Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Jack Beeson papers, 1933-2010

Summary Information

Abstract

Jack Beeson (1921-2010) was a noted twentieth-century American composer, professor of composition, and the chair of the Columbia University Department of Music from 1968 to 1972. The collection includes scores, correspondence, subject files, scrapbooks, datebooks, drafts of written works, biographical materials, programs, and audio and audiovisual recordings.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0097
Bib ID 4079092 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Beeson, Jack, 1921-2010
Title Jack Beeson papers, 1933-2010
Physical Description 46.5 linear feet (46 linear feet 56 document boxes 12 flat boxes 10 record storage cartons 1 CD box)
Language(s) English .
Access

The following boxes are located off-site: 2-80. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

If you would like to use audiovisual materials in Series X, please contact the library to discuss access options as most of these materials have not been reformatted and are not readily available for use.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in twelve series and several subseries. Series I: Composition Diary; Series II: Biographical Materials; Series III: Musical Works; Series IV: Written Works Subseries IV.1: "The Book"; Subseries IV.2: Articles; Series V: Scrapbooks Subseries V.1: Musical works scrapbooks; Subseries V.2: "The Book" scrapbook; Subseries V.3: Personal scrapbooks; Series VI: Correspondence Subseries VI.1: "VIP" correspondence; Subseries VI.2: Miscellaneous correspondence; Series VII: Subject Files Subseries VII.1: Professional subject files; Subseries VII.2: Personal subject files; Series VIII: Datebooks, 1964-2009; Series IX: Programs Subseries IX.1: Programs with works by Beeson; Subseries IX.2: Programs with works by others; Series X: Multimedia Subseries X.1: Audio recordings; Subseries X.2: Audiovisual recordings; Subseries X.3: Other multimedia; Series XI: Works by other authors Subseries XI.1: Written works by other authors Sub-subseries XI.1.1: Periodicals; Sub-subseries XI.1.2: Dissertations and papers; Sub-subseries XI.1.3: Books; Sub-subseries XI.1.4: Catalogues, bibliographies, and conference proceedings; Subseries XI.2: Musical works by other authors Sub-subseries XI.2.1: Scores; Sub-subseries XI.2.2: Libretti; Series XII: Additions to the Collection

Description

Summary

Jack Beeson (1921-2010) was a noted American composer and teacher of composition. Beeson's papers include a composition diary, biographical materials, scores, written works, scrapbooks, correspondence, files, datebooks, programs, and audio and audiovisual recordings, as well as written and musical works by other authors.

The strength of the collection is the documentation of Beeson's activities as a composer. Beeson recorded each of his compositions in a composition diary, which details all drafts, performances, and published versions of each work. Almost all of the works recorded in the diary are represented in the papers by drafts and holographs, and often by published scores as well. Documentation of Beeson's numerous operas includes drafts of libretti as well as background research materials (including some abandoned ideas for operas). In addition, Beeson's scrapbooks include clippings, correspondence, photographs, programs, promotional material, reviews, interviews, and other material related to his compositions. As well, his personal subject files and correspondence document his activities as a composer, including correspondence with publishers, performers, librettists, and other composers and collaborators. Copyright files are still held by Beeson's daughter, Miranda Beeson, at this time, and may be added to the collection at a future date.

The papers also contain documentation of Beeson's work as a professor and administrator at Columbia University's Department of Music, where he was ultimately appointed MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music. These activities include helping to establish doctorate programs in composition, theory, and ethnomusicology, and working to enlarge the University's commitment to the arts, as well as teaching many cohorts of composition students. There is also documentation of Beeson's participation in many New York-based and national organizations for the arts (particularly for the promotion and support of new American music), including the Pulitzer Prize music committee, Composers Recordings, Inc., the American Music Center, Composers' Forum, American Composers Alliance, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia.

The multimedia component of the papers includes commercially produced audio recordings of several of Beeson's works. Audiovisual and photographic documentation are sparse. There are a few original visual works including sketches of sets and characters for Beeson's operas. Many photographs are still held by Beeson's family; these may be added to the collection at a future date.

The papers include little documentation of Beeson's family life. The "JB" scrapbooks contain mostly published photos and interviews relating mainly to Beeson's musical activities; as well, most of his correspondence relates to professional and artistic activities and relationships. Beeson does document his family life in his autobiography/memoir, How Operas Are Created by Composers and Librettists: The Life of Jack Beeson, American Opera Composer.

  • Series I: Composition diary

    Beeson logged all of his works (including dates and locations of composition and of performances of them) in this diary, referred to by Beeson as the "Latouche book." Beeson used his own system of numbering his works in this diary, referred to by him as "Latouche numbers" (a personal system of opus numbers not used by his publisher or in any of Beeson's published writing about his works). This system has been used to chronologically organize the records in this collection. Works prior to 1956 were recorded and backdated, and the total number of logged works at the time of Beeson's death was 136. The Latouche book can be used as a comprehensive guide to Beeson's composition activities.

    The Latouche book is represented here by a facsimile reference copy. There is also a microfilm copy available for reference: MN#2010-7007. Please request access to the original book if required.

  • Series II: Biographical Materials

    This series contains materials that include biographical information on or related to Beeson: yearbooks, awards, published interviews, obituaries, and programs for his memorial concert at Columbia University.

  • Series III: Musical Works

    This series contains documents pertaining to original works composed by Beeson. The bulk of the series is comprised of sketches, drafts, holographs, and published scores, but the series also includes related research material, libretto drafts, notes, and correspondence. Almost all of Beeson's works logged in his composition diary are represented here, excepting a few early works; most include a draft with markings and a final-version holograph transparency in the composer's hand.

    The series is arranged chronologically by work according to Beeson's "Latouche numbers" (his own system of opus numbers; see Series I). Within each work, materials are arranged in approximate chronological order. The series begins with fourteen spiral notebooks of early sketches and drafts composed while at Eastman, which include sketches and drafts of early Latouche-numbered works, as well as some early compositions not recorded in the Latouche book.

  • Series IV: Written Works, circa

    This series contains drafts and published copies of written works by Beeson, divided into two subseries. The bulk of the first subseries is a handwritten first draft of Beeson's autobiography, How Operas Are Created by Composers and Librettists: The Life of Jack Beeson, American Opera Composer, which Beeson termed "The Book." The second subseries includes typescript drafts of "The Autobiography of Lizzie Borden" (later published as an article in Opera Quarterly and as a chapter of The Book), and two issues of the journal Current Musicology with articles by Beeson.

  • Series V: Scrapbooks

    This series contains scrapbooks created by Beeson, where he collected materials pertaining to his life and his works. The scrapbooks include news clippings, correspondence, programs and pamphlets, research materials, notes, and photographs. The series is divided into three subseries: scrapbooks pertaining to Beeson's musical works, to Beeson's autobiography ("The Book"), and to Beeson's life and hobbies (the "JB" scrapbooks).

  • Series VI: Correspondence, circa

    This series contains the bulk of Beeson's correspondence. It is divided into two subseries: the first, containing correspondence with individuals whom Beeson deemed "VIP," is arranged chronologically by item; the second, containing miscellaneous correspondence, is arranged chronologically by 6-month or 12-month (academic year) periods.

    This series contains mainly Beeson's miscellaneous personal correspondence, as well as some correspondence relating to Columbia University Department of Music activities. Much of Beeson's correspondence relating to his capacity as professor, chairman, board member, and elected official at Columbia University and numerous arts organizations within and outside of the university is contained in the Subject Files (Series VII), labeled by department or organization. Frequent correspondence with some key individuals, such as Otto Luening, Douglas Moore, John Updike, and several of Beeson's collaborators and colleagues, are also found in the Subject Files (Series VII), under the surname of the correspondent. Some correspondence relating to the composition and performance of Beeson's works is contained in the Musical Works series (Series III), and in Beeson's scrapbooks (Series V).

  • Series VII: Subject Files, circa

    This series contains papers related to Beeson's roles as a professor, administrator, and composer. It is divided into two subseries, loosely titled "professional" and "personal." The "professional" subseries relates to Beeson's activities at Columbia University, while the "personal" subseries includes documents pertaining to music- and arts-related activities outside of his professional appointments, and also includes research for composition projects, and correspondence with figures in the arts.

  • Series VIII: Datebooks

    This series includes approximately one datebook per year from 1964 to 2009. 1974 is missing, and there are two books each for 1968 and 1970.

  • Series IX: Programs

    This series includes loose programs from concerts attended by Beeson, and is divided into two subseries: concerts featuring works by Beeson, and concerts without works by Beeson. The series is small, as many programs are incorporated into the scrapbooks (Series V), correspondence (Series VI), and subject files (Series VII).

  • Series X: Multimedia, 1965-2013 undated

    This series includes audio, audiovisual, and assorted other materials relating to performances of Beeson's compositions.

  • Series XI: Works by Other Authors, 1854-2002 undated

    This series contains works by other authors in Beeson's personal collection that are inscribed or annotated by Beeson or others. It is divided in two subseries. The first subseries contains books, articles, and dissertations (i.e. written works), and the second contains scores and libretti (i.e. musical works).

  • Series XII: Additions to the Collection

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

The following boxes are located off-site: 2-80. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

If you would like to use audiovisual materials in Series X, please contact the library to discuss access options as most of these materials have not been reformatted and are not readily available for use.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes, except that permission is required to copy musical scores. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Jack Beeson papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Surveyed Christina Hilton Fenn 04/03/89.

Papers processed by Emily Clark (GSAS) 2014-2015.

Finding aid written by Emily Clark 2015.

Revision Description

2009-06-26 File created.

2015-02-18 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Scores (documents for music) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Beeson, Jack, 1921-2010 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College teachers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- : Music Department Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Faculty Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Composers -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Elmslie, Kenward Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harnick, Sheldon Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Moore, Douglas, 1893-1969 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Music -- United States -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Opera -- United States -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Jack Beeson, 1921-2010, composed over 120 works and was known primarily for his work in opera, song, and other vocal genres.

Born on July 15, 1921 in Muncie, Indiana, Beeson began piano lessons with Luella Weimer in 1928 at the age of seven, discovered a love of opera through the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts, and began to compose in 1933. Beeson did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto's Conservatory of Music, 1933-1938, and his graduate work at the Eastman School of Music, 1939-1944. Subsequently, he moved to New York City to study privately with Bela Bartok from 1944 to 1945. Through a chance encounter with the composer Otto Luening (later Beeson's mentor), Beeson was invited to attend Columbia's Opera Workshop, and thus began a lifelong relationship with Columbia University (where he eventually became MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music) and the new American music scene in New York.

Beeson is perhaps best known for his ten operas, including Hello Out There (1953), The Sweet Bye and Bye (1958), Lizzie Borden (1965), My Heart's in the Highlands (1969), Cyrano (1994), and Sorry, Wrong Number (1999). His best known and most widely performed work, Lizzie Borden, was produced for television in 1967, became a signature piece of the New York City Opera, and was telecast again by PBS in 1999. Despite his teaching and administrative duties and his involvement with many New York arts organizations, Beeson maintained separate time and space for a very active life as a composer, including a two-year sojourn in Rome, from 1948 to 1950, funded by the Prix de Rome and a Fulbright scholarship, where he completed his first opera. His musical collaborators included librettists Kenward Elmslie and Sheldon Harnick.

At Columbia, Beeson served as chair of the Department of Music from 1968 to 1972, during which time he helped to establish doctorate programs in composition, theory, and ethnomusicology. He also worked to enlarge the University's commitment to the arts, convincing the Mellon Fund to commit $250,000 to expand offerings in film, writing, and theater. Notable students of Beeson's include Charles Wuorinen, John Kander, Phillip Ramey, Alice Shields, Joan Tower, Harvey Sollberger, Michael Rosenzweig, Bright Sheng, Mark Birnbaum, Richard Einhorn.

Beeson also participated in numerous organizations related to the promotion of American composers and American music, including board member and elected official positions at Composers Recordings, Inc., the American Music Center, Composers' Forum, American Composers Alliance, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia. He also served on the Pulitzer Prize music committee. Beeson retired formally in 1988, but continued his involvement with Columbia as a member of the Society of Senior Scholars, in addition to continued informal teaching activities and participation with many organizations up until his death on June 6, 2010.