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Dennis Riley Manuscripts and Personal Papers

Identifier: CoU-AMRC-72

Scope and Contents

Personal papers of Dennis Riley (1943-1999), compososer, pianist, pioneer of computer music notation; student of George Crumb, Ben Johnston, and Storm Bull; M.Mus. University of Illinois (1968), Ph D. University of Iowa (1973); MacDowell Colony Fellow, Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, Joseph H. Bearns Prize fwinner. Includes music compositions, teaching materials, correspondence, and audio recordings.


  • Creation: ca. 1968–1999

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the American Music Research Center.

Biography of Dennis Riley

Dennis Riley was born in Los Angeles, CA, May 28, 1943, where he received his first formal music instruction at age 5. In 1950 his family moved to Lakewood, CO. He studied piano and music theory privately, and decided at age seventeen to persue a music career. Mr. Riley graduated with a degree in piano from the University of Colorado in 1965, where his teachers included Storm Bull. He was appointed Composer-in-Residence for the Rockford, IL, Public Schools under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and the Music Educators National Conference, a position he held for two years (1965-67).

He received a Master of Music in composition (1968) from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in composition (1973) from the University of Iowa, where some of his teachers were George Crumb and Ben Johnston. Mr. Riley held teaching posts at California State University , Fresno, and Columbia University.

In the mid-1980’s, Mr. Riley was among the first group of composers to master and advocate the use of personal computer programs for the notation of music, and from that time on he earned his living primarily by preparing computer engravings of scores for other composers.

Among the many honors he has received are two Broadcast Music, Inc. Awards, the Joseph H. Bearns Prize, a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, and an award and recording grant from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Dennis Riley’s music has been performed widely in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan, and has been received enthusiastically by audiences and critics alike. His earlier works were written in a rhythmically intricate and texturally lucid post-Webern style. In later years, his music, though not appreciably tonal, became more romantic in character, emphasizing his gift for melodic, lyrical writing. His many works include viola concertos, symphonies, works for solo piano, chamber groups, and a large number of works for solo voice, chorus, and two operas.

Mr. Riley died May 6, 1999, in New York City, NY, his long-time residence.


51 linear feet

Language of Materials


Physical Location

B62 B1-4; boxes 61-63 A9 K5

The Dennis Riley manuscripts and personal papers
An inventory of holdings at the American Music Research Center
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written inEnglish.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States