Ulysses Kay: Twentieth Century Composer

State Department Mission to U.S.S.R > Music Ambassadors


In this photograph taken during their U.S.S.R. visit, Ulysses Kay is shown with, to his left, from left to right, Peter Mennin, Roy Harris, and Roger Sessions.

The American composers headed home on October 17, 1958, "to continue their individual work and to await the visit in the U.S. of the Soviet composers, Shostakovich, Khrennikov, Dankevich and others" as Kay wrote in Hi-Fi Review.

Summing up his impressions, he wrote: "the Russian people love music and greatly appreciate the artist ... The system seems to provide controls which affirm the viewpoint of the government. But mass support of this program ... is resulting in a phenomenal amount of music ... To my taste, there was an undesirable sameness and a lack of experimentation noticable in most of the contemporary scores we hard. Undoubtedly these qualities reflect some official view, which the passing visitor can only speculate about."


The following year, in November, 1959, a delegation of composers from the U.S.S.R. came for a similar visit. The group, shown here in a circle with Kay are, clock-wise from left to right, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Tikhon Khrennikov, Dmitri Shostakovich, the musicologist and critic Boris Yarustovsky, Konstantin Dankevich, and Fikret Amirov.


In this photograph, seven-year-old Virginia Kay presents a bouquet of flowers to Dmitri Shostakovich.


Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu