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Library Announces Grant from Mellon Foundation

For Immediate Release
June 26, 2008

Yale University Library Announces Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Support Oral History American Music Project

New Haven, Conn.—Yale University Library today announced that it is has received a grant of $294,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support Yale’s Oral History American Music project (OHAM). The grant will help OHAM transition into a sustained program within the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library.

OHAM is the only ongoing project in the field of music dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs in the voices of musicians and composers. The project’s origins can be traced back to 1968 when Vivian Perlis, then a reference librarian at Yale’s Music Library, began to conduct interviews with individuals who had known and worked with the composer Charles Ives. Her award-winning book, Charles Ives Remembered, was published in 1974 by Yale University Press, and was quickly hailed as a model of how oral history could illuminate the activities of musicians and their place in society.

Following the Ives project, it was evident that there was no systematic scholarly research in place to document the work of musical figures by means of tape-recorded interviews. Several composers had spoken about Ives and themselves, including Arthur Berger, Elliott Carter, Lou Harrison, Bernard Herrmann, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Dane Rudhyar. These formed the nucleus for a broader-based project, Oral History American Music. Since the founding of OHAM, composers have continued to be the project's primary focus and OHAM currently holds over 2,000 interviews with over 900 subjects. Project staff continue to interview major figures in American music.

In addition to the ongoing efforts to document contemporary American music, OHAM is an important archive and provides primary source materials to scholars, arts presenters, students, and radio and television producers. Several highly esteemed musicological publications have been derived directly from OHAM interviews, including Copland: 1900-1942, co-authored by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis; Copland Since 1943, by Copland and Perlis; and the book and CD publication, Composers’ Voices from Ives to Ellington, co-authored by Perlis and OHAM Associate Director Libby Van Cleve. OHAM has recently produced two netcasts on the composers Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. To learn more about OHAM and to listen to the netcasts visit: www.yale.edu/oham/.

For information about Oral History American Music contact:

Kendall Crilly
Associate University Librarian for Program Development & Research
(203) 432-0495