Leonard Meyer Lives!

meyerIt is with both “emotion and meaning” that I spread the good news of the Leonard B. Meyer papers at Penn. This fascinating collection, housed at Penn’s Special Collections Center, is now complete and ready for all manner of researchers and thinkers. Between 2008 and 2010 I read, identified, and organized a vast trove (about a dozen boxes of correspondence, writings, teaching materials, original compositions, and memorabilia) of Meyer’s materials. My efforts have now been summarized in a concise finding aid by Ben Rosen.

Meyer, who taught at Chicago and Penn, is best known for his seminal 1961 book, Emotion and Meaning in Music. His work, which combines music theory, aesthetics, philosophy, history, and science–among other fields–stands as an example of what interdisciplinary discourse can achieve when the thinker can weave together diverse methodologies in a meaningful way.

It was very special for me to be enveloped by Meyer’s words in such a direct and personal way, particularly through his beautiful letters to colleagues. I got the feeling that I had taken a course with him or joined him for lunch after spending so much time with his words and ideas. One of the things that most impressed me was seeing multiple drafts for articles and book chapters side by side; this allowed for a clear understanding of the development of his thinking in a highly nuanced way. It was also great to see some of his original compositions (Meyer studied with Wolpe and Copland, among others.). I suspect these works may turn out to be some of the most fruitful materials in this collection.