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David Epstein papers

Identifier: MC-0599

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The David Epstein papers consist of Epstein’s student composition books and a dissertation draft; correspondence; programs, reviews, and news clippings of performances; research and lecture notes including articles by others and transparencies, drafts of papers and book chapters; and musical scores and parts, some by Epstein and some by others. The collection spans the years 1947 to 2004, with the bulk of the material dating from the 1950s to the 1990s. Boxes 7 to 12 are oversize and contain student composition books, scores and parts.

The first series, Student Composition Books, contains composition books with some original musical parts, but mainly theory and counterpoint exercises. These notebooks date from 1946 to 1951 and are most likely from when he was a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, (graduated in 1952) and The New England Conservatory. The earliest composition books are located in box 6, oversize books are in box 12. A draft of his dissertation titled “Schoenberg's Concept of the Grundgestalt” is included. Epstein graduated with his PhD from Princeton University in 1968. The dissertation draft is in box 13.

Series 2 consists of correspondence files containing professional and personal correspondence with a range of individuals and dates from 1953 to 2003. The files are labeled according to person, organization, or subject, and are in original order. Correspondence files relate to teaching positions such as an adjunct position at Columbia University in 2001, correspondence with publishers and music companies including James Hatch, and Arthur Cohn, as well as correspondence about guest lectures and conducting including work in 1992 with the Philharmonisches Orchester Gera in Germany. There are also files relating to the classical record label VOX on which the MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) recorded. Correspondence files are located in boxes 3 and 4.

Programs, clippings, and other materials relating to David Epstein's compositions, conducting, and performances are found in Series 3: Programs and Newsclippings. This series is divided into three subseries: Performances and Awards, Orchestras, and MITSO and NOB (New Orchestra of Boston), and dates from 1953 to 2004.

The first subseries Performances and Awards includes programs, fliers, and news clippings for lectures, workshops, and symposia, concerts of Epstein’s compositions, reviews of Epstein’s work, and some correspondence relating to awards and professional interests. In this subseries are folders containing papers related to the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers (ASCAP) as well as awards and Who’s Who encyclopedia entries. Other papers about awards can be found in the Correspondence series in box 3. There are also papers relating to the Acoustic Research (AR) Contemporary Music Project dating from 1969 to 1970. Acoustic Research, Inc. provided funding and technical support to enable the recording and broadcast of contemporary composers with the goal of reaching a wider audience. The series was made available to the public in 1970 and consisted of fourteen radio broadcasts and six recordings. David Epstein served on the program committee and was the Director of the project. This subseries is in box 6. One folder of correspondence relating to this project is in the Correspondence series in box 3. More reviews and correspondence related to press and articles are also found in the Correspondence series.

The second subseries Orchestras includes programs from performances by orchestras, many conducted by Epstein. He was an active conductor and would give orchestral concerts in Boston and New York featuring work by new composers as well as standard repertoire. He held music directorships with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and the Worcester Orchestra, and he was a guest conductor with numerous orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, Bamberger Symphony Orchestra, New York City Centre, and Czech Radio Orchestra. Programs in this subseries date from 1958 when Epstein was on the faculty at Antioch College in Ohio to 2004. Organizations with multiple programs in this subseries include the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York from 1964 to 1972, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra dating from 1974 to 1978, and the Worcester Orchestra from 1974 to 1980. These programs are found in box 6. Material related to the Youth Symphony Orchestra and other guest appearances is found in the Correspondence series in box 3.

Programs, reviews, conducting notes, and board minutes relating to the MITSO and NOB are located in boxes 1 and 2. These materials comprise the third subseries, MITSO and NOB. David Epstein was the MITSO music director from 1966 to 1998. During this time the orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall and made several LP recordings. Starting in 1984 Epstein conducted a new professional 48-piece orchestra made up of MIT students, alumni and other professional players in the Boston area called the New Orchestra of Boston (NOB).

Series 4: Research, Writings, and Teaching includes research and lecture notes as well as reviews and articles written by Epstein and dates from 1946 to 2001. Most of the lecture notes are from the 1990s, but there are also lectures given in Ohio and Indiana dating from 1981. The lecture notes are mostly from guest lectures that Epstein presented throughout the United States and Europe. Lecture notes consist of handwritten notes, printed charts, and transparencies. Some lecture notes and correspondence relating to guest lectures are also in Series 2: Correspondence.

Also in Series 4 there is a photograph of Epstein conducting and papers by others that contributed to Epstein’s research. In addition this series includes the published Chorus Builder guides that Epstein wrote under the pseudonym Leonard Stone in the 1960s. These instructional books provide “a method for group training in the fundamentals of good choral singing,” and were published by Belwin. They date from 1946 to 1969. The books by Epstein are from the 1960s. Both student's books and teacher's manuals are included. A photograph of Epstein leading a choir is also found in this series. The books and photograph are in box 16.

As a music theorist Epstein published two books and multiple articles. His books include Beyond Orpheus: Studies in Musical Structure (1987) and Shaping Time: Music, the Brain, and Performance (1995). In Beyond Orpheus he looks at issues of musical time and he expands on these issues in Shaping Time. Notes titled "Acceleration and Ritard" are from chapter 12 in Shaping Time and are found in this series. Notes and lectures about rubato (speeding up and slowing down of the tempo) are also found in this series and may be a part of research for Shaping Time. "Tempo Relations: A Cross Cultural Study" is a paper about tempo relationships across music created by different cultures and was published in 1985. Many files relate to "Tempo Relations" and include research notes, drafts, lecture notes, and reviews.

The final series of this collection is Scores and Parts. This series includes scores and parts both by Epstein and by others and dates from 1947 to 1999. Scores by others are listed in alphabetical order by composer first and then scores by Epstein are listed alphabetically by title. Some of the scores by others have markings on them made by Epstein or are signed by the creator. Parts written by Epstein for WNDT Channel 13 (today WNET or "Thirteen") also contain notes, transcripts, and drawings. Epstein was the musical director at WNDT in the early 1960s. Material in the WNDT folders date from 1962 to 1964.

Much of the material in this series is oversize and is found throughout the collection in the following boxes: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16.


  • 1947 - 2004


Access note

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


David M. Epstein, 1930-2002, was Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1965 he was appointed associate professor at MIT and professor in 1971. He served as head of the Department of Music in 1982-1983 and 1988-1989. David Epstein was conductor of the MIT Symphony Orchestra from 1965-1998.

A fuller biographical description about David Epstein can be found at:


9.8 Cubic Feet (6 flat boxes, 3 record cartons, 4 legal manuscript boxes, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box)

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Related Materials

Additional scores by David Epstein and recordings by the MIT Symphony Orchestra are available at the Lewis Music Library at MIT.

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Preliminary Inventory to David Epstein papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

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