Solving Mysteries in Music History With DSO Librarian Robert Stiles

In this episode of Essential Conversations, Robert Stiles talks about discovering the unknown works of a virtuosic composer, and being the music librarian for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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Robert Stiles is the music librarian at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra where he finds and secures music rights and scores for the orchestra.

Stiles started out as a double bassist. His passion for the instrument led him to pursue a doctorate in musical arts from University of Texas, Austin.

While working toward that degree, Stiles discovered 29 unknown works from virtuosic double bassist and composer Serge Koussevitzky, who was the music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924-1949, and founded the Tanglewood Music Center there in 1940.

For his dissertation, Stiles pieced Koussevitzky’s newly discovered works together and confirmed that five works rumored to be Koussevitzky’s were indeed his.

In 2004, Stiles became the Principal Librarian for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In his role as music librarian, Stiles puts his knowledge of music history and U.S. copyright law to work, finding and securing the rights and scores for the symphony’s performances.

In this episode:

  • Robert Stiles on working as the music librarian for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • The pleasures and pitfalls of playing bass
  • Stiles’ discovery of 29 unknown works from Serge Koussevitzky
  • The business side of securing music rights for a symphony orchestra
  • Replacing paper scores with iPads

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.