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Guide to the Mildred Couper papers, 1897-1974
PA Mss 45  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Mildred Couper Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1897-1974
    Collection number: PA Mss 45
    Creator: Mildred Couper, 1887-1974.
    Extent: 7.5 l.f. (14 boxes) 27 disc recordings
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    Abstract: Papers of Santa Barbara-based composer Mildred Couper an early proponent of quarter-tone music. The collection includes musical scores, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence (including correspondence with her Husband Richard Couper and grandfather Thomas Ball), personal writings, financial documents, concert programs, recordings and other documents.
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Mildred Couper papers, PA Mss 45, Department of Special Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated in 2002 by Greta Couper and Lisa Merryman (PA2002-012) and in 2003 by Richard Nordli (PA2003-003).


    Mildred Couper was born in 1887 in Buenos Aires to British parents. She began her formal musical training at the age of 13 as a pianist at the Williams Conservatory in Buenos Aires. Couper graduated from the Karlsruhe Conservatory in Baden, Germany in 1907. She also studied with piano with Moszkowski, Sgambati, and Alfred Cortot in Paris, Rome, and New York, respectively. Couper studied art in Paris at the Grand Chaumiere and at another private art school run by Beronneau, where she met her husband, artist Richard. The couple was married in 1910 and lived in Rome until 1915, when World War I brought them to New York. Mr. Couper died there of influenza in 1917. Mrs. Couper taught piano at the Mannes School of Music.
    In 1927, Mrs. Couper moved, with her children Clive and Rosalind, to Santa Barbara, California. She began teaching at the Cate School and the Santa Barbara School for Girls, as well as maintaining her own private piano studio. Couper was also influential in founding the Music Academy of the West, where she taught theory and harmony courses. In addition, she remained active as a solo and chamber pianist and served as a critic for the Santa Barbara News-Press for 16 years.
    As a composer, Mildred Couper is best known for her experiments with quarter-tone music. Her quarter-tone music was first heard in Xanadu, incidental music for the Santa Barbara performances of Eugene O'Neill's play Marco Millions. Other quarter-tone works by Couper include Rumba, Dirge, and Anacapa. Couper's orchestral arrangement of her Variations on "The Irish Washerwoman" was performed by the Werner Janssen Symphony. Ingolf Dahl also conducted some of her works at the "Evenings on the Roof" concerts in Los Angeles. Couper's ouvre includes chamber works, piano duets, solo piano pieces, vocal works, and several orchestral works.
    She died in Santa Barbara in 1974.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    The Mildred Couper Papers are divided into six series: Series I, Scores; Series II, Photographs; Series III, Newspaper Clippings; Series IV, Correspondence; Series V, Miscellany; Series VI, Sound Recordings.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Women composers.
    Microtonal music.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Sound recordings.

    Index Terms Related to this Collection

    Ball, Thomas, 1819-1911.
    Couper, Richard.