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Ernst Bacon Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: Apr 1966

Biographical History

Ernst Bacon (1898-1990) was an American composer, pianist, conductor, chamber musician, and teacher. For much of his teaching career he was Director of the School of Music at Syracuse University.

Born in Chicago, May 26, 1898, the son of Dr. Charles S. and Maria von Rosthorn Bacon, he attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, but obtained his master's degree from the University of California in 1935. He studied in Vienna for a time. After his return, He was associated with the Rochester Opera Company. Later he became conductor of the San Francisco Orchestra of the Federal Music Project, 1935-1937.

His first academic appointment was as acting professor of music at Hamilton College, in New York. Later he became Dean of the School of Music at Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1938-1945. Mr. Bacon was appointed Director of the School of Music at Syracuse University in 1945, where he also taught piano and composition. In 1947 he became composer-in-residence. In Sept. 1964, he became composer-in-residence at the University of California at Berkley.

Mr. Bacon's major compositions were a musical play, A Drumlin Legend, commissioned by the Ditson Fund and premiered at the Columbia University Festival of Contemporary Music; his orchestral suite, From These States, in eleven movements, performed by the NBC Symphony; and his folk opera, A Tree on the Plains, commissioned originally by the League of Composers in 1940, had its premier at the Spartanburg, S.C., Festival, and which received the David Bispham Award for Contemporary Opera, Chicago 1946.

Mr. Bacon was awarded the Pulitzer Fellowship in 1932; Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939, 1942, Campion Citation; Grant-Citation National Institute of Arts and Letters; and he wrote musical criticism for the New York Times as well as musical commentary for the Syracuse Post-Standard and the Berkley Gazette. He is the author of the book Words on Music.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ernst Bacon Papers consists of three separate accessions. The researcher is advised to explore the entire inventory to ensure locating all relevant material.

Main collection

The main collection consists of four series: correspondence, musical manuscripts, literary manuscripts, and published material.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically, apart from a few notable correspondents foldered separately. Notable correspondents in the chronological material inlude John Alden Carpenter, Kay Boyle, Aaron Copland, Witter Bynner, and Van Wyck Brooks.

Manuscripts is subdivided into material relating to Songs from Emily Dickinson, material relating to A Tree on the Plains, and general music scores. Material relating to Songs from Emily Dickinson and A Tree on the Plains is further subdivided into bound and unbound manuscripts; this in turn is further broken down into the types of manuscripts, such as orchestral, piano, songs, et cetera. General music scores is arranged by type or instrument for which the music was written (Cello & piano, choral, contrapuntal studies, opera, orchestral, piano, sketch books, sketches, and songs) and within that, alphabetically by title. When several scores were bound together or appeared in folio form, the title of the first piece was used for an alphabetical arrangement.

Literary manuscripts consists of addresses (radio), articles, books and plays, arranged alphabetically by title. All but one are typescript, although Bacon's handwritten corrections appear on many of the typescripts.

Published materials consists of articles, booklets, clippings and so on about and by Ernst Bacon. Material is subdivided by type.

Additions: University Archives

Two separate groupings of material were transferred from University Archives in 1991. The first grouping consists of Compositions and Writings. The second grouping consists of Artwork, Compositions, Writings, and Memorabilia (awards and photographs).

The bulk of this material remains in original order as received, and therefore is not consistently arranged. Some of this material duplicates items in other parts of the collection.

Additions: Don Siebert

A small amount of material, consisting of various scores and one essay, was donated to the collection in 1993 by Don Siebert, who was for more than forty years the Music Librarian for Syracuse University Libraries. Some of this material duplicates items in other parts of the collection.

Arrangement of the Collection

See Scope and content note above.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has the papers of several important composers and musicians, including Franz Waxman and Miklos Rozsa. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Bacon, Ernst, 1898-1990.


Composers -- United States.
Conductors (Music) -- United States.
Music -- 20th century.
Musicians -- United States.
Orchestral music -- Scores and parts.
Pianists -- United States.
Songs with orchestra -- Vocal scores with piano.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.
Musical scores.


Conductors (Music).

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ernst Bacon Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents


Manuscripts, musical

Manuscripts, literary

Published material

Additions: University Archives

Additions: Don Siebert