fanfares and that sort of thing. And we had a very plaintive style. As a matter of fact, we were contrasted by all these other people imitating Whiteman.
Music: Ellington and Miley, "Black and Tan Fantasy"
Ellington: Solitude," yeah. I wrote that in twenty minutes, standing up. That came out in '35, I think. It was written in '34; it came out in '35, yes. Yeah, it's another one of those things. We were in Chicago, in the Victor studio, and someone else was late getting out of the recording studio, and I needed a fourth number. So, I was leaning up against one of those glass office enclosures, and I wrote it out, what orchestration there was of it.
It had no foundation, no emotional foundation. And we recorded it, and when we got through recording it, the first take, the engineer had tears running down his eyes. And Whetsol says, "That's solitude." Oh, Arthur Whetsol made that title.
Music: Ellington, Mills, and Edgar DeLange, "Solitude"
Ellington: I always say that we are primitive artists: we only employ the materials at hand. We never go looking for anybody, really. If we need a musician and somebody's available, let him play a couple of nights. If we like them, we say, "Well, why don't you stay around and see whether you like us or not?" And this is very important, whether they like us or not because if they don't, then we can't use them as a thing in the band, as a device. The band is an accumulation of personalities, tonal devices. As a result of a certain musician applied to a certain instrument, you get a definite tonal character.
Van Cleve: In 1939, Duke Ellington met Billy Strayhorn, a musician who was to have a huge impact on his career. The slim, shy Strayhorn became Ellington's writing partner, and they were so close he was sometime referred to as Ellington's alter ego.
Ellington: I heard Strayhorn—somebody brought him to the theater and said, "This young man has got a lot of talent and I think you should hear him." And he sat down and played some of his music and the lyrics. And he had such perfect wedding of words and music. I said, "Gee, I'm going to bring you to New York and let you write lyrics for me." And one day we had a small band date. And I got stuck for a number. I said, "Write this. Do something." He did it and everybody's eye's popped when they heard what he played because, you know, it was wonderful—the first thing.
Ellington: [From a live performance. Applause] Billy Strayhorn, ah, Billy Strayhorn is going to sing "Lush Life."
Music: Billy Strayhorn, "Lush Life"; Billy Strayhorn, voice
Ellington: The music—you go further and further back in the music that I have become a part of. I mean, it's strongly American Negro. Now, this is separated from the African Negro music. There is a lot of difference. I mean the African Negro music is so sophisticated that nobody can dig it but them. Nobody can duplicate it. It is the most sophisticated rhythm in the world.
Ideas? Oh, man, I got a million dreams. That's all I do is dream, all the time. This is not piano. This is dreaming. [Plays piano.]
All right then, all the kids in the band want you to know that we do love you madly.
Music: Ellington, "One More Time"
Van Cleve: Ellington was known to prefer lively and eccentric performers. His band members were extremely loyal, often staying with Ellington for decades. Here's drummer Sonny Greer, who worked with Ellington from 1920 to 1951.
Sonny Greer: We were a living legend. We are today. Every tick of the clock, baby, twenty-four hours a day, somewhere in the world—not only in the United States, all over the world—somewhere in the world they are playing some of our tunes.
When we went on the road, they'd never seen nobody like us because we were the first colored band to broadcast on a national network from coast to coast, six o'clock to seven. Like I tell you from the Cotton Club, we used to broadcast every night. Everybody was waiting for that from New York to California, from coast to coast. Of course, that's suppertime. Ain't nobody get nothing to eat till we come off. Dad's working all day, he starve to death till we got through. What the hell could he do? Everybody loved us, you know.
Music: Ellington, "Tootin' Through the Roof"
Van Cleve: Ruth Ellington, Duke's younger sister.
Ruth Ellington: It was on radio when I was still in Washington. I may have been about eight years old, somewhere—nine. And I remember that I turned on the radio and this music came, and the announcer said, "Jungle music!" [Laughs] It was incredible. I remember my shock! Jungle music?! Edward was playing jungle music?! [Laughs] Because my experience with the jungle was, you know, tigers and lions, elephants. [Laughs]
Many people thought that he was an enigma, and I've often described him as having veils behind veils, behind veils. I think that he developed that kind of facade because he was so hypersensitive, that he knew that he was vulnerable to injury. Therefore, he did not expose large areas of himself at the same time, just opened up small little facets here and there. He was always extremely aware of what was going on about him and he could look at people and see straight through them.
Music: Ellington, "Blues"
Van Cleve: Ellington's first manager, Irving Mills.
Irving Mills: We gave every man in the band an opportunity to write, to encourage them. You'll notice there's three names, practically, on all the songs. They came in with ideas, and Duke helped to develop it and give it the style.
Duke always knew his position, and he was always very grateful for everything that was being done because he knew he was getting all the best of everything because everything around we created "from the pen of Duke Ellington," whether he wrote it or he didn't write it. He had the boys so trained that when he had something, they knew the harmony and they knew the trick. They rehearsed it until they got it right.
Duke, all of a sudden, got religious. The fifty thousand dollars that he got to do the book [Music is My Mistress] he put into a religious album ["Sacred Concert"] which isn't worth fifty cents. And I don't want to be the one to criticize it if he went on a religious binge, to write that kind of thing. That was his objective. He got a kick out of it.
As fast as he got the money, that's how fast he spent the money. He couldn't go to a town where they didn't nab him for this, that, and the other thing, for charities. He was good to his men, and his men were with him for a lifetime, practically.
Music: Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, "Diga Diga Do"; Irving Mills, voice
Van Cleve: Juan Tizol played trombone in the Ellington orchestra, and he also wrote such popular tunes as "Caravan" and "Perdido."
Juan Tizol: I just write the melody, you know. Duke write the arrangement so I give him credit. Like, for instance, "Caravan" written by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol. The only thing I used to get mad when on television I hear all the time, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna play "Caravan" by Duke Ellington," and they didn't mention my name. That's why I used to get mad. And still they're doing it.
Music: Ellington and Juan Tizol, "Caravan"; Princeton University Jazz Ensemble; Anthony Branker, conductor
Van Cleve: One of Ellington's star vocalists, Betty Roché.
Betty Roché: If he was teaching me a new song, he would teach me the melody. Then, he would give me a piece of paper with the lyrics on it, and I would run that through my mind. Then, he would have me rehearse it with the music, and he and Johnny Hodges and "Sweetpea"—Billy Strayhorn—would get with me. Then, it was up to me to learn the lyrics. Whenever I did a number, he'd say to me, "Just do it any way that it comes out in your mind. If you sing off, it's perfectly all right." And when I would sing, I had a fashion of holding my hand out, like a person was going to give me some skin. Like, [sings] "Give it up, give it up, give it up, body and soul." And he said, "Don't take that gesture out. Keep it in. Anything you feel, you do it." Then, he let me do little dance steps between numbers, or in between the instrumental and the vocal. And I did it.
Music: Ellington, "Blues" segment from world premiere of Black, Brown and Beige; Betty Roché, voice
Van Cleve: Clark Terry contributed his brilliant trumpet sound to the band from 1951 to 1959.
Clark Terry: The only thing I ever heard him use in the form of musical discipline is sometimes he would remind us to "Listen!" And sometimes rather vehemently, he was really mean. "Listen, goddammit, listen!" You know, and for a while you would begin to wonder, well what the hell is wrong with this cat? Does he think we're deaf? We got cotton in our ears or something? But then what actually what he meant was to listen totally, to listen to the timbre and the texture. Listen what your section meant to the overall piece. Listen to the type of vibrato that was being used. Follow the lead man. Listen to what your segment is contributing contrapuntally to the rest of the sections of the band. And then I began to find out what listening means. I usually refer to my stint with the Ellington band as having attended the "University of Ellingtonia" for close to ten years.
We did an album called "The Drum Is A Woman" and he suggested to me that I should portray the role of Buddy Bolden. And of course I had never heard any records by Buddy Bolden—there are no records by Buddy Bolden! So, he says, "Oh sure, Sweetie, you are Buddy Bolden. He was suave and dapper and clean and he bent notes, and the ladies had a great feel for him, and he loved ladies. And when he blew with such a big, powerful, strong tone in New Orleans, you could hear him across the river and he would break glasses on the shelves over there." And when he gets through psyching you, you believe you are Buddy Bolden. So he says, "Come on, play me some Buddy Bolden." So I thought about all these things, you know, I felt myself being surrounded by a bevy of beauties, you know, and I could picture a bunch of glasses over there on the other side of the river. I'm gonna try to break these glasses. I'm gonna bend some notes. [Sings] "Daaaaaaaaadoodaaaat." He says, "That's it, that's Buddy Bolden. And that's what came off on the record.
Music: Ellington and Strayhorn, "Hey Buddy Bolden"
Van Cleve: Art Baron played trombone with the Duke Ellington orchestra in 1973 and 1974.
Art Baron: It was interesting to see the whole creative process. Sometimes he might give a clarinet part to a trumpet. He would just try anything. If it sounded good he'd just leave it in. I really think some of the stuff just kind of happened.
I want to tell you, probably in six weeks we had three nights off. And, two of them were, like, going from one end of Europe to the other, which in those days was maybe a train and a plane, and I'm talking about all day travelling. And it was really hectic. Like the first night we played in Brussels, then we also went to Holland. We flew from Brussels to Ethiopia. He didn't like to be dormant on the road, you know. If we had a night off, he'd probably go out and find another gig. And we rehearsed after the gig. [Laughs] It was funny. We rehearsed, like, two in the morning.
Music: Ellington, Third Sacred Concert; excerpt from live recording featuring Art Baron, recorder
Van Cleve: Alvin Ailey choreographed a ballet called The River to the music of Duke Ellington.
Alvin Ailey: I expected, of course, from having worked with Mr. Bernstein, and Mr. Barber and Virgil Thomson, all these people, that I was going to get a score. I received a tape with several versions of the same piece of music. So, the next day arrives another tape. Same piece, different version of the same music with different structure and all that, you know. So, then I worked on that one for a couple days. Then the next day came another one, this time with a band playing the first version and snatches of other tunes. I literally threw up my hands. I said, "Look, I cannot do this. Every day the music is different. I cannot go on with this. We should just postpone it." The door opens and in walks Mr. Ellington with his entourage. It was a magical moment, with white coats and with hat and everything. He had come up to see how the rehearsal was going. I sat down with him and said, "Look, I cannot do this like this. I have to have the whole piece, so I can see what I'm doing from beginning to end." He said to me, "Look man, if you'd just worry a little bit more about this choreography and stop worrying about the music, you'd be better off." [Laughs] I said, "But this choreography is the music. I have to have it structured the way you want it structured." So, he finally understood.
Music: Ellington, The River; Duke Ellington and his orchestra
Van Cleve: Ellington had a very close relationship with his physician, Dr. Arthur Logan, and his wife, Marian.
Marian Logan: Ellington was a very special kind of person. Anything that was painful, he rose above it. He never accepted the fact that it was there. He just couldn't deal with pain or anything that was troublesome or anything that interfered with him and his music. Ellington also was quite a hypochondriac. He didn't think he could swallow a glass of water without checking it with his doctor.
Music: Ellington and Strayhorn, "Tonk"; Double Edge, pianos
Van Cleve: John Gensel, the longtime pastor to the New York jazz community, had insight into the spiritual life of Duke Ellington.
John Gensel: I was his pastor, one of his pastors. He had rabbis and Episcopal priests. So he was, theologically, not zooming in on any denomination. There in his Sacred Concerts–which as I said before he claimed was his most important work–that there's where he did his preaching and not directly himself but in the mouth of others and in the title of the tunes and what he did. He certainly wasn't denominational. He claimed all of us, you know.
Music: Ellington, "Come Sunday" from Black, Brown, and Beige; featuring Johnny Hodges, saxophone
We are grateful to the following record labels, institutions, and individuals for granting permission to reproduce recorded excerpts of music:
Composers Recordings, Inc.
Improvising Artists, Inc.
Ira & Leonore Gershwin Trusts
Marc George Gershwin
Trouba Disc Records
Yale Music Library, Historical Sound Recordings
Yale School of Music
Additional label and catalogue information can be found in the credits portion of the book that accompanies this CD.
Composers' Voices from
Ives to Ellington
An Oral History of American Music
Vivian Perlis and Libby Van Cleve
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General History and Criticism
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Select Bibliography for Individual Figures (Listed Alphabetically)
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Eubie Blake and Ragtime
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Ellison, Cori. "'Porgy' and Music's Racial Politics." The New York Times (13 December 1998), 32, 38.
Forte, Allen. "Reflections Upon the Gershwin–Berg Connection." Musical Quarterly 83: 2 (Summer 1999), 150–167.
Furia, Philip. Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Gauthier, Eva. "The Roaring Twenties." Musical Courier 151: 3 (February 1955), 42–44.
Gershwin, George. The George Gershwin Song Book. 1932. Reprint, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1941.
Gershwin, George, and Ira Gershwin. The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960.
Gershwin, Ira. Lyrics on Several Occasions. 1959. Reprint, New York: Viking Press, 1973.
Goldberg, Isaac. "Music by Gershwin." Three-part article in Ladies Home Journal (April 1931).
———. George Gershwin: A Study in American Music. 1931. Reprint, New York: F. Ungar, 1958.
Hamm, Charles. "Towards a New Reading of Gershwin." In Putting Popular Music in Its Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
———. Yesterdays: Popular Song in America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.
Jablonski, Edward. George Gershwin. New York: Doubleday, 1987.
Jablonski, Edward, and Lawrence D. Stewart. The Gershwin Years. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1973.
Jacobi, Frederick. "The Future of Gershwin." Modern Music 15: 1 (November/December 1937), 3–7.
Kimball, Robert, and Alfred Simon. The Gershwins. With a foreword by Richard Rodgers. New York, Atheneum, 1973.
Levant, Oscar. A Smattering of Ignorance. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1940.
Oja, Carol. "Gershwin and American Modernists of the 1920s." Musical Quarterly 78: 4 (1994), 646–668.
Rosenberg, Deena. Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Rosenfeld, Paul. Discoveries of a Music Critic. 1936. Reprint, New York: Vienna House, 1972.
Schneider, Wayne. The Gershwin Style. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Includes "George Gershwin's Piano Rollography," comp. and annotated Michael Montgomery, 225–253.
Schwartz, Charles. Gershwin: His Life and Music. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.
Shirley, Wayne. "Reconciliation on Catfish Row." The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 38: 3 (Summer 1981), 144–165.
Starr, Larry. George Gershwin. Yale Broadway Masters Series. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006. [release pending]
———. "Toward a Reevaluation of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess." American Music 2: 2 (Summer 1994), 25–37.
Thomson, Virgil. "George Gershwin." Modern Music 13: 1 (November/December 1935), 13.
Van Vechten, Carl. "George Gershwin." Vanity Fair 24: 1 (March 1925), 40, 78, 84.
Wilder, Alec. American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950. 1972. Reprint, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Whiteman, Paul. Jazz. New York: J.H. Sears & Company, 1926.
Wilson, Edmund. "The Jazz Problem." The New Republic 45: 13 (January 1926), 217.
American Creed: The Art of Roy Harris. Radio Documentary, produced by Elizabeth Blair. National Public Radio, 1998.
"Roy Harris." Brochure, Broadcast Music International (BMI).
"What's the Score? Roy Harris' Symphony No. 3." Petri-Lebow productions, 1975.
Farwell, Arthur. "Roy Harris." Musical Quarterly 18: 1 (1932), 18–32.
Harris, Patricia. "Grassroots Grandpa." Unpublished memoir.
Harris, Roy. "Folksong: American Big Business." In Schwartz, Elliott, and Barney Childs, editors. Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967. First published in Modern Music 18 (1940–1941), 8–11.
Levy, Beth. "'The White Hope of American Music': or, How Roy Harris Became Western." American Music 19: 2 (Summer 2001), 131–167.
Slonimksy, Nicolas. "Roy Harris." Musical Quarterly 33: 1 (1947), 17–37.
———. Roy Harris: Cimarron Composer. Unpublished manuscript, 1951. University of California, Los Angeles, Music Library Special Collections.
Stehman, Dan. Roy Harris: An American Musical Pioneer. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984.
———. Roy Harris: A Bio–Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991.
Garland, Peter, editor. A Lou Harrison Reader. Santa Fe: Soundings Press, 1987.
"A Good Dissonance Like a Man." Video documentary, directed and produced by Theodore Timreck. Vivian Perlis, historical consultant. American Masters, PBS, 1974.
Danbury Museum and Historical Society, Danbury, Connecticut.
Baron, Carol K. "Dating Charles Ives' Music: Facts and Fictions." Perspectives of New Music 28: 1 (Winter 1990), 20–56.
Burkholder, Peter J. All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
———. Charles Ives: The Ideas Behind the Music. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.
Burkholder, Peter J., editor. Charles Ives and His World. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Carter, Elliott. "The Case of Mr. Ives" and "Documents of a Friendship." In The Writings of Elliott Carter. Compiled by Kurt Stone and Else Stone. Indiana University Press, 1977.
Carter, Elliott, Aaron Copland, Lou Harrison, Peter Yates, Donald R. Walker, Ronald Johnson, Jonathan Williams, Guy Davenport, and Allen J. Koppenhaver, contributors. A Garland for Charles Ives. Special supplement to Parnassus: Poetry in Review 3: 2 (Spring/Summer 1975), 294–393.
Charles Ives: 129 Songs. Ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock. MUSA Series vol. 12. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Musicological Society, 2003.
Cowell, Henry, and Sidney Cowell. Charles Ives and His Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1983.
Crawford, Richard. "Edward MacDowell: Musical Nationalism and an American Tone Poet." Journal of the American Musicological Society 49: 3 (Fall 1996).
Dickinson, Peter. "A New Perspective for Ives." Musical Times 115: 1580 (October 1974), 836–838.
Feder, Stuart. Charles Ives: "My Father's Song": A Psychoanalytic Biography. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Henahan, Donal. "Did Ives Fiddle With the Truth?" The New York Times (21 February 1988), section 2, 1, 25.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley. Ives. London: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Vivian Perlis, editors. An Ives Celebration: Papers and Panels of the Charles Ives Centennial Festival-Conference, New York and New Haven, 1974. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974.
Ives, Charles. "The Amount to Carry and How to Carry It." Pamphlet, 1912. Later revised and reprinted.
Ives, Charles. Charles Ives Papers. Compiled by Vivian Perlis. MSS 14, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University.
———. Essays Before a Sonata, the Majority, and Other Writings. Edited by Harold Boatwright. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1970.
———. Memos. Edited by John Kirkpatrick. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972.
———. "What Music Meant to Charles Ives." Unpublished lecture, 22 May 1963. Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York.
Morgan, Robert. "Rewriting Music History: Second Thoughts on Ives and Varèse." Musical Newsletter 3: 1 (January 1973), 3–12; 3: 2 (April 1973), 15–23, 28.
Nicholls, David. American Experimental Music, 1890–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Perlis, Vivian. Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History. 1974. Reprint, with a foreword by J. Peter Burkholder, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Reed, Joseph W. Three American Originals: John Ford, William Faulkner, and Charles Ives. Scranton, Pennsylvania: Harper & Row, 1984.
Sherwood, Gayle. "Charles Ives and 'Our National Malady.'" Journal of the American Musicological Society 54: 3 (Fall 2001), 555–584.
Sinclair, James B. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Music of Charles Ives. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Solomon, Maynard. "Charles Ives: Some Questions of Veracity." Journal of the American Musicological Society 40: 3 (Fall 1987), 443–470.
Starr, Larry. A Union of Diversities. New York: Schirmer Books, 1992.
Swafford, Jan. Charles Ives: A Life With Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Tick, Judith. "Charles Ives and Gender Ideology." In Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship, edited by Ruth Solie. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Tommasini, Anthony. "Music Review." The New York Times (29 January 2001), E5.
Erskine, John. "MacDowell at Columbia: Some Recollections." Musical Quarterly 27: 4 (October 1942), 399–400.
Gilman, Lawrence. Edward MacDowell. New York: John Lane, 1906.
Historical Sound Recordings, Yale University Library, holds recordings of Ornstein improvising and playing excerpts of his music.
For the complete published work of Leo Ornstein, see his son Severo's website: www.otherminds.org/ornstein.
Buchanan, Charles L. "Futurist Music." The Independent (31 July, 1916), 160.
———. "Ornstein and Modern Music." Musical Quarterly (1917), 174–183.
Frank, Waldo. "Leo Ornstein and the Emancipated Music." Typescript for an article in The Onlooker, 1916. In The Leo Ornstein Papers. MSS 10, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University.
Kramer, W. Obituary for Bertha Tapper. Musical America 22 (25 September 1915), 9.
Leo Ornstein: Quintette for Piano and Strings, Op. 92. Ed. Denise Von Glahn and Michael Broyles. With introductory essay "Leo Ornstein and American Modernism." MUSA Series vol. 13. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Musicological Society, 2005.
Martens, Frederick. Leo Ornstein: The Man, His Ideas, His Work. 1918. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.
O'Grady, Terence J. "A Conversation With Leo Ornstein." Perspectives of New Music (Fall/Winter 1984), 126–133.
Ornstein, Leo. "The Music of New Russia." The Musical Observer (18 June 1917), 10.
———. "The Trend of Ultra-Modern Composition." Musical Observer xxi (1922), 54–5.
Perlis, Vivian. "Mystery Man of American Music." Vision 5: 2 (10 February 1982), 10–12.
———. "The Futurist Music of Leo Ornstein." Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 31: 4 (June 1975), 735–750.
Rosenfeld, Paul. "Charles Martin Loeffler, Leo Ornstein, Dane Rudhyar." In An Hour with American Music. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1929.
———. "Ornstein." The New Republic 7: 82 (27 May 1916), 83–85.
Schonberg, Harold C. "A Musical Futurist Rediscovered." The New York Times (14 March 1976), 15.
Van Vechten, Carl. "Leo Ornstein." In Music and Bad Manners. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1916.
American Composers Alliance holds Rudhyar's musical manuscripts.
Big Sur Tapes, Tiburon, California, has recordings of talks, mainly on philosophy and astrology.
Dane Rudhyar Archival Project: http://khaldea.com/rudhyar/
Morang, Alfred. Dane Rudhyar: Pioneer in Creative Synthesis. New York: Lucis Publishing Company, 1939.
Oja, Carol. "Dane Rudhyar's Vision of Dissonance." In Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rudhyar, Dane. The Astrology of Personality: A Re-formulation of Astrological Concepts and Ideals, in Terms of Contemporary Psychology and Philosophy. New York: Lucis Publishing Company, 1936. Reprint, Santa Fe: Aurora Press, 1991.
———. Claude Debussy et son oevre. Paris: A. Durand et fils, 1913.
———. Dissonant Harmony: A New Principle of Musical and Social Organization. Carmel, California: Hamsa Publications, 1928.
———. "Dissonant Harmony, Plemoras of Sound and the Principle of Holistic Resonance." In Music Physician for Times to Come: An Anthology, edited by Don Campbell. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991.
———. The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music. Boulder, Colorado: Shambala Publications, 1982.
———. "The Relativity of Our Musical Conceptions." Musical Quarterly 8 (1922), 108–118.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd ed. s.v. "Rudhyar, Dane."
Tick, Judith. "Ruth Crawford's 'Spiritual Concept': The Sound-Ideals of an Early American Modernist, 1924–1930." Journal of the American Musicological Society 44 (1991), 221–261.
Yale University Music Library holds several Ruggles paintings as well as catalogs from a one-man show featuring Ruggles' work.
Archabal, Nina. "Carl Ruggles: An Ultramodern Composer as Painter." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1979.
Gilbert, Steven E. "Carl Ruggles (1876–1971): An Appreciation." Perspectives of New Music 11: 1 (1972), 224–232.
Harrison, Lou. "About Carl Ruggles." In A Lou Harrison Reader, edited by Peter Garland. Santa Fe: Soundings Press, 1987. First published as a pamphlet, Yonkers, New York, 1946.
Kirkpatrick, John. "The Evolution of Carl Ruggles: 'A Chronicle Largely in His Own Words.'" Perspectives of New Music 6: 2 (1968), 146–166.
Orkiszewski, Paul Thomas. An Analytic Overview of the Music of Carl Ruggles. Dissertation, Rice University, 1988.
Ruggles, Carl. Carl Ruggles Papers. Adrienne Nesnow, compiler, John Kirkpatrick, music consultant, archival collection MSS 26. New Haven: Yale University Music Library, 1981.
Seeger, Charles. "Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles." Magazine of Art 32 (1939), 396–399.
The Complete Music of Carl Ruggles. Buffalo Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas, director. Liner Notes by John Kirkpatrick and Michael Tilson Thomas. 1980, CBS Masterworks No. M2 34591.
Ziffrin, Marilyn. Carl Ruggles: Composer, Painter, and Storyteller. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
The Library of Congress holds interviews, field recordings, and papers related to the Society for Ethnomusicology.
Dunaway, D.K. "Charles Seeger and Carl Sands: the Composers' Collective Years." Ethnomusicology Newsletter 24: 2 (1980), 159–168.
Lomax, John, and Alan Lomax. Our Singing Country. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1941.
Pescatello, Ann M. Charles Seeger: A Life in American Music. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.
Seeger, Charles. "Grass Roots for American Composers." In Studies in Musicology II, 192901979, edited and with an introduction by Ann M. Pescatello. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Originally published in Modern Music 16: 3 (March–April 1939), 143–149.
———. "On Proletarian Music." Modern Music 11: 3 (March–April 1934), 121–127.
———. Studies in Musicology, 1935–1975. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.
———. Studies in Musicology II, 1929–1979. Edited and with an introduction by Ann M. Pescatello. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Tick, Judith. "Ruth Crawford's 'Spiritual Concept': The Sound-Ideals of an Early American Modernist, 1924–1930." Journal of the American Musicological Society 44 (1991), 221–261.
———. Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer's Search for American Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Workers Songbooks I (The Red Song Book). Compiled by Charles Seeger and Lan Adomian. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1934.
Workers Songbooks II (The New Workers Song Book). Compiled by Charles Seeger and Lan Adomian. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1935.
Slonimsky, Nicolas. Perfect Pitch: A Life Story. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Daniel, Oliver. Stokowski: A Counterpoint of View. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1982.
OHAM holds recordings of Thomson's "Music with Words," a series of lectures delivered at Yale University, later published as Music with Words: A Composer's View. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
"Virgil Thomson, Composer." Video documentary, produced and directed by John Huszar. FilmAmerica, Inc., 1980.
Yale University Music Library holds numerous videos of documentaries and lectures.
Hoover, Kathleen, and John Cage. Virgil Thomson: His Life and Music. New York: Sagamore Press, 1959.
Meckna, Michael. Virgil Thomson: A Bio-Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
Page, Tim, and Vanessa Weeks Page, editors. Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson. New York: Summit Books, 1988.
Porter, Andrew. "Virgil Thomson: 'A Composer of Operas.'" Opera 47 (1966), 757–762.
Thomson, Virgil. Music With Words: A Composer's View. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
———. Virgil Thomson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.
———. Virgil Thomson. United States: Virgil Thomson Foundation, Ltd., 1996.
———. A Virgil Thomson Reader. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.
Tommasini, Anthony. Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.
Watson, Steven. Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism. New York: Random House, 1998.
Secondary Source interviews on Varèse, acquired from Olivia Mattis, are held at OHAM.
"Composers Form Guild to Bring New Works to Public Hearing." Musical America 34: 13 (23 July 1921), 1, 6.
"Random Notes (Frank Zappa to host tribute to idol Edgard Varèse)." Rolling Stone 341 (16 April 1981), 36.
Babbitt, Milton. "Edgard Varèse: a Few Observations of His Music." In Perspectives on American Composers. Edited by Benjamin Boretz and Edward T. Cone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1971. Originally published in Perspectives of New Music 4: 6 (1966), 14–22.
Bernard, Jonathan. The Music of Edgard Varèse. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
Chou Wen-chung. "Varèse: A Sketch of the Man and His Music." Musical Quarterly 52: 2 (April 1966), 151–170.
Cowell, Henry. "The Music of Edgard Varèse." In American Composers on American Music, edited by Henry Cowell. 1933. Reprint, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1962. Originally published in Modern Music 5: 2 (1927–1928), 9–18.
Garland, Peter, editor. Soundings: Ives, Ruggles, Varèse. Santa Fe: Soundings Press, 1974.
Goldman, Richard. "Reviews of Records." Musical Quarterly 47: 1 (January 1961), 133–134.
Julius, Ruth. "Edgard Varèse: An Oral History Project: Some Preliminary Conclusions." Current Musicology 25 (Spring 1978), 39–49.
Lott, R. Allen. "New Music for New Ears: The International Composers' Guild." Journal of the American Musicological Society 36: 2 (1983), 266–286.
Mattis, Olivia. Edgard Varèse and the Visual Arts. Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1992.
Schonberg, Harold C. "Maverick, Revolutionary, and Father to a Generation." The New York Times (14 November 1965), X11.
Schuller, Gunther. "Conversation with Varèse." Perspectives of New Music 3: 2 (1965), 32–37.
Van Solkema, Sherman, editor. The New Worlds of Edgard Varèse. I.S.A.M. Monograph No. 11. New York City: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1979.
Varèse, Edgard. "The Liberation of Sound." Lecture, September 1959, Princeton University. Reprinted in Perspectives on American Composers. Edited by Benjamin Boretz and Edward T. Cone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1971.
Varèse, Louise. Varèse: A Looking-Glass Diary. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972.
Vivian Perlis, OHAM’s founder, was honored at the time of her retirement with an ambitious concert of music interspersed with interview excerpts by selected composers from the collection. The Yale School of Music produced this extraordinary event, which took place both on campus and at New York City’s Zankel Hall in April of 2010. A beautiful and informative program book accompanied the concert, and it included Perlis’s touching reminiscences, reproduced here.