Scope and Contents
The Steven Gerber papers relate to the professional and personal life of American composer Steven R. Gerber. This collection contains five series: “Compositions,” “Business,” “Personal,” “Other Composers,” “Audiovisual.” The Compositions series consists of nine subseries, all related to Gerber compositions. The first six subseries are divided by the type of compositional work, including “Orchestral,” “Chamber,” “Vocal,” “Choral,” “Piano,” and “Other Solo.” They contain sketches, drafts, revisions, and final copies of many of Steven Gerber’s compositions from 1967-2013. The seventh subseries, “Song Texts,” contains loose texts from Gerber’s vocal and choral works. The subseries “Unidentified Drafts,” consists of sketches, drafts, and excerpts that cannot be identified as belonging to a particular work. These are organized by type of work or placed into an “other” folder if the draft cannot be categorized. The final series, “Computer Files,” contains three disks of Finale and PDF files of Gerber scores.
The second series, “Business,” contains papers related to the business side of Gerber’s career. This series contains five subseries: “Financial,” “Legal,” “Publicity,” “Publishing and Writing Guidelines,” and “Musical Writings.” The “Financial” subseries contains payment slips for royalties and ticket sales paid to Gerber in 2014. The “Legal” subseries contains patent/copyright slips 1991-2003 for musical works, copyright contracts 1967-1975 regarding literary texts for which Gerber obtained the rights, publishing contracts from Lauren Keiser and Bomart companies 1978-2015, and and recording contracts 1999-2015. The “Publicity” subseries contains papers related to public relations and premiers. It includes press releases to be sent out 1996-2009 regarding Gerber publishing, performance, and recording news; performance programs in which Gerber music is featured and notices from various companies announcing Gerber musical premieres; and internal documents sent between Gerber and his management relating to the plan for publicizing Gerber’s musical accomplishments. It also contains professional biographies and lists of Gerber composition publications circa 1970-2015; posters from Russian tours and other performances; magazine interviews of Steven Gerber from 2001-2002; original and copied newspaper, magazine, and online reviews of Gerber works and performances from 1980-2013; clippings from Russian newspapers regarding Gerber performances and arts/culture from the period of the tours; and various papers and pamphlets regarding proper procedures for printing, publishing, and writing collected by Gerber. The final subseries, “Musical Writings,” contains essays, composer obituaries, and interviews written by Steven Gerber.
The third series, “Personal,” contains personal documents related to Gerber’s interests, relationships, and social responsibilities. It consists of ten subseries. The first subseries, “Address Books and Contact information,” contains several address books and assorted business cards, as well as notes containing phone numbers and addresses of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. The second subseries, “Calendars and Planners,” contains a 2015 calendar, and planners from 2008, 2009, and 2010 detailing appointments, concerts, and meetings with friends. The subseries “Clippings” contains newspaper, book, and magazine excerpts related to the stock market, and miscellaneous interests. The subseries “Collected Essays and Poems” contains materials collected but not written by Gerber, such as magazine articles regarding music, the economy, literature, international relations, and other intellectual interests, as well as miscellaneous poems, possibly by friend Paul Breslin, who often sent Gerber his drafts. The subseries “Diaries, Notes, and Scrapbooks” contains a travel diary from the 1990 Russia tour, miscellaneous notes, and a scrapbook containing obituaries, stock reports, and newspaper clippings. The subseries “Legal” contains personal legal documents such as leases, Gerber’s birth certificate, and and the estate evaluation of Ellen P. Hymes. The “Photographs” subseries consists of a large number of photographs, most unidentified. The first several folders contain photographs and albums from trips and vacations to locations such as Oaxaca, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. The rest of the subseries contains miscellaneous rolls of film, pictures of friends and family, and photographs of Gerber circa 1960-2015. The “Postcards and Art” subseries contains collected postcards from possible trips, gallery openings programs, and a few pieces of miscellaneous small drawings and paintings. The final subseries, “Miscellaneous Memorabilia,” contains items from Karl Gerber’s birthday, trip itineraries, ticket stubs from musical events and plays, a Gerber family tree, and a package of photocopied diaries/letters from 1948 from an unidentified correspondent in the Navy.
The fourth series, “Correspondence,” contains both business and personal correspondence from 1960-2015; often a single letter will contain both professional and social information concurrently. The first subseries, “Common Correspondents,” contains letters and postcards to and from nineteen correspondents who show up frequently in the collection including friend Paul Breslin, parents Karl and Leona Gerber, and composers Yehudi Wyner, Jan Swafford, and Robert Parris, and publisher/friend Max Schubel. The second subseries, “Professional Correspondence” contains correspondence specifically related to business including letters from publishing companies, nominations for awards by colleagues, notifications of Gerber receiving composing awards, and correspondence from composer-related organizations. The final subseries, “Other Correspondence,” contains invitations to parties, concerts, and events; letters Gerber wrote to editors of publications and their responses, other correspondence 1961-2015; and undated and/or unsigned correspondence circa 1960-2015.
The fourth series, “Other Composers,” contains materials related to other composers and their music. The largest of the three subseries, “Compositions,” is comprised of collected compositions by other composers, which may be of interest to researchers as they are often annotated by Gerber. Some of the compositions were organized into folders by Gerber and retain that order, denoted by the title “Gerber File.” The remaining loose compositions are organized alphabetically. This section includes compositions by Milton Babbitt, Roger Sessions, Robert Parris, Arnold Schoenberg, Arvo Part, Aaron Copland, Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Billy Layton, and others. The majority of the compositions are complete and the composer is known, but some are partial and/or do not state the author. The second subseries, “Song Texts,” is comprised of loose texts used in pieces by other composers. The corresponding works may or may not be present in the collection. Additionally, the subseries contains a collection of the texts and music of the American spirituals which became the basis for Gerber’s multiple settings of “Spirituals” for orchestra and chamber ensembles. The third subseries is titled “Biographies and CVs” and contains the resumes or CVs, as well as biographies, belonging to other composers. The final subseries, “Programs and Works Listings” contains collected programs not featuring Gerber and printed lists of other composers’ musical works.
The final series, “Audiovisual,” consists of audio recordings related to Gerber and others. The subseries “Gerber Recordings” contains professional recordings and public relations samples of Gerber works, as well as informal recordings of Gerber’s, including reel to reel tapes of concerts and early works. The subseries “Miscellaneous Audio” contains informal recordings of other composers and a bibliography of Gerber’s professional CD and cassette tape collection of artists and composers like Gustav Holst, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday.
Steven Roy Gerber was born in Washington, D.C. on September 28th, 1948 to Karl and Leona Gerber. Throughout his adolescence and early adulthood he studied piano and composition with composer Robert Parris, who remained a close friend and mentor until Parris’ death. While attending Haverford College Gerber studied music under Professor John Davison and premiered in his freshman year an atonal piece for piano he had written in high school, the reception of which encouraged him to pursue composition as a career. He spent his junior year of college at Columbia University.
After graduating from Haverford in 1969, Gerber attended Princeton University with a four-year fellowship until 1973. After living briefly in Connecticut, he moved to New York City, where he lived and composed for the majority of his life. As far as musical style, Gerber employed serial composition through the 1970s, influenced by composers such as Milton Babbitt, Joachim Raff, and Yehudi Wyner. He adopted a loose atonal style in the 1980s and tended towards more diatonic and tonal works later in his career, although Gerber himself noted this change was not intentional. He produced numerous works for orchestra, voice, mixed choir, piano, and multiple iterations of chamber and other solo instrumental pieces. His solo vocal and choral works favored the texts from modernist poets such as Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens, and poetry also influenced his orchestral, piano, and other solo works. In later years he frequently set the songs of William Shakespeare. His chamber works feature unusual combinations such as oboe and guitar. He often wrote on commission, most notably the orchestral work “Fanfare for the Voice of A-M-E-R-I-C-A.” This piece, sometimes referred to as Gerber’s “9/11 piece,” was written for the Voice of America in 2002, premiered in D.C., and later performed as far away as Poland. Gerber’s scores were published by Lauren Keiser and Mobart publishing companies.
Another important element of Steven Gerber’s professional life was the frequency of performances in other countries, most significantly in Russia, where his music was performed multiple times, beginning with a 1990 tour that also included concerts in Moldova and Estonia. His works were also performed across the United States, especially in New York City, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Gerber is known for accompanying singer Christine R. Schadeberg and other musicians on piano when they performed his music in recital. Gerber’s compositions were featured on several CDs, and two labels, Koch International and Chandos, each released a CD of Gerber works in 2000. Throughout his life he collaborated and corresponded frequently with other musical contemporaries such as Yehudi Wyner, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Jan Swafford. Steven Gerber continued to publish music through 2013. He died on May 28th, 2015 of cancer.
Steven R. Gerber website. http://www.stevengerber.com/
21st Century Music. Michael, Dellaira. “Food for Thought with Steven Gerber.” March 2002. http://www.21st-centurymusic.com/ML210203.pdf