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Guide to the Remi Gassmann Papers MS.P.004
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Separation Note

  • Title: Remi Gassmann papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.P.004
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 24.1 linear feet (44 boxes and 1 oversized folder)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1930-1980
    Date (inclusive): 1892-1985
    Language of Collection Materials: The collection is in English, German, and French.
    Abstract: This collection comprises the papers of Remi Gassmann, composer, critic, conductor, pianist and educator. The collection documents all phases of Gassmann’s career, including his youth in Kansas, musical education in the United States, studies during the 1930s under Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin, work as music editor and critic for The Chicago Daily Times during the 1940s, his direction of the University of Chicago’s Program for Composers Seminars from 1941-1947, and his lifelong work in music composition.
    Creator: Gassmann, Remi


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For persmissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Remi Gassmann papers. MS-P004. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
    For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated in 1995.

    Processing History

    Processed by Marisa Tolosa, 2010.


    Remigius Oswalt Gassmann was an American avant garde composer and pioneer in electronic sound and music. Classically trained under Paul Hindemith in composition and theory, Gassmann collaborated with choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky and premiered Paean (1960), one of the first ballets set to electronic music. Later, along with partner Oskar Sala and the innovative electronic instrument the Mixtur-trautonium, Gassmann composed and produced the soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds (1963).
    Gassmann was born to Russian-German parents December 30, 1908. He began musical studies at the age of five with Remy Den Haerynck at St. Mary's Academy in Kansas. Gassmann began composing music at age ten and presented a recital at age 15, after which he decided to postpone his music education. In 1924 at the age of 16, Gassmann was the youngest person to receive a Teacher’s Certificate from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kansas. In 1930 he graduated cum laude from St. Mary’s College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and received numerous poetry and debating prizes, and acclaim for his role as editor of the The Dial. He accepted a scholarship for composition at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, New York, where he received the degree of Master of Music in 1931. Unsatisfied with his musical education, Gassmann travelled to Europe and spent 6 years as student to Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule für Musik, Berlin, Germany. During that time the Nazis proclaimed Hindemith's music “untragbar” and due to the Hindemith-Furtwängler case, Gassmann took over Hindemith’s classes as unofficial assistant. In 1937 he married Marthe Loyson, MD. Meanwhile he continued to study piano with Isidor Phillip and taught briefly in Paris.
    In 1939 he returned to the United States where the conductor Fredrick Stock appointed him professor of theory in the classes of the Chicago Symphony. In 1940 Stock commissioned his Symphonic Overture in G for the 50th Jubilee season. In 1941 he was appointed assistant professor of Music at the University of Chicago, and in 1942 he founded and directed the Composers' Concerts and the Composers' Concerts and Seminar at the University of Chicago. Within this framework he was able to bring composers such as Stravinsky, Hindemith, Milhaud, Bartol, and Schoenberg, to the university for lectures and concerts as World War II cut them off from European resources. In 1944 Gassmann was appointed director of the School of Music, Elmhurst College, Illinois. Gassmann was concurrently music editor and critic at The Chicago Times from 1940 until 1947. He was also the Executive Director of the Speakers Bureau of the Chicago Civic Opera Company in 1945. That year collectively with Ruth Page as choreographer and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Gassmann premiered the ballet-drama Billy Sunday or Giving the Devil His Due. Between 1947 and 1948, Gassmann organized concerts of American composers in France and Germany.
    Gassmann's chamber music and orchestral works have been performed internationally. In the field of electronic music his works have established him in the forefront of the avant-garde: the historic sonic innovations for Paean, produced by the Städische Opera, Berlin, and for Electronics (1961), by The New York City Ballet with choreography by George Balanchine, were hailed by The New York Times as “Definitely works of art…” and The London Times announced, quoting composer Aaron Copland, “The future is here…we are going to have a new kind of music." In 1961 Gassman lectured on electronic sound at both the University of California, Los Angeles and Stanford University. His contribution to the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, which opened the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, remains a unique example of a completely electronic sound track.
    Gassmann moved to France with his wife Marthe. There he wrote Ave Argentoratum for concert band and chorus. It was performed during the 1976 American Bicentennial celebrations in Strasbourg.
    Other works of his include Hic Ornatus Mundi, Cantata to a poem by Archibald MacLeish, Love Lyrics From Whitman, for soprano and chamber orchestra, and Calamus, for baritone and orchestra. Gassmann devoted his later work almost exclusively to research and the development of electronic sound.
    Gassmann died March 2, 1982, in Strasbourg, France.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    This collection comprises notes, correspondence, music compositions, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, and printed ephemera created during the life and career of composer, conductor, pianist, critic and educator, Remi Gassmann (1908-1982). The collection documents all phases of Gassmann’s career, including his youth in Kansas, musical education in the United States, studies during the 1930s under Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin, work as music editor and critic for The Chicago Daily Times during the 1940s, direction of the University of Chicago’s program for composers seminars from 1941-1947, collaborative efforts with Oskar Sala for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and his nationally acclaimed orchestral scores for the ballets Billy Sunday or Giving the Devil His Due and Electronics.

    Collection Arrangement

    This collection is arranged in 8 series:
    • Series 1. Musical compositions, 1917-1970, 2.6 linear feet
    • Series 2. Correspondence, 1919-1989, 2.0 linear feet
    • Series 3. Writings, 1929-1980, 2.0 linear feet
    • Series 4. Visual materials, circa 1800-1980, 3.8 linear feet
    • Series 5. Audio recordings, 1950-1981, 4.2 linear feet
    • Series 6. Clippings, ephemera, and production notes, 1925-1972, 4.3 linear feet
    • Series 7. Personal and family papers, circa 1831-1979, 2.2 linear feet
    • Series 8. Works by others, 1919-1946, 3.0 linear feet

    Separation Note

    Multiple books were separated and added to the UC Irvine Libraries holdings. A listing of the books is available in Special Collections and Archives.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Gassmann, Remi -- Archives
    Electronic composition -- 20th century
    Electronic music -- United States -- 20th century -- Archives
    Music -- United States -- 20th century -- Archives
    Musical works
    Photographic prints -- 20th century.
    Postcards -- 20th century.
    Sound recordings