Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1897-03-11
Death 1965-12-10
US
English

Biographical notes:

Composed 1916-18. The original ms. had a pencilled-in note saying: "This is the only copy anywhere." See note from Mrs. Cowell 19 Nov. 1959: "The first symphony is a student work, and I hope earnestly for it not to be performed." This is a facsimile of the composer's holograph score, according to Bill Lichtenwanger.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Symphony in B minor / Henry Cowell. 1918. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207014

Composed 1939. Originally titled Early American Country Set. First performance under that title Indianapolis, 28 February 1940, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Fabien Sevitzky conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Old American country set / Henry Cowell. 1939. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206984

Composed 1957, during a visit to Iran, but not apparently related to his Persian Set or Homage to Iran, also composed during this period. First performance Tucson, Arizona, 18 October 1998, Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Warren Cohen conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Teheran movement / Henry Cowell. 1957. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207027

Composed 1943. First performance New Orleans, 12 January 1949, New Orleans Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Henrotte conducting.

From the description of American pipers [for orchestra] [L.645] / Henry Cowell. 1943. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206931

A child prodigy, Henry Cowell played and wrote music, but his iconoclastic parents selectively home-schooled him. His career in music is filled with success--as a composer, conductor, musician, editor, educator, and innovator. Among his pupils were John Cage and George Gershwin; he introduced elements of diverse musical cultures into Western music, including tone clusters. Despite a somewhat scandalous private life, he had a prestigious career and a lasting influence on modern American music.

From the description of Henry Cowell letter to Nan Gullo, 1963 June 5. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 56937489

Composed 1936.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Jig in four / Henry Cowell. 1936. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206981

From the ballet with libretto by Alice Barney. Composed 1926.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Atlantis : prologue / Henry Cowell. 1926. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206937

Henry Cowell was a noted American composer, pianist, music educator, and founder of the publication New Music and the New Music Society of California. Lilly (or Lily) Popper was Henry Cowell's colleague in a school of music.

From the description of Letters from Henry Cowell to Lilly Popper, 1936 Sept. 12-1937 Sept 12. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517786

From the guide to the Letters from Henry Cowell to Lilly Popper, 1936 Sept. 12-1937 Sept 12, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Commissioned by Charles Weidman for a dance performance. Originally entitled Steel and Stone. Completed 1932, as a companion piece to his Dance of Sport (later Competitive Sport, callno.: 7291). First performance New School Auditorium, New York, 5 January 1932, Pan American Association of Composers Orchestra, Adolph Weiss conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Steel and stone / Henry Cowell. 1932. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206948

Written for Jackson Wiley and the Springfield (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra. Composed 1961. First performance Springfield, Ohio, 21 October 1961, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Jackson Wiley conductor, Julius Baker flute, Gloria Agostini harp.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Duo concertante : for flute, harp and symphony orchestra / by Henry Cowell. 1961. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206949

Composed originally for solo piano as No. 1 of Two Pieces, 1928. This arrangement 1932 by the composer. First performance New School, New York, 17 May 1933, New Chamber Orchestra, Bernard Hermann conducting. The composer made a different arrangement for the CBS Orchestra in 1942. He also arranged it for solo piano and large orchestra in 1940, as No. 4 of Four Irish Tales. The present orchestration has been withdrawn from circulation at the request of his widow, as per the compoer's wishes.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Reel / Henry Cowell. [1932]. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206997

Composed 1955-56, for Leopold Stokowski. First performance Houston, 28 March 1960, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Symphony No. 12 / Henry Cowell. 1956. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207025

Composed 1930. First performance New School, New York, 4 November 1932, Orchestra of the Pan-American Association, Nicolas Slonimsky conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Polyphonica / Henry Cowell. 1930. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206995

Composed originally as four separate pieces for piano solo. No. 1 composed 1971; No. 2 composed 1921; No. 3 composed 1924; No. 4 composed 1928. Orchestration 1940. First performance over radio station WNYC, New York, 24 November 1940, New York Youth Orchestra, Fritz Mahler conducting, the composer as soloist. When Leopold Stokowski, for whom the work had been written, later performed it with the All-American Youth Orchestra, he toned down the Irish atmosphere by re-naming the first movement Deep Tides and the last Country Reel. The over-all title under which he performed the work was Tales of our Countryside. An earlier title still was: Four Irish Legends.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Four Irish tales / Henry Cowell. 1940. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206955

Composer.

From the description of Reminiscences of Henry Cowell : oral history, 1963. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309729959

From the description of Autograph page signed : [n.p.], [ca. 1960?]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270911559

Composed 1933, an arrangement with alterations from the Irish Jig for piano. "Specially written for Bernard Hermann and the New Chamber Orchestra."--Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Slow jig : for chamber orchestra / Henry Cowell. 1933. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207008

Band version composed by Cowell for the San Quentin Concert Band at the request of its director during Cowell's incarceration at San Quentin State Prison. Withdrawn by the composer in 1964. A version for French horn and piano dates from 1939. For the orchestral version, see callno.: 3502.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Vox humana / Henry Cowell. 1938. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 213373228

Composed 1939, as a companion piece to Pulse (callno.: 1001m). First performance Cornish School, Seattle, Washington, 19 May 1939, John Cage and his Percussion Group.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Return / Henry Cowell. 1939. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206998

Composed 1942, for the Goldman Band's 25th anniversary. First performance Central Park, New York, 3 July 1942, the Goldman Band, the composer conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Festive occasion : for band / Henry Cowell. 1942. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206951

Based on the fuguing tunes of William Billings. No 10. composed 1955. First performance at the Third Annual Pacific Coast Music Festival, Santa Barbara, California, 10 September 1955, strings of the Festival Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conductor, Bert Gassman oboe.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Hymn and fuguing tune no. 10 : oboe and strings / Henry COwell. 1955. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206972

Composed 1931. The rhythmicon is an electronic instrument for the artificial reproduction of rhythms built by Leon Theremin to the copmposer's specifications. First performance, with PDP-10 computer taking the place of the rhythmicon, Stanford University, Stanford California, 3 December 1971, Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Sandor Salgo conducting, Leland Smith providing the "realization" for the computer. Title changed to Concerto because an entirely different piece, for piano solo, had been assigned the title Rhythmicana in 1938.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Rhythmicana : for rhythmicon and orchestra / Henry Cowell. 1931. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206941

Based on the fuguing tunes of William Billings. No. 5 composed originally for 5 unaccompanied voices, 1945. First performance with voices alone, New York, 14 April 1946, Randolph Singers, David Randolph conductor. First performance by string orchestra, Saratoga Springs, New York, 15 September 1946, strings of the Spa Music Festival Orchestra, F. Charles Adler conducting. Arranged 1953 for full orchestra as first and second movements of Symphony No. 10.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Hymn and fuguing tune no. 5 / Henry Cowell. 1946. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206968

Composed 1960 for the American Accordionists' Association.

From the description of Concerto brevis for accordion / Henry Cowell. 1960. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206944

American composer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed and typewritten letter signed, dated : New York, 26 December 1942, and Shady, N.Y., 22 October 1965, to Mr. [Thomas B.] Brumbaugh, 1942 Dec. 26. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270564692

Composed 1940. First performance of 2nd, 5th and 6th movements at the Mountain State Forest Festival, Elkins, West Virginia, 2 October 1941, National Youth Administration Orchestra of Philadelphia, Louis Vyner conductor. First performance of 1st and 4th movements, along with 2nd, 5th and 6th at the tenth anniversary of the Orchestrette of New York, Carnegie Chamber Music Hall, New York, 3 May 1943, Frederique Petrides conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of American melting pot set : for chamber orchestra / Henry Cowell. 1940. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206929

Composed originally for piano, though the piano version has not survived. Composed 1914-22, using some material from a never-completed work, The Birth of Motion.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Some music / Henry Cowell. [1922?] (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207009

Chamber version for French horn and piano, 1939. Orchestral version supposedly made at the request of Arthur Cohn for performance by the Philadelphia Federal Symphony, but never performed by them. This version premiered 15 November 1997, Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra, Bel Air, MD, Sheldon Bair conductor. Band version composed (1938 or 1939) for the San Quentin Concert Band at the request of its director while the composer was incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Vox humana / Henry Cowell. 1939. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207031

Commissioned by the Louisville Symphony Orchestra. Composed 1953. First performance Louisville, 29 May 1954, Louisville Symphony Orchestra, Robert Whitney conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Eleventh symphony : seven rituals of music / Henry Cowell. 1953. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207024

Composed 1946.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Festival overture for two orchestras / by Henry Cowell. 1946. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206953

Commissioned by Leopold Stokowski for the All-American Youth Orchestra of the National Youth Administration. Composed 1940. First performance City College of New York, 26 July 1940, All-American Youth Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Pastoral and fiddler's delight / Henry Cowell. 1940. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206992

Composed 1933. First performance Havana, 22 October 1933, Havana Philharmonic Orchestra, Amadeo Roldán conductor. Dedicated to the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Horn pipe / Henry Cowell. 1933. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206963

California-born pianist, composer, and member of the prominent pioneer family of Santa Cruz.

From the description of Henry Cowell correspondence, 1937-1944. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 38975386

Composed 1928. First complete performance Havana, 28 December 1930, Havana Philharmonic Orchestra, Pedro Sanjuan conducting, the composer as soloist.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Concerto : for piano and orchestra / Henry Cowell. 1929. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206940

Composed 1942. First performance (Movement I only) Ernest Williams School of Music, Saugerties, New York, 24 July 1942, Ernest Williams Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Band, Ernest Williams conductor. First complete performance Flagstaff, AZ 11 November 1996, Northern Arizona University Symphonic Band (with strings from the University orchestra), James Ripley conductor (letter from Ripley to Fleisher Collection, 2 July 1998, in Cowell file).--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Gaelic symphony / Henry Cowell. 1942. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206957

Composed 1938. First complete performance, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, 9 March 1941, New York Civic Orchestra, the composer conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Anthropos / Henry Cowell. 1938. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206933

American composer and writer on music.

From the description of Henry Cowell collection of noncommercial recordings [sound recording], 1940-1953. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122486177

Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress. Composed 1959-60. First performance at the Second Inter-American Music Festival, Howard University, Washington, D.C., 27 April 1961, Eastman-Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Howard Hanson conductor. Dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Symphony no. 14 / by Henry Cowell. 1960. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207026

Written for the dancer Doris Humphrey. Composed originally for full orchestra 1932. First performance Paris, 21 February 1932, Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, Nicolas Slonimsky conducting. Also exists in a piano version.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Two appositions / Henry Cowell. 1932. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207028

Composed originally for piano solo ca. 1914-1920. Orchestration completed 1932. First performance probably New School, New York, 1932, Wallingford Riegger conductor.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Vestiges / Henry Cowell. 1932. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207030

Composed 1932. First performance Little Theater, Brooklyn, New York, 10 December 1933, Knickerbocker Little Symphony Orchestra, J. Edward Powers conducting.

From the description of Four continuations for string orchestra (multiple of nine) [L.486] / Henry Cowell. 1932. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206954

Originally titled Dance of Sport. Commissioned by Charles Weidman for a dance performance by his ensemble. Composed 1931, originally for solo piano, as a companion piece to his Dance of Work, written for the same occasion. First performance New School Auditorium, New York, 5 January 1932, Pan American Association of Composers' Orchestra, Adolph Weiss conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Competitive sport / Henry Cowell. 1931. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206938

Composed 1934, for Christos Vrionedes. First performance Roerich Hall (Roerich Museum), New York, 21 May 1934, Vrionides Sinfonietta, Christos Vrionides conducting.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Suite : for small orchestra / by Henry Cowell. 1934. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45207011

Composed 1939. First performance Cornish School, Seattle, Washington, 19 May 1939, John Cage and his Percussion Group.--Cf. Fleisher Collection.

From the description of Pulse / Henry Cowell. 1939. (Franklin & Marshall College). WorldCat record id: 45206996

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, with whom he began studying in 1914 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Irish Theosophist poet John Varian. 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 the USSR, 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, helping to 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, he studied 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 early release 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 Cage and 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).

From the description of Henry Cowell papers, 1851-1994. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 84671665

Henry Cowell (March 11, 1897 - Dec. 10, 1965) was an American composer, writer, pianist, educator, lecturer and publisher. He was born to a poor family in Menlo Park, California, near San Francisco; Menlo Park remained his home until 1936. Cowell was mainly schooled at home by his mother and began his music studies at age five on the violin; he switched to piano within a few years and began composing around the time he was 10. Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University, began studying Cowell as an example of a child genius and used him as a case study subject for the development of the Stanford-Binet IQ test. Another Stanford professor, Samuel Seward, arranged a fund to educate Cowell and to assist his family. Cowell began studying with Charles Seeger, among others, at the University of California at Berkeley in 1914. Another mentor Cowell met in his teens was the Irish Theosophist poet John Varian, whose texts Cowell set to music. Later in his life Cowell studied with musicians from non-western cultures to learn about their music.

Following a stint in the army in 1918-1919, Cowell concentrated on performing his own music. He began touring the United States and visited Europe for the first time in 1923, attracting publicity for his use of tone clusters and direct manipulation of piano strings; he drew more substantial interest from European composers such as Bela Bartók and Arnold Schoenberg.

In addition to his own musical activities, Cowell was a tireless advocate, publisher and presenter for other contemporary composers, most notably Charles Ives, but also for his friends John Becker, Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Riegger, among others. He formed the New Music Society of California, and was a major player in the Pan American Association of Composers, which helped publicize such composers as Carlos Chavez. Cowell also established the brand name New Music, a quarterly journal which also branched out into a record label and score publishing concern.

Cowell taught at many institutions during his life, most notably the New School for Social Research, but also at Columbia University, Eastman School of Music, Stanford University and the University of California. He wrote books, including New Musical Resources, an exploration of modern compositional methods, and Charles Ives And His Music, the first book about Ives (written with Sidney Robertson Cowell). Cowell also toured the world meeting other musicians and composers to facilitate intercultural exchange, at times under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department and the Rockefeller Foundation

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. In many ways his music and philosophy both exemplified and anticipated the musical aesthetics of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries.

Source: Nicholls, David. "Cowell, Henry (Dixon)", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 12 September 2006), http://www.grovemusic.com

From the guide to the Henry Cowell papers, 1851-1994, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Henry Cowell (3/11/1897 - 12/10/1965) was an American composer of symphonic and chamber music. He studied violin with Henry Holmes, and composition with E.G. Strickland and Wallace Sabin at the University of California in Berkeley. He also studied with Walter Damrosch at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, and with Charles Seeger.

Cowell became the first American composer to visit Russia in 1928, after which, he studied ethnomusicology with Erich von Hornbostel in Berlin as a Guggenheim fellow. These persuits led him toward extensive study of ethnic musical materials.

Cowell made great use of tone clusters. He systematized the clusters as harmonic amplifications of tonal chords, and devised logical notation for them. He ultimately applied tone clusters to compositions for instrumental works (in addition to piano works), and also used them in many of his symphonic works.

From the guide to the Henry Cowell collection of noncommercial recordings [sound recording], 1940-1953, (The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.)



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Subjects:

  • Sonatas (Violoncello and piano)--Scores and parts
  • Violin music (Violins (2))
  • Rondos (Band), Arranged--Scores
  • Viola and violoncello music--Scores
  • Violin with string orchestra--Scores
  • Violin music (Violins (2))--Scores
  • Orchestral music, Arranged--Scores and parts
  • String quintets (Violins (2), viola, violoncellos (2))--Parts
  • Violin and piano music--Scores
  • Bisexual men--Sexual behavior
  • Composers -- United States -- 20th century
  • Piano music--Teaching pieces
  • Birds--Songs and music
  • Rondos (Accordion)
  • Variations (Band)--Scores
  • Suites (Violin and viola)--Scores
  • Reels (Music)
  • Suites (Piano with chamber orchestra)--Excerpts--Scores
  • Concertos (Accordion)--Scores
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  • Violin and violoncello music--Scores
  • Folk music
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  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
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  • Composers--Interviews
  • Autographs (Music)--Cowell, H--Facsimiles
  • Ballets--Scores
  • Songs (Medium voice) with orchestra--Scores
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  • Television music--Parts
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  • Cowell, Henry--1897-1965--Manuscripts
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  • Variations (Orchestra)--Scores
  • Violin and piano music--Scores and parts
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  • Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi--Musical settings
  • Variations (Band)--Scores and parts
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  • Musicians, American--20th century--Biography
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  • Music -- United States -- 20th century
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  • Bisexual men -- United States -- Social conditions
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  • Suites (Piano, bassoon, clarinet, oboe, violins (2), viola, violoncello)--Scores
  • Composition (Music)
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  • Vocal quintets with instrumental ensemble--Scores and parts
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices, 8 parts) with piano--Scores
  • Suites (Pianos (3))--Parts
  • Suites (Piano)
  • Chamber orchestra music--Scores
  • Prisoners--Correspondence
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  • World music -- History and criticism
  • Concertos (Piano), Arranged--Scores
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  • Symphonies--Scores--Manuscripts
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  • Piano music, Arranged
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  • Composers -- United States -- Correspondence
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  • Choruses, Secular (Women's voices, 4 parts), Unaccompanied
  • Musicians--20th century--Correspondence
  • Suites (Pianos (2))--Parts
  • Duets (Unspecified instruments (2))
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  • Piano music
  • Violin and piano music
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  • Folk music--History and criticism
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  • Television music--Scores
  • Musicians--Interviews
  • Christmas music
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Occupations:

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  • Music publishers.
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  • Music publishers
  • Composer
  • Collector
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  • Composers

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California--San Quentin (as recorded)
  • California--San Quentin (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)