Academic journal article Notes

The Roger Reynolds Collection at the Library of Congress

Academic journal article Notes

The Roger Reynolds Collection at the Library of Congress

Article excerpt

One of the foremost living American composers, Roger Reynolds (b. 1934), and his music are well known by those who follow the contemporary music scene in America. Critic and musicologist Kyle Gann noted that Reynolds was "the first composer since Ives from an experimentalist background to win the normally conservative Pulitzer Prize for music," (1) a paradox that points to one of the key facts of Reynolds's music. In a general sense, his music blends aspects of the European avant-garde and American experimental traditions; the influence of the former is apparent in Reynolds's text usage, spatialization, and theatrical elements, while that of the latter can be glimpsed in his innovative formal designs, expansion of serial techniques, editing procedures, and sophisticated use of electroacoustic technologies.

Until recently, a moderate number of resources were available to scholars and artists interested in Reynolds's music, including scores published by Edition Peters and numerous commercial recordings; (2) the composer's Web site; several journal articles and book entries, most notably in Perspectives of New Music and Music Perception; and the composer's own books: Mind Models, A Searcher's Path, and Form and Method. (3) These books present a detailed self-examination of this composer's work; the first-listed title outlines Reynolds's more general views on art, music, and society, while the latter two detail aspects of his compositional approach. The Roger Reynolds Collection at the Library of Congress, established in 1998, significantly expands the resources available for the study of this composer's life and music. Through this essay, I discuss the genesis of the Roger Reynolds Collection, present an overview of the materials currently housed in the archive, and provide some information about future plans for the collection.

Reynolds feels that his music and compositional methodology lend themselves particularly to archival preservation and study. On this topic, the composer commented:

    Firstly, because of my background, it happened that my practice--
  from the beginning--involved making very detailed preparatory plans,
  sketches, etc., so there was an unusually detailed record of my
  "creative process." This had potential interest to scholars and
  librarians: an opportunity to "look behind the scenes." As I was
  increasingly asked to lecture about my work, these sketches came in
  handy as ways of instantiating what I was lecturing about.
    Several publications about my ways as a composer followed, in
  journals and in book form. It was not only that I wished, of course,
  to have my own music understood, but also that there has been a
  notable lack of evidence regarding how later twentieth-century
  composers did their work: about the methods, ideals, etc. As I had the
  evidence, so to speak, it made sense to put it out there where
  teachers and students could examine, embrace, reject, whatever.
    Secondly, my work often--but not inevitably--involves the
  intertwining of technology with notated vocal and instrumental
  materials. It seems probable that the place of technology--already
  prominent in virtually all other aspects of music--will eventually
  become more central also to so-called "concert music." In this case,
  libraries and scholars will have to deal with this reality in time.
  There is also, of course, the matter of the web. (4)

Karen Reynolds, the composer's flutist wife, is largely responsible for taking early initiative to locate a repository for her husband's scores, sketches, and private papers, a process that began in the mid 1990s. Commenting on this initial impetus, Roger Reynolds stated:

    There were several reasons for looking into the question of assuring
  that my materials--they were, indeed, a product of our partnership in
  a larger sense--would be cared for and preserved. Karen and I had led
  a very itinerant existence, and at the outset, as we moved from France
  to Italy to Japan and then back to the US, a good deal of what we had
  done (correspondence, photos, sketches, concert programs and the like)
  had been lost. … 
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