Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pan Cogito Meets Asia-Influenced American Composer, Conductor, Violinist, Organologist, And Ethnomusicologist Henry Eichheim For The First Time

Henry Eichheim (January 3, 1870 – August 22, 1942) was an American composer, conductor, violinist, organologist, and ethnomusicologist. He is best known as one of the first American composers to combine the sound of indigenous Asian instruments with western orchestral colors.

He was born in Chicago, where he studied at the Chicago Musical College. He later went to Boston to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After about 1912 he became more interested in conducting and composition than in violin performance; he was an early promoter of the works of contemporary French composers, particularly Debussy, Ravel and Gabriel Fauré, in the United States.

Following some trips to east Asia, including Korea, Japan, and China, he began to study the music of those cultures, and as a result began to use both the instruments from east Asia and Indonesia in his compositions, as well as some of the rhythmic and melodic elements of the indigenous music. He moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1922, although he continued to travel widely. On two of his trips–to Bali, and India—he went with Leopold Stokowski, a friend of his.

After Eichheim's death, the University of California, Santa Barbara inherited his collection of papers, photographs and musical instruments.

Some of his better known compositions include Oriental Impressions (1919–1922), which contains transcriptions of Japanese, Korean and Thai melodies; Java (1929), and Bali (1931), which use instruments from the gamelan ensembles of those two islands; and The Moon, My Shadow and I (1926), a setting of poems by Li Bai.

He also composed a number of settings of poems of William Butler Yeats.



Henry Eichheim Collection of Musical Instruments, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Professor Dolores M. Hsu, Director, The Eichheim Collection


With thanks to Grammy Award-winning American conductor and violinist John McLaughlin Williams for this important introduction.


Image credit: (c) Portrait of Henry Eichheim by Alfredo Ramos Martinez (1871-1946).

"The drawing, pastel and chalk on paper, was made in the mid-1930s when Martinez, one of Mexico's most revered artists, was in Santa Barbara painting the renowned frescoes in the chapel of the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Eichheim had met Martinez in Los Angeles at an exhibition of the artist's work which so impressed him that he commissioned Martinez to decorate the chapel. Between 1932 and 1935 Eichheim contributed generously to the completion of the chapel, a George Washington Smith (1876-1930) structure, which was being finished by Lutah Marie Riggs. During this time, Martinez became a close friend of Eichheim's; in addition to the portrait, he painted a series of frescoes on the walls of Eichheim's home, also a George Washington Smith building in Montecito. Both Eichheim and Smith are interred in the chapel. (119.5 cm x 94 cm)"

Eichheim Collection, University of California, Santa Barbara.


Blogger JW said...

Brilliant! The most I've seen posted about Eichheim in like, ever. Thanks.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thank you, John!

This was a thrilling discovery, and it made me sense how cut off Washington, D.C. can be from so much underappreciated important American culture.

Can you comment any on available recordings, or plans for new recordings, of Henry Eicheim's works. I don't recall the name from 30 years ago when New World Records was engaged in its important recording projects. (I also don't recall the name from CRI composer lists.)

(What about Naxos?)

Thanks again.

10:19 AM  

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