WHEN HERVIG was six years old, the family moved to Baltic, South Dakota, where his father had found work as superintendent of schools. Hervig studied trombone with a teacher who came to Baltic in the summers, but credits his interest in music to listening to radio broadcasts from Station WOI (Ames, lowa). Hervig attended nearby Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and received a B.A. in English in 1939. After teaching English at a small high school in South Dakota for a year, he enrolled at the University of Iowa (known then as the State University of Iowa) as a graduate student in music. In the autumn of 1940, Hervig announced his intention to enroll in the graduate school.
In a 1988 interview, Hervig credits the change in his life's direction, from English to music, to the purchase in 1940 of a record player and six recordings. Hervig relates that after listening to the recordings, "My life was changed. Just like that. I was spellbound. So I said, 'This is it. I'm really going to study music.' And the same year I enrolled at the University of Iowa as a graduate student."
QUITE UNKNOWN to him at the time, Hervig's decisions paralleled those of another American composer, Aaron Copland. Copland wrote in 1952 that his own discovery of "serious" music was "rather like coming upon an unsuspected city — like discovering Paris or Rome if you had never before heard of their existence" and furthermore, "I remember the first time I openly admitted to another human being that I intended to become a composer of music. To set oneself up as a rival of the masters: what a daring and unheard-of project for a Brooklyn youth!" By today's standards of decorum, Hervig's announcement of his intention to enroll as a graduate student in music was no doubt just as daring.
At the University of Iowa Hervig studied composition with Philip Greeley Clapp. Philip Greeley Clapp, composer, conductor, and music educator, was born in Boston in 1888. He attended Harvard University, earning the Bachelor of Arts in 1908, the Master of Arts in 1909, and the Ph.D. in 1911. He studied music first with his mother, Florence Sue (Greeley) Clapp, and later in his youth he studied violin with John P. Marshall (violin) and piano and composition with Jacques Hofmann. At Harvard he studied composition chiefly with Walter R. Spalding. Interestingly, biographical references published during Clapp's lifetime, such as Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Fourth Edition (1940) and The International Who is Who in Music, Fifth Edition (1951) do not mention Spalding as a teacher. At some point, he studied with Henri de Besse. While working on the Ph.D., Clapp spend time in Europe, chiefly in London at the British Museum Library conducting research on his doctoral thesis, Modern Tendencies in Musical Form, and in Stuttgart, Germany, studying composition with Max von Schillings.
Through his teachers of composition, Philip Greeley Clapp was exposed to both the French and the German (especially the German) viewpoint of musical composition in the early years of the century. The American music theorist and organist Walter R. Spalding had studied music at Harvard in the 1880s, in Paris with Charles-Marie Widor and Alexandre Guilmant, and in Munich with Josef Rheinberger. In addition to Spalding, composition students of Widor include Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Nadia Boulanger; of Guilmant, Nadia Boulanger and Marcel Dupré. It is Spalding's teacher Josef Rheinberger, however, in whom we find a glistening thread that will reappear in his musical descendant, Richard Hervig, as a teacher of composition. Hans von Bülow waxed eloquently of Rheinberger just as Hervig's students would later: "Rheinberger is a truly ideal teacher of composition, unrivalled in the whole of Germany and beyond in skill, refinement and devotion to his subject; in short, one of the worthiest musicians and human beings in the world." Others who studied with Rheinberger included Englebert Humperdinck, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Horatio Parker, G. S. Chadwick, and Wilhelm Furtwängler.
When given the limited space for a biographical entry (e.g., Who is Who in Music, 1929 edition), it is Max von Schillings alone whom Clapp names as his teacher. German composer, conductor, and teacher Max von Schillings was born in 1868 and died in 1933. Early in his musical career, he became associated with Richard Strauss, and he ultimately became recognized as the leader of the Munich school after 1898, upon the departure of Strauss for Berlin. In 1908, shortly before P. G. Clapp began studying with him, Schillings accepted a post in Stuttgart. From Schillings, Clapp was surely well schooled in modern German music.
John Knowles Paine made Cambridge a center of musical America, and even though P. G. Clapp narrowly missed the opportunity to be a part of Paine's Harvard, the influence of Paine must surely have been still been felt intensely when Clapp began his studies at Harvard only two years after the retirement of Paine, and only a few months after his death.
AFTER EARNING an M.A., Hervig taught as an instructor at Luther College for only one semester in 1942 before being drafted into the United States Army Air Forces. The president of Luther College, Ove J. H. Preus, wrote to Hervig expressing appreciation for Hervig's teaching the previous semester and disappointment that Hervig would not be returning. During Preus's tenure as president, (1932 to 1948), Luther College was faced with difficulties such as declining enrollments, financial difficulties, and the possible loss of accreditation.
Hervig served in the Army Air Forces for four years. By January of 1943 he was a member of the 27th Army Air Forces Band in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A letter from Hervig to P. G. Clapp asks for a recommendation in order to get a position as a bandmaster, and reveals a little of Hervig's life and mood in the army.
Well, I've always said that the United Nations would have to be in a sad plight if they ever had to draft me, but here I am in the army, and the war doesn't seem to be going much worse for it .... There is quite a demand for bandmasters now, and I am going to apply this February. I should like a written recommendation from you as to 'moral character and ability qualifications.' ... I have plenty of time to study scores, listen to good radio programs, and do a little writing.
Interestingly, P. G. Clapp had been a band leader during World War 1, leader of the 73rd Coast Artillery Band. Hervig, however, was unable to obtain a position as a bandmaster. After the war, Hervig returned to the University of Iowa in 1946, continued his studies with P. G. Clapp, and completed the Ph.D. in 1947.
Hervig's final year as a student at the University of Iowa was apparently busy. Not only was he occupied with the composition of a symphony, but he also participated in the University of Iowa's Centennial Celebration in 1947. According to a program in the University of Iowa Archives, Hervig directed orchestral and vocal groups in a program on February 25, 1947, that celebrated the Centennial and in addition, contributed "songs" and composed and arranged incidental music for the program. At some point in his graduate career, he composed Sonatina for Violin and Piano and Suite for Four B Flat Clarinets.
AFTER RECEIVING the Ph.D., Hervig taught as an instructor at the University of Iowa. His duties included teaching music theory as well as being the personnel manager and librarian for the university orchestra. The final movement of Hervig's Symphony in E minor was broadcast coast to-coast live on the NBC television Blue network on July 25, 1948, with P. G. Clapp conducting. In 1949 Hervig completed Introduction, Fanfare and Chorale for horn quartet.
A "Recommendation for Salary Adjustment" dated September 1950 and now held in the University Archives recommends Hervig for a salary increase because he had been offered a position at an unnamed "western institution." The same document informs us that Hervig was well respected, and describes his duties:
Professor Hervig, a competent and valuable instructor in theory in the Department of Music, likewise, the very efficient conductor of the "Bartered Bride" chorus, and a generally useful person in personnel management in the Department, has been offered an Associate Professorship in a western institution.
In spite of attempts to keep Hervig at the University, two years later he left Iowa for a position as an associate professor at Long Beach State College in California and taught there until 1955. The music department at Long Beach State College was apparently seeking high quality in its music program: a newspaper article from the time states that no other state college in California could boast having four music Ph.Ds.
While in California, Hervig often attended the famous "Roof Concerts" of the "Monday Evening Concert Series." The music of Schoenberg was well represented on that concert series when Hervig was attending it, Schoenberg having died only a few years earlier in 1951 after residing in California for several years. Hervig remarked that Igor Stravinsky attended all the Roof Concerts because he was developing his own twelve-tone system at the time. Hervig, though, never had an opportunity to meet Stravinsky.
At some point before December 1953, Hervig completed Duet for Bassoon and Piano. The duet was played on a recital, "Student Series No. 10," at the University of Iowa by Ronald Tyree (later professor of bassoon at the University of Iowa) on December 6, 1953. The work was later published as Sonatina for Bass Clarinet and Piano by Rubank, Inc. Hervig's first sonata for clarinet and piano was completed while he was at Long Beach State College. Hervig also wrote Fanfare for Brass and Timpani around this time; it was played on April 21, 1953, at Long Beach State College. On the same concert Hervig's first sonata for clarinet and piano was played, with its original title, Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano (In three movements).
IN 1955 Himie Voxman asked Hervig to return to the University of Iowa. He returned as an associate professor. In 1963, he was promoted to professor, at which time Himie Voxman called him "An unusually brilliant and effective staff member." In the period from his return to Iowa until the establishment of the Center for New Music in 1966, Hervig was quite prolific as a composer. In eleven years, he completed the String Quartet, Trio-Concertino, Introduction and Allegro for piano and woodwind quintet, Music for a Concert, the first of his two violin sonatas, Music for Winds & Percussion, Symphony (1960), A Diversion for Band, Sonata for Flute and Piano, The President's Fanfare, Ubi sunt? and many of his instrumental educational works. During the same time, he made a significant change in his compositional method to dodecaphonic techniques.
Hervig became head of the composition area of the School of Music in 1964, and in 1965 he approached the Rockefeller Foundation, requesting a grant to establish the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa. The grant was approved in December of 1965. Hervig would serve as administrative director of the Center for New Music from its establishment in 1966 until 1984. He commented on the mission of the Center for New Music in the University of Iowa's alumni magazine:
Our stated purpose is to support composition through performance.... There are a number of us who are interested in live, contemporary music and feel very strongly that it is worth playing.
To accomplish this we have gathered a nucleus of a dozen highly skilled performers, half of whom are also composers.
The composer-performer is appearing increasingly in contemporary music, resulting in a lot of interesting collaborations....
There's no pretense that every piece we play is a masterpiece, but we try to represent several of the styles that exist in tremendous variety in Twentieth Century music. We play untried new music and pieces by well-known composers not ordinarily performed here.
The added responsibilities stemming from directing the Center for New Music curtailed considerably Hervig's activities as a composer. Two of Hervig's students from the 1970s remember that Hervig composed little at the time. Timothy Lynch recalled, "In 1975 I remember him saying several times that he wrote one piece a year, and that he was a year or two behind on this timetable. I guess he was having a dry spell." Alex Lubet similarly related that the students began to wonder if Hervig was still an active composer. On the positive side, the Center provided an accomplished ensemble at the University of Iowa to play music written by both faculty and students. In addition, a number of well-known composers spent short residencies with the Center for New Music as guest composers, among them Luciano Berio (1969), George Crumb (1969), Charles Wuorinen (1972), and Morton Feldman (1973). During the decade from 1966 to 1976, Hervig completed Diversion for Trombone and Percussion, Sonata No. 2 for Clarinet, Antiphon II: Quid est musica? and Chamber Music for Six Players. All were performed (and probably premiered) by the Center for New Music.
Beginning in 1978, Hervig's compositional output increased. In 1978 he completed An Entertainment for clarinet and marimba/xylophone, which was premiered by the Center for New Music the same year. The second violin sonata was completed the following year. In the early 1980s Hervig continued to compose instrumental works: Suite for Marimba/Vibraphone, Lyric Piece for Trumpet and Harp, Airs and Roulades for clarinet and wind ensemble, and finally, the complex and finely-crafted The Tree. In 1982, Hervig composed the first of several vocal works. Five Romantic Songs was completed in 1982; Woman with a Torch, Three Modern Parables, Epitaph, In Those Days: A Celebration, and Three Sandburg Songs were all composed in the next five years. The Cedar Rapids Symphony commissioned an orchestral work from Hervig for the 1986-87 season; Hervig titled it In Those Days (A Celebration) and completed it early in 1987.
Shortly before Hervig's retirement from the University of Iowa in 1988, the Center for New Music, which Hervig had directed for nearly 20 years, was presented with a Commendation of Excellence by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), "for long and outstanding service to the world of concert music." In 1987, the Iowa Arts Council conferred an Outstanding Achievement Award on Hervig for his contribution to the arts in Iowa. The award was presented to Hervig by the governor of the State of Iowa, Terry Branstad. It was the first time the award was given to a composer.
The Center for New Music at the University of Iowa recognized Hervig's impending retirement (as well as John Cage's 75th birthday) for its 1987-88 season. Works by Hervig were played on the Center for New Music concerts given locally in Iowa City; in addition, the Center played at Iowa State University when Hervig was honored there. Hervig was also honored with a concert at Iowa State University in the autumn of 1987.
FTER RETIRING from the University of Iowa, Hervig joined the faculty at The Juilliard School in the Literature and Materials of Music department. He has continued to compose while living in New York City. Four works completed not long after his retirement reflect his ties to the University of Iowa and Iowa City: In Summer Season in 1988, Blue Horns in 1989, Concerto for Violin in 1992, and a suite for guitar in 1993. In addition, Hervig was asked to compose a work for the concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Center for New Music. He titled the work Off Center; it was completed in 1991.
Other works Hervig has written in the 1990s include two works entitled The Subtle Thief: the first, for chamber ensemble, was composed in 1990; the second, in 1997, for voice and piano. The year 1997 also saw the composition of Hervig's first work for solo piano in over 40 years, Toccata, which may eventually form one movement of a multi-movement work. In addition, in 1996 Hervig was commissioned by the Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra Association to write Iowa 150: A Diversion for Orchestra (now entitled simply A Diversion for Orchestra) for the sesquicentennial of the State of Iowa. Iustorum animae for chamber ensemble was composed around 1993, but later withdrawn. Edwin London and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony commissioned Iustorum animae. In the summer of 1999, Hervig was busy writing a number of short chamber works. He plans that the fall semester at Juilliard will be his last, in his words, "It's been my second career; I don't want to make it my third."
On the occasion of Hervig's 80th birthday, Hervig was honored on November 24, 1997 at Merkin Hall in New York City with a concert of his works sponsored by the Friends of American Music. Seven works were played (given here in program order): Off Center, 1991; Sonata No. 1 for Clarinet and Piano, 1953; The Subtle Thief [chamber ensemble], 1990; The Subtle Thief [vocal], 1997; Toccata for Piano Solo, 1997; The Tree, 1984; and Chamber Music for Six Players, 1976. The concert was conducted by Glen Cortese.
Hervig was named President of the Board of the American Composers Alliance (ACA) in 1989; since 1993 he has served as Chairman of the Board (the office given to the past president). Because the ACA has since reorganized its executive structure, Hervig remains "Chairman of the Board" although he claims to have had nothing to do with the ACA for many years.
The compositions of Richard Hervig have been recorded on the Orion, CRI, University of Iowa, and Music & Arts labels. Only the recording on the Music & Arts label (a recording of the 25th anniversary concert for the University of Iowa Center for New Music) is currently in print; it is available on compact disc. Edwin London and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony recorded the Violin Concerto, which was released on the Troppe Note/Cambria label (TNC CD-1510) in 2005. Hervig's music has been published by Associated Music Publishers, Columbia University Music Press, Hal Leonard Corporation, Rubank, The Society of Composers, and Southern Music Company. In addition, nine unpublished works are available from the American Composers Alliance.
† The biography is an excerpt from a PhD dissertation on the Life and Work of Richard B. Hervig, authored by Kate Rose Stuart in 2000. The biographical material is used here by permission granted on 8 March 2011.