Oral Histories

Interview of Roy Harris

Composer and educator.
Composer of American Music
Interviews not in a series, part one
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Biographical Note:
Composer and educator.
Schippers, Donald J. and Tusler, Adelaide G.
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.
24 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
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.