[20th-Century American Composers]
[Musical Influence] Autograph and typed letters by American composers of the late 20th century about their music listening habits and influences on them
A highly interesting collection of 25 letters from mostly American (some of them, European-born) composers active in the late twentieth century with comments on issues such as musical influence, listening habits and aesthetic preferences.
We owe this treasure to Steven (or Steve) Juscik, the autograph-collecting music lover in Indiana to whom these letters are addressed. He sent inquiries regarding the above issues to these composers. We do not know Juscik's letters and cannot say whether they were identical, but the responses suggest that at least they followed some template. The responses are dated between February 1987 and April 1993, and the chronology suggests that Juscik sent them out in batches, with a few individual ones in between. The letter from John Cage, instead of coming up with a makeshift answer, refers him to his published manifesto "Silence."
The following list of responses is alphabetical by composer. Letters have horizontal folds but are in fine condition otherwise unless stated.
Samuel H. Adler (b. 1928); TLS, Rochester, N.Y., September 6, 1991. 1 p. Letterhead paper of Eastman School of Music. 11 x 8.5 inches (27.8 x 21.6 cm).
Dominick Argento (1927–2019); ALS, Minneapolis, February 23, 1987. 1 p. Letterhead paper of University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. 8.25 x 5.5 inches (21 x 14 cm).
Leslie Bassett (1923–2016); TLS, Ann Arbor, Mich., March 5, 1987. 1 p. Letterhead paper of University of Michigan. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Jack Beeson (1921–2010); ALS, Lloyd Neck, N.Y., March 21, 1987. 2 pp. Personal letterhead paper. 10.5 x 7.25 inches (26.5 x 18.3 cm).
Cage, John. (1912–1992). ALS on the composer’s personal Note-o-Gram form, with original written sheet and pink copy. November 13, 1986. Oblong format, 8.5 x 7.5 inches (21.6 x 19.3 cm). Horizontal fold; otherwise in fine condition.
George Crumb (1929–2022); ALS, Philadelphia, March 15, 1987. 1 p. Letterhead paper of University of Pennsylvania. 8.4 x 5.5 inches (21.6 x 14 cm).
Norman Dello Joio (1913–2008); ALS, no place, no date. 1 p. Paper slip torn from larger sheet. Oblong format, 3.5 x 11 inches (9 x 28 cm). Unevenly cut; stain (fingerprint?).
David Diamond (1915–2005); TLS, Rochester, N.Y., February 23, 1987. 1 p. Personal letterhead paper. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Morton Gould (1913–1996); TLS, New York, October 28, 1987. 1 p. ASCAP letterhead paper ("Morton Gould / President"). 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Gene Gutschë (1907–2000); TLS, White Bear Lake, Minn., August 16, 1991. 2 pp. (two leaves, recto pages only). Personal letterhead paper. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Iain Hamilton (1922–2000); TLS, London, August 2, 1992. 1 p. 11.75 x 8.25 inches (29.7 x 20.9 cm). Creased to upper edge. The only composer in this collection residing outside the U.S.
Marvin Hamlisch (1944–2012); ALS, no place, no date. 1 p. Card with personal letterhead. Oblong format, 4.5 x 6 inches (11.5 x 15 cm). Small stains.
Lou Harrison (1917–2003); TLS, Aptos, Calif., April 20, 1993. 1 p. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm). Browned.
Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000); ALS, Seattle, January 9, 1989. 2 p. Personal letterhead paper (also mentioning his wife's name). 9 x 6 inches (23 x 15.3 inches).
Karel Husa (1921–2016); ALS, Ithaca, N.Y., August 3, 1991. 2 pp. Personal letterhead paper. 10.5 x 7 inches (26.6 x 18.3 cm).
Andrew W. Imbrie (1921–2007); ALS, no place, August 14, 1991. 1 p. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Ernst Krenek (1900–1991); TLS, no place, August 3, 1987. 1 p. Card. Oblong format, 4.5 x 6 inches (11.2 x15.4 cm).
Burton Lane (1912–1997); TLS, no place, June 13, 1990. Personal letterhead paper. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Lawrence K. Moss (1927–1922); ALS, Silver Spring, Md., July 27, 1991. 2 pp. Personal letterhead paper. 10.25 x 7.25 inches (26 x 18.5 cm).
Mel Powell (1923–1998); TLS, no place, August 26, 1991. 1 p. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943); TLS, Rochester, N.Y., November 3, 1989. 1 p. Letterhead paper of Eastman School of Music. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.6 cm).
Louise Talma (1906–1996); ALS, New York, August 23, 1991. 4 pp. Personal letterhead paper. 7 x 6 inches (17.7 x 15.2 cm). The only woman composer in this collection.
Robert Ward (1917–2013); ALS, Durham, N.C., November 6, 1989. 1 p. Personal letterhead paper. 10 x 7 inches (25.2 x 17.6 cm).
Richard Wernick (b. 1934); ALS, no place, August 11, 1989. 1 p. 9 x 6 inches (23 x 15 cm). Slight loss to upper edge (content not affected).
Charles Wuorinen (1938–2020); TLS, New York, August 15, 1989. 1 p. Personal letterhead paper. 10.5 x 7.25 inches (26.7 x 18.5 cm).
"I have a book called Silence which may help you. It is published by Wesleyan Univ. Press. I hope it helps you." John Cage
"I must confess that I enjoy listening to all kinds of music. It seems to me also that, if one has confidence in one's own 'voice', hearing other music could not have any kind of prejudicial effect." George Crumb
"Allow me in the middle of a hectic schedule as President of ASCAP along with my other commitments to make a few brief comments." Morton Gould
"If others find my work influenced or derivative, so be it." Norman Dello Joio
"Believe me I would die from the lack of spiritual nourishment if I gave up listening to the best in all kinds of music and styles. I only balk at nonsense idiocy of the Cage, Feldman craperie, and the avant-garde nouveau riche opportunist L Foss. I am too old to be influenced by other composers' music but when I hear Ravel, Vaughan William[s], JS Bach and Gesualdo, Wagner and Bartók, Copland, Fauré and Roussel (to choose only a few), I weep, I think, I feel. And I am nourished." David Diamond
"I occasionally listen to music for sentimental reasons as an adjunct to thinking over parts of my life. The other night, for example, because of the new book of writings by John Cage in which he makes such a point of one of the teachers we both had—Arnold Schoenberg—I got out the latter's Piano Concerto and Violin Concerto. I found that it had nothing to do with my current musical interests, but did remind me of my times with him." Lou Harrison
"Strange as it may seem, I don't fear being influenced and I enjoy the great masters music as well as 'gagaku,' the great orchestra music of ancient China (still existing in Japan) and "Ah Ak" (in Korea)." Alan Hovhaness
"We learn our first steps, and even more, our 'metier' from our fathers (such as Stravinsky) or grandfathers (Brahms) or great-grandfathers (Mozart-Beethoven). But past certain age, we have to be on our own. And at that moment, we do not like to look into scores of our contemporary friends composers, so that we do not imitate... It is a little difficult, for we have to teach our students also the contemporary music. So, we have to look into scores, study them, listen to them... Once I compose, I try to forget them." Karel Husa
"There are certain kinds of music which I don't like to hear, such as rock-and-roll, minimalist, neo-this and neo-that, and the like." Ernst Krenek
"Because of recording, television and radio we all are exposed to a tremendous plethora and an extraordinary diversity of music. That cannot but help influence, if even subtly, how we hear music and how we conceive music." Joseph Schwantner
"The two activities you mention—writing my music and listening to that of others—are so different that they have little to do with one another. When I am writing my music I am completely absorbed in trying to find the next right note—and don't ask me how I know what that is. I only know that when it's not the right one I have a sense of intense physical discomfort." Louise Talma
"As one grows older, he listens with less susceptibility to the music of others ... than in formative youth....I'm less swayed now by what other people (living or dead) compose nowadays than when I was young, but I have no fear of being influenced by others." Charles Wuorinen
Philosophy & Religions