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Inventory of the Ernst Bacon Papers, 1926-1987
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ernst Bacon Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1926-1987
    Collection number: ARCHIVES BACON 1
    Creator: Bacon, Ernst, 1898-
    Extent: Number of containers: 4 document boxes, 2 oversize legal document boxes, and 2 flat storage boxes

    Linear feet: 3.25
    Repository: The Music Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The collection of 47 music reviews written by Ernst Bacon for The Argonaut(San Francisco) during the year 1934 was given to the Music Library by Elizabeth Elkus in 1955. The other materials are donated by John Edmunds (in 1987), Ellen Bacon (in 1991), and the photograph was donated by Arthur Bacon (in 1987). Materials pertaining to Ecclesiastes were donated by Ellen and Madi Bacon (and organized by Jonathan Elkus) in 1998. The copy of the oral history recording was obtained from the Regional Oral History Office at the Bancroft Library, also in 1998. The original recording remains at ROHO.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

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

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ernst Bacon papers, ARCHIVES BACON 1, The Music Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    Bacon, Ernst (b. Chicago, IL, 26 May 1898; d. Orinda, CA, 16 Mar 1990). Composer and pianist. He studied at Northwestern University (1915-18), the University of Chicago (1919-20), and the University of California (M.A. 1935) [where his master's thesis was the choral cantata The Song of the Preacher (1935)]. Among his teachers were Alexander Raab and G. D. Dunn (piano), Weigl and Bloch (composition), and Goosens (conducting), under whom he was assistant conductor of the Rochester Opera Company. He taught at the Eastman School (1925-28) and the San Francisco Conservatory (1928-30); in 1935 he instituted and conducted the Carmel Beach Festival in California, and the next year he was supervisor of the WPA Federal Music Project in San Francisco and conductor of its orchestra. Subsequent teaching appointments took him to Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, as dean and professor of piano (1938-45), and to Syracuse University, as director of the school of music and professor (1945-63, professor emeritus from 1964). Among his honors are a Pulitzer Award (1932, for the Symphony in D minor) and two Guggenheim Fellowships.
    As a composer Bacon is best known for his songs, which show unusual sensitivity to the color and inflection of words and a masterly use of syncopation to give the impression of natural speech. He preferred short poems with a "certain philosophical undercurrent together with a relatively simple and not-too-involved lyricism" and has been most successful with his settings of texts by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. He has also made many arrangements of American folk music. Our Musical Idiom (1917), his early study of new harmonies, pointed the direction he was to follow, one close to tradition. Yet his style is individual, finding its own basis in nondiatonic scales, American subjects, and a masterly counterpoint. 22 of his Dickinson songs have been recorded by Helen Boatwright with the composer at the piano. In addition to composing, Bacon performed as a pianist in Europe and the USA, and he had also shown talent as a painter. His published writings include Words on Music (1960) and Notes on the Piano (1963).
    - - The New Grove Dictionary of American Music

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