UB Music Library to Digitize Influential Collections of New Music

Performances established UB as a center for experimental classical music

Release Date: December 3, 2007 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Music Library has received a grant from the J. Warren Perry and Charles Donald Perry Memorial Trust of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to begin reformatting to CD a portion of its invaluable holdings of reel-to-reel tape recordings dating to the 1960s.

Among the first collections to be digitized under the an $11,000 grant is the first part of the June in Buffalo collection, which includes 53 concerts featuring the work of emerging composers of new music that were performed at UB between 1975 and 1980.

Also included are all 85 of the influential Evenings for New Music Concerts performed at various venues in and around Buffalo from 1964-80 by the Creative Associates, as members of UB's Center of the Creative and Performing Arts were known.

The Creative Associates frequently were involved in performances of the 1975-80 June in Buffalo concerts as well.

Both series are notable for including dozens of world and U.S. premieres, performances of works by the most prominent composers of the 20th century, performances by composers of their own works, spoken comments by composers about their works and performances by leading contemporary music performance specialists.

"Reformatting the reel-to-reel audio tapes in the Music Library has become a critical matter of preservation," says John Bewley, associate librarian and library archivist.

"Many of the tapes are nearing the end of their projected 50-year lifespan and may already have deteriorated beyond the point where it is feasible to perform this sort of technical work in house," he says.

The June in Buffalo and Evenings for New Music series are two of several that were established by the UB Department of Music and the Center for the Creative and Performing Arts to present contemporary music, and helped define UB as a center for the composition and performance of contemporary experimental classical music.

The Creative Associates were an ensemble of performers who united around Lukas Foss, and later Morton Feldman, to present work by such avant-garde composers as John Cage, Charles Wuorinen, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, Milton Babbit and June Nam Paik. At least 300 composers and performers were involved in the widely influential and even infamous performances, which incorporated a wide range of innovative technologies and multimedia processes.

"The Perry grant will enable the Music Library to establish a model for this sort of audio reformatting that can be applied in the future to other audio holdings in the Music Library, as well as similar holdings in the University Archives and Special Collections," Bewley says.

"The reformatting will also make it possible to provide good quality service copies of the materials for use by patrons," he says, adding that increased and easier access to the materials will make it more likely that commercial release of some of the recordings could be facilitated in the future.

He points out that New World Records released two recordings from the Music Library's holdings on its 2005 release, "Julius Eastman, Unjust Malaise."

Eastman was one of the Creative Associates and one of the concerts to be reformatted is his June in Buffalo performance (June 4, 1975) of John Cage's "Songbooks" that famously incensed the composer so much that he delivered a furious lecture about it the following day, which also is being digitized.

Another famous Creative Associates performance, set for possible future digitalization, took place in November 1974 and featured a brief, hypnotic 1896 work by Parisian composer and cultural anarchist Eric Satie. As suggested by the composer, 20 pianists in a row played the piece consecutively 840 times. It took 20 hours. One contemporary newspaper account describes how the eighth performer, internationally known inventor Robert Moog, ended up falling asleep under the piano while "students, professors and plain lover of musical curiosa were draped on chairs and settees, sprawled on the floor (and) hunched against the walls."

The reformatting will be conducted by George Blood's Safe Sound Archives in Philadelphia, a vendor with a strong reputation and extensive experience in the field with such clients as the Philadelphia Orchestra (the resident orchestra at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts), The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Public Library, University of Pennsylvania, the United States Marine Corps Band and many other prestigious institutions.

Bewley calls J. Warren Perry "a generous benefactor of the Music Library in the past."

He points to Perry's donation of two collections of photographs: The J. Warren Perry Collection of Photographs, ca. 1910-1971, which are chiefly opera-related, although they include other musical content, and the J. Warren Perry Collection of Ballet Photographs, ca. 1910-1960.

Digital versions of the more than 2,400 photographs in both collections can be viewed at http://ubdigit.buffalo.edu/collections/lib/lib-mus/lib-mus006_Perry.php and http://ubdigit.buffalo.edu/collections/lib/lib-mus/lib-mus010_PerryBallet.php

Perry's donations also have included physical artifacts of musical interest, including coins, stamps, autograph letters, correspondence and clippings.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan has retired from University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, call 716-645-6969 or visit our list of current university media contacts. Sorry for the inconvenience.