University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


PAUL BOWLES, 1910-1999


MUSIC

Paul 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

2 Portraits

11. Two Portraits: for Piano. [New York]:
Éditions de la Vipère, [ca. 1936].

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

Notes on Musicological Recordings from Morocco

18. [Notes on Musicological Recordings from Morocco].
Typescript and carbon typescript with
autograph corrections, 1959-1962

of his time traveling through Morocco recording music performed by native musicians in small towns and villages. His tapes were subsequently sent to the Library of Congress's Music Division and in 1972 a selection of the music Bowles recorded was issued in a two-volume LP record set.

By the late-1960s, Paul Bowles's energies were directed more towards his writing, and less frequently towards music. Interest in his music began to wane in the 1970s and his work as a composer was largely forgotten. During the 1980s, however, there was a resurgence of interest in Bowles as a new generation of composers, musicians, and musicologists discovered his music. In 1984, Peter Garland published a collection of Bowles's Selected Songs, and a number of well-received recordings featuring Bowles's music have been released

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.
Under the patronage of Mrs. Alma Morgenthau Wertheim, of Cos Cob, Connecticut, Aaron Copland arranged performances of music and publication of works by his friends in the "new generation of American composers." Bowles's song is a section from his chamber piece for tenor, oboe, and piano, Scènes d'Anabase, which was inspired by Saint-John Perse's 1924 poem about a journey across the Gobi desert.

10. Green Songs. Text by Richard Thoma. [New York]: Éditions de la Vipère, [1935].
Published on his own label, Éditions de la Vipère, Bowles composed Green Songs to the text by Richard Thoma, whom he had met on his second trip to Paris. The composition date of Green Songs is noted "New York, Mar. 1935."

11. Two Portraits: for Piano. [New York]: Éditions de la Vipère, [ca. 1936].

Cos Cob

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."

Green Songs

10. Green Songs. Text by Richard Thoma.
[New York]: Éditions de la Vipère, [1935].

is dated June 1934.

12. My Heart's in the Highlands: a Play, by William Saroyan. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939.
Paul Bowles composed the music for Saroyan's experimental play, which was produced by the Group Theatre in New York in April 1939. The play received widespread notice as critics praised the work but were confused by its short simplicity. Reviewers said Bowles's music "sweetens the occasion" and was "evocative and effective," "just the right music," and "a little weird." The title music by Paul Bowles, "My Heart's in the Highlands," appears on pages 105-108 in this book.

13. Huapango: El Sol, No. 2: for Piano Solo. Providence, R.I.: Axelrod Publications, [1939].
Inspired by his visits to Mexico, Bowles translated folk tales which appeared in his Tropical Americana issue of View (1945) and wrote two piano compositions he titled Huapango No. 1 and Huapango No. 2. According to the sheet music, "The Huapangowas originally a dance-form native to the provinces of

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., [1946].
The lyrics of Baby, Baby are by William Saroyan. A publisher's advertisement on the last page announces "Another piano solo by Paul Bowles in the Mercury Catalog of Distinguished Contemporary Music, 'El Bejuco'."

15. Carretera de Estepona (Highway to Estepona): Piano Solo. New York: Marks Edition, [1947].
Contemporary Composers Series.

16. Folk Preludes: for Piano Solo. New York: Mercury Music Corporation, [1947].
Bowles's interest in the folk idiom encompassed American tradition. Reflecting "English, Irish, and Negro elements," "Peter Gray," "Ching A Ring Chaw," "Whar Did You Cum From," "Oh! Potatoes They Grow Small Over There," "Cape Ann," "Ole Tare River," and "Kentucky Moonshiner" comprise the sections of Folk Preludes.

17. Harold Newman to Paul Bowles, typed letter signed, November 27, 1948, 1 p., with Paul Bowles's signature of agreement.
On behalf of Hargail Music Press, Harold Newman wrote Paul Bowles for permission to use three of his poems to be set to music by Peggy Glanville-Hicks in her composition, Ballade: [a poem in three parts]. The poems, dating from 1930, were I. "yet in no sleep - , " II. "how in this garden - ," and III. "but no! a slow unchanging circle - ." The sheet music was never distributed by Hargail, as Bowles did not approve of the cover engraving.

18. [Notes on Musicological Recordings from Morocco]. Typescript and carbon typescript with autograph corrections, 1959-1962, 147 pp.
This manuscript consists of notes from field recordings Bowles made during his Rockefeller Grant for the Library of Congress, primarily between August and December, 1959.


Cross Country

19. "Cross Country." Autograph manuscript signed,
dated "Tanger 21/III/76"


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.


20. Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds and Percussion, edited by Peter Garland. Santa Fe: Soundings Press, 1989.
Reproduced from Bowles's holograph manuscript, the piece was written for and premiered by duo-pianists Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale in 1948.

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.
The American School of Tangier presents elaborate annual theatrical productions. Oscar Wilde's Salomé was produced and directed by Joseph A. McPhillips III, headmaster of the school and longtime friend of Bowles. Other creative friends and residents of Tangier contributed their efforts, too, as did artist Marguerite McBey, who designed this program and a poster.

21b. "Salomé by Oscar Wilde." [Tangier: The

Salome

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.

American School of Tangier, 1993.] Bound typescript copy with autograph notations, 55 pp.
The cover of this playscript is marked "for Paul" and the title page is noted "music cues." Paul Bowles

Nocturne for Two Pianos

22. Nocturne for Two Pianos...[sound recording].
Port Washington, N.Y.: KOCH, 1995.

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.: KOCH, 1995.
The pianist Irene Herrmann, Bowles's music heir, has helped reintroduce and record much of Paul Bowles's solo and chamber music repertoire, including this recording.

23. "Paul Bowles Music." Publicity poster, September 19 & 21, 1995.
Paul Bowles was the guest of honor at the inaugural concerts of the Eos Ensemble, conducted by Jonathan Sheffer, at Tishman Auditorium, The New School, and Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, in New York.

 


| Introduction | Poetry | Novels | Short Stories | Translations | Travel Writing | Life Writing |

Return to Paul Bowles Source Page

Return to List of Exhibitions at the University of Delaware Library


for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:
Footer
Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page

This page is maintained by Special Collections

Last modified: 12/21/10
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014