Scope and arrangement
The records of the Composers' Forum document the history of the organization from 1935 to 2002. They hold correspondence, concert programs, press releases, clippings, grant applications and other development files, board meeting minutes and correspondence, photographs, membership files, concert production files, concert discussion transcripts, historical essays and scrapbooks. The collection contains correspondence from many significant composers, such as George Antheil, Milton Babbitt, Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, and Virgil Thomson; and from the directors of the Composers' Forum, including founder Ashley Pettis, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Carleton Sprague-Smith and Frank Wigglesworth.
Notable portions of the collection hold transcripts of post-concert question-answer sessions between audiences and composers in the early years of the Forum, including sessions with Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Henry Brant, Ross Lee Finney, Paul Bowles, Virgil Thomson, Otto Luening, Ernest Bloch, Marion Bauer, Howard Hanson and David Diamond; board meeting minutes documenting internal deliberations on the activities and direction of the organization; and a nearly-complete run of programs of concerts produced by the Forum.
The photographs are of composers and performers associated with the Forum, including Ashley Pettis, Darius Milhaud, Lukas Foss, Muhal Richard Abrams, Joel Chadabe, Leroy Jenkins, and the Kronos String Quartet.
The collection also contains sound and video recordings comprised mainly of Forum concerts from the early 1950s to 1992. They consist of about 160 cassette tapes, 50 open reel tapes, 7 DATs, and 6 video cassettes in various formats. There are also audio and video recordings of collaborations between the Composers' Forum and the Electronic Music Foundation from 2000 to 2002, including music and interdisciplinary projects by John Cage, Elliot Sharp, Annea Lockwood, and Joel Chadabe (on VHS tapes, CD-Rs, and DATs).
Inquiries regarding audio and video materials in the collection may be directed to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound (firstname.lastname@example.org). Audio materials will be subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access.
The Composers' Forum Inc. records are arranged in five series:
- 1936-19835.5 boxes
This series contains correspondence between the Forum (usually represented by its director at the time of writing) and a wide array of composers, impresarios and corporate entities involved in the creation of new music in the mid- to late-twentieth century. Correspondents include Bruno Amato, the American Music Center, George Antheil, Milton Babbitt, Marion Bauer, Leslie Bassett, Jack Beeson, Wallace Berry, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Alvin Curran, Noel Da Costa, Vincent Persichetti (whose letters can be found under the publisher Elkins-Vogel), Lukas Foss, John Franco, Herbert Fromm, Ross Lee Finney, Frederick Jacobi, Meyer Kupferman, the League of Composers, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Ned Rorem, William O. Smith, Halsey Stevens, Carlos Surinach and Virgil Thomson. The composers with the most correspondence in the series are Antheil and Thomson. Antheil's correspondence consists only of letters to Peggy Glanville-Hicks.
Several important figures in the history of the Composers' Forum have their own files of correspondence: Ashley Pettis, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Carleton Sprague-Smith and other employees of the New York Public Library, and Frank Wigglesworth. Pettis, Sprague-Smith and Glanville-Hicks have the largest portions of correspondence.
Most of this series dates from 1936 to ca. 1970. Later correspondence is found throughout series II and III.
- 1935-19939.5 boxes
This series holds subject files containing reports, board of trustees meeting minutes, development and membership files, clippings, and photographs.
The files hold correspondence and other papers regarding composers, performers, music festivals, and Forum projects such as the Composers' Services Program, the publications New Music Calendar and Network News, and events produced for the Forum's fiftieth anniversary season. One file is devoted to the papers of the composer Jacob Glick, a board member.
The board meeting minutes (which include correspondence as well), and, to a lesser extent, the annual reports, offer an inside view of the development of the Forum from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. Other official Forum papers in the series include Statements of Purpose, prospectuses, letters of agreement with employees, auditor reports, annual reports, and certificates of incorporation.
The development files contain grant applications to and correspondence with funding agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Meet the Composer; and private foundations such as the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund. One folder in the development files contains a history of grant funding of the Forum, mostly from the 1980s.
Membership files contain lists of membership and general letters sent to members. The clipping files are extensive and cover the history of the Forum from its beginning to 1991. The photographs are of composers and performers associated with the Forum, including Ben Weber, Roger Goeb, Ashley Pettis, Darius Milhaud, Lukas Foss, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Joel Chadabe, Leroy Jenkins, Kronos String Quartet, Yvar Mikashoff, J.D. Parran, the Relâche ensemble, Bruno Spoerri, and Leo Smith.
- 1935-20029 boxes
This series documents the concerts produced by the Forum and is in three divisions: programs and press releases arranged by season, discussion transcripts from the early days of the Forum, and season production files.
The programs and press releases are almost complete, containing only a single program from the 1935 season, but otherwise covering the entire life of the organization up to 2002. Press releases promote full season schedules as well as particular concerts.
The discussion transcripts date only from the first three seasons of the Forum's history. They document audience question-answer sessions with composers following performances of their work. Featured composers include Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Kent Kennan, William Schuman, Bernard Wagenaar, Henry Brant, Isadore Freed, Ross Lee Finney, Lehman Engel, Paul Bowles, Virgil Thomson, Otto Luening, Ernest Bloch, Arthur Shepherd, Frederick Jacobi, Marion Bauer, Daniel Gregory Mason, Howard Hanson, David Diamond, and Goddard Lieberson.
The production files contain correspondence with composers, performers and venues, contracts, flyers and posters, clippings, and composer and performer press kits. These files have one historical gap (1969-1976), and there are no files after 1998.
- 1935-19851 box
The writings consist primarily of essays and clippings on the history of the Composers' Forum, most written before 1955. Authors include Ashley Pettis and Peggy Glanville-Hicks. The writings also have lists of performers and composers who performed at Forum concerts as well as years of performance. The Composers Forum 25th Anniversary Survey offers a snapshot of the organization in 1961, with a history, description of its structure, and biographical notes on its executive officers. The folder on Peggy Glanville-Hicks offers more thorough biographical information on her, including resumes and biographies likely written by the composer herself.
- 1960-19862 boxes
This series contains three scrapbooks, all in good condition. They contain concert programs and clippings. Two are general historical books documenting the history of the organization from 1960 to 1972. The third focuses only on the 50th anniversary season (1985-1986). Though duplicative of material in other series, the scrapbooks assemble the history of the Forum in a more accessible (if less thorough) way. Portions of these scrapbooks have been microfilmed and cataloged under *ZB-3489.