Yale’s Oral History of American Music Project Receives Endowment Support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music

The Aaron Copland Fund for Music recently donated $500,000 to initiate an endowment fund for Oral History of American Music (OHAM), a special collection of the Yale University Library.

Oral History of American Music (OHAM) is dedicated to the collection and keeping of recorded memoirs of many of the most celebrated musicians and composers of the 20th century. The organization traces its origins to 1969 when Vivian Perlis, then a reference librarian at Yale’s Music Library, started to conduct interviews with those who had known and worked with the composer Charles Ives. Her award-winning book based on those interviews, “Charles Ives Remembered,” was published in 1974 by Yale University Press. It was quickly hailed as an exemplar of how oral history could shed light on the creative lives of musicians and their place in society.

The experience of the Ives project underscored the need for more tape-recorded interviews as a tool for scholarly research. Thus, Oral History of American Music was formed with the testimonies taken by Perlis from several of Ives’ contemporaries—including Arthur Berger, Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Bernard Herrmann, Nicolas Slonimsky and Dane Rudhyar— as its nucleus. Through the decades since the founding of OHAM, composers have continued to be the project’s primary focus. The OHAM collection currently holds more than 2,000 interviews with more than 900 subjects, and members of the OHAM staff continue to conduct and record interviews with major figures in American music.

In addition to its recording effort, OHAM functions as an archive, providing primary source materials to scholars, arts presenters, students and radio and television producers. Several respected musicological publications have come directly from OHAM interviews, including “Copland: 1900–1942” and “Copland Since 1943,” both co-authored by Copland and Perlis; and the book and CD publication, “Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington,” co-authored by Perlis and OHAM associate director Libby Van Cleve. OHAM has recently produced three podcasts on the composers Copland, Ives and Virgil Thomson.

About the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
The Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University is one of the preeminent music research collections in the United States. Since its establishment in 1917 as the School of Music Library, the Gilmore Library has acquired and maintained a comprehensive collection of music scores, sound recordings and books about music. The library also serves as a major repository of music manuscripts and archival collections relating to composers, musical performers and scholars. The Gilmore Library holds the music manuscripts and personal papers of Charles Ives, as well as archives related to Paul Hindemith, Virgil Thomson, Benny Goodman, Vladimir Horowitz, Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, Carl Ruggles, Deems Taylor and many others. The library is also the home of the Historical Sound Recordings Collection and the American Musical Theater Collection.

About Yale University Library
One of the world’s leading research libraries, Yale University Library is a full partner in teaching, research, and learning at Yale and is visited by scholars from around the world.  It offers a rich spectrum of resources, including approximately 13 million volumes and information in all media, ranging from ancient papyri to early printed books to electronic databases. The library is engaged in numerous projects to expand access to its physical and digital collections. Housed in approximately 20 buildings across the Yale campus, including the Sterling Memorial and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript libraries, the University Library employs a staff of 600 who offer innovative and flexible services to readers and researchers.

About The Aaron Copland Fund for Music
In keeping with his lifelong devotion to contemporary music, Aaron Copland created the Fund and bequeathed to it a large part of his estate. The Fund was officially announced to the public in 1992. Its purpose is to encourage and improve public knowledge and appreciation of contemporary American music.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345