Thursday, December 18, 2014

Harold Shapero Papers now available for research

                Harold Shapero (1920-2013) was an American Neo-Classical composer and professor of music at Brandeis University for over 30 years. The student of many esteemed composers, including Walter Piston, Paul Hindemith, and Nadia Boulanger, Shapero’s greatest musical output occurred in the 1940s with second increase during the 1990s-2000s[1]. Many of his papers were recently donated to the Robert D. Farber University Archives.  The Harold Shapero Collection contains 15 boxes of sketches, scores, and correspondence that provide a unique look into the creative life of the composer.

                In a time where American composers were increasingly drawn to the 12-tone technique of the Second Viennese School, Shapero modeled his works after the great Classicists by using tonal harmonies and traditional forms while reaching into more complex harmonic and rhythmic gestures than those of the past[2]. He was influenced by the vibrant style of Igor Stravinsky, and was a part of the American ‘Stravinsky School,’ a title coined by Aaron Copland. Although he was occasionally criticized for his reliance on classical models, Shapero’s works were moderately well received (modernist American musicians were not interested in Neo-Classical techniques[3]) and have remained a part of the repertory. This position was secured by a renewed interest in Shapero’s music sparked by Andre Previn’s 1988 revival of the 1947 Symphony for Classical Orchestra. The surge in popularity also generated a new wave of compositions from Shapero, who had written drastically fewer works while teaching at Brandeis[4].

                The Harold Shapero Collection contains sketches and scores of Symphony for Classical Orchestra as well as Shapero’s other major works, including Serenade in D for Strings, Partita in C, and Three Sonatas for Piano. In addition to these well-known published pieces, the collection includes many unpublished compositions, several of which were written as gifts to friends and family members. Among the many names included in the titles are Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Arthur Berger. The contents of the collection span Shapero’s lifetime, including materials from early piano lessons, classwork from his studies at Harvard University, as well as works and sketches from the end of his life.

                Particularly interesting are the many letters and sketchbooks found within the collection. The correspondence between Shapero and his teachers and colleagues along with annotated scores and sketches provide a glimpse into his creative process. Several works are included in many forms, from early sketches, rough drafts sent to friends for editing, published editions, and the occasional recording. This collection provides an opportunity to watch Shapero’s works develop and to understand the compositional process from his perspective.

The Harold Shapero Papers have a finding aid that can be accessed here:

Written by Hannah Spencer, graduate student in the Department of Music at Brandeis University, December 16, 2014.

[1] Howard Pollack. "Shapero, Harold." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed December 16, 2014,
[2] Anthony Tommasini, “Harold Shapero, American Neo-Classical Composer, Dies at 93,” New York Times (New York, NY), May 27, 2013.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Howard Pollack. "Shapero, Harold." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed December 16, 2014.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Robert Manners Papers

          Brandeis University Archives holds the faculty papers of Robert Manners, Brandeis Professor of Anthropology from 1952 to 1979, and is happy to announce that the collection has now been processed and is available to researchers.

Robert Manners was born in 1914 in New York City and studied at Columbia University, earning a PhD in Anthropology in 1949 after a stint as an Army captain during the war. During his PhD studies, Manners conducted fieldwork in Puerto Rico with several other graduate students under the direction of his advisor and “intellectual mentor,” Julian Steward, focusing on tobacco farming in the rural community of Barranquitas. Manners, along with a large number of fellow graduate students and established anthropologists, undertook extensive studies in the Puerto Rican population from 1947-1949; this research culminated in The People of Puerto Rico (Steward et al., 1956).

         A Manners class at Brandeis, 1972

Manners kept impeccable records from this study, providing weekly reports for the period of April 1948 to September 1948, including local newspaper clippings, signs, and other documentation. With a great deal of documentation from his early studies, the collection provides a fascinating glimpse into his early career. Working mainly on the family structures of the various social classes of the small communities, Manners shows a special affinity for 
comparing the traditional observation of fieldwork with carefully analyzed government reports. The aims of the project were to examine and explain the political, economic, social, and familial structures of the “agrarian stratified society” in which they were working. The researchers tested a large number of theories, giving a sense of the broad scale and depth of the program. Seeking a generalized explanation of the rigid, insular society of Puerto Rico, the team, led by Steward, spread a wide net, looking beyond economics—Manners’s focus—into the very fabric of Puerto Rican society. The fieldwork crossed over two years, and included discussions on such topics as agriculture, household structures, Puerto Rican sex life, and the economy and politics of Puerto Rico; the collection also includes photographs supporting research into many of these subjects.
As evidenced in this collection and his later fieldwork, Manners maintained a long interest in the field of insular studies, providing the research for his dissertation. Perhaps it is not surprising then that he was involved, at least by association, with a movement to support an independent Puerto Rico following the shootings in Congress in March of 1954 by Puerto Rican Nationalists. A letter from A. J. Muste, noted early-twentieth-century pacifist, implored Manners to become involved with the Puerto Rican Independence movement. The relationship between Manners and Reverend Muste is unclear, and the letter was not addressed specifically to Manners. Regardless of the intention of the letter, Manners’s active participant in this controversial subject is unlikely, as he seems to have shown little interest in the subject beyond a personal inquiry.
            To read this letter and other documents from this Puerto Rican Project, as well as Manners’s course materials, lecture notes, correspondence, drafts, field notes, and relevant photographs, please access the finding aid here. To view this collection and others like it, contact or call 781-736-4686 to make an appointment.

description by Ben Schmidt, Archives & Special Collections Student Assistant and undergraduate student in History.