Blog topic: Manuscripts

Henry Cowell, The Harp of Life (detail showing tone clusters)

Henry Cowell's tone clusters and The Harp of Life

May 23, 2017
by Ray Heigemeir

The maverick composer Henry Cowell wrote the solo piano work, The Harp of Life, in Menlo Park in 1925; it was later incorporated into the suite, Four Irish Tales, for piano and orchestra (1940). The original holograph score is held in the Memorial Library of Music in Stanford’s Department of Special Collections (MLM 232C). Accompanying correspondence from Cowell’s widow, Sydney, notes that only a few of Cowell’s 25 or so manuscripts employing tone clusters have survived, this being one. The Harp of Life refers to a great cosmic harp, upon which a plucked string announces the birth of a new being. Cowell’s tone clusters create an aural celestial environment within which the harp is played.

Aida manuscript detail

Aida in Paris at the Théâtre Italien, 1876

April 3, 2017

At the December 7, 2015 auction at Sotheby’s London, the Stanford Libraries acquired a manuscript copy of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida, used for the performances at the Théâtre Italien in Paris in 1876. The manuscript, which will be housed in the Department of Special Collections, was the focus of a seminar, Music 310: Aida in Paris (and Beyond) taught by Professor Heather Hadlock of the Music Department in Fall 2016. Seminar participants were Kelly Christensen, Kirstin Haag, Michael Kinney, Tyler Mitchell, Ben Ory and David Wilson.

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