Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Music > 237. Douglas Moore

237. Douglas Moore (1893-1969).  "Augusta's Aria," from The Ballad of Baby Doe.  Autograph manuscript, ink and pencil, ca. 1956. RBML, Douglas Moore Papers

The Ballad of Baby Doe was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation of the Library of Congress for the 200th anniversary of Columbia University. Completed in 1956, it has become one of the most popular American operas of the modern day. The story is a mixture of romance and frontier rowdiness, a tale of wealth turned into poverty by the change of the silver standard during the William Jennings Bryan era.

Douglas Moore was educated at the Hotchkiss School and Yale University (BA 1915, BM 1917), where he studied composition with Horatio Parker. He began to write songs for social events, developing a gift for writing melodies in a popular style. This skill was reinforced by further songwriting during his World War I service in the US Navy (from 1917); the resulting collection, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (1921), co-authored with folk-singer John Jacob Niles, brought Moore his first public recognition.

In 1926 Moore was appointed to the faculty of Columbia University, where he became chair of the music department in 1940, remaining in that post until his retirement in 1962. He gradually became one of the most influential figures in American music, both as a teacher and as a director or board member of many organizations, including ASCAP and the National Institute and American Academy of Arts and Letters. Moore's papers include his professional and personal correspondence, original scores and sketches, and production notes, libretti and data concerning his major works.

Gift of Mrs. Douglas Moore & Family, 1971 and 1973; and on-going gifts of Mary Moore Kelleher & Sarah Moore

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