I Sang the Unsingable

September 2017
50 black and white illustrations
418 pages
9x6 in
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS006000, MUS037110, BIO026000

I Sang the Unsingable

My Life in Twentieth-Century Music

Bethany Beardslee, Minna Zallman Proctor

eBook for Handhelds
Memoir of Bethany Beardslee, the iconic American soprano known as the "composer's singer."
American soprano Bethany Beardslee rose to prominence in the postwar years when the modernist sensibilities of European artists and thinkers were flooding American shores and challenging classical music audiences. With her light lyric voice, her musical intuition, and her fearless dedication to new music, Beardslee became the go-to girl for twelve-tone music in New York City. She was the first American singer to build a repertoire performing the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Milton Babbitt, and Pierre Boulez, making a vibrant career singing difficult music.

I Sang the Unsingable is the autobiography of the acclaimed twentieth-century art-song soprano. In her memoir, Beardslee tells the story of how she made her way from inauspicious depression-era East Lansing to Carnegie Hall, and how her unique combination of musical gifts and training were alchemy for challenging mid-century music. This is Beardslee's own perspective on a formidable catalog of premieres, a forty-six-year career, and a deep and lifelong dedication to performing the work of the composers of our time.

Born in 1925 in Lansing, Michigan, Bethany Beardslee is an American soprano. She is noted for her collaborations with major twentieth-century composers.

Minna Zallman Proctor is a writer, critic, and translator. She is editor-in-chief of The Literary Review and the author of Do You Hear What I Hear? and Landslide: True Stories.

Support for this publication was provided by the Howard Hanson Institute for American Music at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781787440432), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.

Table of Contents

Part One: Childhood (1925--50)
Christmas 1925
The Great Depression
East Lansing
College Years
Lessons with J. Herbert Swanson
New York, Here I Come
Part Two: The Monod Era (1948-55)
The Monod Era, 1949
Work with Jacques
Farewell, Juilliard
Paris and the Monod Family
Home Again
New Music in New York City
"All the Right People"
The Duo: Recital Tours for the Association of American Colleges and Universities
Fifty-Nine New Pieces of Music
1955 and Pierrot lunaire: A Tumultuous Year
Camera Concerts with Stanley Seeger
Part Three: Godfrey (1956-62)
A Season of Change: Summer 1956
Godfrey Winham
New York Pro Musica: 1958
The Fromm Music Foundation
Earl Kim and Russell Sherman
Working with Martha Graham
Threni and the Altenberg Lieder
Princeton and Saskatoon
The Russian Delegation
Recordings with Robert Craft
To Prove My Love
Baird and Christopher Winham: Life in Princeton
Das Buch der hängenden Gärten: Opus 15 by Arnold Schoenberg
Part Four: New Music (1963-75)
Vision and Prayer, or, My First Adventure with Electronic Music
Camelot Years: 1962
Le marteau sans maître
The Sixties
Philomel: 1964
A Composer's Singer
Darmstadt: 1964
Aaron Copland, Imeneo, and Max: 1965
Belle Mead
Godfrey and the Computer
Marlboro and Penderecki: 1967-68
Old Friends and New Pieces
How Things Wind Down: 1973
Part Five: Farewell and Farewell
Remembering Milton
Singing Again
Lieder with Richard Goode: 1980-90
Pierrot Records: New Ventures
Encore with Robert Helps
Farewell and Farewell
Appendix A: Discography
Appendix B: Premieres by Bethany Beardslee


I Sang the Unsingable was listed by Alex Ross as a noted book of the year for 2017 on his blog The Rest is Noise. This is a book about a truly remarkable American singer...Beardslee was indispensable to the whole Princeton/New York new music scene and her contacts with figures like Martha Graham, Stravinsky, and Boulez also make for fascinating reading, all written in an engagingly informal style. MUSICAL OPINION QUARTERLY

Bethany Beardslee collaborated with Igor Stravinsky, Milton Babbitt, George Perle, and Peter Maxwell Davies. Her detailed, plain-spoken memoir, co-written with her goddaughter, addresses sources of her inspiration. OPERA NOW

Entertaining and highly personal...From reminiscences of major figures such as Stravinsky, Boulez, Martha Graham and many others unjustly neglected, to pithy observations about new music and the art of singing, this is essential reading. Five Stars. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

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