Darrell L. Brown and Dr. Brian Harker, Music
Murray Boren is the composer-in-residence at Brigham Young University as well as a professor of musical composition and theory. He studied composition at BYU as an undergraduate and did graduate work at BYU and City University of New York. He is a composer who has generated many works and is respected by his colleges. I have had association with Professor Boren, and because of that association, my peers have often asked why access to Professor Boren’s compositions is non-existent—why recordings of the performances are difficult to find and the scores unobtainable. Premieres of Professor Boren’s compositions are regular on the campus of BYU and in the surrounding area. Professor Boren has also released a CD recording of some of his works. Murray Boren has received many commissions including the Barlow Endowment for the Arts, University of Delaware Wind Ensemble, and the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, to name a few. Many solo performers have also commissioned and recorded his works. Nonetheless, his music is still relatively difficult to find and access, whether for education or enjoyment.
This project aims to bring Murray Boren’s works together and to catalog them so that they can be more accessible if not to the academic community, at least to the students of the School of Music at BYU. Collecting and cataloging Professor Boren’s compositions presented several obstacles. The first obstacle was simply finding the scores and recordings of his music. Professor Boren was initially opposed to himself being involved in the project and he himself did not realize the inaccessibility of his own music; therefore, it presented the difficulty of obtaining the needed scores and recordings. In addition to this was making the decision of how much of his music to catalog. Should the catalog include student works or be based solely on his professional career? Should the catalog include his newest works? Working with a living composer adds a complication to the decision process because new works are constantly being produced. With the collecting of scores comes the additional obstacle of data retrieval, sufficient enough to create a note-worthy catalog. Information such as dates and collaborators must be obtained and a method of cataloging must be chosen.
My first step was to check in BYU’s Music Library in the Harold B. Lee Library and the Performance Library in the School of Music. Recordings and programs of School of Music performances were discovered at the Music Library. At the Performance Library many of the scores they did actually have were missing pages and entire movements.
Professor Boren did not want to get involved with this project, but to get the information and music I needed, he was the only source. Professor Boren supplied me with an unorganized and almost complete collection of his works from his professional career—works from 1977 to 2001. While reviewing the scores, it became apparent that there were missing scores. Missing were eleven chamber works, incidental music from five plays, eight cantatas, and various smaller works.
The volume of works that Murray Boren has composed proved to be quite impressive. Included are six operas, a musical, fifteen cantatas, five wind ensemble pieces—one of which is part of a piano concerto, four orchestral works—two of which are symphonies, and choral works for mixed choirs with accompaniment and a combination of a children’s choir with a men’s chorus unaccompanied. Beyond the aforementioned piano concerto, he has written three piano sonatas—number three is missing.
Professor Boren has also written a large amount of solo vocal literature, several written for and dedicated to his wife. There is a large variety in this category, ranging from LDS hymn texts set to new music to songs about pop culture icons (which has never been publicly performed). There is also variety in the way he writes accompaniment. One might use piano while another might include strings and harp. And finally there is a large array of chamber music for solo instruments and mixed ensembles. The mixed ensembles include everything from mixed clarinet ensembles and flute ensembles to string quartets (the scores are missing to both) and tuba quartets.
After receiving the scores to the bulk of Professor Boren’s compositions, the recovery of informative data was simple. Murray Boren marks his scores meticulously, including dates, dedications, commissions, librettists, instrumentation, and inspiration for the work.
In music cataloging there is no standardized method. There are three basic methods used: chronological, by classification (by periods in the composer’s life or by genre, i.e. symphonies, operas, etc.), and alphabetically. The last most often reserved as an index or appendix to the two other methods. Even though there is no standard, all methods include important and relevant information about the composition. Information found in various catalogs included important dates, titles of the piece and movements, duration of performance, instrumentation, names of premiere performers, collaborators, publishers, editors, and the first few bars of the composition in piano reduction (Thematic Catalog).
After evaluating the various methods, I choose a combination of the classification and the chronological methods. I break it into three categories: dated (in chronological order), not dated, and missing/no score. The catalog is from his professional career (thus far), 1977-2001. No student works will be included. The information included in the catalog will from his scores and past programs. This provides subtle inconsistencies from piece to piece, but it will be as complete as possible. An alphabetical index by title will be at the end of the catalog. The logic of this method and the availability of resources make this method my choice for Professor Boren’s works.
To date this project is not complete. The scores and information have been gathered. The scores are currently being added to the Music Library shelves at BYU. The recordings to match the written scores are also becoming available. By January of 2002, all of these items will be available in the Music Library. In addition, in November 2001, a recital of Murray Boren’s back catalog of compositions will take place.