Darius Milhaud published his autobiography in 1949 with the Paris publishing house of René Julliard. The 336 page paperbound volume sold for 380 frs (old French francs).
A limited edition of fifty copies were produced on vellum published by Prioux stationery numbered from 1 to 50 plus a few author’s copies.
The preface recounted the circumstances leading to Milhaud’s decision to set down his life thus far—
“How many times have I been told: “You should write your Memoirs! – It’s impossible, my memory is too bad.” – It does not matter, you have known so many artists, musicians; you have frequented so many salons … – Yes, but how many others have described them better than I have! And then, apart from the catalog of my works which could help me to specify some dates, I have no letter, no document. – Talk about yourself. It is true that there is such a misunderstanding between the public, the critics and myself that I would not mind pointing out some errors. That decides me.
It is August 25, 1944. Paris has just been liberated, letting predict after four dramatic years, during which our despair did not fit well with the hospitable comfort we enjoyed in the United States, the final victory.
After a seven month illness, I am on forced rest at Stanford Hospital in San Francisco. I have time to contemplate the half-century that I have lived. I will recall the memories of my friends and my travels.
I will try to describe the curve of my musical evolution, without treating it technically and without literary pretension. This book, written with broken sticks, will help to fix some points of the History of the music of these last thirty years, in a series of “Notes” without music, this time.”
Darius Milhaud divided his time between America where he taught at Mills College in Oakland and France where he maintained an apartment in Paris to be close to his son, Daniel, an artist, who had a studio in Monmartre. Alfred A. Knopf published an American edition in 1953. It was translated by Donald Evans and edited by Rollo H. Myers. The back of the dust jacket offered a brief synopsis of Milhaud’s place in the music world.
Darius Milhaud was born at Aix-en-Provence on September 4, 1892. His paternal ancestors were Jews settled in Provence since before the Christian era; his mother was a Sephardic Jewess from Italy. He grew up in familiarity with a living religious and human tradition of ancient lineage. On May 4,1925, he married Madeleine Milhaud, by whom he has had one son, Daniel.
Milhaud has been an active composer for more than forty years. He was one of the original “Six” along with Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre, young composers who, associated artistically with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, supplied — along with Stravinsky and Ravel — much of the ferment and vitality that made the musical Paris of the 1920’s a world center. In later years Milhaud went to Rio de Janeiro with the great writer Paul Claudel, when the latter became French Minister to Brazil. (It was as a result of his sojourn in Brazil that Milhaud wrote such familiar works as the “Saudades do Brasil” and “Le Bœuf sur le Toit.”
Upon the fall of Paris to the Germans in 1940, Milhaud and his family escaped to Spain and the United States. From 1940 to the end of the war, he made his home in the United States, becoming intimately connected with Mills College at Oakland, California. Since 1947 he has crossed the Atlantic several times. He now plans to alternate years in France with years in California. Past his sixtieth birthday, Darius Milhaud remains one of the key figures in contemporary music as well as an active citizen of the modern world.
The dust jacket end flaps provided additional details regarding the American edition:
This autobiography covers the life of one of today’s outstanding composers down to 1952. As a very young man, Darius Milhaud was caught up in the high fever of intellectual life in Paris before the First World War, and took an active part in the great shattering of the idols and shibboleths of the nineteenth century. One of the group known as “Les six” and associated with Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie, he helped keep alight a spark of French musical genius which has grown into a beacon. As with all successful rebels, Milhaud has become something of a legendary figure with the passing of time, but he remains a prolific and daring innovator long past the age at which many artistic radicals turn conservative.
For those especially interested in music, this book is perhaps one of the most exciting to have appeared in recent years. Milhaud has naturally known well most of the important musical figures of the century, and both the music he discusses and the events he details are living parts of contemporary culture. From his childhood familiarity with the well-preserved, ancient Jewish traditions of Provence, through his years in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and the United States, he tells us what he did, where he went, whom he met, and how all this bore upon the creation of his — and other composers’— music.
Notes without Music closes with a final chapter (1947-52) written especially for this edition; a catalogue of Milhaud’s compositions; and an annotated index.
Compositions of Darius Milhaud -1910/1952