B0353. (COPLAND) Aaron Copland / Vivian Perlis. Copland, 1900 Through 1942. New York, St. Martin’s, 1984. 402pp. Index; Notes; Photos. DJ. - 0-312-16962-0
"Vivian Perlis, a musicologist who founded Yale University’s Oral History of American Music, an invaluable archive of audio and video interviews that she directed for more than 40 years, came to run the project accidentally, after taking a job as a research librarian at the Yale School of Music in 1967. She had become involved there with the library’s extensive Charles Ives collection, and one day she made a visit to New York City to pick up some additional materials donated by Julian Myrick, who had been a partner with Ives in an insurance business.
Thinking that he might have some recollections to share, Ms. Perlis brought along a portable tape recorder. She was fascinated by the stories that Mr. Myrick, an elderly, hard-of-hearing former Southerner, told about the iconoclastic, curmudgeonly Ives. This led her to conduct a series of more than 60 interviews over several years with people who had known and worked with Ives.
Among the thousands of recordings in the Yale Oral History of American Music project is this one of a 1975 interview with Copland, held in 2005 by Libby Van Cleve, who was then the project’s associate director. She later succeeded Ms. Perlis as director.
Ms. Perlis’s persistence paid off. In 1974, for the Ives centenary, selections from these interviews - edited and arranged by her -were published by Yale University Press as ‘Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History’. The next year the book won the Otto Kinkeldey Award, the highest honor of the American Musicological Society, named after its first president.
Two subsequent books, which Ms. Perlis wrote with Copland, had more mixed receptions. ‘Copland: 1900 Through 1942’ and ‘Copland Since 1943’, both published in the mid-1980s, include long excerpts from Ms. Perlis’s comprehensive interviews with the composer, explanatory passages by Ms. Perlis and insightful comments from many Copland friends and associates, among them Ned Rorem, Leonard Bernstein and Agnes de Mille. But the portrait of Copland’s life is veiled. There is no mention of his homosexuality. Ms. Perlis defended her approach to oral history. ‘Most composers are part of a neglected minority and are very grateful to have the opportunity to speak’, she told THE TIMES in 2005. ‘They don’t have another chance to answer critics and say what they think and feel’.
For years Ms. Perlis essentially had to secure financing for the project on her own. The Yale School of Music provided office space and work-study students to assist with the endless task of transcribing interviews. Things changed in the late 1990s, when the main library at Yale joined the school to sponsor the project, ensuring steadier support along with a larger, climate-controlled space.
From the start Ms. Perlis buttressed the collection with existing recorded interviews acquired from radio stations and historians, building it into one of the most extensive oral history archives in America. Her hunches about young composers who might become important proved savvy: For example, she recorded an interview with John Adams when he was in his 20s, years before his opera NIXON IN CHINA brought him to international attention.
Over the years, as video become more central to the Oral History of American Music, Ms. Perlis continued to favor audio interviews. She felt they were more direct and personal. ‘The whole point of this resource’, she said, ‘is to give you a sense of the person, the sound of the voice, the attitude that comes through’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 July, 2019
“Aaron Copland is one of America's most beloved musical pioneers, famous for APPALACHIAN SPRING, BILLY THE KID, and LINCOLN PORTRAIT, as well as the movie scores for OUR TOWN and OF MICE AND MEN, and numerous orchestral and chamber works. This candid, colorful memoir begins with Copland's Brooklyn childhood and takes us through his years in Paris, the creation of his early works, and his arrival at Tanglewood. Rich with remembrances from Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, and Nadia Boulanger, as well as a trove of letters, photographs, and scores from Copland's collection, this is one of our most vivid musical autobiographies, and an enduring record of an American maestro's explosively creative coming of age. A valuable, readable, endearing record of his achievement."
- THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Scholars and lay readers alike will find this an indispensable source of Copland lore."
- Library Journal