Collection Scope and Content Summary
Title: Remi Gassmann papers
Identifier/Call Number: MS.P.004
Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine Libraries
Language of Material:
24.1 linear feet
(44 boxes and 1 oversized folder)
Date (bulk): Bulk, 1930-1980
Date (inclusive): 1892-1985
Language of Collection Materials:
The collection is in English, German, and French.
This collection comprises the papers of Remi Gassmann, composer, critic, conductor, pianist and educator. The collection documents
all phases of Gassmann’s career, including his youth in Kansas, musical education in the United States, studies during the
1930s under Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin, work as music editor and critic for
The Chicago Daily Times
during the 1940s, his direction of the University of Chicago’s Program for Composers Seminars from 1941-1947, and his lifelong
work in music composition.
The collection is open for research.
Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and
their heirs. For persmissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Remi Gassmann papers. MS-P004. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
Donated in 1995.
Processed by Marisa Tolosa, 2010.
Remigius Oswalt Gassmann was an American avant garde composer and pioneer in electronic sound and music. Classically trained
under Paul Hindemith in composition and theory, Gassmann collaborated with choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky and premiered
Paean (1960), one of the first ballets set to electronic music. Later, along with partner Oskar Sala and the innovative electronic
instrument the Mixtur-trautonium, Gassmann composed and produced the soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's film
The Birds (1963).
Gassmann was born to Russian-German parents December 30, 1908. He began musical studies at the age of five with Remy Den Haerynck
at St. Mary's Academy in Kansas. Gassmann began composing music at age ten and presented a recital at age 15, after which
he decided to postpone his music education. In 1924 at the age of 16, Gassmann was the youngest person to receive a Teacher’s
Certificate from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kansas. In 1930 he graduated cum laude from St. Mary’s College, where
he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and received numerous poetry and debating prizes, and acclaim for his role as editor
The Dial. He accepted a scholarship for composition at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, New York, where he received
the degree of Master of Music in 1931. Unsatisfied with his musical education, Gassmann travelled to Europe and spent 6 years
as student to Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule für Musik, Berlin, Germany. During that time the Nazis proclaimed Hindemith's
music “untragbar” and due to the Hindemith-Furtwängler case, Gassmann took over Hindemith’s classes as unofficial assistant.
In 1937 he married Marthe Loyson, MD. Meanwhile he continued to study piano with Isidor Phillip and taught briefly in Paris.
In 1939 he returned to the United States where the conductor Fredrick Stock appointed him professor of theory in the classes
of the Chicago Symphony. In 1940 Stock commissioned his
Symphonic Overture in G for the 50th Jubilee season. In 1941 he was appointed assistant professor of Music at the University of Chicago, and in 1942
he founded and directed the Composers' Concerts and the Composers' Concerts and Seminar at the University of Chicago. Within
this framework he was able to bring composers such as Stravinsky, Hindemith, Milhaud, Bartol, and Schoenberg, to the university
for lectures and concerts as World War II cut them off from European resources. In 1944 Gassmann was appointed director of
the School of Music, Elmhurst College, Illinois. Gassmann was concurrently music editor and critic at
The Chicago Times from 1940 until 1947. He was also the Executive Director of the Speakers Bureau of the Chicago Civic Opera Company in 1945.
That year collectively with Ruth Page as choreographer and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Gassmann premiered the ballet-drama
Billy Sunday or Giving the Devil His Due. Between 1947 and 1948, Gassmann organized concerts of American composers in France and Germany.
Gassmann's chamber music and orchestral works have been performed internationally. In the field of electronic music his works
have established him in the forefront of the avant-garde: the historic sonic innovations for
Paean, produced by the Städische Opera, Berlin, and for
Electronics (1961), by The New York City Ballet with choreography by George Balanchine, were hailed by
The New York Times as “Definitely works of art…” and
The London Times announced, quoting composer Aaron Copland, “The future is here…we are going to have a new kind of music." In 1961 Gassman
lectured on electronic sound at both the University of California, Los Angeles and Stanford University. His contribution to
the Alfred Hitchcock film
The Birds, which opened the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, remains a unique example of a completely electronic sound track.
Gassmann moved to France with his wife Marthe. There he wrote
Ave Argentoratum for concert band and chorus. It was performed during the 1976 American Bicentennial celebrations in Strasbourg.
Other works of his include
Hic Ornatus Mundi,
Cantata to a poem by Archibald MacLeish,
Love Lyrics From Whitman, for soprano and chamber orchestra, and
Calamus, for baritone and orchestra. Gassmann devoted his later work almost exclusively to research and the development of electronic
Gassmann died March 2, 1982, in Strasbourg, France.
Collection Scope and Content Summary
This collection comprises notes, correspondence, music compositions, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, and printed
ephemera created during the life and career of composer, conductor, pianist, critic and educator, Remi Gassmann (1908-1982).
The collection documents all phases of Gassmann’s career, including his youth in Kansas, musical education in the United States,
studies during the 1930s under Paul Hindemith at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin, work as music editor and critic for
The Chicago Daily Times during the 1940s, direction of the University of Chicago’s program for composers seminars from 1941-1947, collaborative efforts
with Oskar Sala for Alfred Hitchcock's
The Birds, and his nationally acclaimed orchestral scores for the ballets
Billy Sunday or Giving the Devil His Due and
This collection is arranged in 8 series:
- Series 1. Musical compositions, 1917-1970, 2.6 linear feet
- Series 2. Correspondence, 1919-1989, 2.0 linear feet
- Series 3. Writings, 1929-1980, 2.0 linear feet
- Series 4. Visual materials, circa 1800-1980, 3.8 linear feet
- Series 5. Audio recordings, 1950-1981, 4.2 linear feet
- Series 6. Clippings, ephemera, and production notes, 1925-1972, 4.3 linear feet
- Series 7. Personal and family papers, circa 1831-1979, 2.2 linear feet
- Series 8. Works by others, 1919-1946, 3.0 linear feet
Multiple books were separated and added to the UC Irvine Libraries holdings. A listing of the books is available in Special
Collections and Archives.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Gassmann, Remi -- Archives
Electronic composition -- 20th century
Electronic music -- United States -- 20th century -- Archives
Music -- United States -- 20th century -- Archives
Photographic prints -- 20th century.
Postcards -- 20th century.