Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965.
- 82. 3 linear feet (203 boxes)
The Henry Cowell papers cover every aspect of Cowell's life and career in great detail. The collection containsextensive correspondence, including letters to and from Cowell while he was incarcerated at San Quentin Prison (Cowell, who was a bisexual, had been arrested in 1936 on charges of sexual activity with a minor). Major correspondents include John Becker, John Cage, Carlos Chávez, Percy Grainger, Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Nicolas Slonimsky, John Varian, and Cowell's mother, Clarissa. Cowell's musical career is documented through scores and sketches (including notebooks from his early music studies with Charles Seeger), concert programs, photographs, scrapbooks, posters, and publicity material. Also included is an extensive set of news clippings, articles, financial records, and teaching material associated with the various schools at which Cowell taught,as well as some information about Cowell's students. Majorportions of the collection consist of notes, manuscripts, correspondence and other papers of Sidney Robertson Cowell,including manuscripts for an incomplete biography of HenryCowell, her own autobiography, Chapbooks of Cheer, and a work about animals, Many Nations. Another significant feature of the collection is material documenting the history of the collection itself and the whereabouts of other portions of Cowell's archives.
Henry Cowell (1897-1965) was an American composer, writer,pianist, educator, lecturer, and publisher. Initially schooled at home by his mother, Clarissa Dixon Cowell, he began music studies as a child in the San Francisco Bay area. Among his earliest mentors were Charles Seeger, withwhom he began studying in 1914 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Irish Theosophist poet JohnVarian. Following a stint in the army in 1918-1919 and further study, Cowell embarked on an extensive series of tours throughout the United States, Europe, as well as theUSSR, performing his own music and attracting publicity for his use of tone clusters and experimental keyboard techniques. A tireless advocate for contemporary music, Cowell formed the New Music Society of California, helpingto promote such composers as Charles Ives, Carlos Chávez, John Becker, Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Riegger through the quarterly journal, New Music. Cowell's music defined many of the major developments of twentieth-century music,and he was among the earliest composers to endorse the view that the musical materials of the whole world, not just Western Europe, should be available to composers and inform their musical and cultural outlook. To this end, hestudied comparative musicology in Berlin early on and he would continue these explorations with his wife, ethnomusicologist Sidney Robertson Cowell, (who, along with his stepmother Olive Cowell and composer Percy Grainger were instrumental in helping Cowell to gain earlyrelease from his imprisonment on a morals charge). Cowell taught at many institutions, most notably the New School for Social Research, where his students included John Cageand Lou Harrison. He also was a prolific writer, whose output included the books, New Musical Resources (1930), an exploration of modern compositional methods, and Charles Ives and his Music (1955), the first monograph about the composer (co-written with his wife).
Controlled Access Terms
- Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965.
- Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965 -- Imprisonment.
- Cowell, Sidney Robertson.
- Becker, John J. -- Correspondence.
- Cage, John -- Correspondence.
- Chávez, Carlos, 1899-1978 -- Correspondence.
- Dixon, Clarissa, b. 1851 -- Correspondence.
- Grainger, Percy, 1882-1961 -- Correspondence.
- Ives, Charles, 1874-1954 -- Correspondence.
- Ruggles, Carl, 1876-1971 -- Correspondence.
- Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995 -- Correspondence.
- Varian, John -- Correspondence.
- Bisexual men -- United States -- Sexual behavior.
- Bisexual men -- United States -- Social conditions.
- Composers -- United States -- 20th century.
- Folk music -- History and criticism.
- Music teachers -- United States -- 20th century.
- Pianists -- United States -- 20th century.
- Prisoners -- California -- San Quentin -- Correspondence.
- World music -- History and criticism.
- Financial records.
- Lecture notes.
- Music critics.
- Music publishers.
- Music teachers.
Additional Creator Names
- Becker, John J.
- Cage, John.
- Chávez, Carlos, 1899-1978.
- Cowell, Olive Thompson, 1887-1984.
- Cowell, Sidney Robertson.
- Dixon, Clarissa, b. 1851.
- Grainger, Percy, 1882-1961.
- Harrison, Lou, 1917-2003.
- Ives, Charles, 1874-1954.
- Riegger, Wallingford, 1885-1961.
- Ruggles, Carl, 1876-1971.
- Seeger, Charles, 1886-1979.
- Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995.
- Varian, John.
- Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965. Charles Ives and his music.
- Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965. New musical resources.
- Cowell, Sidney Robertson. Chapbook of cheer.
- Cowell, Sidney Robertson. Many nations.
- California State Prison at San Quentin.
- New Music Society of California.
- New music.
- American Music Collection.