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Influential music scholar, pianist and composer Edward Cone dies at 87

By Patricia Allen

Princeton NJ -- Edward T. Cone, an esteemed music scholar, pianist and composer who was a member of the Princeton faculty since 1946, died Saturday, Oct. 23, following complications from open heart surgery. He was 87.

Cone, a Princeton alumnus, was a professor of music emeritus and a senior fellow of the Council of the Humanities emeritus.


Edward Cone

''A legend in the field of music, Ed was all things at once -- a wonderful composer, inspired pianist and fabled lecturer,'' said Scott Burnham, chair of the Department of Music. ''He contributed in countless ways to the intellectual life of the University for well over 50 years.''

Cone, who spent his entire professional career at Princeton, retired in 1985. He received an honorary degree from the University this past June.

He produced two of the 20th century's most influential books about Western music, ''Musical Form and Musical Performance'' (1968) and ''The Composer's Voice'' (1974), Burnham said.

''His books are classics in the field -- many of the ideas in these books have become such common currency that they often circulate without attribution to Ed,'' Burnham said.

A member of the class of 1939, Cone was the first undergraduate student at Princeton to have an original musical composition accepted as a senior thesis. Cone, the salutatorian of his class, also was one of the first recipients of a master of fine arts degree in music at Princeton in 1942.

After serving in the Army's Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he joined the Department of Music faculty as an instructor in 1946. He was appointed an assistant professor in 1947 and a full professor in 1960. He taught music theory, history and composition.

Cone's numerous compositions include a symphony and works for piano, voice, chorus, orchestra and chamber ensembles. His composition ''Elegy'' was commissioned by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in 1954. In 1974, the New Jersey Bicentennial Festival commissioned his work, ''Music for Strings,'' which was performed at the celebration by the Concert Orchestra of New Jersey.

From 1979 to 1985, Cone also held the position of the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. At Princeton, he received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a Howard T. Behrman Award for distinguished achievement in the humanities. Cone was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in musical composition in 1947, and in 1975 he was awarded the Deems Taylor Award by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for the book ''The Composer's Voice.'' He also was author of ''Music: A View From Delft.''

''Writing about music is not easy and most don't do it very well. Ed didn't just do it well, he did it superbly,'' said Peter Westergaard, Princeton professor of music emeritus. ''His eloquence is universally admired and simply unparalleled in post-World War II music theory.''

Born in Greensboro, N.C., in 1917, Cone is survived by his partner of 48 years, George Pitcher of Princeton; two nieces, Jane Levy of Greensboro and Laura Freedlander of Baltimore; a nephew, Sands Hetherington of Greensboro; and several great nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life and work is being planned by the Department of Music.