Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Celebrating music author and series editor Arnold Whittall

Penny Souster, Vicki Cooper, Kate Brett

photo courtesy of the Society for Music Analysis

Arnold Whittall, Professor Emeritus at King’s College, London, is one of the most respected figures in CUP’s music list. His publishing record with the Press is immense, and spans nearly forty years. But it is above all his editorship of Music since 1900, and its precursor series Music in the Twentieth Century, which arguably constitutes his most influential achievement and lasting legacy. Professor Whittall will celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday on 11 November of this year, and plans to retire from his editorial role. To mark the occasion, and in the spirit of Doctor Who’s ‘The Three Doctors’, Music books Publisher Kate Brett invited her predecessors Penny Souster and Vicki Cooper to reminisce about their work with Professor Whittall on the series.

Penny recalls the origins of the series as follows:

Sometime in the mid-1980s the Royal Academy of Arts put on an exhibition called ‘British Art in the Twentieth Century’. The use of ‘in’ in the title struck me as significant and suggested to me the title for a book series which particularly considered context and provided ‘a wide perspective on music and musical life in the twentieth century’.

It was immediately clear who would be best placed to advise on and hopefully edit such a series. Arnold Whittall was already a very familiar figure at CUP as author and advisor and the breadth of his expertise, knowledge and interest in twentieth-century music was unparalleled. He had had association with the Cambridge music list since its inauguration in 1976, having translated with his wife Mary Whittall one of the first published titles, the seminal Wagner study by Kurt von Westernhagen The Forging of the Ring, and a few years later we had published his own book The Music of Britten and Tippett.  Elsewhere he had written on Schoenberg and on music since the First World War, and contributed a staggering number of articles and reviews to all the major music journals. In 1982 he had become the first Professor of Music Theory and Analysis in a British university – at King’s College, London.

It was his involvement in theory and analysis as well as the historical and cultural aspects of music which made Arnold such a perfect editor for this series, and which resulted in the contracting of so many valuable projects  – not confined to composers and their music but touching on broader topics such as style, legacy, influence, politics and patronage, alongside closer analytical studies.

I couldn’t have imagined in 1987 just what a success Arnold was to make of this series over so many years.  His familiarity with the work of British and American scholars, both established and up-and-coming , ensured a steady stream of high-class proposals and his judgment of these, along with unsolicited offerings,  was quick and decisive – not infrequently laced with a little dry humour. He read and reported on everything without delay (such a joy for a commissioning editor) and many of the projects he recommended to the Press Syndicate have become classic texts. Beyond that he took time to advise many of the potential or contracted authors as they wrote or revised, in particular those who may have been developing a book proposal from a thesis – always with tact and patience.

Penny retired in 2003, at which point the series was about 16 years old, but showing no signs of slowing down. Moving into the twenty-first century it became necessary to rethink the series title (‘Music since 1900’ leaves plenty of scope) but the aims remained the same.

Vicki Cooper takes up the story:

During my time as a musicology graduate student, at the University of Chicago, I remember an article on Stravinsky in the Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS) creating a stir, signalling a certain broadening out and validation that twentieth-century music deserved to be assessed, researched, and published in major forums. Not so very long afterwards, in the late 1980s, Music in the Twentieth Century was launched, an entire monograph series to provide a platform for the presentation of new research and a path forward for growth.

By the time I became the Cambridge Music Editor, over 25 volumes had been published and under its new name the series was going from strength to strength. Arnold was always a treasured guiding light, and over the next twelve years until my own retirement I valued his advice and support not only for series matters, but for the music list in general. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Arnold, and so enjoyed our London lunches, often at Christopher’s, in Covent Garden.

When I arrived at the Music desk in 2015 after working on a succession of Humanities lists, I was overawed to encounter Arnold, a figure whose name I had heard uttered reverentially ever since my graduate trainee days (not to mention the fact that I had read one of his early books, on Schoenberg’s chamber music, as a teenage violin student –  our relationship goes back a very long way, and I still have the book!). Vicki handed over to me with a piece of advice that rang in my ears “ Remember, Arnold will expect an immediate response!” I have striven to follow that advice ever since. Like Penny and Vicki, I have benefited not only from Arnold’s legendary efficiency but from his generosity, erudition, wisdom and incisive judgment. I shall miss working on the series with him enormously, but I trust he is only laying down his editorial pencil, not his authorial pen, and I know that the Press will still seek his advice on other projects for as long as he is willing to provide it. I also hope that when the pandemic recedes, I shall be able to thank him in person.

Meanwhile, though, all three of us and all at Cambridge University Press would like to thank Arnold most warmly for his significant contributions to our publishing, and wish him a very happy special birthday on 11 November and many more to come.

In celebration of Arnold Whittall, and with gratitude for his contributions to our music publishing program, we are offering a 30% discount on all titles in the Music since 1900 & Music in the Twentieth Century series, through 6th December 2020.

Click the links below to order.

Music since 1900: 30% Discount

Music in the Twentieth Century: 30% Discount

About The Authors

Penny Souster

Penny Souster managed the Music list at Cambridge University Press from the early days of the music books program until her retirement in 2003, developing an ambitious and wide-ran...

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Vicki Cooper

Vicki Cooper is Founder and Director of Cooper Digital Publishing Ltd. She worked at Cambridge University Press for twenty-five years, and was senior commissioning editor for Music...

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Kate Brett

Kate Brett joined the Humanities editorial team at Cambridge University Press in 1986, and managed a number of different lists before becoming Publisher for Music in 2015....

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