Composers Forum Concerts Collection

The Composers Forum Concerts Collection comprises over 600 hours recorded during concerts presented between 1951 and the mid-1970s in Columbia University's McMillin Theater (now Miller Theater) and at the New York Public Library's Donnell Library.  The concerts, designed particularly to support young and adventurous composers, were devoted to music by contemporary American composers. 

In addition to the mix of instrumental and vocal works represented, a number of works incorporate music for electronic tape.  The early careers of important American composers are documented on these recordings, many of which contain premiere performances of works, while others contain performances of works either never available, or no longer available, commercially. 

A notable feature of these recordings is the question and answer period that often follows the music.  Audience members submitted questions on index cards for discussion with the composers in sessions moderated by Virgil Thompson, Milton Babbitt, Otto Luening, and others, thereby providing insight into the creative processes by which the works came into being.  Taken as a whole, the collection thus provides a snapshot of freshly composed music in the Western fine art music academic tradition, documenting activity especially that nourished and contributed significantly to the mid-twentieth century new music scene. 

With funding from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), Columbia University Libraries has completed phase one of a multi-year effort to preserve the recordings.  Digitized versions of 30 concerts are now freely available without restriction for listening on-site at at the Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library.  Ask at the Music & Arts Library circulation desk for access.  Details of the Library’s location and hours can be found in the sidebar at the right of this page.  Descriptions of the digitized concerts can be found below, or (in greater detail) by searching the title “Composers Forum” in Columbia’s online catalog, CLIO.

Columbia University Libraries plans to preserve the remainder of the collection through a series of grants from the New York State Conservation/Preservation Program.  Phase two will be completed during 2011, and phase three will begin after that.

For a listing (in PDF format) of the concerts digitized to date, click on this link to open the PDF.