Oral Histories

Interview of Roy Harris

Composer and educator.
Subtitle:
Composer of American Music
Topic:
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Music
Interviewer:
Schippers, Donald J. and Tusler, Adelaide G.
Interviewee:
Harris, Roy
Persons Present:
Tapes I to VI: Harris and Schippers; Tapes VII to XVII: Harris and Tusler.
Place Conducted:
Harris's home in Pacific Palisades, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
Tapes I to VI were conducted by Donald J. Schippers, Interviewer-Editor, Oral History Program, UCLA; B.A., UCLA; M.A., American history, Occidental College; M.L.S., library service, UCLA. Tapes VII to XVII were conducted by Adelaide Tusler, Interviewer-Editor, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., music, UCLA; M.L.S., UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
Editing was done by the UCLA Oral History Program staff. Harris did not review the transcript. There is no Tape VIII, Side One.
Length:
24 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Abstract:
Acuteness of early sound perceptions; mother's skill on piano and guitar; composing Ninth Symphony; Harris's works performed by Eugene Ormandy and Philadelphia Orchestra; nonconformist family influences; attending University of California, Berkeley; quitting college to study music with Arthur Farwell; discovery of harmony; challenges in music composition; relationship of creative artist to his subconscious; position of the artist in society; shifting trends in music; music sold on Madison Avenue; need to work in creative isolation; commodity versus aesthetic necessities; universities and the artist; humanities versus materialism; Beethoven's string quartets; fashions in dissonance; nature of creativity; economic relationships between creative artists and institutions or individuals; artists as educators; American audiences; education of popular taste; avant-garde audiences; deterioration of musical comedy; character defined as power of decision and action; Johana Harris's musical talent and other qualities; father's background and personality; studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris; difference between evangelism and ecclesiasticism; influence of Serge Koussevitzky; Boston Symphony Orchestra; value of emotional vitality in music; music as time-space language; studying music at University of California, Southern Branch; Frances Wright, head, music department; determination to be composer; sociology and philosophy studies at Berkeley; beginning to write music, 1920s, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York; patrons; César Franck's influence; Alma Wertheim; Beethoven, Bach, Josquin des Prez; importance of counterpoint and harmony; Johana Harris and Arturo Toscanini; new school of American music: Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston; Harris living in France; Guggenheim fellowship; return to Southern California; high point of American popular music, 1930s; trip to Russia, 1958; conducting Harris's Fifth Symphony in Moscow; Prokofiev's Stone Flower ballet performed, Kirov Theater, Leningrad; premiere performance of Harris's Fifth Symphony by Koussevitzky and Boston Symphony, 1933; meeting Johana at Juilliard School summer school; residency at Cornell University; music as language of communication related to inflections and dynamics of spoken word; writing ballet scores for Hanya Holm; conducting; Henry A. Wallace, the Progressive Party, and Joseph McCarthy; musical director, Office of War Information; Utah State University, Logan; Mormons and music; Cumberland Festival, Nashville; folk music of blacks in the United States, 1950s; Mellon Foundation and Pittsburgh Symphony; attacks by Judge Musmanno, 1952; confrontation before American Legion; music festival, Pittsburgh; first performances of Seventh Symphony; Toscanini; other works written in Pittsburgh; move to UCLA, 1960; living in Puerto Rico; regional impact of universities; Los Angeles music critics; Wilfred Bane and Indiana University; formation of String Congress; heading music institute, San Germán, Puerto Rico; stratification of society in Puerto Rico and American South; traditional versus avant-garde in music; rejection of melody and form; Harris as contemporary classicist; composer's relationship with his creative psyche.