4/14 - The HBS learned of Paul Bierley's passing this past week. He was great scholar to whom all musicologists interested in band music are forever indebted. Trevor Herbert has written an eloquent obituary for him as follows:
I never met Paul Bierley, but it feels as if I did. We corresponded and chatted two or three times on transatlantic phone calls. He was always courteous, modest and generous. He usually wanted to know what I was working on. I took this as evidence of his generosity, but I also concluded that his inquiries were genuine – he was insatiably curious and as we all know, curiosity is the nourishment of research. Without curiosity the urge to inquire fades and eventually vanishes. Paul never stopped inquiring.
He died in a retirement home overlooking the Scioto River on 9 April at the age of 90. He was a man of Ohio: born in Portsmouth, he lived the greatest part of his life in Westerville. In the later years of the Second World War he served as a bandsman and radio operator/gunner in the US Army Air Corps. After military service he spent his entire professional life as a design and product engineer and was highly respected in that field, but beyond his commitments to his close family his interests were absorbed by music. He played in or conducted bands and orchestras throughout his life. He was also of course a tireless researcher: he founded his own publishing firm (Integrity Press) and published on the life and work of Henry Fillmore, but he will be remembered primarily for his work on John Philip Sousa.
No one could accuse Paul of total objectivity when it came to Sousa, but it was his industry that led to the definitive chronicle of the life and work of one of the first global superstars of music. The first of his books, John Philip Sousa: American Phenomenon, was published in 1973, and I reviewed his final book, The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa, just a few years ago. Both are packed with verified detail, and they will remain essential texts for anyone with a serious or passing interest in Sousa or indeed in the roots of American music culture.
He was the recipient of many honours and awards – each of them richly deserved.
[Editor's note: a tribute written to commemorate the honorary doctorate he received from Ohio State is available by clicking here