Princeton Seminars (1959 &1960)

Paul Fromm and the Princeton Seminars in Advanced Musical Study
1960 Princeton Seminar Program

During the 1950s, Paul Fromm became increasingly preoccupied with the plight of young composers in the United States. He worried that composers were isolated from one another with little access to public musical life. He admired European seminars, particularly the Darmstadt Summer School, which he felt brought composers into community and stimulated creativity. But Fromm asserted that “Americans need not depend” upon Europe's resources. Thus he directed the Fromm Music Foundation's funds toward the establishment of the Princeton Seminars in Advanced Musical Study.

The first seminar took place during August and September of 1959 and the second, the following summer. Approximately twenty-five composers participated each year, attending concerts and lectures and receiving readings, as well as feedback, on their work. For various reasons, the Seminars discontinued after 1960. One might be inclined to view them as a failure, and indeed, they are barely remembered today. Yet the Seminars were crucial to the development of American academic music during the second half of the twentieth century. They paved the way for the journal Perspectives of New Music and the founding of the Ph.D. in music composition. Building on Roger Sessions’s already established reputation and ushering in the era of Milton Babbitt, the Seminars also helped to ensure Princeton's position as a leader, perhaps the leader in new music. Fromm Music Foundation materials archived at Harvard University Archives (HUA) include correspondence, concert programs, press releases, critical reviews, photographs, and minutes from meetings, allowing for the documentation of the Princeton Seminars. These materials also illuminate Fromm’s interest in the aims and aesthetics of the emerging Princeton School, a considerable force in American academic music during the 1960s and 1970s. -Monica Hershberger