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The David Kraehenbuehl Papers

Call Number: MSS 79

Scope and Contents

The David Kraehenbuehl Papers consists of ten linear feet of archival material, divided into ten series. Series I, Music, comprises the bulk of the papers and contains Kraehenbuehl's musical compositions for all genres in manuscript, mechanical reproduction, and published versions. Series II contains a large number of writings by Kraehenbuehl, as well as writings by others that were important to Kraehenbuehl or used as texts in his musical compositions. Correspondence appears in Series III, while Series IV holds programs and publicity materials that feature music by Kraehenbuehl. Newspaper clippings and scrapbooks comprise Series V. In this series, clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper to preserve them, and the originals discarded. The three scrapbooks were microfilmed to preserve their contents. Original documents found in the scrapbooks, such as photographs and correspondence, were subsequently removed and reassigned to their corresponding series in the papers. The original scrapbooks were then discarded. Photographs appear in Series VI, with each photograph assigned a unique number. Biographical and miscellaneous materials comprise Series VII and Series VIII respectively. All sound recordings, Series IX, have been transferred to the Historical Sound Recordings Collection, a separate department within the Music Library. Preservation transfers were made of all archival recordings onto reel-to-reel tape, and listening copies were prepared on compact discs. Finally, Series X accommodates additions to the papers that were received after the completion of this finding aid. Because the contents of Series X will change as new material is acquired, the most current inventory of additions to the Kraehenbuehl Papers will be kept on file in the Music Library Office.


  • 1913-2000 (inclusive)


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The David Kraehenbuehl Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The David Kraehenbuehl Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Marie Kraehenbuehl in August 1999.


In 10 series as follows: I. Music. II. Writings. III. Correspondence. IV. Programs and Publicity. V. Clippings and Scrapbooks. VI. Photographs. VII. Biographical Material. VIII. Miscellaneous Materials. IX. Sound Recordings. X. Additions.


10 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials by and about the American composer, music theorist, and educator David Kraehenbuehl (1923-1997)

Biographical / Historical

The son of John O. and Kathryn A. Kraehenbuehl, David Kraehenbuehl was born in Urbana, Illinois, on September 15, 1923. His father was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois, and his mother taught the boy his first piano lessons at the age of 5. He attended private and experimental schools in Urbana, including the University of Illinois High School, from which he graduated in 1939. That same year, at the age of 16, Kraehenbuehl entered the University of Illinois. During his years at Illinois, Kraehenbuehl studied piano with Stanley Fletcher, and he wrote his first significant musical compositions. He was elected to three honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Kappa Lambda, became a Lieutenant Colonel in the ROTC in command of the University of Illinois student Signal Corp unit, and demonstrated sufficient promise as a composer, pianist, and flautist to receive the Kate Neal Kinley Fellowship in the Arts. At his college graduation in 1943, Kraehenbuehl was awarded degrees in music (Bachelor of Music) and German and mathematics (Bachelor of Arts). Kraehenbuehl entered the Army following graduation and saw duty in the Philippines and Japan. He attained the rank of captain by the time of his discharge in 1946.

Following his return to Urbana, Kraehenbuehl took a competitive examination given to prospective students of Paul Hindemith. He won the one remaining place in Hindemith's class. In August, 1947, Kraehenbuehl married Marie Marek, a cello student at the University of Illinois, and the following month the young couple moved to New Haven, where Kraehenbuehl began his studies in the Yale School of Music. David and Marie wrote frequent reports of their activities and sent them back to family members in Illinois. Their letters, collected in the family correspondence in Series III of these papers, provide a fascinating look at life in the Yale School of Music, as well as musical activities in New Haven, during the years 1947 to 1949. David Kraehenbuehl received the Bachelor of Music degree from Yale in 1948, and in 1949 he received the Master of Music degree in musical composition. With a strong recommendation from Hindemith, Kraehenbuehl also received the Ditson Fellowship for Foreign Study. During the academic year 1949-1950 the Kraehenbuehls lived in Basel, Switzerland, where David attended classes given at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis by Ina Lohr, Joseph Bopp, and Edward Mueller. He also performed under the directorship of Paul Sacher in the Basel Kammerchor and the Basel Kammerorchester.

Upon his return from Switzerland, Kraehenbuehl was appointed Assistant Professor of music history and theory at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, a position he held until 1953. In addition to his teaching duties, Kraehenbuehl remained active as a performer and conductor. He founded the Colorado College Collegium Musicum, a group modeled on Hindemith's Collegium Musicum at Yale that performed medieval, renaissance, Baroque, and occasionally contemporary music. Kraehenbuehl also pursued activities as a journalist and served as music editor, critic, and essayist for the Colorado Springs Free Press.

In 1953, when Hindemith returned permanently to Europe, Kraehenbuehl joined the faculty of the Yale School of Music and assumed Hindemith's teaching duties. In New Haven, he continued to pursue a wide range of musical activities. These included serving as Musical Director of the New Haven Chorale, performing with and guest conducting the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and serving as curator of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments. In 1957 Kraehenbuehl made a seminal contribution to the field of music theory in the United States by serving as the founding editor of the Journal of Music Theory. The following year Kraehenbuehl, in collaboration with Edgar Coons, published the article "Information as a Measure of Structure in Music." (Journal of Music Theory, vol. 2, pp. 127-161) This ground breaking article applied nascent information and probability theories to music. During his tenures in Colorado Springs and New Haven, however, musical composition remained foremost among Kraehenbuehl's many activities. He created works for several combinations of instruments and/or voices throughout the 1950s, works that were premiered by the best musicians in Colorado and Connecticut.

Kraehenbuehl's career took an unexpected turn in 1960, one year after receiving tenure at Yale. In that year he resigned his faculty post and moved to Princeton, New Jersey, to found the New School for Music Study, along with the noted piano pedagogues Frances Clark and Louise Goss. Apart from one school year teaching music theory at Westminster Choir College, 1967-1968, Kraehenbuehl never held another academic appointment. Instead, he devoted himself to the training of piano teachers, and in doing so he helped to raise the level of piano study in the United States. He composed and arranged a number of pieces for beginning and intermediate piano students, many of which became staples in the teaching repertory of American piano teachers. In 1967 he left the New School and, with Richard Chronister and Thomas McBeth, founded the National Keyboard Arts Association. In this new organization, Kraehenbuehl wrote extensively on the topic of piano pedagogy, published numerous articles in NKAA's periodical Keyboard Arts, and traveled across the country to give master classes, performances, and lectures.

A convert to Roman Catholicism, Kraehenbuehl also took up the musical challenges presented by the dictates of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In 1967 his Mass for the People of God won first prize in a competition sponsored by the J. S. Paluch Company of Chicago, a firm that specialized in publishing Roman Catholic church music. In 1968 Kraehenbuehl was appointed music editor, and later managing editor, for the Paluch Company. In that role he composed and commissioned service music that is still used today in Catholic churches across the United States. In 1982 David and Marie moved to Trempealeau, Wisconsin, where David continued to compose and perform. David Kraehenbuehl died in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on January 3, 1997. Following Kraehenbuehl's death, his friend Charles Burkhart published a warm and informative tribute, "Remembering David Kraehenbuehl," in the Journal of Music Theory. (vol. 41, pp. 183-192) Readers desiring more information about Kraehenbuehl's life and work are directed to Burkhart's article, found in these papers in Box 8, Folder 137, and to the several versions of Kraehenbuehl's curriculum vitae, updated by Marie and found in Box 13, Folder 200.

Register to The David Kraehenbuehl Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Kendall L. Crilly
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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