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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: David Tudor papers
    Date (inclusive): 1800-1998, bulk 1940-1996
    Number: 980039
    Creator/Collector: Tudor, David, 1926-1996
    Physical Description: 177.5 Linear Feet
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    Business Number: (310) 440-7390
    Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Papers of the avant-garde pianist and electronic music composer, David Tudor, comprehensively document his participation in post-World War II experimental music. Scores by other composers, notably John Cage, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Sylvano Bussotti, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tudor's realizations of their scores, and his own electronic compositional materials form the bulk of the collection. Archive includes correspondence, financial papers, programs and announcements, specifications and documentation for electronic equipment, and audio and video recordings.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy  .
    Language: Collection material is in English .

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1926, David Tudor studied composition and analysis with Stefan Wolpe, organ and theory with H. William Hawke, and piano with Irma Wolpe Rademacher. He began his professional work at 17 as an organist, and in 1950 established himself as a formidable talent in avant-garde music when he gave the American premiere of the Second Piano Sonata by Pierre Boulez. Until the late 1960s, Tudor gave first or early performances of works by Earle Brown, Sylvano Bussotti, Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Christian Wolff, Stefan Wolpe, and La Monte Young. His virtuosity and imagination inspired many of these composers to write pieces for him, involving complex graphic notations and performance problems which they felt only Tudor could solve.
    During the 1950s, David Tudor held positions as Instructor and Pianist-in-Residence at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, and at the Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik, Darmstadt. He expanded his performance activity to include the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and John Cage's "Project of Music for Magnetic Tape."
    In the late '60s, Tudor gradually ended his active career as a pianist. He had begun to experiment with the electronic modification of sound sources in the late 1950s, departing from the then common practice of fixing music on magnetic tape beforehand. By the end of the '60s, Tudor became fully involved in "live electronic music," producing his own compositions which introduced a new form of "sound art." Many of Tudor's electronic works were associated with collaborative visual forces: light systems, dance, television, theater, film or four-color laser projections. For example, Bandoneon!, composed in 1966 for the E.A.T. performance series 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, called for lighting and audio circuitry, moving loudspeaker sculptures, and projected video images, all actuated by the bandoneon. As a core artist invited to collaborate on the design of the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion for Expo' 70 in Osaka, Tudor worked with two sculptors and an environmental artist, and conceived and performed new electronic pieces for the pavilion space. Tudor's sound installation Rainforest IV (1973) involved collaboration with the video artist Bill Viola, who credits Tudor with helping him develop his approach to sound in video.
    Tudor had been affiliated with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company since its inception in the summer of 1953. When John Cage died in August 1992, Tudor succeeded him as Music Director. The company commissioned many works from Tudor, including Rainforest I (1968), Toneburst (1975), Forest Speech (1976), Weatherings (1978), Phonemes (1981), Sextet for Seven (1982), Fragments (1984), Webwork (1987), and Virtual Focus (1990). Tudor's electronic piece Soundings: Ocean Diary (1994) comprised the electronic portion of Cage's last composition, Ocean, a work for dancers and large orchestral forces positioned around the audience.

    List of Compositions

    1964 Fluorescent sound (for Robert Rauschenberg piece Elgin Tie ), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, September 13
    1966 Bandoneon! (with projected video images by Lowell Cross), 9 evenings: Theater & Engineering, New York, October 14 and 18
    1968 Video III (with Lowell Cross), University of California, San Diego, May 10
      Assemblage (with John Cage and Gordon Mumma), a production of KQED-TV film group, San Francisco, October-November
      Reunion (with David Behrman, John Cage, Lowell Cross, Marcel Duchamp, Teeny Duchamp, and Gordon Mumma), Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Toronto, March 5
      Rainforest (for Merce Cunningham: RainForest, 2nd Buffalo Festival of the Arts Today, March 9
    1969 Video/Laser I (with Lowell Cross), Mills College Tape Music Center, Oakland, California, May 9
    1970 First week of June (John Cage and Gordon Mumma), Paris, France, June 5
      Video/Laser II; (with Lowell Cross, Carson Jeffries), University of California, Berkeley, January-February; installed at the Pepsi Pavilion, Expo '70, Osaka, Japan
      4 Pepsi Pieces: Pepsibird, Anima Pepsi , Pepscillator, Microphone (for the Pepsi Pavilion), Expo '70, Osaka, Japan, March/April
    1972 Rainforest 3 (with John Cage: Mureau), Radio Bremen, Pro Musica Nova, Bremen, May 5
      Melodics for Amplified Bandoneon (for Merce Cunningham: Events), February
      Monobird (with John Cage: Birdcage), Musik/Film/Dia/Licht Festival, Munich, August 30
      Untitled (with John Cage: Mesostics re merce Cunningham ), Radio Bremen, Pro Musica Nova, May 8
    1973 Laser Bird Center for new Performing Arts, University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 12-14
      Microphone (1 to 9), research project in multitrack recording, Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, May
      Rainforest IV (group composition), New Music in New Hampshire, Chocorua, New Hampshire, July
      Laser Rock Center for new Performing Arts, University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 12-14
      Free Spectral Range II (with Lowell Cross), University of Iowa, Iowa City, June
      Free Spectral Range I; (with Lowell Cross), Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio, February 16
    1974 Photocell Action with light composition by Anthony Martin (for Merce Cunningham: Event)
    1975 Toneburst (commission for Merce Cunningham: Sounddance), Detroit, Michigan, March 8
    1976 Free Spectral Range III (with Lowell Cross), 4th Cervantino Festival, Mexico City
      Forest Speech (for Merce Cunningham: Event)
      Pulsers, Festival d'Automne, Paris
    1977 Free Spectral Range IV (with Lowell Cross), World Music Days, Bonn
      Video Pulsers (collaboration with Viola Farber and Robert Rauschenberg: Brazos River), a production of KERA-TV, Dallas, Texas
    1978 Pulsers 2, New York University, New York City
      Forest Speech 2 (group work), The Kitchen, New York City
      Weatherings (commission for Merce Cunningham: Exchange), New York City, September 27
    1979 Laser Concert (with Lowell Cross), Xenon, New York City (This work evolved from Video/Laser III, first performed by Cross, William Hibbard and Carson Jeffries at Hancher Auditorium, University of Iowa, November 29, 1972)
      Audio Laser (with Lowell Cross), videotape produced by Composers' Forum, New York City
    1981 Phonemes (commission for Merce Cunningham: Channels/Inserts), New York City, January
    1982 Sextet for Seven (commission for Merce Cunningham: Sextet), Paris, France, October 27 (N.B. in Cunningham chronology as Quartet)
      Likeness to Voices/Dialectics (commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation and realized at the Metz Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Musicale) IRCAM, Paris
    1983 Sea Tails (collaboration with Jackie Monnier and Molly Davies), three-channel video installation produced with a grant from the French government, June
    1984 Dialects, Mills College Concert Hall, October 5
      Fragments (for Merce Cunningham: Phrases), Angers, December 7
    1985 Hedgehog, Mobius, Boston, September 28 and 29
      Web, for John Cage, WDR, Cologne, April
    1986 Electronics with talking shrimp, Clocktower, New York City, April 25
      9 lines reflected (with Jackie Monnier), Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York City, September 17
      Sea tails (sound totem version), Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York City, September 17
      Line & cluster, Munich, November 17
    1987 Web for John Cage II, Munich, October 17
      Webwork (for Merce Cunningham), New York, March 4
      Five stone (with John Cage), Berlin, June 16
    1990 Virtual focus (for Merce Cunningham: Polarity), New York City, March 20
    1991 Coefficient I
      Coefficient: frictional percussion and electronics, S.E.M. Ensemble, Paula Cooper Gallery, February 26
    1992 Neural network plus (for Merce Cunningham), November
    1992-1994 Neural Synthesis nos. 1-9
    1994 Untitled (1975/1994) (for Merce Cunningham, based on Toneburst, Lyons, France, November
      Soundings: ocean diary (for Merce Cunningham), Bruxelles, Belgium, May 17
    1996 Toneburst: maps and fragments (with Sophia Ogielska), Wesleyan University, September

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    David Tudor papers, 1800-1998 (bulk 1940-1996), The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 980039.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1994 (Accn. no. 940073), 1998 (Accn. no. 980039, 980045), and 2001 (2001.A.132, 2001.A.182, 2001.A.183, 2001.A.184).

    Processing History

    The David Tudor papers were received in two large separate acquisitions between 1994 and 1998. Additions to the collection were received in 2001 from John Holzaepfel, Joy Nemiroff, Julie Martin and Billy Klüver, and Earle Brown. The first shipment arrived in 1994. It consisted of 9 linear feet of papers, mostly dating from the 1950s and 1960s and related to Tudor's piano performances. Gale Cohen and John Holzaepfel inventoried and organized this group of material prior to its acquisition. Philip Curtis processed and cataloged the collection in 1995.
    The second shipment, which arrived in 1998, comprised 180 linear feet, covering nearly all aspects of Tudor's life and work. The supplement required extensive organization. Lynda Bunting began this work in June 1998. Farris Wahbeh organized series into chronological order as Bunting identified them. Kelly Nipper conducted final processing on many of the series. Nancy Perloff processed and cataloged small parts of the collection and wrote the Biographical Note. Joy Refuerzo numbered the folders.
    Cataloging and processing of Series I-IX was completed in October 1999. Additions to the collection received in 2001 were processed and integrated in 2001 and 2002 by J. Gibbs: 7 audio tapes of Tudor performing in Darmstadt, donated by John Holzaepfel; personal papers and photographs of Tudor donated by Joy Nemiroff; a drawing for Island Eye Island Ear, donated by Julie Martin and Billy Klüver; and photographs of Tudor donated by Earle Brown.
    From the summer of 1999 to early 2002, John D.S. Adams and Tom Erbe reformatted the audio tapes, except for a few that were damaged and a few blank and duplicate tapes. In 2011 Mary K Woods migrated the digital masters of the audio recordings and made them available online. Connect to digitized audio recordings.   Access to audio recordings of Tudor composisitions is provided for private study, scholarship, and research purposes only. Access to other audio recordings is available only to on-site readers and Getty staff.

    Digitized Audio Recordings

    The audio tapes in Series X were reformatted by John D.S. Adams and Tom Erbe from the summer of 1999 to early 2002. In 2011 Mary K Woods migrated the masters to digital audio files. Connect to digitized audio recordings.   Access is provided for private study, scholarship, and research purposes only. Audio recordings of Tudor composisitions are available online. Access to other audio recordings is available only to on-site Readers and Getty staff.

    Separated Material

    620 published scores, books and periodicals were transferred to the Getty Research Library in 7 separate actions. These items may be accessed by searching the Library's catalog. Search by Provenance: "David Tudor" to see a list of these materials.
    3 linear feet (6 boxes) of maps, travel brochures, junk mail, catalogs and advertisements, all non-music related, were deaccessioned March 1999. 3 linear feet (5 boxes) of travel brochures, junk mail, catalogs, out of scope clippings and newspapers, and objects were deaccessioned August 1999. 4.5 linear feet (9 boxes, 1 oversize folder) of recipe clippings, ephemera related to food, health and gardening, and unused postcards were deaccessioned September 1999.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection comprehensively depicts David Tudor's participation in post-World War II experimental and avant-garde music. Scores by other composers, notably John Cage, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Sylvano Bussotti and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tudor's realizations of their scores, and his electronic compositional materials, form the most significant part of the collection. Extensive project files concern the scheduling and development of his piano concerts and electronic compositions. Electronic research files with equipment catalogs and notes show how Tudor taught himself complicated mathmatics, equipment systems, and circuitry in order to gain the requisite technical knowledge to compose his electronic work. Articles and reviews, a nearly complete set of Tudor's programs, a large collection of audio tapes, videotapes, and photographs augment the documentation of his performing and composing activities.
    Letters from colleagues and friends, dating from 1938-1996, exhibit the respect and devotion Tudor commanded as a serious interpreter and creator of avant-garde music. The collection also contains personal effects, including recipes, notes, and various materials concerning his spiritual beliefs, and his financial records.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Tudor, David, 1926-1996

    Subjects - Topics

    Aleatory music
    Avant-garde (Music)
    Electronic music
    Music -- Interpretation (Phrasing, dynamics, etc.)
    Musical sketches

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographs -- 20th century
    Scores -- 20th century


    Jennings, Terry
    Kagel, Mauricio
    Fine, Albert
    Ichiyanagi, Toshi, 1933-
    Experiments in Art and Technology (Organization)
    Tudor, David, 1926-1996
    Feldman, Morton, 1926-1987
    Cross, Lowell M.
    Cunningham, Merce
    Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 1928-2007
    Young, La Monte
    Ono, Yōko
    Corner, Philip
    Richards, Mary Caroline
    Nilsson, Bo
    Wolpe, Stefan
    Oliveros, Pauline, 1932-2016
    Wolff, Christian, 1934-
    Lucier, Alvin
    Merce Cunningham Dance Company
    Viola, Bill, 1951-
    Cowell, Henry, 1897-1965
    Cardew, Cornelius
    Cage, John
    Bussotti, Sylvano
    Brown, Earle, 1926-2002
    Brecht, George
    Boulez, Pierre, 1925-2016
    Biel, Michael von