The British Music Collection is 50! #BMC50

BMC 50 logo
BMC 50 logo
Digital and Heritage Quay
Produced by: 
Sound and Music

Celebrating half a century of new music and sound

The British Music Collection is 50! 

On 7 November 2017 the British Music Collection, the UK's largest and most important archive of 20th and 21st century British art music, will celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary.

As custodian of the collection, Sound and Music is thrilled to launch 12 months of #BMC50 activity. This will range from live events to edit-a-thons, guest curators to composer showcases and much, much more....

“This amazing resource has been part of my career for half a century. I used it in the sixties to find out about new music and to meet other composers. In the seventies and eighties, as BMIC, it became a wonderful library and a place that hosted concerts as well. When I taught in London I often sent students there - the only place for discovering new scores. I have continued to use it, either online or in its superb archival spaces in Huddersfield.

I salute the 50th anniversary of the British Music Collection with delight.”Professor Nicola LeFanu, composer 

A year long celebration 

To mark this significant date in British cultural history, Sound and Music will put composers in the British Music Collection at the heart of the celebrations, highlighting the heritage of extraordinary music created in the UK and the wider cultural impact of its creators, as well as drawing out more marginalised voices, including those of women, black and minority ethnic and disabled composers.

Throughout the #BMC50 year audiences will also be introduced to contemporary New Voices, a growing community of composers working with Sound and Music to create new music and sound across the country, whose work is featured in the British Music Collection as part of its commitment to the heritage of the future.

With information on hundreds of composers, the British Music Collection contains scores, background information, recordings, photographs and other artefacts from some of the most seminal names in 20th and 21st century music history, including Judith Weir, Cornelius Cardew, Elisabeth Lutyens, Michael Finnissy and Hugh Davies. Online, it continues to grow with new digital content from a wide range of composers, as well as ever expanding curated features. 

“An abundance of music and sound treasure awaits whomever takes the time to excavate this rich and important national asset.” - Ailís Ní Ríain, composer 

New Voices 2017/18

About the British Music Collection 

The British Music Collection has itself been on a transformational journey since its inception in a room just off Oxford Street in 1967, when it began life as part of the British Music Information Centre - a drop-in centre where users could go to see, hear and research 20th century British contemporary classical music, and network with other composers.

Under Sound and Music’s stewardship, the British Music Collection’s aims are clear: to preserve and showcase the UK's rich and evolving musical heritage, to develop its online presence, and to encourage new composers to join – making it a living and breathing archive, and a space and place for new music discovery with a growing composer community. 

The physical collection has been housed since 2011 at the University of Huddersfield, and since 2015 within the University’s state of the art archive centre Heritage Quay (winner of the ‘Buildings That Inspire’ category in the Guardian University Awards in 2016). Here, members of the public can access over 40,000 scores, 21,000 recordings and a wide variety of artefacts including books, letters, photographs, vintage concert programmes and vinyl LPs.

‘The University is delighted to celebrate this significant anniversary and to continue supporting composers to add to this important collection, as well as making it freely available for use by the public as well as academic researchers.’ – Prof Tim Thornton, Deputy Vice, Chancellor University of Huddersfield 

Over 2,000 people per month also visit the British Music Collection online, where Sound and Music has developed the range and richness of content as well as inviting guest curators to share their journeys of musical exploration.

From Delia Derbyshire to Matthew Herbert, from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Samantha Fernando, the British Music Collection showcases a wide and brilliant array of British composers and with hundreds of fascinating stories – but there are big parts missing in its narrative!

Susanna Eastburn, Chief Executive of Sound and Music, said: “One of the ambitions of #BMC50 is to work with our growing community to draw out and expand a wider range of diverse voices, and challenge received ideas about the history of 20th century musical development. We have already done an example of this in March 2017, when we highlighted the lack of female representation within the British Music Collection, and we’ve also had some brilliant curation from Julie Kjaer, Sarah Sayeed and Ailís ní Ríain. This feels like creatively fascinating and important work for us, and the 50th anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to explore this more deeply.”

So join us to celebrate, save the date and let's get listening!



Support Us

The British Music Collection’s 50th birthday is a chance for you to support and be a part of its future.

To realise its full potential as the national home for British art music discovery, the British Music Collection urgently needs to expand and develop digitally, growing the range of content represented, developing access and engaging many more listeners in exploring our incredibly rich and fascinating British musical heritage.

Your donation, however small, directly helps Sound and Music to preserve and develop the British Music Collection as the national living archive for British music, for now and for the future.

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