British Universities Film & Video Council

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Hear the Future of British Music

Sound and Music promotes challenging contemporary music and sound art through a range of projects, incorporating live events, learning, artist development, and digital platforms. Kealy Cozens gives an overview.

About the author: Kealy Cozens is Creative Project Leader (Data) at Sound and

Since our founding in 2009, Sound and Music has been a key national agency for new music in the UK. Our vision is to create a world where new music and sound prospers, transforming lives, challenging expectations and celebrating the work of its creators. Realising that ambition means our work is hugely varied. Whilst composer and artist development is at the core of our programme audience development, live events and touring, network building, and education are all critical.

On one level, Sound and Music can seem to be all about the future as we search out new ways to make and listen to music. That would be to miss an important strand to our work. Namely, collecting British music’s past to inspire the artists of today.

The British Music Collection is our remarkable archive consisting of over 30,000 scores and recordings from British composers. Relocated in 2011, the Collection is now housed in a specially designed unit at the University of Huddersfield. Visitors can access the archive in person or online.

The majority of the collection dates from 1960 onwards, but it also encompasses material stretching as far back as 1900. Visitors to the archive can access published and unpublished works, including many pieces that are out of print or hard to obtain anywhere else. Composers such as Britten, Tippett, Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies, Cardew, Harvey, Weir, MacMillan, Turnage and Adès, are all featured alongside today’s emerging composers and many less well-known, or maybe unjustly neglected, artists. We see it as vitally important that the Collection stays a living and expanding resource. Such an important objective, however, is not without inherent problems.

British composer Judith Weir, whose music features in the Sound and Music Collection (photo © Suzanne Jansen)

British composer Judith Weir, whose music features in the Sound and Music Collection (photo © Suzanne Jansen)

The physical space at Huddersfield cannot expand indefinitely, yet at such an exciting time for British music it is ever more important that an accurate record of our past and present is kept. With the help of an advisory group consisting of composers, broadcasters, commissioners and publishers we are devising a new acquisitions policy. Due for publication in the spring of this year, this will guide the development of the Collection.

For the archive to act as a comprehensive and intelligent repository it needs to be able to cater to its users and the changing ways in which they want to explore it. We are not alone in this. Music Information Centres in many different countries are trying to become more accessible and to respond to technological changes.

Digital tools are changing the way in which we discover and explore music as they are for every other form of information. The Collection is stored on a wide range of media including betamax and cassettes. So whilst creative uses of the web offer huge opportunities to Sound and Music and the Collection, we also need to undertake the initial hard graft in converting the works into contemporary formats and fundraising to support that.

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