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American Musicological Society oral history collection

Ms. Coll. 962

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
American Musicological Society.
American Musicological Society oral history collection
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 962
1.5 linear feet (3 boxes)
The American Musicological Society, founded in 1943 to promote the systematic study of music, actively documents its history, its members, and, more generally, the history of musicology in North America through its oral history project. This collection contains transcripts and written memoirs resulting from oral history project which began in 1996 and continues to the present.
Cite as:
American Musicological Society oral history collection, 1996- , Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
PDF Version:

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The American Musicological Society was founded in 1934 in order to promote the systematic study of music as a serious academic discipline at a time when the field was still in its infancy. Initially, American music scholars looked to Europe for support, operating through a U.S. branch of the Internationale Musik-Gesellschaft until it was disbanded as a result of World War I. Seeking organizational support on their own continent, and dissatisfied with the emphasis on practical music making at the pre-existing Music Teachers National Association, a number of American scholars formed the New York Musicological Society in 1930, which became the AMS four years later. Otto Kinkeldey, the Society’s first president, was also the first officially appointed “professor of musicology” in the U.S., teaching at Cornell University. In 1948, the Society established the still circulating Journal of the American Musicological Society, a three-times-a-year publication that serves to document and disseminate the current developments of music research. In 1951, the American Council of Learned Societies accepted the AMS into their federation, solidifying the AMS’s place in American intellectual life. Today the society reports 3,500 individual members and 1,000 institutional subscribers from around the world.

In 1993, when a stroke cut short exectuive director and treasurer Alvin Johnson's tenure, the Society realized that memory would only preserve its history for so long. Efforts were made to capture Dr. Johnson's memoirs on tape and on paper and thus was born the oral history project. The Committee on the History of the Society was formed and more interviews were conducted. The project is still ongoing as of 2014.

Scope and Contents

This collection, arranged alphabetically by last name, consists mostly of transcripts of interviews with members of the American Musicological Society as part of the Society's oral history project. A few members submitted written statements in lieu of giving an interview. Members were asked to speak about a range of topics including their formal involvement with the Society, any noteworthy issues that arose during their career as a member, and how the Society influenced their research; the history of and future prospects for the field of musicology, generally; as well as their own personal history as a musicologist. Topics addressed were also tailored to the individual in question and any unique perspectives they may have had. For example, Canadian members were asked about the history of musicology in Canada and how the AMS figured into that history. The written statements, lacking an interviewer to control the topics, vary more widely in their focus. For example, Joseph Kerman provides a full auto-biographical sketch while mentioning little about the Society explicitly, and Leonard Meyer argues one very specific point concerning the division of musicologists into a community of theorists, on the one hand, and historians, on the other. Although the content of members' research is discussed occasionally, the bulk of this project is of historical rather than musicological interest per se.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2014 April 1

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Ben Rosen

Access Restrictions

To consult this collection, readers must obtain written permission of either the current President or Executive Director of the American Musicological Society. The transcripts and written memoirs in this collection are open for research use, however, the media interviews (in boxes 2 and 3) are not available for public use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Custodial History note

Gift of American Musicological Society, 1996-.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania: American Musicological Society Records, Ms. Coll. 221; American Musicological Society Supplementary Records, Ms. Coll. 645, and the Journal of the American Musicological Society Records, Ms. Coll. 222.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • American Musicological Society.
  • Memoirs
  • Oral histories (document genres)
  • Music
  • Music--Societies--20th century
  • Musicology

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Bartlet, Elizabeth, 2001.

1 1

Brook, Claire, 1998.

1 2

Cazeaux, Isabelle, 1999.

1 4

Crawford, Richard, 2001.

1 5

Gossett, Philip, 1999.

1 7

Haar, James, 1999.

1 8

Hamm, Charles, 2000.

1 9

Hill, John Walter [no transcript], 2015.

1 41

Hitchcock, H. Wiley, 2001.

1 11

Johnson, Alvin, 1996-1999.

1 12

Kerman, Joseph, 2004.

1 13

Knapp, Janet, 2000.

1 14

LaRue, Jan, 2000.

1 15

Livingston, Herbert, 1999.

1 17

Lockwood, Lewis, 2000.

1 18

Maniates, Maria Rika, 2001-2002.

1 19

Mann, Alfred, 1999-2000.

1 20

Meyer, Leonard, 2000.

1 21

Newman, Claire, 1999.

1 23

Olnick, Harvey, 1999-2001.

1 24

Palisca, Claude, 2000.

1 25

Slim, H. Colin, 2013.

1 29

Smither, Howard E., 1999.

1 30

Solie, Ruth, 2001.

1 31

Stevenson, Robert, 1999.

1 32

Tischler, Hans, 2000.

1 33

Treitler, Leo [no transcript], 2015.

1 41

Webster, James, 2001.

1 35