Composers' Voices from
Ives to Ellington

An Oral History of American Music

Vivian Perlis and Libby Van Cleve


The first opportunity to read—and hear—interviews with and about great American composers and musicians of the early twentieth century

The first decades of the twentieth century were a fertile and fascinating period in American musical history. This book and the two CDs that accompany it present an exceptional collection of interviews with and about the most significant musical figures of the era. Tapping the unparalleled materials contained in the Oral History American Music archive at Yale University, Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington is a unique account of what it was like for musicians and composers to live and work in those years. It is also the story of the making of the archive, as told by Vivian Perlis, who personally conducted many of the interviews.

Music aficionados can now hear Eubie Blake describe the birth of ragtime or listen to a firsthand account of how Ira Gershwin came to write those famous lines in “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off." In-depth interviews with such figures as Henry Cowell, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Duke Ellington are included in the book, which also features chapter introductions and fascinating sidebars, illustrations, and anecdotes throughout. Two CDs complete the set, enabling today’s listener to enjoy the remarkable experience of hearing the actual voices and the music of American composers of the early twentieth century.

VIVIAN PERLIS is founding director and LIBBY VAN CLEVE is associate director of Oral History American Music at the Yale School of Music and Library.


Last Updated: 10/12/05