Robert Selig

Robert Leigh Selig (Jan. 29, 1939 - Jan. 15, 1984), American composer and educator. Robert Selig studied composition with Antony Donato at Northwestern University (Mus.B, 1961, Mus.M., 1962), and with Gardner Read at Boston University (doctoral courses, 1966-1967). He also studied privately with Ernst Krenek and Donald Martino, and on fellowships at Tanglewood in 1966, 1968, and 1972.

In the mid-1960s, Selig wrote popular songs working as a staff composer for United Artists in New York. He was appointed to the faculty of New England Conservatory in 1968, where he taught Twentieth Century Compositional Techniques, Ear Training, and other courses in the Theory Department.

Among the many awards Selig received were two Guggenheim Fellowships for composition (1971 and 1978), a Composer Assistance award from the American Music Center (1975), and a Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation award (1976). His commissioned works include: Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra (1969) for the Eastern Music Festival; the one-act opera Chocorua (1972), commissioned by the Fromm Foundation and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, where it was premiered; and his last work, for the Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation, Concerto for Two Pianos (1983).

In his lifetime, Selig’s works were performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Collage, Armando Ghitalla, the Empire Brass Quintet, the New England Chamber Opera Group, Elizabeth Parcells, the Washington Chamber Brass, and several New England Conservatory musicians and ensembles. His music scores are published by Margun Music.

Physical description

The Robert Selig collection of Papers consists of 2 record cartons (approximately 2 lin. ft.). The collection is chiefly comprised of paper files, with a few photographs and 3 cassette tapes. In addition, there is approximately 10 lin. feet of Selig's music.


This collection includes materials which were created by or belonged to, Robert Selig, New England Conservatory faculty member from 1968-1984. The collection was donated by Robert Selig’s sister, Andrea D. (Bonnie) Selig, in 1985. The papers in this collection were part of a larger donation of Robert Selig’s music manuscripts and sketches, books, scores, audiotapes, and 35 mm microfilms of his scores.


Access to this collection is by appointment with the NEC Archivist. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.

*For information regarding NEC's collection of Robert Selig's music, see Robert Leigh Selig, 1939-1984: his music in the Harriet M. Spaulding Library at the New England Conservatory of Music : a preliminary index by Patrick H. Maxfield (Vault ML134.S424 M29). Robert Selig Index


All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Archivist. This collection should be cited as: NECA 19.25 Robert Selig Papers and Manuscripts Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Finding aid compiled by Raymond Schmidt, Spring 2007

Scope & Content

The Robert Selig collection is organized into the following ten series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Works
  3. New England Conservatory Publicity
  4. Grants
  5. Autobiographical materials 
  6. Miscellaneous papers
  7. Annotated scores
  8. Teaching materials
  9. Contract
  10. *Selig's Music

*For information regarding NEC's collection of Robert Selig's music, see Robert Leigh Selig, 1939-1984: his music in the Harriet M. Spaulding Library at the New England Conservatory of Music : a preliminary index by Patrick H. Maxfield (Vault ML134.S424 M29). Robert Selig Index

Series 1: Correspondence 

The correspondence in this series is organized into six groups: academic, lyricists, music publishers, New England Conservatory, personal, and miscellaneous. Within each group or sub-group, letters are arranged chronologically. Additional correspondence may be found in Series 2: Works, and Series 4: Grants.

The academic letters are mainly notifications from Boston University informing Selig of graduate assistantships. There are also letters relating to prospective employment at various educational institutions.

Letters granting permission from lyricists include those of poet Richard Moore, who collaborated with Selig on Chocorua and Survival Fragments.

Selig’s relationships with music publishers are evidenced in his correspondence with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Carl Fischer Music, and Margun Music. These letters are accordingly arranged into sub-groups by publisher:

  • BMI: Mostly royalties statements; a draft and a typed copy of a letter from Selig to James Roy, Vice President, Concert Music Management.
  • Carl Fischer: Exchanges regarding contracts for several scores. 
  • Margun: Letters from Gunther Schuller, President, and Bruce Creditor, General Manager, of Margun. Selig’s diary contains a manuscript draft of his May 14, 1981 letter to Schuller and Creditor, and an entry referring to their correspondence. Some Margun promotional materials are also included in this folder.
  • Other publishers: Early letters to publishers; a handwritten draft by one of Selig’s popular song collaborators, Gerry Robinson, to Murray Deutch of United Artists.

New England Conservatory correspondence consists of Selig’s formal correspondence as a faculty member. There are related letters in Robert Selig’s files in two other archival collections at NEC: Office of the President, Gunther Schuller, Faculty Files, and Office of the Vice President, Donald Harris, Faculty Files.

The few personal letters or notes span the years from 1969 to shortly before Selig’s death in 1984.

Series 2: Works

This series comprises documents relating to specific musical works by Selig, and are divided into 3 subseries: Correspondence, Programs, and Reviews.

Subseries 1: Correspondence

The correspondence consists primarily of letters to and from concert organizers and musicians regarding upcoming performances of Selig’s works, as well as requests for scores from individuals and groups interested in performing a piece.

Selig frequently sent scores and tapes of his works to colleagues for comment, and to various conductors and musical directors in the hope of having a work performed. Copies of Selig’s accompanying letters, and the responses he received, are included here.

Each folder in this subseries contains letters about a particular work: Chicago: Three Portraits of a City; Variations for Brass Quintet; Mirage; Islands; Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra; Orestes: Flight into Fury; Symphony for Woodwind Quintet; Chocorua; Pometacomet, 1676; Survival Fragments; Piano Sonata; Symphony no. 2: Earth Colors; Quartet for Brass Trio and Piano; Two Songs for “Eternal Love.”

Folders are arranged by the date that each work was completed. In general, this results in an overall chronological arrangement, but in a few cases, the score was completed long before the piece was performed. Therefore, some letters may be dated much later than the work.

Of particular interest are letters from the following individuals:

  • George Rochberg (referring to Variations for Brass Quintet).
  • Trumpet students: requests for Mirage score, after its release in 1970 on the LP Armando Ghitalla, trumpet, vol. 2 (Cambridge, CRS 2823). Note also, copies of two letters written by Selig on May 16, 1967, refer primarily to Mirage and Islands as well as to other works.
  • Sheldon Morgenstern, musical director of Eastern Music Festival: letters leading to Selig’s first commission, Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra.
  • Frank Battisti, New England Conservatory colleague
  • Gardner Read, Selig’s fomer teacher at Boston University (referring to Chocorua).
  • Irma Wolpe: note on Pometacomet, 1676.
  • Charles, Frances, and Elizabeth Parcells: notes accompanied by press information on Elizabeth Parcells, who premiered Survival Fragments.
  • Milt Stevens, who commissioned Quartet for Brass Trio and Piano for the Washington Chamber Brass.
  • Michael Lombardi, author, lyricist, and producer of Eternal Love: the Abelard-Heloise Musical. Selig provided two songs and additional music for this show. Accompanying the letters are tapes of music that Lombardi wished to share with Selig: examples of early music, and selections from Lombardi’s first musical, Troubador.

Subseries 2: Programs

This subseries includes printed concert programs, draft program notes, and other texts. The printed programs, arranged by date, are listed below. Among the draft program notes are: Selig’s manuscript draft of notes on Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn; drafts and masters for a program booklet for Symphony no. 2: Earth Colors, using photocopies from “Tecumseh” by Glenn Tucker, American History Illustrated, Feb. 1972 (original issue of the magazine included in folder).

Printed programs:

  • Midwest Student Composers’ Symposium, May 12-13, 1961, Northwestern University School of Music “Athena” Symphony
  • Cambridge Brass Quintet, March 6, 1970, Brandeis University. Variations for Brass Quintet
  • Collegium Musicum Ensemble, Temple University Music Festival and Institute, June 2-August 2, 1970. Variations for Brass Quintet
  • Collage (probably Feb. 2, 1973, Jordan Hall) Program notes. Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn
  • Collage, February 23, 1973, Walnut Hill School. Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn
  • Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, February 24, 1973. Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra
  • Elizabeth Parcells, soprano; Christopher Oldfather, pianist, June 30, 1976, WGBH Radio Wednesdays at 8:00, Studio One. Survival Fragments
  • Newton Chamber Orchestra, May 24, 1976, Sanders Theater, Islands
  • Empire Brass Quintet, March 20, 1977, Jordan Hall. Music for Brass Instruments (i.e. Variations for Brass Quintet)
  • Northwestern University School of Music, Symphonic Wind EnsembleApril 24, 1977. Pometacomet, 1676
  • Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, August 1-6, 1981, and Tanglewood 1981 season program. Variations for Brass Quintet (performed 8/2/81)
  • Scholarship Brass Quintet, April 19, 1982, New England Conservatory. Variations for Brass Quintet
  • Bruce Hall, trumpet; William Essert, trumpet; Thomas Roycraft, trombone; David E. Kirk, tuba; Mark Robbins, horn, New England Conservatory (no date). Program notes. Variations for Brass Quintet
  • James Messbauer, trombone; Vivian Lacy, piano. New England Conservatory (no date). Variations for Brass Quintet (performed by the Rocky Horror Brass Quintet)

Subseries 3: Reviews

Clippings of reviews are grouped by works: Variations for Brass Quintet; Islands; Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra; Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn; Chocorua; Pometacomet, 1676; Survival Fragments; Quartet for Brass Trio and Piano.

For complete citations of articles, see the bibliography (p. 48-51) in: Maxfield, Patrick."Robert Leigh Selig (1939-1984) : his music in the Harriet M. Spaulding Library at the New England Conservatory of Music : a preliminary index", 1985.

Series 3: New England Conservatory Publicity

This is a small collection of newsletters, events calendars, and flyers announcing concerts with works by Selig. It includes two issues of New England Conservatory Notes (Oct. 16, 1970, and Summer 1982).

Series 4: Grants

Selig was awarded many grants and fellowhips, including two from the Guggenheim Foundation (1971, 1977). This series comprises grant-related applications and correspondence with: American Music Center, Artists Foundation, Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood), Fromm Music Foundation,Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music, National Endowment for the Arts, Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation.

Series 5: Autobiographical material

This important series includes several of Selig’s résumés and a diary. The résumés were written every one to four years between 1968 and 1982, for grant and employment applications, and to accompany the submission of musical works in competitions. There are several drafts of his 1982 curriculum vitae. These documents provide a record of Selig’s own perspective on his musical influences, development, and interests, and include detailed lists of his compositions and information on significant performances. Four small “photo booth” photographs of Selig are attached to the 1968 submissions.

The diary is a spiral-bound notebook that covers only a short time-span, from June 1980 to June 1983, with a few other sheets inserted, dated 1976 and 1979. Entries were made upon the completion of various compositions.

Series 6: Miscellaneous papers

Papers related to Selig’s years as a student at Northwestern University include a newspaper clipping about a visit from Roger Sessions to the university (Selig, as a 22-year-old composition student, is quoted in the article). Of interest in the notes and other papers is a 1980 caricature-style drawing of Selig.
Series 7: Annotated scores

These scores and photocopies of scores were annotated by Selig for teaching purposes:

Schoenberg: Verklarte Nacht; Drei Klavierstucke, op. 11; Five pieces for orchestra, op. 16; String quartet no. 2, op. 10: III. Litanei

Stravinsky: Concerto en re: II. Arioso -- III. Rondo; Marche du Soldat; Le sacre du printemps; Trois pieces pour quatuor a cordes

Webern: Five movements for string quartet, op. 5, 4th movement; Five pieces for
orchestra, op. 10; Three pieces for cello and piano, op. 11, no. 3

Miscellaneous: Bartok, Diminished 5ths, no. 101, v. IV; Debussy, Prelude a “L’apres-midi d’un faune”; Ives, Three harvest home chorales; Mozart, Don Giovanni; Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, "Prelude and Love Duet"

Series 8: Teaching materials

Several spiral-bound notebooks from 1973 through 1983 contain teaching plans, student assignments, grades, etc. An undated teaching notebook(1982?) also includes Selig’s to-do lists and notes concerning grant applications, circulation of his scores and tapes, etc. Among the other teaching materials are a course outline for 1983-1984 and assignments turned in by students.

Series 9: Contracts

This series consists of Selig’s early songwriters’ contracts as a “house” composer of popular songs, and later copyright agreements related to several of his scores.

The songwriters’ contracts were made between Selig (with various collaborators) and Haymarket Music, South Mountain Music, Unart (United Artists), Gil Music, Tender Tunes Music, 1964-1965.

Selig’s copyright agreements with Carl Fischer Music, and its subsidiary Pembroke, were eventually cancelled. These files also contain photocopies of copyright agreements for two scores by Donald Martino, Notturno and Ritorno.

For information regarding Series 10, NEC's collection of Robert Selig's music, see Robert Leigh Selig, 1939-1984: his music in the Harriet M. Spaulding Library at the New England Conservatory of Music : a preliminary index by Patrick H. Maxfield (Vault ML134.S424 M29). Robert Selig Index


Container List

Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1 – Folder 1
      Academic, 1963-1970
Box 1 – Folder 2
      Lyricists, 1966-1983
Box 1 – Folder 3
      Music Publishers:  Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), 1973-1983
Box 1 – Folder 4
      Music Publishers:  Carl Fischer, 1973-1977
Box 1 – Folder 5
      Music Publishers:  Carl Fischer, 1978-1979
Box 1 – Folder 6
      Music Publishers:  Margun Music, 1980-1983
Box 1 – Folder 7
      Music Publishers:  Other publishers, 1965-1976
Box 1 – Folder 8
      New England Conservatory, 1968-1983
Box 1 – Folder 9
      Personal, 1969-1984
Box 1 – Folder 10
      Miscellaneous, 1973-1982
Series 2: Works

Subseries 1: Correspondence

Box 1 – Folder 11
      Chicago: Three Portraits of a City (1960)
Box 1 – Folder 12
      Variations for Brass Quintet (1967)
Box 1 – Folder 13
      Mirage (1967), Islands (1968)
Box 1 – Folder 14
      Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra (1969)
Box 1 – Folder 15
      Orestes: Flight into Fury (1970)
Box 1 – Folder 16
      Symphony for Woodwind Quintet (1971)
Box 1 – Folder 17
      Chocorua (1972)
Box 1 – Folder 18
      Pometacomet, 1676 (1974-1975)
Box 1 – Folder 19
      Survival Fragments (1976)
Box 1 – Folder 20
      Piano Sonata (1977)
Box 1 – Folder 21
      Symphony no. 2: Earth Colors (1980)
Box 1 – Folder 22
      Quartet for Brass Trio and Piano (1982)
Box 1 – Folder 23, and 3 cassette tapes in envelopes
      Two Songs for “Eternal Love” (1982)
Subseries 2: Programs

Box 1 – Folder 24
      Printed programs, 1961-1982
Box 1 – Folder 25
    Draft program notes, Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn
Box 1 – Folder 26
    Draft program notes, Symphony no. 2: Earth Colors

Subseries 3: Reviews

Box 1 – Folder 27
      Variations for Brass Quintet (1967)
Box 1 – Folder 28
      Islands (1968)
Box 1 – Folder 29
      Concerto for Rock Group and Orchestra (1969)
Box 1 – Folder 30
      Quartet: Three Seasons of Autumn (1971)
Box 1 – Folder 31
      Chocorua (1972)
Box 1 – Folder 32
      Chocorua (1972), 1976 staging
Box 1 – Folder 33
    Pometacomet, 1676 (1974-1975)
Box 1 – Folder 34
      Survival Fragments (1976)
Box 1 – Folder 35
      Quartet for Brass Trio and Piano (1982)

Series 3: New England Conservatory publicity, 1970-1982

Box 1 – Folder 36

Series 4: Grants

Box 1 – Folder 37
Grants, 1968-1973
Box 1 – Folder 38
Grants, 1974-1977
Box 1 – Folder 39
Grants, 1978-1983

Series 5: Autobiographical material

Box 1 – Folder 40
Box 1 – Folder 41

Series 6: Miscellaneous papers

Box 1 – Folder 42
      Northwestern University
Box 1 – Folder 43
      Personal finances, travel, housing
Box 1 – Folder 44
      Notes and other papers

Series 7: Annotated scores
Box 2 – Folder 1
Box 2 – Folder 2
Box 2 – Folder 3
Box 2 – Folder 4

Series 8: Teaching materials

Box 2 – Folder 5
      Teaching notebook, 1973-1974
Box 2 – Folder 6
      Teaching notebook, 1974-1975
Box 2 – Folder 7
      Teaching notebook, 1978-1979
Box 2 – Folder 8
      Teaching notebook, 1979-1980
Box 2 – Folder 9
      Teaching notebook, 1980-1981
Box 2 – Folder 10
      Teaching notebook, 1981-1982
Box 2 – Folder 11
      Teaching notebook, 1982-1983
Box 2 – Folder 12
      Teaching notebook, undated (1982?)
Box 2 – Folder 13
      Teaching notebook, undated
Box 2 – Folder 14
      Course outline, 1983-1984
Box 2 – Folder 15
      Class record book
Box 2 – Folder 16
      Student assignments

Series 9: Contracts

Box 2 – Folder 17
      Songwriters’ contracts, 1964-1965
Box 2 – Folder 18
      Copyright agreements, 1976-1977
Box 2 – Folder 19
      Copyright agreements, 1978-1979