Yale Library acquires historic video interviews with leading musicians

  • Woman dressed in black bends over keyboard of open grand piano
    Pianist-composer Carla Bley
  • Woman with short white hair seated at piano lifting pages of music scores, one in each hand
April 1, 2024

Yale Library is adding more than 250 interviews with major American musicians to its Oral History of American Music (OHAM) collection through a licensing agreement with New Music USA. The library will digitize and digitally preserve the interviews, making them available to students, researchers, arts organizations, and the media at Yale and around the world.  

The acquisition includes more than 250 full-length artist profiles recorded between 1999 and 2020 in which the musicians and composers talk about their lives and works.  

Featured artists include Bang on a Can founders Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe; Cuban American composer and conductor Tania León; two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning innovator Elliott Carter; Deep Listening founder Pauline Oliveros; jazz pianist and composer Carla Bley; former Yale faculty member David Del Tredici; Grammy-nominated Latin composer Gabriela Lena Frank; and avant-garde composer and performer Tyshawn Sorey. 

Preserving music history

“This is an incredibly significant acquisition,” said Libby Van Cleve, director of OHAM. “These important figures in American music include many female, African American, and Latinx musicians. Some of them have since passed away, which makes preserving and providing access to their stories, in their own words and voices, even more critical.”   

The video interviews were originally created for NewMusicBox, a first-of-its-kind online publication founded in 1999 and a program of New Music USA since 2011.

 Processing of the recordings is underway and should be completed by 2026 Van Cleve said. A collection of 108 NewMusicBox interviews previously acquired by Yale Library is available now. Members of the Yale community can immediately access the interviews.  Non-Yale patrons can create a free  Aviary  account via the Login button to gain streaming access. (Public access to some interviews may be limited based on permission granted by the artists.)  

Yale Library’s sophisticated digital preservation systems ensure that the music history captured in the interviews will remain accessible even as AV technologies evolve. “We are incredibly grateful that Yale Library, as a leader in digital preservation, will formally archive these interviews and make them more widely available as the valuable resources and time capsules they are,” said Vanessa Reed, president and CEO of New Music USA. 

New Music USA is a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing new music in all its forms. The Yale Library acquisition was supported by funding from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Ditson Fund, and the Amphion Foundation. 

About OHAM

Yale Library’s Oral History of American Music (OHAM) is a leading oral history archive and an ongoing program to conduct, collect, and preserve interviews with major musical figures.  Founded in 1969 and residing in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, OHAM encompasses more than 3,000 audio and video interviews with composers, musicians, and others—from emerging talents to established artists. Originally focused on classical composers,  OHAM later expanded its interview program to jazz musicians and composers. A new emphasis, since 2022, is on interviewing leaders in gospel music, in collaboration with Yale’s Interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church. 

Images: Carla Bley (1935–2023), in Lugano, Switzerland, recording her albums “Andando el Tiempo” (in 2015) and “Life Goes On” (in 2019). Photos by Caterina di Perri / ECM Records, images courtesy of DL Media Music