Deryck Cooke, and, Hans Keller: a meeting of minds … and archives

Deryck Cooke (1919 – 1976)

We here at MusiCB3 are delighted to be able to tell our readers that the project to catalogue the papers of Deryck Cooke is nearing completion with just a couple of boxes of compositions remaining.

And what an archive! It was presented to Cambridge University Library by Cooke’s partner Hazel Hyde in 2010 and funding for the project was received from a generous American donor who wished to remain anonymous, and whose generosity we would like publicly to acknowledge.  A note of heartfelt thanks and appreciation is due to Mark Doran who carried out the not inconsiderable sorting and preliminary cataloguing of the archive and undertook painstaking background research to aid dating of many items. His notes have been invaluable in the creation of the catalogue.  Mark also contributed several deeply engaging and elegantly written postings as he worked through the collection, revealing insights into some of its treasures – not least on Cooke’s realisation of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony and his iconic monograph The Language of Music.

The majority of the archive comprises writings by Cooke in the form of draft and published articles, radio scripts, concert programme notes, record sleeve notes and lecture scripts. There are also manuscript notes and secondary sources on Cooke’s research interests of Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner, correspondence, photographs and a collection of printed and handwritten music.

The archive has been divided into thirteen series:

  1. Articles
  2. Radio Scripts
  3. Concert Programme & Record Sleeve Notes
  4. Lecture Scripts
  5. Correspondence
  6. Mahler Research
  7. Wagner Research
  8. Photographs
  9. Personal Memorabilia
  10. Writings by Others
  11. Printed & Handwritten Music
  12. Donations by Third Parties
  13. Compositions

We invite you to browse the handlist and discover your favourites.

Hans Keller

And, we are doubly fortunate here at the UL, as not only do we have Cooke’s archive but also, as many of our attentive readers will know, we  have that of Hans Keller and we felt we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to join the dots between them. They worked together at the BBC for many years, becoming firm friends and musical sparring partners. Keller liked nothing better than to organise interval discussions with his colleague, (and vice-versa) scripts for several of which survive in the Keller archive (including one on the nature of music, dating from about 1963, in which Cooke explores Keller’s musical philosophy, which somehow seems to involve pigs as well as more metaphysical concepts).

Another item of particular interest is Cooke’s radio conversation with Jeremy Noble on The Language of Music, broadcast on 21 March 1960. This is surely Cooke’s best-known book which Keller reviewed in Music Review (Feb 1961, 34 – 38), saying – in a nutshell – that it is impossible to express the ‘language’ of music in words:

“Mr. Cooke  could have saved himself a great deal of misunderstanding if, instead of his invaluable book [Note that Keller does actually feel it was worth writing], he had written a large-scale functional analysis straight across our musical past…”.

This quotation, of course, does not reflect the underlying tenor of the review as it is a very carefully-argued piece which is supportive of Cooke’s intention and defends his achievement, but questions the method. Cooke, in a long letter to the Editor of Music Review, (of which he sent a copy to Keller in advance) responds in depth to Keller’s review (MR XX/3 Aug 1961, 260-2) referring inter-alia to Rudolph Reti’s analysis of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in his seminal work The Thematic Process in Music [M580.c.95.3], challenging Keller “…when Mr. Keller composes his own functional analysis of Beethoven’s Fifth (which he has promised me to to), will that be any more successful…”. Alas, we shall never know as Keller did not deliver on his promise – although, to be fair, he did try to interest the BBC at the time, and again a decade later, but nothing came of it. But what I think this exchange illustrates (Keller’s article and Cooke’s response) is the serious, philosophical and mutually respectful debate between them on the nature of music and the role that the written or spoken word has in whether it helps or hinders its understanding.

Keller’s respect for Cooke’s musicianship is also evident in the obituary he wrote for the BBC’s in-house magazine Ariel where he writes:

“…he was both a great musician and a great man – and the two do not inevitably go together.” Ariel, Dec 1976, p10.

A fitting tribute.

Enquiries concerning the Cooke Archive should be made via the University Library Manuscripts Department.

And for the Keller Archive to the Music Department.


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