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Lou Harrison Papers: Music Manuscripts
MS 132, ser.1  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Funding
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Other Finding Aids
  • Related Material
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Lou Harrison Papers: Music Manuscripts
    Dates: 1927-2003
    Collection number: MS 132, ser.1
    Creator: Harrison, Lou
    Collection Size: 35 boxes

    382 scores
    Repository: University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library. Special Collections and Archives
    Santa Cruz, California 95064
    Abstract: Series 1: Music Manuscripts 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: Languages represented in the collection: English Latin Esperanto


    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 permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Lou Harrison Music Manuscripts. MS 132, ser.1. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    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 lyrical flavor.
    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.
    Leta Miller

    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 Elegiac and 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, are included.
    Harrison often used his preferred spellings of certain words as in Simfony in Freestyle, Labrynth, 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 language. His 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 might encounter.

    Indexing Terms

    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-
    Composers--United States
    Dramatic music
    Dance music
    Incidential music
    Motion picture music
    Orchestral music
    Vocal music
    Ensembles (Music)
    Gamelan music
    Keyboard instrument music

    Other Index Terms Related to this Collection

    Harrison, Lou, 1917- --Lou Harrison archive

    Other Finding Aids

    Related Material

    Related Collections

    Additional information may be found in these related collections held by other repositories