Special Collections Department
PAUL BOWLES, 1910-1999
Bowles is somewhat unique in the annals of American literature, in that
for much of his life he maintained a successful career as a composer of
music. Indeed, until the publication of The Sheltering Sky in 1949,
he was probably better known for his music than for his writing, and even
at the height of his fame as a writer he was still accepting commissions
to compose music for the theater. Bowles has written of his interest in
music as a child, but it was his introduction to the composer Aaron Copland
in 1929 that marked the true beginning of his music career. Copland became
his teacher and Bowles traveled extensively in Europe with him, meeting
literary figures such as Ezra Pound, Jean Cocteau, Christopher Isherwood,
and Gertrude Stein. It was Stein, in fact, who advised Bowles to visit
Tangier, and he first traveled to Morocco, with Copland, in 1931.
Virgil Thomson also had a profound influence upon Bowles's music career. In 1936, Thomson helped Bowles obtain his first major theatrical commission, the score for the John Houseman/Orson Welles production of Horse Eats Hat (1936). Bowles worked on other plays under the auspices of Houseman's Group Theatre and went on to become one of the most successful composers of American theater music, writing scores for plays by William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, and other dramatists. Bowles also wrote orchestration for ballets, notably Yankee Clipper and Pastorela for Lincoln Kirstein's American Ballet Caravan. Tennessee Williams and Bowles became close friends and Bowles wrote the music for some of Williams's
greatest plays, including The Glass Menagerie, Summer and Smoke, Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. Bowles also collaborated with Williams on a number of songs. In 1942, Virgil Thomson arranged for Bowles to be hired as the music critic for The New York Herald Tribune. Bowles held this position for nearly four years and wrote over four hundred articles and reviews for the Herald Tribune before he resigned in February 1946.
Another significant musical relationship for Bowles was his friendship with the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks. She lived in America from 1942 to 1959 and, in 1948, followed Bowles in the position of music critic for The New York Herald Tribune. Glanville-Hicks wrote three songs set to poems written by Bowles for her piece Ballade (1949). Another of her compositions, Letters
11. Two Portraits:
for Piano. [New York]:
| from Morocco,
used text from Bowles's letters to her, and was premiered at the Museum
of Modern Art in a 1953 performance conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The
1999 addition to the Paul Bowles papers includes a substantial group of
letters from Glanville-Hicks which documents their close friendship.
Paul Bowles had a lifelong fascination with the indigenous music of other cultures, intensified by his travels in Latin America and North Africa, and later the Far East. Characterizing his work in theater, film, and ballet as "functional music," Bowles said that he found the "primitive" music of South American and African cultures satisfying to his philosophical and emotional interests in composition. In 1959, Bowles received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to record the indigenous music of Morocco for the Library of Congress. For the next two years, he spent much
| over the past two decades. His music has also
been performed in concerts, including major concerts in Paris (1994) and
New York (1995), both of which Bowles attended as the guest of honor.
A festschrift, Paul Bowles's Music (Eos Music Inc., 1995), was
published in conjunction with the New York concert. At the time of his
death in November 1999, Paul Bowles had reclaimed his place as an American
composer of significance.
The University of Delaware Library's collections house a wealth of resources relating to Paul Bowles's musical pursuits. Examples of Bowles's published music, sound recordings, material relating to Bowles's research on Moroccan music, manuscripts, correspondence, and ephemeral materials are present. Of particular interest are fifty reel-to-reel audiotapes which arrived with the 1999 additions to the Paul Bowles papers. The tapes include performances of jazz and classical music which Bowles apparently recorded from records and radio broadcasts, literary recordings, Moroccan music, and unidentified recordings.
Music: Items in the Exhibition
9. "Ainsi Parfois Nos Seuils," in Cos Cob: Song
Volume. [New York]: Boosey & Hawkes, 1935.
10. Green Songs. Text by Richard Thoma.
[New York]: Éditions de la Vipère, .
11. Two Portraits: for Piano. [New York]: Éditions de la Vipère, [ca. 1936].
9. Cos Cob: Song Volume. [New York]: Boosey & Hawkes, 1935.
|The composition date of Bowles's "Portrait of K.M.C." is noted "Topsfield July 1935"; "Portrait of B.A.M."|
10. Green Songs.
Text by Richard Thoma.
is dated June 1934.
12. My Heart's in the Highlands: a Play,
by William Saroyan. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939.
13. Huapango: El Sol, No. 2: for Piano Solo.
Providence, R.I.: Axelrod Publications, .
Tamaulipas and Vera Cruz." Bowles's first Huapango used actual folk music; "El Sol, No. 2" "represents a greater abstraction of the form."
14. Baby, Baby: from On Whitman Avenue: a
Lullaby. New York: Mercury Music Corp., .
15. Carretera de Estepona (Highway to Estepona):
Piano Solo. New York: Marks Edition, .
16. Folk Preludes: for Piano Solo. New
York: Mercury Music Corporation, .
17. Harold Newman to Paul Bowles, typed letter
signed, November 27, 1948, 1 p., with Paul Bowles's signature of agreement.
18. [Notes on Musicological Recordings from Morocco].
Typescript and carbon typescript with autograph corrections, 1959-1962,
19. "Cross Country." Autograph manuscript signed, dated "Tanger 21/III/76," 4 pp.
"Cross Country," music for two pianos, was first performed at a concert offered by the Southbay Friends of
Music in Los Angeles, California, in March 1976. Hannetta Clark, a friend of Bowles, was one of the duo-pianists performing the piece.
21a. The American School of Tangier Presents
Oscar Wilde's Salomé. Program for production at Palais du
Marshan [Tangier], in English & Arabic, June 14, 15, 16, 17, 1993.
21b. "Salomé by Oscar Wilde." [Tangier: The
American School of Tangier, 1993.] Bound typescript copy
with autograph notations, 55 pp.
composed the music for nine theatrical productions at the American School of Tangier.
22. Nocturne for Two Pianos; Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet; Sonata for Flute and Piano; Cuatro
Canciones de García Lorca; Four Miniatures
for Piano; Scènes d'Anabase [sound recording]. Port Washington, N.Y.:
23. "Paul Bowles Music." Publicity poster, September
19 & 21, 1995.
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