[Piston, Walter. (1894–1976)] Zukofsky, Paul. (1943–2017)
Group of Letters to Paul Zukofsky
Two autograph letters signed from the American composer, theorist and Harvard music professor, to violinist Paul Zukofsky, together with a copy of a typed letter from Zukofsky to Piston. Zukofsky writes to Piston (May 27, 1971; 1 p.) that he would like to record the composer's Sonatina, and asks whether Piston would prefer it to be recorded with harpsichord or piano, and if a run-through would be possible. Piston writes (July 12, ; 2 pp.) to thank Zukofsky for having records sent, and confirms: "Certainly a date can be arranged for a seance over the Sonatina in late August." He goes on to tell an interesting anecdote regarding intonation and enharmonic adjustment in string playing, illustrating the story with an autograph musical example of two measures, where a held note in the bass functions first as an A flat and then as a G sharp: "I noticed this at a performance by the BSO [...] It was very noticeable that all the basses changed their pitch on hearing the wind chord." He asked one of the bass players to play in his orchestration class: "He shifted as I predicted and the class roared [...] Now it is interesting that these adjustments are instinctive and even unconscious, and that they are due to the musical meaning of the tones, which in turn is based on tonality." In his second letter (August 16. ; 1 p.) asks if Zukofsky "could make it to Belmont [Mass.] on Tuesday August 24." Zukofsky has added a note in pencil at the head: "called 8/18 from Albany Airport. 'You can't escape tonality. When the Berg was 1st performed it was a large mess. Now it sounds very tonal.'"
Autograph letters 6 x 8 inches and 5.5 x 8 inches; typed letter 8.5 x 11 inches. Folding creases; overall very fine. Together with two original autograph envelopes addressed to Zukofsky in Piston's hand.
American violinist and conductor Paul Zukofsky was known for his work in the field of contemporary music. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Zukofsky was the only child of the American Objectivist poet Louis Zukofsky and Celia Thaew Zukofsky, a musician and composer. He began performing at an early age and was soon drawn to modern music, especially to the possibilities of extended techniques on the violin. Over the course of his career, he collaborated with composers including Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Peter Mennin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Roger Sessions, Charles Wuorinen, and Iannis Xenakis. He gave world premieres of concertos by Robert Sessions (for violin, cello and orchestra), Charles Wuorinen (for amplified violin and orchestra), Morton Feldman (for violin and orchestra), Phillip Glass, and the Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, among others.