These noncommercial music and spoken word recordings were collected by Henry Cowell and primarily consist of his own compositions and lectures, as well as numerous field recordings of folk and ethnic music. Additional recordings contain music by modern Western composers, including unique recordings of works by John J. Becker.
Biographical/historical: Henry Cowell (3/11/1897 - 12/10/1965) was an American composer of symphonic and chamber music. He studied violin with Henry Holmes, and composition with E.G. Strickland and Wallace Sabin at the University of California in Berkeley. He also studied with Walter Damrosch at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, and with Charles Seeger.
Cowell became the first American composer to visit Russia in 1928, after which, he studied ethnomusicology with Erich von Hornbostel in Berlin as a Guggenheim fellow. These persuits led him toward extensive study of ethnic musical materials.
Cowell made great use of tone clusters. He systematized the clusters as harmonic amplifications of tonal chords, and devised logical notation for them. He ultimately applied tone clusters to compositions for instrumental works (in addition to piano works), and also used them in many of his symphonic works.