Prof. William P. Malm earned a BM and MM in composition from Northwestern University (1949, 1950) and a Ph.D. in musicology from UCLA (1959). He began a career as a pianist/composer for dance at Jacob’s Pillow in Mass 1974 and later Perry Manfield, American Dance Festival, and New York City He taught music theory at Uni of Illinois '50, US Navy School of Music '51-53. His 1955-57 field work in ethnomusicology dealt with Japanese theater music. His first book, Japanese Music and Musical Instruments (1959) was written while doing field work (1955-1957) on Japanese theater. His second book, Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music, was published in 1963 with a monograph prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1960 and there developed a program in ethnomusicology which included world music surveys, seminars and performance ensembles, particularly in Japanese kabuki and festival music. He also arranged the university acquisition of a Indonesian gamelan and taught that music as well.. In 1980 he became director of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments and pursued new approaches to display such as holography and computer methods for cataloguing and research. He has been president, treasurer, and office manager of the Society for Ethnomusicology and been on the boards of many other music and Asian organizations. He has written extensively in a wide variety of fields. His Music Cultures of the Pacific , the Near East, and Asia ('67,'79,'96) was a pioneer step towards world music text books. Six Hidden Views of Japanese Music came from his lectures as the Ernst Bloch Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley ('81).Theater as Music(1990) is a joint study of the music of Japan's puppet theater. The second edition of his 1997 book appeared with a CD in 2000 as Japanese Traditional Music and Musical Instruments,.
Malm has been a distinguished professor at several schools and has lectured extensively around the U.S. and the world. Research grants have sent him to such places as Japan, Malaysia, Australia, the East-West Center in Hawaii, and the Villa Serbelloni in Italy. Among his honors at Michigan are the Henry J. Russel (1965) and State Legislature (1990) awards for excellent in undergraduate teaching and, internationally, the Koizumi Fumio Prize for Ethnomusicology (1993). He retired in 1994. An theology of translations of all nagauta pieces performed at Michigan is scheduled to appear in 2009.