Everett Burton Helm (1913–1999) was born at Minneapolis in the United States and was a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard University. In 1936 he went to Europe and studied composition with Gian Carlo Malipiero and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and musicology with Alfred Einstein. He held a number of teaching positions, including Head of the Music Department at Western College, Oxford, Ohio (1944–46). In 1948 he was appointed Music Officer in the United States Military Government in occupied Germany and was stationed at Stuttgart and Weisbaden. From 1950 onwards he worked as a freelance music critic, foreign correspondent for US newspapers, broadcaster, writer and composer. Apart from one brief return to the United States, he lived in Europe for the rest of his life. In 1963 he and his wife settled in Asolo, Italy. They moved to Berlin in 1997.
Helm composed several concerti, an opera The Siege of Tottenburg (1956), chamber music and songs. He was fluent in several languages, and wrote articles and delivered broadcasts in English, German and Italian. His books included Béla Bartok in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (1965), Composer, Performer, Public: A Study in Documentation (1970), Bartok (1971), Franz Liszt in Selbstrzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (1972) and Music and Tomorrow’s Public: An Intercultural Study(1981).
The Helm Collection was purchased by the Library from Everett Helm in six instalments between 1975 and 1989.
Books and Periodicals
The Helm Collection contains about 1100 books, published between 1800 and 1970. There is a particular strength in German imprints, as well as books in English, French and Italian. In addition to many books on the history and theory of music, there are biographies of musicians, studies in the iconography of music, festschrifts, opera libretti, musical studies, methods and instruction books. The authors include Walter Abendroth, Béla Bartok, Paul Bekker, John Cage, Alfred Einstein, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Paul Hindemith, Hans Keller, Hans Joachim Moser, Hugo Riemann, Johannes Paul Thilman, Anton Webern and Adolf Weissmann. There is considerable strength in works on individual composers, including biographies and studies of Bach (21), Beethoven (31), Brahms (nine), Chopin (nine), Handel (eight), Liszt (11), Mozart (33), Schubert (21), Schumann (seven), Richard Strauss (12), Tchaikovsky (six) and Wagner (39).
The music in the Helm Collection totals about 7600 items, including a large number of albums and other bound volumes. They comprise predominantly piano and vocal works written or published in France, Britain, Germany, Austria and Italy in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are vocal and piano scores of oratorios, operas and operettas, British church music, German lieder, quadrilles, mazurkas, polkas and other dance music, folk songs, songbooks and a complete set of publications of the Musical Antiquarian Society (1840–47). Other categories include flute music, chamber music and operatic overtures. Many of the works were collected on account of their highly decorative covers. Although composers such as Beethoven, Handel, Mozart and Purcell are represented in the collection, the bulk of the works were written by minor or obscure composers. As Helm wrote, the collection is rich in the ‘eclectic bound volumes which were so avidly made up in the 19th century by amateurs and professionals alike’. It provides a valuable record of the music that was popular in salons and homes in Western Europe, the United States and the colonies, especially in the first half of the nineteenth century.
In addition to the printed music, there are numerous manuscript albums, mainly British and Italian, containing songs, piano music, opera arias and exercises. One is dated as early as 1764, but most of them were written or copied in the early nineteenth century.
The books in the Helm Collection are kept together as a formed collection within the general collection. They have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefix HELM.
The sheet music and albums are housed in the Music Collection. Each of the six instalments has been kept intact and the music is boxed or shelved in accordance with the lists compiled by Helm for each instalment. The works have not been catalogued individually, copies of Helm’s listings are available and they are generally quite detailed.
Collections assembled by Helm are held in a number of US libraries including Harvard University Library, the Gorno Memorial Music Library at the University of Cincinnati, and the Lilly Library at Indiana University at Bloomington. The Lilly Library also holds his personal papers.
Beal, Amy, Obituary of Dr Everett B. Helm, Sonneck Society for American Music Bulletin, vol. 25 (3), Fall 1999.
Smith, Patrick J., Everett Helm, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 11, Macmillan, London, 2001, p. 352.