Barry S. Brook and Malena Kuss Collection: The Universe of Music: A History, 1979-2007Add to your cart.

By UNT Music Library and Malena Kuss

Collection Overview

Title: Barry S. Brook and Malena Kuss Collection: The Universe of Music: A History, 1979-2007Add to your cart.
ID: 06/ 113
Primary Creator: Barry S. Brook and Malena Kuss
Extent: 10.0 Boxes
Date Acquired: 10/28/2016
Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The collection consists of 10 boxes of correspondence and works in progress documenting the creation and development of The Universe of Music: A History project (1979–2007).

Collection Historical Note


Malena Kuss Executive Director (1997–) Barry S. Brook, Executive Director (1979–1997)

The Universe of Music: A History (or UMH) owes its existence to the imagination of Barry S. Brook (1918–1997), which knew no limits. A distinguished 18th-century scholar, he was a futurist who rekindled the spirit of French encyclopedism in vast international projects whose boundaries were set only by the size of the planet. Driven by an insatiable curiosity that defied confinement to “areas of specialization” (in one membership directory he appeared under “interests unlimited”), he wrote as much about his beloved classic period as he did about computer applications to musicology.  If he saw the need for bibliographic control of literature about music, he envisioned a tool that could serve the needs of scholars worldwide in RILM, which he created in 1965; and if recovering 18th-century French symphonies in a 3-volume dissertation (1962) was only a start, he set out to capture The Symphony 1720–1840 in a 60-volume set published between 1979 and 1986. After these and other projects were well under way, the challenge had to be upgraded.

The idea of creating a world history of musics, which the Polish musicologist Zofia Lissa had advanced in the 1970s, found fertile soil in Barry Brook’s imagination, and he proposed it to the International Music Council (IMC) of UNESCO during his term as president (1982–1983). We had worked on preliminary steps since a conference in São Paulo, at which I presented a paper on Africa’s legacy in Latin America, organized by the Brazilian National Committee of the IMC in 1980, with J.H. Kwabena Nketia in attendance. The project, then known as MUSIC IN THE LIFE OF MAN, however, was formally established in 1983.

This was a humancentric cultural adventure, as Chilean Samuel Claro used to call it. When in 1988, at a meeting at the Smithsonian Institution, Carol Robertson objected vociferously to the use of “man” in the title, the project lost its luster and became THE UNIVERSE OF MUSIC: A HISTORY. Since then, I have had to explain that, unlike other monumental projects undertaken in the past decades to record knowledge about music worldwide (including The New Grove and MGG/2), UMH is not an encyclopedia but a HISTORY, the most ambitious collaborative history of musics ever conceived. Only the volumes on Latin America and the Caribbean involved 136 scholars from over 40 countries. Multiply by 8, the number of major regions that were covered, and you get more authors than the total of 800 IMS members.

The roster of contributors was a slice of state-of-the-art historical musicology and ethnomusicology in the 1980s and 1990s. The team of coordinators included J.H. Kwabena Nketia (Africa), Tsuge Gen’ichi (Asia), Trân Van Khê (Southeast Asia), Habib Touma (the Arab world), Ingmar Bengtsson (Europe), Charles Hamm (North America, to include the U.S. and Canada), Malena Kuss (Latin America and the Caribbean, to include Mexico), and Mervyn McLean (Oceania). Russia and China were assigned their own sub-coordinators and the archive at the Music Library, University of North Texas, includes all the contributions by Russian scholars.

As in Reinhard Strohm’s Balzan Project, Towards a Global History of Music, The Universe of Music centered on relationships. LINKS, ALWAYS LINKS, was Barry’s motto. In UMH coalesced fluid concepts, dynamic processes, resignifications, and “relationships within networks of relationships,” as in Eric Wolf’s definition of history in Europe and the People Without History (1982).

To understand what UMH was about we must step back, as did the German musicologist Walter Wiora more than a half century ago, in a visionary little book called The Four Ages of Music (1961/1964), He sees the great millennium of Western predominance and influence NOT as eurocentric or ethnocentric (an attitude that always betrays a residue of colonial mentality), BUT as one of four ages: prehistory, high cultures of antiquity, the age of Western predominance, and the 20th century: an age of technology and global interactive culture. Ours is the age of “micromusics” (Mark Slobin), transnational musics (the tango in Tokyo and Helsinki), and constant resignifications (like huayno and cumbia in chicha), all dynamic, not static concepts. This is the time when “nobody” is driving the car (James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture, 1988), when the center and periphery model is a thing of the past, while the canonized, great tradition of Western art music endures as remains of the day, in parallel fashion to globalized composition and performance and institutionalized in academia, concert life, and festivals.

Wiora, in his small visionary book, could only suggest these relationships and complex cultural transactions. The huge canvas of UMH would have materialized what Wiora could barely intimate in 1961, had circumstances not derailed completion. (We ran out of money.)

Much, however, was accomplished. In 2004 and 2007 I published 2 of  5 completed  volumes on Latin America and the Caribbean. If in volume 1, Performing Beliefs: Indigenous Peoples of South America, Central America, and Mexico (2004), “Most fascinating of all was being invited into worlds where myth is real, time is cyclical and music and sound are altering, metamorphic powers” (Mary Helen Klare for La Frontera, Autumn 2005), the commitment to perspectives of cultural insiders had a considerable impact on the Caribbean, according to Simon Lee’s review of Performing the Caribbean Experience, edited by Malena Kuss, in The Caribbean Review of Books (18 November 2008):

"Before getting inside those covers, however, it might be helpful to locate Performing the Caribbean Experience in the creole canon, to which it is a classic addition. In terms of documenting, conceptualising, and analysing Caribbean music, this is probably the most important text published since Alejo Carpentier’s Music in Cuba …. Performing the Caribbean Experience belongs on the same shelf as José Martí’s Nuestra América; Jean Price-Mars’s Ainsi parla l’oncle; C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins and Beyond a Boundary; Fernando Ortiz’s Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar; Alejo Carpentier’s Los pasos perdidos / The Lost Steps; Césaire’s Cahier; all of Fanon; Glissant’s Caribbean Discourse; Chamoiseau, Bernabé, and Confiant’s Éloge de la créolité; Kamau Brathwaite’s Development of Creole Society in Jamaica; Benítez-Rojo’s Repeating Island …. there are other texts on this shelf, but these are some of the most significant in establishing the conceptual framework for engaging with the creole aesthetic. Performing the Caribbean Experience takes its rightful place in the Mundo Nuevo canon and even carves out its own niche, as the most comprehensive creole investigation of cultural forms to date."

Performing the Caribbean Experience (2007) essentially tells the story of how Caribbeans transcended slavery through music, as told by actors who are or were a part of that historical experience. After many prolific years of producing “work in progress” that saw the publication of hefty bibliographies of each major region, published in-house by the IMC/UNESCO in 1984; tables of contents for each of the regional volumes; an entire collaborative volume on Africa produced by Nketia in 1992 from a Bellagio seminar; the entire coverage of Australia and New Zealand, with a few essays on Pacific islands; a classic chapter by José Maceda on gongs in Asia; and much more, what was most significant for me was a notice in the Bajan Reporter of December 20, 2008 reporting an interview with Archivist Victoria Borg O’Flaherty, who had been so helpful to me in covering St. Kitts/Nevis, who proudly announces that “Music Anthology acknowledges St. Kitts’ Cultural Heritage.” “Music in Latin America and the Caribbean is important because the authentic rhythm, sound and lyrics of the Federation are now documented and recognized as part of the Caribbean culture.” The slogan used by curators at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, “A people’s journey, a nation’s story,” is easily applicable to the volumes on Latin America and the Caribbean created for The Universe of Music: A History.

In the words of J.H. Kwabena Nketia, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, writing in 1980 about the need for a world history of music at our first conference in São Paulo, as cited in Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje in “The Present State of African Music Historiography and Sources of Historical Data” (1992),

"What is needed at this time then is a panoramic view of music history which does not obscure historical processes in different musical cultures in order to create the impression that music history everywhere follows one unchanging course. We need a world history of music that brings out not only the development of forms and structures but also the role that music has played in different musical cultures in different epochs [the role of music in human life, or, MUSIC IN THE LIFE OF MAN], a world history of music that demonstrates how musical cultures expend and reintegrate themselves in response to both internal and external factors, a history that identifies and evaluates the specializations that lead to the development of distinctive traditions shared by members of families of musical languages or clusters of musical cultures cultivated over a large geographical area of social and cultural interaction. We need a world history of music that stimulates general awareness and deeper understanding and appreciation of historical processes in music as an artistic and socio-cultural phenomenon." (In International Conference on African Music and Dance, The Universe of Music: A History, convened by J.K. Kwabena Nketia, Bellagio Study and Conference Center, October 12-16, 1992, p. 73.)

Malena Kuss Cold Spring, New York, February 2017

Biographical Note

Barry Shelley Brook (November 1, 1918 – December 7, 1997) received a B.S.S. from the City College of New York (1939) and an M.A. from Columbia University (1942), where he studied with Paul Henry Lang, Erich Hertzmann, Hugh Ross, and Roger Sessions. He continued his studies at the Université de Paris, and, in 1959, he was promoted there to the Docteur de l’Université after defending his dissertation on “La Symphonie française dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle.” In 1974, he received a honorary doctorate ad eundum gradum from the University of Adelaide. He was decorated for his service as a U.S. Air Force captain in the European theater of operations during World War II. His lifelong affiliation with the City University of New York began as a fellow at City College (1940-42) and continued at Queens College (1945-89). In 1967 he founded CUNY’s graduate program in music and was its Executive Officer until his retirement in 1989. In 1986 he became a Distinguished Professor at CUNY.

Brook was also on the faculty of the Juilliard School and the head of its DMA program (1977-87). In 1984, on the initiative of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, he designed and established a doctoral program in musicology at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. As a visiting professor Brook taught at nine other universities in the U.S., Australia, and France. He received many awards, including the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association (1965), the French government named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters (1972), the Royal Swedish Academy of Music elected him to be among its fellows (1988), and the American Musicological Society recognized his contribution to musicology with an Honorary Membership (1997). He served as the vice-president (1974-77) and president (1977-80) of the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML), and the vice-president (1980-82) and president (1982-84) of the International Music Council (IMC).

Brook’s interests were immense and in many areas pioneering, ranging from music iconography, the history of thematic catalogues, the sociology and aesthetics of music, and the application of computers in musicology, to the 18th-century French symphony and the music of Haydn and Pergolesi. His dissertation is a groundbreaking study on the 18th-century French symphony, which provides extensive documentation, a thematic catalogue of over 1200 works, and an edition of eight works. He initiated fundamental research on the history of the thematic catalogue, publishing a facsimile of the Breitkopf thematic catalogue and two editions of the annotated inventory of thematic catalogues (with Richard J. Viano). In source studies Brook developed a technique of analyzing composers’ handwriting, demonstrating this by identifying Pergolesi’s authentic opus and the body of Haydn’s string trios. While initiating the publication of Pergolesi’s collected works, of which he was the general editor, he also founded the Pergolesi Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School, which owns an extensive microfilm collection of Pergolesi sources. Under his editorship a sixty-volume series of symphonies 1720-1840 and a dozen volumes in the series of French opera in the 17th and 18th centuries were published. In 1979 Brook initiated, under the auspices of the International Music Council of UNESCO, a global project called The Universe of Music: A History intended to provide a comprehensive history of music cultures throughout the world. After his death in 1997, Malena Kuss assumed the Executive Directorship of the Universe of Music project and published two volumes on Latin America (Performing Beliefs: Indigenous Peoples of South America, Central America, and Mexico [2004] and Performing the Caribbean Experience [2007]).

It is to Brook’s credit that he understood the enormous possibilities of computer applications in musicology, and in the early 1960s he had already advocated their use in the control of music sources. In 1964 he made a proposal for the Plaine and Easie Code, a system of notating music using ordinary typewriter or keypunch characters. The following year he founded Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM), the international annotated bibliography of music scholarship, and in 1967 the first volume of RILM Abstracts was issued under his editorship. At the 1971 St. Gall meeting of IAML, he initiated the Répertoire International d’Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM), an international project aiming to develop the methods, means, classification, cataloguing, and research of iconographic sources relevant to music, and, in 1972, he organized the Research Center for Music Iconography at the CUNY Graduate School, where he developed a vast archive and designed a computer-operated information retrieval system. He was also a member of the RISM Commission Internationale Mixte (1986-97).

Brook’s interests and projects are embodied in the extensive documentation and archival sources housed at the Center for Research and Music Documentation which he founded in 1989 at CUNY. The Center has since been renamed in his honor. The Barry S. Brook and Malena Kuss Special Collection at the University of North Texas Music Library holds correspondence and works in progress documenting the creation and development of The Universe of Music: A History project (1979–2007).

Malena Kuss (b. 1940) is Professor Emeritus of Musicology, University of North Texas, Denton (1976–1999), and former Vice President of the International Musicological Society (2009–2017). She holds a Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from UCLA (1976) and a M.M. in Piano Performance from SMU (1964). Internationally recognized for her research on the music of Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983), with whom she studied composition for six years in Buenos Aires, Kuss has published extensively on opera in Latin America, oral and written musical traditions in comparative cultural contexts, and music historiography from a global perspective.

Her deep commitment to disseminating the perspectives of Latin Americans in the Anglophone sphere of influence resulted in the publication of an unprecedented history of musical traditions which gathers contributions by over a hundred scholars from 36 countries and places particular emphasis on music in social contexts and instruments as living cultural artifacts (Performing Beliefs: Indigenous Peoples of South America, Central America, and Mexico [2004] and Performing the Caribbean Experience [2007], with 4 CDs). An expert in 20th-century music, her work on Ginastera has centered on intratextual relationships, pitch organization, and postmodernism in an American cultural setting (“Symbol und Phantasie in Ginasteras Bomarzo [1967],” 1984; “The structural role of folk elements in 20th-century art music,” IMS/Bologna 1987/1990; Alberto Ginastera Musikmanuskripte, Paul Sacher Stiftung, 1990; “The many meanings of Bearbeitung,” 2012; “The progress of a method,” 2013; “Ginastera y sus laberintos,” 2016). Research into the musical dramaturgy of a vast repertoire of operas from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru served to explore cultural tropes, feeding historiographical reflections and coverage of the repertoire in reference works (“The ‘Invention’ of America: Encounter settings on the Latin American lyric stage,” IMS/Madrid 1992/1993; “Nacionalismo, identificación y Latinoamérica,” 1998); “Prologue” to Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An encyclopedic history,” volume 1, 2004; “Western thought from a transcultural perspective: Decolonizing Latin America,” 2005; “On shifts and rifts, or musicology without borders,” 2014; entries in Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters and New Grove Opera). Between 2008 and 2010, Kuss was invited to serve as Consulting Curator at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona, where she designed 43 exhibits and built a collection of over 1,500 instruments.

In 2009, Malena Kuss received the prestigious Platinum Konex Award, which honors the most influential personalities of the last decade in the arts, theater, and literature in Argentina. Other recognitions and research awards include Fulbright-Hays, NEH, ACLS, Mellon, and Paul Sacher Stiftung grants. In 1997, she held the “Jesús C. Romero” Chair in Musicology sponsored by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes; and, in 1999, she was honored by the International Music Council with an Individual Membership for her work on The Universe of Music project, a world history of music under her executive directorship since 1997. She was also the recipient of an Honors’ Professorship from the University of North Texas Student Association for excellence in teaching. In 2017, Kuss was elected to Honorary Membership in the American Musicological Society, which, according to its By-laws, honors “long-standing members of the Society who have made outstanding contributions to furthering its stated object.”

An affinity with musicology as broadly defined (Charles Seeger) coalesced in collaborations with the International Music Council associated with UNESCO (The Universe of Music: A History, 1983–1997) and service to the International Musicological Society, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres (Secretary, Bibliography Commission, 1984–1990), and the American Musicological Society (member and chair, Stevenson Award Committee, 2008–2009; 2018–2021; member and juror, AMS 50, 1996–1999). Elected to the Directorium of the International Musicological Society for two terms and Vice President between 2009 and 2017, Kuss represented IMS on the Grove Music Online Advisory Panel and founded the IMS Regional Association for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 (IMS/Rome), serving as Coordinator until 2016 and organizing its first conference on “Latin America and the Canon” (Havana, 2014). In 2015 Kuss was chair of the IMS Program Committee for the inter-congressional symposium on “Music Research in the Digital Age,” which was held jointly with IAML at New York’s Juilliard School.

Barry S. Brook headed the MLM/UMH project from its inception in 1979 until his death in 1997. Following his expressed wishes, Malena Kuss was elected President of the UMH Board of Directors at a meeting in Paris in 1996, established the project as a not-for-profit corporation no longer associated with the IMC of UNESCO in 1997, and assumed the Executive Directorship in 1997, publishing two volumes in a series of four on Latin America and the Caribbean in 2004 and 2007.

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Administrative Information

Repository: Music Library
Acquisition Source: Malena Kuss
Acquisition Method: Gift.
Other Note: "MLM" refers to Music in the Life of Man, the project’s original name, which was changed in 1988 to The Universe of Music: A History (UMH). At a planning meeting of the project which took place at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with preparations for the Smithsonian conference on “Musical Repercussions of 1492: Encounters in Text and Performance,” chaired by Carol E. Robertson in 1988, Robertson objected to the use of the word “man” in the title and it was decided to change the project’s name to The Universe of Music: A History. Proceedings of the conference, edited by Robertson, were published by The Smithsonian Institution Press in 1992.


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