William W. Austin, the Given Foundation Professor of Musicology emeritus at Cornell University, died at his home in Ithaca, March 15, two days after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 80.
Austin was born in Lawton, Okla., and was a graduate of Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1939, his master of arts degree in 1940 and his Ph.D. in 1951.
Austin joined the Cornell faculty in 1947 as an assistant professor and university organist. His fields of specialization were 20th-century music, American and Russian music of the 19th century and early keyboard music. He performed frequently and was an accomplished pianist as well as harpsichordist. In 1969 Austin was elected Goldwin Smith Professor of Musicology at Cornell as well as being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected the Given Foundation Professor of Musicology in 1983 and relinquished his previous Cornell title. He served as head of Cornell's music department from 1958 to 1963 and is remembered as a remarkable teacher by a great many Cornell students. Austin retired in 1990.
An internationally respected musicologist, Austin received some of the most coveted prizes in his field, including the E.J. Dent Prize from the International Musicology Society and the Otto Kinkeldey Prize of the American Musicology Society for his influential book "Music in the Twentieth Century: From Debussy to Stravinsky" (Norton, 1966). He also authored "Susanna, Jeanie and the Old Folks at Home: Songs of Stephen C. Foster From His Time to Ours" (1975), a study of Foster's songs and their cultural significance. Austin also collaborated on several important books, including "New Looks at Italian Opera" (1968, Cornell), and "Debussy's 'PrŽlude ˆ l'aprs-midi d'un faune'" (1970, Norton), and he authored numerous articles for Music Quarterly and Music Review and was a contributor to Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In 1961, Austin received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was an honorary member of the American Musicology Society, the society's highest honor.
Austin is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Austin; daughters Ann, of Berkeley, Calif., and Margery, of Washington, D.C.; and three grandsons. Friends who wish to honor Austin's memory may do so by contributing to the William Austin Endowment for Music Library Materials at Cornell, established in his honor in 1996.