Robert M. Stevenson (1916-2012)
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Posted by: Stephen Stuempfle
Robert Murrell Stevenson, one of the
leading music scholars of the twentieth century and a preeminent figure in Iberian
and Latin American research, died of natural causes on December 22, 2012, in
A longtime professor of
musicology at UCLA, as well as an adjunct professor at Catholic University of
America, he was an extraordinarily prolific author of books, articles,
editions, reference entries, and reviews, as well as the founder/editor of the
groundbreaking journal Inter-American Music Review.
His scholarly investigations ranged over an
impressively wide array of subjects, particularly Spain and Latin America
before 1800, but also traditional, indigenous, and popular musics of the
Americas and the contributions of women composers and performers.
Born on July 3, 1916, in Melrose, New
Mexico, he spent his childhood and grew to maturity in El Paso, Texas, earning
his bachelor's degree at the University of Texas there.
An account of his subsequent training reads
like a Who's Who of institutions and famous people, with degrees from Julliard,
Yale, Eastman, Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford, and studies in composition,
piano, and musicology with Stravinsky, Schnabel, and Schrade, Hanson, among
During World War II he served as
Army Captain and Chaplain for a unit of African American armed forces, and
received an Army commendation.
teaching at UCLA in 1949 and soon established his scholarly reputation with
seminal books such as Music in Mexico (1952) and Music in Peru (1959;
1960), followed by a trilogy of classics: Spanish Music in the Age of
Columbus (1960), Spanish Cathedral Music of the Golden Age (1961),
and Music in Aztec and Inca Territory (1968).
In all, he authored twenty-nine books and
hundreds of scholarly journal, dictionary and encyclopedia articles. In 1978
Stevenson launched his own journal, Inter-American Music Review.
Unique in conception as well as execution, it
became a major venue for leading research on music of all the Americas.
An accomplished composer and pianist, Stevenson
wrote a wide range of pieces for piano, chamber groups, choir, and symphony
He was the recipient of Guggenheim,
Fulbright, NEH, and Ford Foundation fellowships and grants, and he was an
honorary member of several scholarly societies, including the Society for Ethnomusicology
(SEM) and the American Musicological Society (AMS).
For SEM he established the Robert Stevenson
Prize, awarded to composers who are ethnomusicologists, and for AMS he established
an award for scholars of Iberia or Latin America.
He also founded the annual Robert Stevenson
Lectures in the UCLA Department of Musicology.
In 1985 he was awarded the OAS Gabriela Mistral Prize and in 2004 he was
nominated for and received the Constantin Pununcio Award for scholars who
maintain high levels of research after retirement from the systemwide
University of California.
Stevenson's research archive is maintained at the Conservatorio Real de Madrid.
Stevenson was an exceptional mentor as well
as researcher and guided twenty-five dissertations at UCLA and Catholic
Those who were fortunate
enough to do graduate research under his direction felt deeply inspired not
only by his erudition and productivity, by the scope and depth of his
investigations, but also by his passionate commitment to preserving and
promoting a vast heritage of great music.
He played a crucial role in moving the Americas to a position of central
importance in music scholarship.
he will be sorely missed by innumerable friends, admirers, colleagues, and
students, his seminal work will continue to serve as a shining beacon for music
No services are planned, but there will be
a tribute later this year in his honor.
- Steven Loza