Introducing the BMC Composers Files!

With work starting on the surveying and cataloguing of the British Music Collection, we would like to introduce you to one of the most exciting sections of the collection; the composers files of the British Music Information Centre (BMIC). As mentioned in our last blog post, BMIC worked to promote contemporary British classical/art music and provide a reference library for composers’ scores and recordings. However in addition to the scores and recordings, over the years the Centre also actively collected administrative and reference material relating to British composers and those living in the UK, and this has resulted in the volume of material you can see below!

BMC Composers Files

Now the surveying of these files has only just begun, but our first impressions of this body of records are very giddy ones! Particularly as we start to consider all the different types of information and evidence that are waiting to be discovered, and the potential research paths that our users will take. So far we’ve come across correspondence, composers’ CVs, manuscript scores, subscription cards, biographies, newsletters, journals, newspaper cuttings, event publicity, programs and catalogues, to name but a few! And just as diverse as the types of records that we’ve found is the volume of material held within each file; a point which is nicely demonstrated by the two images below. On the left is the complete file for Richard Ascough, a member of The Scratch Orchestra from 1970, while on the right is one of a number of files relating to Benjamin Britten.

BMC - R Ascough   BMC - B Britten

Finally, to give you an insight into the next steps and what we’ve been doing over the last few days, we’d like to point out that it’s no coincidence that the above examples are both from composers whose surnames sit early alphabetically. Unfortunately, that’s because most of the alphabetical order that the records were originally kept in has been lost over the years, and as a result we now have to fully reorder the entire collection to ensure that all the files have been accounted for and that they can be retrieved into the future! Well, that’s the As and Bs done, only another 24 to go!

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