Anniversaries in Contemporary Music at University of Huddersfield Archive Service

Archives Hub feature for November 2017

BMIC advert, 1968, 'Composer', Composers Guild of GB Journal.

BMIC advert, 1968, ‘Composer’, Composers’ Guild of GB Journal.

The University of Huddersfield Archive Service at Heritage Quay is the home of two significant contemporary classical music collections, the British Music Collection (BMC) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival archive (HCMF), both of which are celebrating exciting anniversary years in 2017.  Sound and Music, owner of the British Music Collection, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the collection in its original form, as the British Music Information Centre.  2017 also marks the 40th edition of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, which is the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music.

The British Music Collection

The British Music Collection (BMC) is the music library and other records of the British Music Information Centre (BMIC).  The British Music Information Centre (BMIC) opened in London on 7 November 1967 as a place for musicians, composers and the general public to see and hear new classical music. When it closed in 2004 it had collected thousands of scores and recordings and hosted hundreds of performances.  It had been founded by the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain at a time when similar centres were opening around the world. Composers and publishers donated works to make a huge library of British classical music. This library was used by students, composers and performers for inspiration or to select new works for performance. The BMIC also hosted and organised concerts to help promote British artists.

Photograph of the BMIC, c1967.

Photograph of the BMIC, c1967.

The BMIC’s role was to collect and provide access to cutting edge work by British or British-based composers. Therefore, the collection tells the story of the development of composition and performance in this country during the 20th and 21st centuries. It features both published and unpublished materials, including things that are not stored anywhere else. The collection features famous composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan-Williams but also more obscure people ready for rediscovery.

Following the closure of the BMIC in 2004 the collection was split into three parts. The whole collection was deposited at the university by Sound and Music, the national organisation for new music. Archivists at Heritage Quay reunited the three parts and fully catalogued the collection which is now available for researchers again. The collection continues to add exciting contemporary works through Sound and Music’s New Voices project.  This large collection features over 80,000 scores and recordings of 20th and 21st century classical music.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Archive

Poster: Iannis Xenakis - Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield

Poster: Iannis Xenakis – Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield, 27 November 1982.

hcmf// is an annual event celebrating new and experimental music. Since the first festival in 1978 it has hosted some of the most important names in contemporary music, including Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. hcmf// also supports young and up-and-coming composers and performers and inspires local people through its Learning and Participation programme.

The archive covers the history of the festival from its beginnings as a long weekend of performances in October 1978 to its current 10 days in November. During the 2009 Festival, the hcmf// archive was transferred to the University to enable public access and research into this collection.

The archive features a wide range of materials including programmes, posters and administrative records that tell the story of the Festival’s development. It also contains financial and marketing records, performer contracts, musical scores and audio-visual recordings of concerts.  These records chart the exciting history of hcmf// from its modest beginnings to an internationally renowned event on the contemporary music stage.

These collections not only cover the histories of these important institutions. They also reflect the much bigger story of the local, national and international development of new and experimental music throughout the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.   Music forms one of the University archives significant research themes alongside Education, Politics, Art and Design, Theatre and Sport.

Lindsay Ince
Assistant Archivist & Records Manager

Related content on the Archives Hub

Please note: Collection descriptions for the British Music Collection and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Archive are due to be added to the Archives Hub shortly – we’ll add the links to this feature as soon as they become available.

Browse Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous feature by Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield : ‘Scrum, Ruck and Tackle: Rugby Football League Archive‘.

Related Links

Sound and Music – The national charity for new music in the UK, and formerly the home of the British Music Information Centre (BMIC), a collection now deposited with the University of Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival – The website of the festival, which takes place in Huddersfield every November.  Includes a guide to the current festival’s programme, and associated public events.

Google Cultural Institute Exhibitions – Exhibitions curated by current composers looking back at the organisational archives.

Related Publications

Gottchalk, Jennie (2016) Experimental music since 1970.  Bloomsbury.  ISBN 978-1-62892-247-9

Metzer, David (2009) Musical Modernism at the turn of the Twenty-First Century.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  ISBN 978-1-107-40280-5

Rupprecht, Philip (2015) British Musical Modernism, The Manchester Group and their Contemporaries.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  ISBN 978-1-316-64952-

Steinitz, Richard (2011) Explosions in November. University of Huddersfield Press, Huddersfield. ISBN 978-1-86218-099-4

All images copyright Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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