Esteemed audio curator passes away

Richard Warren ’59, a Yale library curator who devoted his life to one of the nation’s most extensive audio archives and was praised by colleagues for his wisdom and dedication, passed away after suffering a stroke last Sunday at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He was 75 years old.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Yale, Warren returned to New Haven in the late 1960s and soon became curator of the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings (HSR), a position he held for the rest of his adult life. During Warren’s 45-year tenure, colleagues said he relied on his remarkable knowledge of music and musical history to build Yale’s collection — one of the nation’s most comprehensive sound databases — by adding selections from a broad array of cultures and time periods. But those who knew Warren remember him most for his thoughtfulness and eagerness to help colleagues and researchers.

“The first thing that comes to mind [about Warren] is extraordinary generosity, especially when it came to music and musicians,” said Mark Bailey MUS ’89, his colleague in the Music Library. “[He did] whatever he could to bring music and the arts to life.”

Steve Smolian, an expert in restoring old or damaged recordings who worked professionally with Warren for over 40 years, said Warren created the standard for how sound archives should operate.

Warren was particularly interested in the music of the Ivy League, and he compiled what colleagues described as the “definitive” discography of Charles Ives 1898, a famous American modernist composer. His coworkers at Yale said Warren also loved using technology to restore and reissue historical recordings, including those of Cole Porter 1913.

“His expertise and knowledge of the recorded sound was so extensive,” said Suzanne Lovejoy, who occupied the office adjacent to Warren for over a decade. “But Richard was just so mild and unassuming.”

Craig Harwood GRD ’02, a former professor of music at Yale, first met Warren when he was researching the history of Jewish music. Though Warren never specialized in Jewish music, he spent hours a week discussing and listening to old recordings with Harwood, the professor said.

Though Warren was often private and reserved, those who knew him said he also possessed a rich sense of humor.

“He just always seemed to be in good humor,” Lovejoy said. “He had this funny little chuckle that was a mild chuckle, or he would raise one eyebrow.”

Warren’s enthusiasm for music extended beyond the scholarly realm. He was an active singer for over 20 years in a choir under Bailey’s direction — an activity Bailey described as “a real passion.” Warren’s colleagues at the HSR recalled Warren’s fondness for chocolates and penchant for bringing sweets and flowers to the library. Bailey said Warren always had chocolates from all over the world on hand to share with his coworkers and visitors.

“The tin never went empty,” Bailey said. “There were always a wonderful array of chocolates in that bin.”

Warren is survived by his wife, Mary Jo, their two children and four grandchildren.

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