Henry Eichheim (b Chicago, 3 Jan 1870; d Santa Barbara, CA, 22 Aug 1942). American composer, violinist and conductor. A graduate of the Chicago Musical College, he went on to play with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra (1889) and the Boston SO (1890-1912). Thereafter, he devoted himself to composition, chamber music and conducting, making his reputation as an early champion of works by Debussy, Ravel and Fauré. Trips to Japan, Korea and China prompted intensive study of Asian music with Hisao Tanabe (Japan), Yang Yinliu (China) and Jaap Kunst (Java). During the first of four such trips (1915), Eichheim transcribed the sounds around him in notebooks that have, unfortunately, been lost. Photographs of musical performances throughout Asia do survive, however. Stokowski, a close friend, who performed the premières of many of his works, travelled with him to Bali (1928) and India (mid-1930s). After 1922 Eichheim settled in Santa Barbara.
Eichheim's greatest contribution rests upon his pioneering efforts to combine the timbres of Asian instruments with those of the Western orchestra. Convinced that the introduction of Asian instruments would greatly enrich the range of sonorities available to Western composers, Eichheim was an avid collector. He lectured widely on the rhythmic and melodic elements of Asian music and often incorporated indigenous melodies into his compositions. The early piano piece Gleanings from Buddha Fields (1906), inspired by the writings of Lafcadio Hearn, reflects Eichheim's growing interest in East Asia. Oriental Impressions (1919-22), a suite of seven sketches, is based on transcriptions of a Korean street labourer's song, a blind shakuhachi player's melody and the sound of tuned bells hanging under the roof of the Imperial Temple, Bangkok. Large orchestral works, such as Java (1929) and Bali (1933), achieve new orchestral effects through the use of gamelan instruments. Throughout his career, Eichheim also composed songs; Yeats was his favourite poet, but in later years he also set Shakespeare, Tennyson and translations of Chinese poetry.
-Dolores M. Hsu, from "New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians," 2nd ed.
From the guide to the Henry Eichheim Papers, 1900-1930s, (University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections)