The Case of Norman Cazden

Freddie DeBoer’s letter protesting the administration’s disgraceful termination of Steven Salaita’s appointment to a position at the University of Illinois references the McCarthyite smearing of two UI faculty members in the 50s. One, DeBoer’s grandfather, was protected by tenure. The other, composer Norman Cazden, was not. He lost his position and would eke out a living for the next 15 years, according to wikipedia, giving private piano lessons and doing hack arranging and continuing to compose prolifically. Cazden was, from all accounts, an impressive musician and scholar, and while I don’t know his music, it is said to be of very high quality. Interestingly, just yesterday when I was at NYU’s Tamiment Library researching the history of the music curriculum of New York City’s now completely forgotten Jefferson School for Social Science.  There was Cazden listed on the faculty in, I believe, the year 1948. Here are the pages from the Jefferson School course catalog listing some of the music courses offered. This should give everyone some idea of the kind of artistic and intellectual ferment which existed in left circles at the time and which has been completely written out of history. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone were to write about this subject.


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2 thoughts on “The Case of Norman Cazden”

  1. Thank you for mentioning my father’s history! I just found this page, while in the last stages of preparing a website to honor his centennial, Sept. 23, 2014. Very little of his work was recorded commercially, but the website will include short archival clips, hoping to interest players in bringing some of the stuff back to life. Please check in & listen!
    Friend are also updating and expanding his wiki page.
    One correction: yes, he taught piano lessons to children for 17 yrs, but otherwise worked on his own compositions, scholarly writing, and he provided music notation for other ethnomusicology researchers. Absolutely no “hack arranging,” and he’d be outraged at that description.
    He did return to academia for the last 10 years of his life (1969-80), but at the nonprestigious University of Maine.

    1. Nice to hear from you. Will make correction-was misled by second hand description-which I should always verify! Look forward to seeing the webpage up and running.

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