Scope and arrangement
The Arthur Berger papers document 20th century music from both a critic and composer’s perspective. In the former, Berger’s papers contain seven decades of reviews and other writings, and files on many of the century’s classical music achievements and shortcomings. The other significant parts of the collection are scores for Berger’s compositions, and sheet music used by him throughout his career. While the collection does not contain his earliest informal work, there are some personal items from the first twenty years of his life, notably photographs.
The Arthur Berger papers are arranged in eleven series:
- 1932 - 2004, undated0.94 linear feet (2.25 boxes
The correspondence series provides a wealth of information about Berger and his role in 20th century American music. Reflected in the letters are his professional and personal relationships with many influential composers, such as Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky. The largest exchange of correspondence is found in the Perspectives of New Music folders, which follows the creation of the periodical, and details the arguments between Berger and his co-editor, Benjamin Boretz, during the summer of 1963. The general correspondence section of the series demonstrates his wide reach as a composer and critic.
- 1937 - 2003, undated0.21 linear feet (0.5 box
This series sums up Berger’s personal life with biographical information such as entries submitted to Who’s Who in America, and other personal items (e.g. passports, yearbook). A small folder of note regards Berger’s relationship with the Selective Service during World War II.
- 1931 - 2004, undated1.56 linear feet (3.75 boxes
The materials found in this series maintain Berger’s organization scheme. He grouped items such as programs, clippings, correspondence, and program notes by the piece of music they related to; the only change made to these folders was to order the contents chronologically. The folders at the end of the series (box 7) are a group of programs arranged chronologically that were not part of the above method. Included here are also programs for lectures given by Berger, and radio shows that featured his work.
- 1930 - 1999, undated2.36 linear feet (5.67 boxes
This series follows Berger’s organization, with the folder contents retained where possible. New folders were created, and materials added to others to compensate for the many items in his papers that were not organized. The value of these files can be found on at least two different levels. One, they demonstrate Berger’s areas of interest beyond music. Two, they offer more information about people found in the correspondence series.
- c.1929 - 2003, undated2.5 linear feet (6 boxes
One of the larger series, Berger’s writings include both articles he wrote as a music critic, and drafts of the two books he wrote, Aaron Copland and Reflections of an American Composer (his memoirs). Many of his early reviews were collected in scrapbooks, of which preservation photocopies were made and original order preserved. Due to the poor condition of the original copies, many articles are not complete, but often the title and date are decipherable. This series also contains drafts of several lectures by Berger, two folders of program notes, several writings on Stravinsky, and the transcription of an interview with Yale University’s Oral History Project.
- 1930 - 1962, undated
This series is divided into two subseries that contain Berger’s college and post-graduate schoolwork, and materials from his academic career.
- 1945, undated0.21 linear feet (15 folders
This series consists of sketches and notes that Berger prepared to analyze works by a specific composer. There is no information in the collection that identifies what Berger used these analyses for. Please see Series XI, Oversized Materials, for more analyses.
- c.1918 - 2003, undated0.10 linear feet (4 folders
The photographs trace Berger’s life from youth to old age, and complement the other papers in the collection. Included in the first folder are two snapshots of Berger with Copland. Berger’s widow identified many of the photographs and gave at least a general idea of date and place.
- 1932 - 2002, undated4 linear feet (12 boxes
The scores series fills out Berger’s professional life, and demonstrates how much work he put into his compositions. Nearly every piece includes sketches, and many have multiple drafts of the score with corrections or other notes. Also found in this series are unpublished scores by other composers, most of which are either dedicated or inscribed to Berger. More scores are in Series XI, Oversized Materials.
- 1905 - 1962, undated3 linear feet (9 boxes
The sheet music in this collection is either annotated or inscribed. In the former case the amount of annotations vary by piece, which is why some folders note “few annotations.” There are seven pieces by Aaron Copland that he inscribed; other notable inscriptions include one piece of sheet music from Walter Piston, and two from Stravinsky.
- 1937 - 1995, undated1.34 linear feet (4 boxes
Analyses and scores form the bulk of the oversized materials series. Also of note is a plaque and medal awarded posthumously to Berger by ASCAP for the publication of his memoirs.