Leonard B. Meyer papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Leonard B. Meyer (1918-2007) was a musicologist and composer known for incorporating principles of cognitive science and psychology into the study of music. Born in New York City, Meyer grew up in Scarsdale, New York, where he studied music as a child. Though Meyer's father disapproved of his continuing to pursue music, Meyer's passion for music was unyielding. In a letter explaining his reasons for attending Columbia University, he writes to his parents: "I know father does not wish me to continue my music seriously during my first few years at college. He would rather have me concentrate on my college work alone. This I cannot and will not do." He chose philosophy as his official major, but continued to study music privately, primarily with the German-born composer Stefan Wolpe, who had recently relocated to New York City.
After earning his B.A. in 1940, Meyer served in World War II before returning to Columbia for a master's degree in music, which he completed in 1948. In 1946, Aaron Copland, with whom Meyer had also studied, encouraged him to take a teaching position at the University of Chicago. While teaching, Meyer shifted away from composition and began his work in music theory and aesthetics, for which he is best known today, completing a PhD in the History of Culture in 1954. He continued teaching at Chicago until 1975, when he left to become professor of music and the humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, until his retirement in 1988. He published a number of influential works, including Emotion and Meaning in Music (1957), Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Patterns and Predictions in Twentieth-Century Culture (1967), and Style and Music: Theory, History and Ideology (1989).
The Leonard B. Meyer papers, dating from 1935 to 2008, consist of correspondence with Meyer, drafts and notes for many of his works, research and teaching materials, musical compositions, and memorabilia. The correspondence series, which includes letters to and from Meyer, forms the majority of the collection and spans nearly his entire life, with a few gaps. The bulk of the letters relate to Meyer's professional life as an academic--including letters of recommendation, drafts of papers with comments, conference logistics, and general discussion of musical topics; with some personal correspondence mixed in, often in the same letters. Meyer's life at the University of Pennsylvania is well represented (much of his earlier correspondence is now housed at the University of Chicago Libraries). However, there are quite a few early letters as well, including letters to his parents from his undergraduate years. There is no correspondence from his time in the army and very little mention of that period in later letters.
In addition to the correspondence, the collection also contains many documents relating to Meyer's academic writing. There are readers' reports for his first book, Emotion and Meaning in Music, as well as notes and drafts for Music, the Arts, and Ideas, Style and Music, and The Spheres of Music: A Gathering of Essays. There are drafts for published articles as well as public lectures and remarks. Extensive notes and a draft of the incomplete book project "Music as a Model for History" are worth noting. Also included is an interview, an autobiographical sketch, a project proposal, and a section of poems written for various occasions (such as birthday parties) that reveal Meyer's sense of humor.
The papers also contain various notes and reference material divided into two series--one for research materials and one for course materials. The research material includes notes on a range of miscellaneous topics, such as acoustics and Chinese music, as well as musical examples with analyses. The teaching materials contain syllabi, reading lists, and student papers with Meyer's comments, mostly from the second half of his career.
There is one box of Meyer's musical compositions, dating from around 1948, when Meyer had begun teaching at Chicago and had just earned his master's degree. There are seven pieces for a variety of ensembles ranging from solo piano to an orchestral piece, many with individual parts as well as a full score.
The final series contains memorabilia, including photographs (mainly of Meyer's retirement party in 1988), lecture and concert announcements and programs, newspaper articles, honorary degrees, public introductions, and poems. This series also contains a scrapbook that documents much of Meyer's early achievements from 1935 to 1970.
Gift of Muffie Meyer (daughter of Leonard Meyer), 2008.
- Cumming, Naomi
- London, Justin
- Butler, David
- Barry, Barbara R.
- Swift, Richard
- Thomson, William
- Skowron, Zbigniew
- Nattiez, Jean-Jacques
- Eitan, Zohar
- Narmour, Eugene
- Frigyesi, Judit
- Knobloch, Ferdinand
- Rosner, Burton S.
- Cantrick, Robert
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Ben Rosen
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 March 24
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use. Due to the fragile nature of the scrapbook, special assistance is required to view this item.
The bulk of this collection is open for research use; however, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
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