PAUL BOWLES CHRONOLOGY: Part One (1910-1946)

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CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF PAUL BOWLES,

Part One (1910-1946)

 by Kenneth Lisenbee

 

1910    Paul Frederic Bowles is born on December 30, 1910, at the Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, the only child of Claude Bowles, a dentist, and his wife Rena Winnewisser. Paul Bowles teaches himself to read and write at the age of two; at age three he writes "The Fox and the Wolf" and other stories about animals; and at age four he writes his first poem and begins to keep a diary.

1917    At age six Paul Bowles begins his education at the Model School in Jamaica, New York, where he is assigned to the second grade. Bowles' first experiences of music are on his father's new gramophone: Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony and (his own purchase) "At the Jazz Band Ball" by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Jane Auer is born in New York City on February 22, 1917, the only daughter of Sidney Auer and Claire Stajer Auer.

1924    Paul Bowles graduates from the Model School, attends three semesters at Flushing High School, Flushing, New York, and transfers to Jamaica High School in Jamaica, Queens.

1925    On a visit with his Aunt Mary Robbins Meade in Watkins Glen, New York, Paul Bowles begins writing crime stories based on a character called "The Snake Woman".

1926    Paul Bowles has two revelations: Lafcadio's Adventures, the novel by André Gide famous for its postulate of the "gratuitous act"; and Leopold Stravinsky's Firebird―the first encounter with 20th-century music, at one of the Carnegie Hall Saturday morning concerts which he is now attends regularly. Bowles' first literary publication is for Jamaica High School's magazine, The Oracle. Paul Bowles is introduced to Buckminster Fuller.

1927    Jane Auer and her parents move to a house on Elm Street in Woodmere, a town in Nassau County, on Long Island, New York.

1928    As poetry editor of Jamaica High School's The Oracle, Paul Bowles contacts the Paris avant-garde magazine transition, and New Masses, the intellectual weekly of the American Left. Reviews Gide's novel The Counterfeiters. In the spring of 1928, transition 12 Paul Bowles publishes his surrealist poem, "Spire Song". During this period he buys recordings of blues, Duke Ellington, Gregorian chants and Sergei Prokofiev. Paul Bowles graduates from Jamaica High School in January 1928. He enters a four-month program at the School of Design and Liberal Arts in New York City, and he wins two awards. In September 1928 Bowles enters the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, chosen because Edgar Allen Poe had gone there.

1929    On April 27, at age eighteen, without telling his parents, Paul Bowles absconds―in the spirit of Gide's Counterfeiters―and sails for France on the Rijndam. After arriving in Paris, a Russian-born patroness arranges for Bowles to meet the great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, with a view to studying composition. Bowles takes fright, and he flees by train to the French–German border. After paying his transatlantic passage, Paul Bowles has just $25 left. He finds work in Paris as a telephone switchboard operator at the International Herald Tribune and later in the foreign exchange department at Bankers Trust on Place Vendôme. Bowles leaves Paris on July 24, 1929, and in New York he takes a job at Dutton's Bookshop on Fifth Avenue and moves from his parents' home to Bank Street in Greenwich Village.

1930    In February 1930, the composer Henry Cowell, also the editor of New Music, examines Paul Bowles's early music, finds it too "French" for his taste, and refers him to Aaron Copland, who is impressed. Copland sets Paul Bowles to study Mozart piano sonatas. Paul Bowles hears Leopold Stokowski conduct The Rite of Spring in Philadelphia, and Bowles invites Copland to visit the University of Virginia―where Copland is snubbed by the Music Faculty. In mid-July 1930, Paul Bowles leaves Virginia forever. Before joining Copland at the (now historic) gathering of the American musical avant-garde at Yaddo, Paul Bowles studies, at his suggestion, Hindemith's Übung in 3 Stücken of 1925, and Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale. In New York in the winter of 1930-31, he becomes guest editor of the literary periodical The Messenger and writes a letter to Gertrude Stein in which he declares that the American avant-garde still fails to comprehend that "anyone who writes English today with any degree of mastery owes you an inestimable debt".

On June 30, 1930, Jane Auer's father Sidney dies while she was away at camp. Jane is thirteen years old, and she and her mother move to New York City, living first at the Croyden Hotel at 12 East 86th Street. Here Jane begins to have crushes on women, particularly torch singers. She and her mother Claire later moved to the Hyde Park Hotel at 77th Street and Madison Avenue. In the fall of 1930 Jane Auer attended one semester at the Julia Richman public high school in Manhattan.

1931    Determined to leave New York, the twenty-year-old Paul Bowles sails to Le Havre on the SS McKeesport, and arrives in Paris on April 10, 1931. Two days after his arrival in Paris he introduces himself to Gertrude Stein, who in turn later introduces him to Virgil Thomson, Maurice Grosser, Pavel Tchelitchew, Eugène Jolas, and Jean Cocteau. (Gertrude Stein prefers to call Paul Bowles "Freddie".) In Paris Bowles stays in an apartment on the top floor of 17 Quai Voltaire with views of the Seine, which he shares with Harry Dunham, just out of Princeton. Though he enjoys Paris, at the end of April he moves to Berlin to continue his music composition studies with Aaron Copland, who has rented an apartment there from the American poet Alfred Kreymborg (remembered today as an early translator of Brecht). Finds lodgings in the apartment of an impoverished baroness at No. 14 Guntzelstrasse. In Berlin, Paul Bowles meets Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood, and also Jean Ross, later to be immortalized by Isherwood as Sally Bowles.

Paul Bowles begins Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet, and visits (with Copland) the modern music festival in Bad Pyrmont, Germany , but apart from Bartók's piano playing, he is unimpressed. Bowles takes refuge in the Hannover home of Kurt Schwitters. Together with Schwitters and his 12-year-old son, Bowles collects detrius of all sorts―paper, rags, metal objects, etc.―which will be incorporated in Schwitter's Merzbau collage. In August 1931, Paul Bowles returns to Paris and is invited by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas to their summer home in Belignin, in the south of France. Aaron Copland arrives and Stein recommends that Paul Bowles travel to Tangier.

Copland and Bowles sail on the Imerethie II from Marseilles, France to Oran, Algeria, and to Ceuta, where they take a train to Tetuán in Spanish Morocco, finally arriving in Tangier in August 1931. The two composers locate and furnish a house a near the top of the Old Mountain Road in the area known as Sidi Masmoudi. Copland works on his Short Symphony and Bowles completes his oboe-and-clarinet Sonata (whose finale is based on Schwitter's poem). On October 1, 1931, Paul Bowles and Copland arrive in Fez, and Harry Dunham arrives shortly thereafter. Bowles travels to Seville and Madrid, Spain, and then back to Paris, France.

On December 31, 1931, Paul Bowles and Aaron Copland attend the first public performance of Bowles's music―the Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet―at Aeolian Hall in London, England.

Jane Auer is enrolled for the winter term at Stoneleigh, an exclusive girls' boarding school in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

1932    In January 1932, Paul Bowles goes skiing in the Italian Alps, but he becomes seriously ill and requires hospitalization in Turin. He corresponds with Gertrude Stein and bases the song Letters to Freddy on one of her letters to him. In May 1932, Paul Bowles is back in Paris, where he rents a room in Montmartre and works on Sonata for Flute and Piano and Scenes d'Anabase. Still not completely well, Bowles is diagnosed with typhoid-A. Worried about her son, his mother Rena Bowles comes to Paris, and he takes her to Monte Carlo, Mallorca and Barcelona. To escape the Paris winter, in December 1932 he departs Marseilles, bound for Algiers, Algeria in North Africa. Bowles travels 200 miles south to Laghouat and then 100 miles farther south into the desert to Ghardaïa, an oasis in the M'Zab region of the Algerian Sahara. In Algeria he makes acquaintance with George Turner, spending several days at Bou Saâda, and they trek south on camels to Touggourt, on the Trans-Saharan caravan route to El Oued. After two days traveling on a truck, they arrive in Nefta, an oasis in Tunisia, then proceed to Kairouan and Tunis. He stays with a family for several days in Constantine, while awaiting money from Bruce Morrisette. Bowles returns to Algiers, then travels to Fez and eventually to Tangier, where he shares a rented house on the Marshan with Charles Henri Ford and Djuna Barnes, who is working on Nightwood.

Less than six months after Jane Bowles began her studies at Stoneleigh school in Massachusetts, she fell off a horse and broke her right leg. After several operations, her leg wouldn't heal and she developed tuberculosis of the knee. Her mother took her to a sanitarium in Leysin, Switzerland, to receive treatments, while her mother Claire lives in Paris.

1933    In April, Paul Bowles sails to Puerto Rico. In the fall Bowles and Copland work in an apartment on West 58th Street, and Bowles composes an orchestral Suite (Pastorale, Habanero, Divertimento), and a Cantata (to his own texts) for soprano, 4 male voices, and harmonium. His close musical friends include the composers Henry Brant, David Diamond and Israel Citkowitz. Bowles meets John Latouche at the League of Composers.

1934    Bowles composes Memnon, a song cycle based on texts by Cocteau. Bowles travels to California where he spends one month in San Francisco visiting relatives, and one month in Los Angeles where he sees Henry Cowell.

1935    Jane Auer finishes nearly two years of medical treatments and therapy in Switzerland, much of the time with her leg in traction. After visiting her mother who was living in Paris, in the spring of 1935 Claire and Jane return to New York City via ship. While onboard Jane Bowles meets coincidentally a fellow passenger, the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, whose novel Journey to the End of the Night she was reading. Jane and her mother Claire move into the Hotel Meurice on West 58th Street. Jane Bowles, who was tutored in French during her two years in Switzerland, now decides to become a writer. Jane writes a novel Le Phaéton Hypocrite, in French, but she loses her only copy of the manuscript. An operation is performed to permanently stiffen her knee joint, and hereafter Jane walks with a limp.

Paul Bowles helps Vernon Duke (Vladimir Dukelsky) with the extraction of parts for Duke's ballet Union Pacific. Further explorations of jazz with John Hammond (the critic and producer who had introduced Spike Hughes to the USA three years earlier). Paul Bowles has his first contact with the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA).

1936    An all-Bowles concert is held on January 26, 1936, at the midtown Centre New York, sponsored by the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Music Project, which Bowles now joins as a "Research Assistant". Bowles writes the music for Who Fights This Battle, directed by Joseph Losey.

Orson Welles's production for the Federal Theatre Project of Horse Eats Hat, an adaptation of Labiche's classic farce, has its highly successful opening on September 26, with music by Paul Bowles for full orchestra, plus gypsy orchestra, lady trumpeters, pianola, and grand pianos in the loggio boxes.

1937    In February 1937, at a party in Harlem given by his friend John Latouche, Paul Bowles meets Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann, and the young American writer Jane Auer―his future wife. Several days later Paul Bowles sees Jane Auer again at a gathering, including John Latouche, at the Greenwich Village home of home of Marion and E. E. Cummings on Patchin Place. Jane Auer asks Paul Bowles, on the spur of the moment, to take her to Mexico with him. Before leaving by Greyhound bus, he supervises the production of 15,000 anti-Trotsky stickers, and conceals them in his luggage. At Copland's suggestion, he visits the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, whose nobility of bearing and appearance, despite the appalling poverty of his circumstances, impresses him greatly. Attends a concert at which Revueltas conducts his Homage to García Lorca. Bowles returns to New York and attends the June 19th premiere of the ballet Yankee Clipper, commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein, with choreography by Eugene Loring. Also in June, Bowles writes incidental music for Orson Welle's Federal Theatre production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. Paul Bowles leaves again for Tehuantepec, and works on an opera about a slave rebellion.

1938    On February 21, 1938, Paul Bowles married Jane Auer at a Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan. The first performance of Mediodia (Mexican dances for 11 players) was held on February 23, 1938, in the rooftop ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel, New York, where Vernon Dukes presented a series of "High-Low Concerts". Duke Ellington and his band took over for the second half of the program. Their honeymoon began on March 1, 1938, when Paul and Jane Bowles boarded a Japanese freighter, the SS Kanu Maru, with 27 suitcases, two wardrobe trunks, a typewriter and a record player. The newlyweds sailed first to Panama, where the couple stayed ten days. They continued on to Costa Rica, followed by one month in Guatemala. Jane and Paul Bowles sailed from Barbados to Le Havre, and onboard the ship Paul tormented the predominantly Nazi passengers with his "degenerate" calypso records. After their arrival in Paris, they settled into a Left Bank hotel. In the mornings Jane worked on her novel at a café near rue Bonaparte. Jane Bowles often stayed out late, drinking in bars and nightclubs without Paul, and her acquaintances included Henry Miller and others. In Paris, Paul and Jane Bowles met the painter Brion Gysin through Denham Fouts. During the summer of 1938, Paul attended the world premiere of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks concerto, and he and Jane spent some weeks in Èze-Village on the Côte d'Azur. In September they returned to New York, sailing from Marseilles on a German ship, the SS Europa. Orson Welles had requested Paul Bowles write the theater score for Too Much Johnson, from which Bowles later drew his Music for a Farce. On their return to New York, the couple lived for a short time at the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street, but because Paul needed a piano, they moved to an apartment on West 13th Street. Soon afterwards, a fire forced them to move temporarily to a friend's apartment on Sutton Place.

1939    In the spring of 1939, Jane and Paul Bowles moved to a farmhouse on Woodrow Road, near Prince's Bay, Staten Island, New York, after he received a check for composing incidental music for the Group Theatre production of William Saroyan's My Heart's in the Highlands (using a Hammond organ belonging to Clifford Odets). Paul Bowles also writes "Tea in the Sahara", a short story, and he completes Huapango I and II. At their house on Staten Island, Paul and Jane Bowles were visited on weekends by friends John Latouche, Leonard Bernstein, Mary Oliver and Harry Dunham, and Colin McPhee―recently returned from his historic stay in Bali, Indonesia―is a regular visitor. Composes 12 American Folk Songs. Leaving Jane Bowles at the house on Staten Island with her friend Mary Oliver, Paul Bowles takes a place in Brooklyn Heights, but Jane Bowles visits him regularly. Also in 1939, Paul Bowles wrote a short story called "Tea on the Mountain".

1940    In mid-May Paul and Jane Bowles travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico with Robert Faulkner, where Bowles composes a score for Roots in the Soil, a documentary film about the Rio Grande Valley for the Soil Erosion Service. They later go to Mexico and rent a hacienda in Acapulco, where they meet the still unknown Tennessee Williams. In Taxco, Mexico, Jane Bowles meets Helvetia Perkins, a divorcee living in Mexico with her daughter. In Taxco, Jane and Paul Bowles also meet a sixteen-year-old named Ned Rorem, who is travelling through Mexico with his father. After less than one month in Taxco, Paul Bowles is asked to return to New York to write music for Twelfth Night, scheduled to open in November at the Saint James Theatre. Jane Bowles returns to New York on Christmas Day and is joined a few days later by Helvetia Perkins. Paul Bowles leaves the Communist Party (CPUSA), which he had joined in 1938.

1941    The New York premiere of Philip Barry's Liberty Jones was on February 5, 1941, at the Shubert Theatre, and was directed by John Houseman, with the incidental music composed by Bowles comprising no less than 158 cues. Paul and Jane Bowles move to 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights, New York, staying in a house rented (with financial help from Lincoln Kirstein) by the novelist and editor George Davis, the future husband of Lotte Lenya. Davis occupies the ground floor, the theater set designer Oliver Smith, and Paul and Jane Bowles, the second floor; Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and W. H. Auden the third floor; and Golo Mann the attic. Britten has the use of the large black Steinway in the first-floor parlor, while Bowles installs his own upright piano in the basement, and there works on Pastorela, a Mexican Indian ballet commissioned by Kirstein for American Ballet Caravan. In July, Ned Rorem and Paul Bowles meet in Taxco, Mexico. Jane Bowles finishes her novel Two Serious Ladies. Also in 1941, Paul Bowles is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to compose The Wind Remains, based on a play by Federico Garcia Lorca.

1942    Jane Bowles returns from Mexico with Helvetia Perkins, who invites Jane to Vermont to look for a farm house. Paul Bowles forms a close association with John Cage and his wife in Xenia. In November 1942, Paul Bowles begins work as one of the music critics for The New York Herald Tribune, and insists on reviewing jazz as well, a job he continues until 1945. In October Paul Bowles travels to Vermont to see Jane and they take a train to Montreal, Canada.

1943    With Leonard Bernstein making his conducting debut, and chorography by Merce Cunningham, Paul Bowles's one act zarzuela (after Federico Garcia Lorca) The Wind Remains has its world premiere in New York at the Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] on March 30, 1943. Jane Bowles's novel Two Serious Ladies is published by Alfred Knopf.

1944    Colloque sentimentale―a ballet after Verlaine, with decor by Salvador Dali―is first performed by the Marqés de Cuevas's Ballet International. Tennessee Williams wins overnight fame with the Broadway opening of The Glass Menagerie, for which Paul Bowles has provided incidental music. The duo-pianists Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale meet Paul Bowles, having asked the composer Aaron Copland to recommend composers able to write them a piece for two pianos. The painter Maurice Grosser spends part of the summer with Jane Bowles and Helvetia Perkins in East Montpelier, Vermont. On July 24, 1944, Paul Bowles attends a musical party given by Mrs. Murray Cadge in New York City, and the composer and critic Virgil Thompson introduces the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks to Paul Bowles, just back from a Mexican trip. They instantly like each other and eventually have an affair; Peggy Glanville-Hicks becomes a constant companion and one of Paul Bowles' significant female friends other than his wife Jane Bowles.

1945    Paul Bowles begins a close friendship with the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks. First meeting with Jean Paul Sartre, who talks of Jean Genêt. In the aftermath of Hiroshima, writes the story A Distant Episode. During the summer months Paul Bowles travels to the Caribbean and Central America with Oliver Smith, exploring Cuba, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and meets Wifrido Lam. Paul Bowles receives the Drama Critics' Circle Award for his translation of Sartre's play No Exit that was directed by John Huston. Virgil Thomson and Maurice Grosser spend part of the summer with Jane Bowles and Helvetia Perkins at a farm in East Montpelier, Vermont. Jane and Paul Bowles move to an apartment at 28 West 10th Street, sharing it with Oliver Smith and Helvetia Perkins.

1946    Besides incidental music for five Broadway plays, Paul Bowles composes (among other things) the cycle Blue Mountain Ballads (Tennessee Williams) and begins the Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds, and Percussion. Paul Bowles is introduced to the torch singer Libby Holman Reynolds by John Latouche in New York, at an audition for the Latouche-Duke Ellington jazz-musical version of Beggar's Holiday. In December 1946 Bowles resigns his job as music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. Jane Bowles is photographed by Karl Bissinger in New York.

 

Paul Bowles Chronology: Part Two (1947-2000)

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