Scope and Content of Collection
Other Finding Aids
Title: Lou Harrison Music Manuscripts
Collection number: MS 132, ser.1
University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.
Special Collections and Archives
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Abstract: The Music Manuscripts series contains complete autograph music scores, sketches, revisions and fragments produced by Harrison
during his seventy five years of writing music.
Physical location: Stored in Special Collections and Archives: Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open for research
Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and
their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Lou Harrison Music Manuscripts. MS 132, ser.1. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California,
Gift from Lou Harrison 1991-2003.
Special Collections, with appreciation, has received funding to acquire and process the Lou Harrison Archive. The Rex Foundation and the Unbroken Chain, two foundations established by members of the Grateful Dead, generously contributed to the acquisition of Lou Harrison material for the Archive. Members of the Grateful Dead had a long
association with Harrison, having performed together on several occasions at San Francisco Symphony programs, and they recognized
the importance of Harrison's musical contributions. Without their support some of Harrison's essential manuscripts and recordings
would not have been part of the Archive. Special Collections also acknowledges Richard Faggioli for his contributions towards
the archiving and preservation of music at UCSC and for his continued interest shown to Special Collections' holdings. We
are particularly grateful to the
Title: Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
of New York for awarding a grant to Special Collections to support preparing the inventory and preserving Lou Harrison's
music manuscripts. Delmas Foundation support has allowed for the construction of this detailed electronic finding aid of the music manuscript collection available
through the Online Archive of California. We thank the Delmas Foundation for assisting us in making this special resource accessible to the public and for their continued efforts to support scholarly
resource sharing beyond institutional boundaries.
We are particularly grateful to Charles Hanson, longtime personal archivist to Lou Harrison, who patiently identified the
music manuscripts within the Archive and prepared the inventory provided in this Finding Aid.
Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is recognized especially for his percussion music, his work with just intonation tuning systems,
and his syntheses of Asian and Western musics. His compositions have combined instruments from various cultures and utilized
many of his own construction. His style is marked by a notable melodicism: even his percussion and 12-note works have a decidedly
Harrison spent his formative years in northern California, where his family settled in 1926. In 1935 he entered San Francisco
State College (now University), and in his three semesters there studied the horn and clarinet, took up the harpsichord and
recorder, sang in vocal ensembles and composed works for early instruments. In Spring 1935 he enrolled in Henry Cowell's course
"Music of the Peoples of the World" and began composition lessons with Cowell, who proved one of the strongest influences
in Harrison's life.
Harrison also collaborated with West Coast choreographers and in 1937 was engaged by Mills College in Oakland, California
as a dance accompanist. At Mills in 1939 and 1940, and in San Francisco, Harrison and John Cage staged high-profile percussion
concerts, for one of which they jointly composed
Double Music for Four Percussionists.
In August 1942 Harrison moved to Los Angeles, where he taught music to dancers at University of California, Los Angeles and
enrolled in Arnold Schoenberg's weekly composition seminar. The following year he moved to New York. There he wrote over 300
reviews for the New York Herald Tribune, premiered (as conductor) Ives's
Third Symphony, and composed works in a dissonant contrapuntal style. But New York life proved difficult and in 1947 Harrison suffered a
nervous breakdown that ultimately served as a catalyst for a change in his compositional language. Following this traumatic
event, Harrison turned more deliberately to melodicism and pentatonicism, and embarked on studies of tuning systems. After
a two-year residency at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he returned to the West Coast. In 1954 he settled in Aptos,
California where he remained for the rest of his life.
Studies in Korea and Taiwan in 1961-62 and an intensive exploration of Indonesian gamelan beginning in 1975 inspired Harrison
to bring Asian influences into his musical style and to write works combining Eastern and Western instruments. In 1967 Harrison
met William Colvig (1917-2000), an electrician and amateur musician who became his partner and collaborator in instrument-building
and tuning experiments. Together they built three instrument sets evoking the gamelan. In his last years, Harrison returned
more avidly to composing for Western instruments. He wrote four symphonies, various concerti, and numerous chamber works.
Throughout his life, Harrison articulated political views of multiculturalism, ecological responsibility and pacifism in both
writings and musical compositions. He and Colvig were also active politically in the gay rights movement. In addition to his
musical compositions and prose writings, Harrison, a published poet and a painter, was renowned for his calligraphic script,
and even designed his own computer fonts.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Lou Harrison Music Manuscripts series consists of autograph music scores, sketches, and revisions. Organized in categories
by genre according to the Grove's Music Dictionary, the entries include instrumentation, dates of composition, movement titles
and premiere dates as well as cross references and notes. These details are provided by the Harrison works catalogue created
by Leta Miller and Charles Hanson for the Miller/Lieberman book
Lou Harrison: Composing a World (Oxford, 1998). In addition to his performed works, the collection includes numerous unfinished works, works in process, small
"gift" pieces, and experimental sketches. There are transcriptions of traditional Asian pieces, musical examples from workshops,
and experimental works using specified tones and tunings. These pieces, unpublished and not authorized for performance, are
inventoried by description, such as, 7-tone equal temperament sketch, unfinished 3-tone song, Just Intonation sketches, but
not by specific date or genre.
Pieces within each genre are listed chronologically by date of completion unless otherwise stated. Complete works later used
as movements of larger works are listed separately because (1) they were complete compositions at the earlier date and remain
as separate viable compositions on their own; and (2) new material was added when they were incorporated into the later composition.
The Music Manuscript collection contains over 113 complete representations of the variety and styles that the composer achieved
in his 75 years of writing music. Included are the earliest juvenilia from age ten that Harrison himself said "are perfectly
dreadful" as well as the percussion and dance compositions from the 1930's and 40's that are still considered signature pieces
and as Lou also said " still hold the boards". Harrison continued composing until his last day of February 2, 2003. He was
on his way to a festival of his music which included yet another revision of his Third Symphony. His final work,
Scenes from Nek Chand, for American Steel Guitar, shows his faltering hand after decades of a beautiful calligraphic script and notation. In various stages of his life, Harrison's
script changed dramatically and was to become one of the factors in helping to identify, and date, fragments and scores.
The Music Manuscript materials are filed in order of movements with entries indicating pages or folios, scores and sketches.
Pages are numbered at the top right in parenthesis. Harrison is known for his continual revision process and his "mining"
of earlier materials to incorporate in to new works. To that effect, the manuscripts in this collection were carefully studied,
versions compared, and sketches identified so that the most complete picture of his compositional process could emerge. In
extreme cases of cross-referenced manuscripts (such as the
Political Primer where material ended up in the
Third symphonies), all folios and sketches are retained in the original work with pencil indications where fragments and themes were extracted
and to which work they were taken. In other instances of multiple revisions, such as the
Fourth Symphony, bound published scores are included because they contain autograph revision sketches. In cases where entire movements are
taken out and replaced (such as
First Suite for Strings/New First Suite for Strings 1937, 1948, 1995), all materials extant can be directly identified in the cross-reference section of the notes. In the few
instances where one of the "revisions" is simply an exchange of movement order, manuscript materials are listed in the original
order so as to avoid confusion where numbering occurs.
Where possible, program and performance notes, written by the composer,
Harrison often used his preferred spellings of certain words as in
Simfony in Freestyle,
Short Set from Lazarus Laughed (or
Set for 4 Haisho which was eventually reverted to Suite to avoid cultural confusion). He was an early proponent of the universal language
Esperanto. Several of his works are titled in Esperanto and several vocal pieces are written to be sung or recited in this
Kon-certo por la violono kun perkuta orkestro (
Suite for Violin with Percussion Orchestra),
Nova Odo (
New Ode), and
La Koro Sutro (the Buddhist
Heart Sutra, translated to Esperanto and sung to the accompaniment of an American gamelan) are examples of what the visitor to this collection
As of 3/16/2012, Series 1: Music Manuscripts & Series 2: Notebooks are the only series within the
Lou Harrison Archive that are fully processed and available to the public. The other series are unprocessed and not available for use. As the
processing is completed they will be published and made available to the public.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Harrison, Lou, d. 1917-
Motion picture music
Keyboard instrument music
Other Index Terms Related to this Collection
Harrison, Lou, 1917- --Lou Harrison archive
Additional information may be found in these related collections held by other repositories
Harrison, Lou, 1917-2003. Music manuscripts, sketches, poetry, and drawings. 1945-1991: Guide, Ms. Coll. 132; Eda Kuhn Loeb
Music Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
- San Jose State University School of Music & Dance
Lou Harrison Archive at Mills College
The John Cage Music Manuscript Collection, Henry Cowell Collection, & New Music Society Archives, at the Music Division of
the New York Public Library
- Northwestern University Music Library, Special Collections - John Cage Collection