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Register of the Robert Erickson Papers MSS.96
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Collection Details
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  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Restrictions
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation

  • Title: Robert Erickson Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.96
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 19.3 Linear feet (28 archives boxes, 11 oversized flat boxes, 3 cassettes boxes, 1.5 LP/reel-to-reel boxes, 1 records carton)
    Date (inclusive): 1940 - 1996
    Abstract: Papers of Robert Erickson, American composer and co-founder of the Music Department at the University of California, San Diego. The collection is comprised of correspondence, holograph music scores, materials relating to Erickson's teachings at UCSD and his work with the Center for Music Experiment, and recordings of performances and appearances on several media formats including audio cassette, VHS, Beta, and reel-to-reel.
    creator: Erickson, Robert, 1917-1997


    Born in Marquette, Michigan on March 7, 1917, Erickson studied composition with Austrian composer Ernst Krenek at Hamline University in St. Paul and graduated in 1943. After three years in the Army, he returned to Hamline, receiving an M.A. in music in 1947.
    Erickson began his career teaching composition at the College of St. Catherine's in St. Paul. He then taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, before becoming one of the founders of the Department of Music at the University of California, San Diego, in 1967.
    Erickson is known for his use of the 12-tone system, sounds recorded on tape, and self-made instruments. His works have been performed and commissioned by the Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles Symphony Orchestras, the American Composers Orchestra, and ensembles including the Arch Ensemble, Continuum, the Kronos Quartet, the Sequoia Quartet and SONOR.
    In addition to receiving the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Yaddo fellowships, Erickson has been the recipient of numerous awards including the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Drew Prize in Music Composition, and, in 1985, the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for excellence in chamber music for his string quartet, Solstice.
    Throughout his career, Erickson published numerous articles and authored two books: The Structure of Music: A Listener's Guide in 1957 and Sound Structures in Music in 1975.
    Erickson died on April 24, 1997.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Robert Erickson Papers document Erickson's career as a composer, musician and faculty member at the University of California, San Diego. The papers are arranged in six series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) MUSIC, 4) UCSD MATERIALS, 5) WRITINGS, and 6) MEDIA.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series includes articles about Erickson, family photos, documents on Erickson's family history, and datebooks and journals dating 1940 to 1981.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series dates from 1940 to 1996. This series contains letters from professional colleagues including mentor Ernst Krenek, fellow composers Will Ogdon and Charles Shere, musicians Stuart Dempster and Bert Turetzky, American music critic Alan Rich, and photographer and supporter Betty Freeman, among others.
    Erickson's original order has been maintained: correspondence is filed chronologically with the exception of one folder containing Erickson's correspondence with Ernst Krenek.
    The MUSIC series is comprised of three subseries: A) Compositions, B) Programs and Reviews, and C) Other Projects.
    A) The Compositions subseries is arranged chronologically from 1961-1990, and contains mostly handwritten sheet music and music sketches for single instruments, ensembles, and orchestras. A sub subseries of Compositions includes Oversized music scores which make up the a sizable portion of the materials.
    B) The Programs and Reviews subseries is arranged chronologically from 1941-2001, and includes both original and photocopied programs and reviews of live and recorded performances of Erickson's work.
    C) The Other Projects subseries contains grant applications, research proposals, and Erickson's research notes on instrument and speaker system ideas.
    The UCSD MATERIALS series is comprised of two subseries: A) Teaching Materials and B) Music Department.
    A) The Teaching Materials subseries contains syllabi, handouts, and lecture notes grouped by class and arranged chronologically. Also included are annotated writings by others and subject files of research notes and article clippings used in Erickson's teachings. These materials are arranged alphabetically by subject or author.
    B) The Music Department subseries, dating from 1973 to 1987, contains correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports and proposals documenting the early years of the UCSD Music Department.
    The WRITINGS series is arranged into three subseries: A) Sound Structure in Music, B) Articles and Books, and C) Notebooks.
    A) The Sound Structure in Music subseries includes handwritten and typed drafts of chapters of Erickson's book, photocopied reviews, and correspondence regarding publishing matters.
    B) The Articles and Books subseries is arranged chronologically and includes typescript and handwritten drafts and research notes. Included are Erickson's unpublished memoirs, "Remembered Sounds and Hearing Things: Autobiographical Essays."
    C) The Notebooks subseries includes a series of nineteen notebooks wherein Erickson recorded his research, thoughts, experiment ideas, diagrams, and article clippings on the subject of timbre. Other notebooks, arranged by date, contain similar content on subjects ranging from orchestra to texture to composition ideas.
    The MEDIA series is arranged by format into five subseries: A) Images, B) VHS and Beta Cassette Tapes, C) Audio Cassettes, D) Reel-to-Reel, and E) LPs.
    A) The Images subseries containing mostly black and white prints, is organized by subject, and includes portraits of Erickson and candids of him in workshop and classroom settings. Four folders contain images relating to articles found in the WRITINGS series.
    B) The VHS and Beta Cassette Tapes subseries include a recording of New World of Sound, dated 1969, some undated videos and undated tapes of "Erickson Archive" number 1-6.
    C) The Audio Cassettes subseries includes "Erickson Archive" numbers 1-12 which date from 1968-1984 and undated as well as other audio cassettes from various sessions and performances, including Erickson Festival: Kronos Quartet dated March 1, 1987.
    D) The Reel-to-Reel subseries includes 30 audio reels (fourteen 10 1/2", thirteen 7", and three 5") which span from 1957-1984 of performances, sound studies and recordings of his music.
    E) The LPs subseries consists of 7 LPs created during Erickson's time at Hamline University (1940s).


    Audiovisual materials, including VHS, Beta, audiocassettes, LPs, and reel-to-reel recordings, are restricted. Patrons must request user copies be produced.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Robert Erickson Papers, MSS 96. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Erickson, Robert, 1917-1997 -- Archives
    Krenek, Ernst, 1900-1991, correspondent
    University of California, San Diego. Dept. of Music -- Archives.
    Composers -- United States -- Archives
    Music -- 20th century -- Archives
    Music -- Instruction and study -- Archives
    Orchestral music -- Scores