Abstract

Letters from Peter Yates to poet Peyton Houston. The collection of manuscript and typescript letters, arranged chronologically, documents Yates' life and thought and includes programs for Los Angeles area music performances; notes on music and musicians; and stories, plays, poems, and essays by Yates. Also included are occasional enclosed photographs of Yates and his family, and miscellaneous newspaper clippings. The letters also document the professional career of pianist Frances Mullen, Yates' wife, the development of the "Evenings on the Roof" chamber concert series, and the Los Angeles music scene. The collection begins with Peyton Houston's detailed descriptive list of the letters and his brief comments on their content. Houston made preservation photocopies of the letters which are located at the end of the collection.

Biography

Peter B. Yates, music critic, author, teacher, and poet, was born in Toronto on November 30, 1909. His parents were U.S. citizens, and he attended Ridley and Union colleges in New York State. He received his B.A. from Princeton University in 1931. In 1933 Yates married the pianist Frances Mullen. After migrating to the West Coast, Yates went to work for the California Department of Employment in Los Angeles in 1937. He stayed with the agency as an employment counselor until 1962.

In 1939 Peter and Frances Yates began a series of chamber music concerts in their Los Angeles home. The series took place in an attic-like room and eventually came to be known as "Evenings on the Roof." The programs featured contemporary music in combination with more traditional works, and many of the performers and composers were important figures in the Los Angeles avant-garde music scene. The series was later moved to other locations and evolved into the "Monday Evening Concerts" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These concerts gained a national reputation for presenting the works of 20th century composers such as Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, and Lou Harrison. Yates retired as director of the series in 1954.

Yates was involved in many other music-related activities while in Los Angeles. He served as music critic for the magazine Arts and Architecture and presented numerous lectures on musical subjects. One of Yates' more memorable presentations, given in San Francisco in 1964 and elsewhere, involved a multi-media event which included projected images, tape recorded conversations, and a performance of a Bach chaconne on a frying pan. In this and other lectures, Yates inspired his audiences to approach music from new perspectives. He brought his ideas to the air waves in a series of radio broadcasts on the Los Angeles station KPFK.

In 1964 Yates received a Ford Foundation grant that enabled him to travel and visit various composers and poets. In 1968 he was appointed the head of the music department at Buffalo State College (later the State University of New York at Buffalo). This was an unusual appointment, since Yates held only a Bachelor's degree and was not a performer or composer. At Buffalo Yates championed the cause of contemporary music and arranged many concerts of the works of living composers. He taught a course and led a seminar on the art of criticism, and he presented a series of weekly radio programs on the campus station WBFO. His wife gave many piano recitals, often performing the works of Charles Ives, her specialty.

Peter Yates died in Buffalo in 1976. He left an important body of published criticism and poetry. Among his most significant works are An Amateur at the Keyboard (1964) and Twentieth Century Music (1967). In An Amateur at the Keyboard Yates advocated a return to direct involvement in music-making by non-professionals. Such an involvement, he felt, would be an improvement over the passive appreciation of music through concerts and recordings, and it would restore a dying tradition of amateur musicianship that flourished in the 18th century and earlier. In Twentieth Century Music Yates helped to explain the genesis of contemporary compositions and instructed his readers on how to appreciate the works. A collection of Yates' poetry was published in 1946 under the title A SMALLER POEM BOOK.

Scope and Content

The letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, written between 1931 and 1976, include "programs, notes on music and musicians, stories, plays, poems, and essays." Houston's detailed register contains brief content descriptions for the majority of the letters.

The letters are arranged in chronological order according to dates established by Houston and numbered by year, then by numerical order. Thus item 53-10 was the tenth letter to arrive during 1953.

Photographs were occasionally included in the letters. Among the letters are photographs of Peter Yates (35-19), Peter and Frances with their children (38-18), a photograph of a piano (55-6), Peter and Frances (56-26), a photograph of Peter at the piano (60-11), and a photograph of Peter (62-24).

RELATED COLLECTIONS

MSS 14 - PETER YATES PAPERS

LETTERS FROM PETER YATES

Return to Menu
BoxFolderOversize
11 Register by Peyton Houston.
12 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1931 - 1932.
13 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1933.
14 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1934.
15 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1934. (cont.)
16 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1935.
17 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1935. (cont.)
18 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1936.
19 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1937.
110 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1938.
111 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1939.
21 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1939. (cont.)
22 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1940.
23 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1941.
24 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1941. (cont.)
25 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1941. (cont.)
26 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1942 - 1945.
27 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1943. Supplementary.
31 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1946.
32 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1947.
33 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1948.
34 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1949.
35 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1950 - 1953.
36 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1954 - 1955.
37 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1956.
38 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1957.
39 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1958.
310 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1959.
311 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1960.
312 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1961.
313 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1962.
41 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1963.
42 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1964.
43 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1965.
44 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1966.
45 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1967.
46 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1968.
47 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1969.
48 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1970.
49 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1971.
410 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1972.
411 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1973.
412 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1974.
413 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1975.
414 Letters from Peter Yates to Peyton Houston, 1976.
415 Miscellaneous programs.

PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES

Return to Menu
BoxFolderOversize
51 Preservation Photocopies, 1931 - 1939.
61 Preservation Photocopies, 1939 - 1945.
71 Preservation Photocopies, 1946 - 1963.
81 Preservation Photocopies, 1964 - 1976.



Finding aid generated: 2005-10-31