The chronicler of US composers has died at 91

We are saddened to report the death of Vivian Perlis, founder of Yale University’s Oral History of American Music and a rigorous interviewer of American musicians.

Without her, we would know much less about Charles Ives, Aaron Copland and many more.


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  • Amazing woman who helped chart the course of American music. Based at Yale, she spoke with virtually all the greats and created a base of oral histories that will forever be read. A wonderful woman who will never be forgotten.

  • How blessed we were to work with you, Vivian, on so many Ives projects and how great it was that you played harp for the Yale Symphony Orchestra in our first days in Woolsey Hall.

  • She was a major chronicler of American composers. I met her several times and enjoyed our conversations. She happily corrected an error in her Copland book about my publication on the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.”

  • One of the most special associations I had at Yale was with Vivian. She created a genre of musical history with work that is unparalleled and so important to understanding the entirety of the great composers about whom she chronicled. I am forever thankful that I was able to conduct a couple interviews for her Duke Ellington project. A great scholar and human being.

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