A Study of the Unpublished Solo Songs of Theodore Chanler

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Larry D. Smith

Advisor Department



In the early part of the twentieth century, Europe was the music mecca of the world and American musical culture was struggling to achieve some sort of equality with that of Europe. Following the lead of the masters of Europe, most young American composers eager to make their mark in the world of music believed that it was only in large-scale works that they could earn credible reputations. Theodore Chanler (1902-1961) was among the many young American artists who chose to study abroad for at least a few years, but he did not wish to write the large-scale works that his contemporaries favored; rather, he chose to concentrate on producing the exact opposite of what the musical scene of the time dictated: the petite miniature, or art song. Chanler had been exposed to the best music of the past from his childhood, had studied with several different teachers, and had begun composing by the age of sixteen. In France, he studied with the renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, and through her was greatly influenced by the music of Gabriel Faure. Upon his return to America in 1928, Chanler pursued a career as music critic, teacher, and composer. Although he won several prestigious awards for his songs, he seemed somewhat indifferent to the pursuit of the publication of his works. Only thirty-seven of his songs have been published and ten more are scheduled to be published in late 1994 by G. Schirmer, Inc. As a composer, Chanler can be accurately characterized as articulate and modest. Most of the poetry he chose to set to music is brief, humorous, and charming. This research describes Chanler's musical style and examines eighteen of his unpublished songs with suggestions for performance. Chanler's unique compositional style is illustrated by means of an examination of melody, harmony, rhythm and meter, form, voice/piano relationship, and text. In addition, lists of his published and unpublished songs and a discography of his works are included. Chanler's work is genuinely idiomatic of the American art song and deserving of recognition by music teachers and students.