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Major Figures in American Music

Call Number: OHV

Scope and Contents

Major Figures in American Music is the core unit of Oral History of American Music. It consists of over 1000 interviews with composers, performers, and other significant musicians. The first subjects were those most fragile in terms of age and health, such as Eubie Blake, Nadia Boulanger, Aaron Copland, Harry Partch, Charles Seeger, Claire Reis, and Virgil Thomson. Among other senior composers interviewed during the OHAM's first decade were John Cage, Lou Harrison, Ernst Krenek, Leo Ornstein, and William Schuman. As OHAM proceeded, composers actively involved in their careers were included and have been updated periodically. To name a few: John Adams, Anthony Braxton, David Del Tredici, Lukas Foss, David Lang, Steve Reich, and Julia Wolfe. OHAM's program also includes oral histories with emerging young talents, with the plan to track their careers as they unfold in the future. In addition to interviews with primary subjects, the core unit includes testimonies from secondary sources about George Gershwin, Henry Cowell, Harry Lawrence Freeman, Percy Grainger, and Arnold Schoenberg.


  • 1930 - 2023
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2023

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. The finding aid includes links to stream most interviews online via Oral History of American Music's (OHAM) AV access system, Aviary. Yale users can login to Aviary using their Yale University ID, to stream these interviews without restriction. Other users are able to request access to interviews directly through Aviary. For access instructions, and to request transcripts of an interview, see OHAM's website.

This finding aid also includes links to Table of Contents for most interviews.

Some interviews may be restricted. Access to these restricted interviews may only be granted to a patron who has first obtained direct permission from the interviewee or their estate.

Some interviews may not have been digitized or are otherwise not available to stream online. However, these interviews may have been transcribed. To inquire about the availability of a transcript, please sumbit a Transcript Request Form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

mp3, mp4, mp3, mpg, mov and mts files.

Conditions Governing Use

Rights and permissions for Oral History of American Music materials vary between individual interviews. Researchers wishing to publish or broadcast Oral History of American Music materials are responsible for obtaining direct authorization from copyright holders: generally, the interviewees or their estates.


The collection is arranged alphabetically by surname of interviewee.


3544 Computer Files (2.42 terabytes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


1496 as of January 10, 2022. OHAM regularly conducts new interviews to add to this collection. This finding aid describes both digitized and born digital interview recordings in this collection. For digitized interviews, Oral History of American Music also holds the original recordings, on a variety of legacy audio and video formats.

Guide to Major Figures in American Music
In Progress
Compiled by Anne Rhodes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Oral History of American Music Repository

P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8307 USA

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