Sunday, January 07, 2007

Barzun on Record

Professor John C. Tibbetts wrote in an e-mail:

I have a 45-minute audio interview with Prof. Barzun talking about Romanticism in music that might be of interest to fellow Barzun enthusiasts. . . . Are there other radio and/or television interviews/commentaries of him that can be obtained?

Mr. John Adams responded, also by e-mail:

Dear Professor Tibbetts,

Here’s a short answer to your query about interviews with Jacques Barzun.

Available video, by name of interviewer:

Jeffrey Wallin (American Academy for Liberal Education) available through Liberty Fund

Arthur Schlesinger (C-SPAN television, at the New York Historical Society)

Connie Brod (BookTV on C-SPAN television, from San Antonio, Texas)

The long answer — one that includes audio recordings of Barzun’s conversations and speeches — would be very long indeed.

Fortunately, many of Barzun's lectures and interviews made it into print. An early example is The New Invitation to Learning (Random House, 1942) that includes fifteen segments in which Barzun joined host Mark Van Doren for CBS radio broadcasts.

Shortly after the publication of Teacher in America a few years later, Barzun was heard on the Voice of America with “Cross Currents in American Education,” (29 May 1946). While in Chicago for the Walgreen Lectures that led to God’s Country and Mine, he contributed to the university’s “Roundtable” radio discussion “Is Anti-Americanism Growing in Europe?” (25 January 1953). Whether tapes were made I do not know, but these two small items serve as a reminder of how difficult it would be to recapture all that he has done.

Barzun also was heard dozens of times on the NBC Radio program “Conversation” hosted by Clifton Fadiman. The tapes are now held in the Library of Congress, but many of the sessions were also copied and distributed by the Center for Cassette Studies (North Hollywood) and either Learning Plans or Educational Research Group (both of Tucson). These can be found in some libraries, though many have discarded the old technology.

Still older technology remains. The talk he gave to the boys at Phillips Exeter Academy, “The Care and Feeding of the Mind”, was pressed into vinyl by Westminster Records (Spoken Arts No. 713, Distinguished Teachers Series, 1956). The Metropolitan Opera's staging of Verdi’s Macbeth in 1959 was turned into an LP (RCA Victor LM 6147), but it seems unlikely that the live radio broadcast of Clifton Fadiman’s interview with Barzun during the third intermission made it onto that record. The original tapes may be held at the New York Public Library.

There also could have been a recording made of Barzun's address, “The Place and the Price of Excellence,” to a Cornell graduate convocation. Just a few months later the speech appeared in Vogue magazine (February 1959). The address and its effect at Cornell are recorded in The Speaker’s Resource Book, Scott, Foresman, 1961.

Forgive me for skipping over familiar items like his Mellon Lectures (The Use and Abuse of Art), Elson Lectures (1951 and 1986: “Music into Words” and “Literature in Liszt’s Mind and Work” are reprinted in Jack Sullivan, Words on Music: From Addison to Barzun; “Music into Words” is reprinted in Bea Friedland, Critical Questions), addresses to American Academies, Institutes and Centers, the Royal Society of Arts, Cambridge here and there, colleges everywhere, and Cooperstown for opera and baseball.

Instead I conclude with interviews Barzun granted to promote From Dawn to Decadence:

Robert Siegel’s NPR chat with Barzun for “All Things Considered”

Randy Sydnor’s Internet Radio “Oxford Review” talk with Barzun (requires RealPlayer [LW: not working])

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Steve Paulson spoke briefly with Barzun on 1 October 2000, and that segment is part of the “To the Best of Our Knowledge” broadcast titled “Highbrow/Lowbrow/Nobrow.” The WPR website says, “Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 00-10-01-A.”

I hope these Internet clips are the kind of listening you have in mind, Professor Tibbetts. I am sorry to have missed the broadcast of your Schumann series. Will your interview with Barzun be linked to the Internet? I hope to hear it someday.

With best wishes for 2007,

John Adams
Juneau, Alaska

Mr. Jason Rawnsley adds:

Barzun's “What is a School?” speech, delivered Oct. 24, 2001 at Trinity University, is available from C-SPAN. The text is available on the Web at the Hudson Institute.

Barzun appeared on the Charlie Rose show on May 29, 2000 to talk about From Dawn to Decadence. This episode can be watched on Google Video.