Gedney's most ambitious early book project centered on portraits of fifty American composers. Beginning around 1965, Gedney wrote letters of introduction to dozens of notable composers, inquiring about their willingess to participate in his project. Several of these letters are found in the Correspondence Series. The names of those whose portraits are in the collection are too many to list here, but include Aaron Copland, Milton Babbitt, Samuel Barber, William Bergsma, John Cage, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Kenneth Gaburo, Elliott Gould, Roy Harris, Lou Harrison, Ben Johnston, Salvatore Martirano, Giancarlo Menotti, Darius Milhaud, William Grant Still, and Henry Weinberg. Only one woman composer is included: Pauline Oliveros at Mills College, California.
Taken between 1965-1969, these remarkable portraits were taken in the composers' homes, offices, and studios in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; Gedney also took more informal photographs of composers at parties and performances, and often with families and pets. Gedney admired John Cage in particular and took many photographs of him, including a set taken at a 1968 re-staging of the Electric Circus performance of early synthesizer music. The John Cage sequence also features Cage's collaborators and friends, among whom Alison Higgens, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Gordon Mumma, and Alison Knowles.
The complete book mock-up, or maquette, of the unpublished American composers project can be found in the Book Projects Series. Lists of composers' names, dates, and locations where they were photographed, correspondence on publication efforts, and notes on the project can be found in the Correspondence, Writings and Notebooks, and Grants and Work Files series. Additional test prints can be found in the Film and Development Tests series.
Prints in this series are arranged in rough chronological order.