Donald Erb Collection
SC 209

 Contains scores and programs

Summary Information

McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections
Donald Erb Collection
SC 209
Date [inclusive]
2.0 Linear feet
Physical Description
Contains musical scores, program notes, LP record albums, and compact discs.
Located in locked compact shelving, level 1, shelf 12B.
Contains scores, musical programs, LP records, and compact discs of American composer Donald Erb.

Preferred Citation

Donald Erb Collection, Special Collections, McConnell Library, Radford University, Radford, VA.

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Biographical information

Biography of Donald Erb, from Grove Music Online:

After service in the US Navy during World War II, he attended Kent State University (BS 1950) and then studied composition with Marcel Dick at the Cleveland Institute of Music (MM 1952), Boulanger in Paris (1953) and Heiden at Indiana University, Bloomington (DMus 1964). He was appointed to the composition and theory faculty (1953–61), was composer-in-residence (1966–81), Distinguished Professor of Composition (1987–96) and became professor emeritus in 1996 at the Cleveland Institute; he was also composer-in-residence with the Dallas SO (1968–9) and professor of composition at Indiana University (1975–6, 1984–7) and Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1981–4). He was the recipient of numerous awards, prizes, fellowships and commissions.

Erb's approach to composition was mainly intuitive, but was based upon a strong foundation of musical craftsmanship. His conception of form was fundamentally organic: he frequently used a specific intervallic configuration or cell, melodic or rythmic motives, and/or sonic gestures as the basis for a whole movement or work. He employed these ‘seeds’ to generate growth through developmental processes – using varieties of textures and sonorities as well as limited aleatoricism – towards a goal-orientated succession of climaxes, analogues to the concept of variation. Although his works always have a tonal foundation, he used contemporary means, such as pitch repetition and pedal points, to establish a sequence of fluctuating tonics. His works are analogous to traditional forms and exhibit clear musical structures. His interest in incorporating improvisatory and aleatory elements in his music reflects his great interest and background in jazz.

In the 1960s, he developed his mature style based on exploring the sound capabilities of traditional instruments and electronically synthesized sound, as well as relationships between the two. Reconnaissance (1967) was one of the first compositions of its day to utilize the interaction of real-time performance with electronically generated sounds. Such works as Fallout (1964), Kyrie (1965), Fission (1968) and The Purple-Roofed Ethical Suicide Parlor (1972) reflect his response to the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict, and contain violent sonorous explosions. In the 1970s he embarked on a series of virtuoso concertos that made increased technical demands on performers.

His works from the 1980s and 90s reveal a greater emphasis on counterpoint and chromaticism than in his earlier works. Furthermore, he used chorales and hymns in such works as the Concerto for Brass and Orchestra (1986), Watchman Fantasy (1988), Children's Song (1995) and Sunlit Peaks and Dark Valleys (1995). His Ritual Observances (1991) for orchestra was written to honour the bicentennial of the death of Mozart; as a basis for this work Erb used music from the first eight bars of the ‘Lachrymosa’ of Mozart's Requiem. In all of these works the borrowed passages are seldom clearly audible and fragments are usually used as compositional germs.

Source: John G. Suess. "Erb, Donald." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed October 24, 2012,

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections

McConnell Library
PO Box 6881
Radford, Virginia

Restrictions to Access

An appointment for research is required. Collection is open for research. No interlibrary loan.

Custodial History

The Donald Erb Collection was donated by Radford University Music Professor Bruce Mahin, a personal friend of composer Donald Erb. The LPs and CDs were donated by Lucille Erb, Donald Erb's widow.


Additional accruals are expected.

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Related resources in McConnell Library

McConnell LIbrary has a number of recordings and published scores by Donald Erb, which are listed in the library's online catalog.

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Collection Inventory

Box 1: Contains the following scores and programs: 

1) Score - “Three Pieces for Brass Quintet and Piano,” January 17, 1968 

2) Score - “Space Music,” Feb. 15, 1963 

3) Score - “Three Pieces for Harp and Percussion Ensemble” 

4) Score - “Stargazing” 

5) Score - “The Rainbow Snake” (with pencil annotations) 

6) Score - “Four Duets for Bb Trumpets” (paper copy from microfilm) 

7) Score - “String Quartet no. 3” (with red ink annotations) 

8) Score - “God Love You Now,” August 7, 1971 

9) Score- “Five Red Hot Duets for Two Contrabassoons, or Bassoon and Contrabassoon, or Two Bassoons.” 

10) Program and incidental documenation - Opening Night of “New England’s Prospect,” May 17, 1974. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, Conductor, Julian Bond, Narrator. 

Box 2: LP records and Compact Discs 

LP: Donald Erb: "Prismatic Variations," plus compositions by Christopher Rouse and Joan Tower. St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, Conductor and Musical Director. Nonesuch Digital (79118-1) Recorded 1984, released 1986. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Quintet" (1976) and "The Last Quintet" (1982), plus compositions by Marvin Lamb and Jack Waldenmaier. Music For Meadows, Southern Methodist University. Redwood Records (ES-285) 

LP: Donald Erb: "Harold's Trip to the Sky" and "Sonneries," plus compositions by Kenneth Timm and Frederick Koch. Cleveland Composers' Guild Series, Volume 1. Crystal Records S531. 1976 

LP: Donald Erb: "Basspiece," (1969) plus compositions by J.M. Mestres-Quadreny, Will Ogdon, and Netty Simons. Played by Bertram Turetsky, contrabass. Desto Records, DC-1728. 

LP: Donald Erb: "St. Valentine's Day Brass Quintet," plus compositions by Jack Gallagher, Don Freund, and Byron Adams. Nashville Contemporary Brass Quintet, "Springsongs." 1985 

LP: Donald Erb: "Music for Instruments & Electronnic Sounds," featuring two compositions: "Reconnaissance" and "In No Strange Land." Nonesuch Records, H-71223. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Trio of Violin, Keyboards, and Percussion," plus compositions by John Rodby. Crystal Records, S505. 1981 

LP: Donald Erb: "The Devil's Quickstep," plus compositions by Steven Stucky, Daniel Breedon, and Lou Coyner. The Composers Consortium. Spectrum Records, SR-195. 1985. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Symphony of Overtures," "The Seventh Trumpet," and "Concerto for Solo Percussionist." Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Donald Johanos, Conductor. Turnabout Vox, TV-S 34433. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Diversion for Tow (Other than sex) (1966), "Phantasma" (1965), and "String Trio for violin, violincello, and electric guitar" (1966), plus compositions by Max Schubel. Opus One Records, Number 1. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Kyrie" (1967), "Summermusic" (1966), and "Trio for Two" (1968), plus compositions by Dorrance Stalvey and George Rochberg. Metamorphosis: Erb, Rochberg, Stalvey. Ars Nova Ars Antiqua Recordings, AN 1008. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Spatial Fanfare for Brass and Percussion," "Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra," "Christmasmusic," and "Autmnmusic." Louisville Orchestra, conductor Louis Lane. Louisville Orchestra First Edition Records, LS 772. 1980. 

LP: Donald Erb: "Music for a Festive Occasion for electric tape with orchestra, 1975," commissioned for and appears on "The Sounds of America: 1776-1976," Cleveland Orchestra, Loren Maazel, conductor. Various other composers are also featured. Columbia Records. 1976. 

LP: Donald Erb, arranger. Symphonic Spirtuals performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London conducted by Dr. Paul Freeman. Columbia Records, 36267. 1979. 

CD: Donald Erb: "Symphony for Winds (1989)," plus compositions by Sydney Hodlinson, John Harbison, Leslie Bassett, and Gunther Schiller. American Music for Wines, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble, Robert Levy, conductor. 

CD: Donald Erb: "Sunlight Peaks and Dark Valleys" and "Dreamtime," plus compositions by Jean Guillou. Cleveland Museum of Art Highlights New Music. Musart Recordings, 71217. 2000. 

CD: Donald Erb: "Clarinet Concerto," "Violin Concerto," and "Trombone Concerto." Grand Rapids Symphony, Catherine Comet, conductor. Koss Classics, KC-3302. 1995. 

CD: Donald Erb" "Concerto for Contrabassoon and Orchestra (1984)," plus compositions by Mara Richter, Erik Lundborg, and Irwin Bazelon. The London Philharmonic Celebrates American Composers, Harold Farberman, Conductor. Leonard Productions, LR 331. 

CD: Donald Erb: "Solstice," "Evensong," "Concerto for Orchestra." New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Sedares, conductor. Koch International Classics, 3-7417-2H1. 1998.