Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) Archive

Scope and Content

The administrative and other records of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM), formerly the Committee for the Promotion of New Music.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM), originally named The Committee for the Promotion of New Music, was founded in January 1943 in London by Francis Chagrin, to promote the creation, performance and appreciation of new music by young and unestablished composers. It was a membership organization which sought to find the best new composers and to help support their careers, especially in the UK.

Ralph Vaughan Williams agreed to become Hon President, with the proviso that the Committee "avoid all cliques [and] give a welcome to all good work in whatever style or school". Other committee members were Arthur Bliss as Hon Vice-President, William Alwyn, Benjamin Britten, Lennox Berkeley, Francis Chagrin, Edric Cundell, Roy Douglas, Howard Ferguson, Benjamin Frankel, Sidney Harrison, John Ireland, Leonard Isaacs, Dr Gordon Jacob, Constant Lambert, Muir Mathieson, Clarence Raybould, Mâtyâs Seiber, Michael Tippett and William Walton.

Its initial activities were subsidised by the wartime Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts and by private donations from Vaughan Williams and Bliss among others, and remained the basis for much of its subsequent work: "recommended lists" of works were drawn up, which resulted in increased broadcasting by the BBC and in several recordings of "recommended list" works, issued in the 1940s on 78rpm discs by Decca. The CPNM also promoted recitals, chiefly in London, of works submitted by composers which were scrutinised by volunteer reading panels: by 1959 2000 scores had been submitted, and 700 performed. By the mid 1960s more than 250 composers had had works performed.

By October 1951, a draft amended Constitution had been prepared, and on 27 May 1952 the Society for the Promotion of New Music met for its inaugural meeting. During the 1950s and early 1960s the Society struggled financially, until in 1967 it received a bequest of over £100,000 from Arthur Arathoon Paul which meant no subsidies were needed for a ten year period. During the 1960s-1970s the Society launched the British Society for Electronic Music and started a series of Composers' Weekend Seminars,

In 1978 there was a mass resignation by Board Members over financial irregularities

In 1987 the SPNM took over the administration of the British section of International Society of Contemporary Music when it was devolved from the Arts Council. the Executive Officer of SPNM became the administrator for the ISCM.

From 1993 onward SPNM awarded the annual Butterworth Prize for Composition.

In 2004 Arts Council England (ACE) instigated a proposal to create a new higher profile body for the new music sector from the merger of a number of music organisations that received funding from ACE, that included the SPNM. The original idea to merge a number of music organisations into one larger body had been discussed within the sector since the 1980s but ACE initiated the 2004 project for two main reasons; firstly ACE identified the opportunity to have shared facilities within in a new building in central London (King's Place, near King's Cross), and secondly ACE was looking to redress the role of the Contemporary Music Network within ACE. Initially ten organisations were approached about the merger, including the African and Caribbean Music Circuit, British Music Information Centre (BMIC), Contemporary Music Making for Amateurs (CoMA), Contemporary Music Network, Jazz Services, the Society for the Promotion of New Music and The Sonic Arts Network. This project, initially called The Kings Place Initiative and later The New Organisation (TNO) Project, resulted in the creation on 1st October 2008 of Sound and Music from the merger of the British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Network, the Society for the Promotion of New Music and The Sonic Arts Network in 2008.

The early history for the Committee for the Promotion of New Music is described in a 1945 article by Mosco Carner with a further retrospective 1943-1975 by Benjamin Wolf (2013) (both in the Musical Times).

SPNM/AM/CP/4 contains an annual/statistical review of the SPNM up to 1992 eg. number of scores submitted, finance, activities during the year.

Access Information

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Archivist's Note

NB Each file should be checked to see what/if any personal information it contains prior to production.

Ask the archivist responsible for the collection, or senior member of staff, if you have any Data Protection concerns around making these records accessible.

This collection was catalogued by the entire Archives team during Collections Week, January 2020.

Conditions Governing Use

Sound and Music

Appraisal Information

During cataloguing, the following documents were appraised and disposed of: Companies House returns, insurance renewals, petty cash receipts, HMRC printed guidance and leaflets, employee tax and pension forms; Draft budgets; Duplicate minutes and accounts, investment reports and agreements, council tax 1990s, data protection registration 1990s; Duplicate award leaflets, New Notes, events and what's on leaflets, anniversary brochures; Practical and travel arrangements for seminars and events; Staff recruitment CVs, P60s and 2008 merger TUPE and redundancy documents.

Custodial History

These records were created by the Society for the Promotion of New Music during the course of its activities. They were inherited by Sound and Music on the formation of that organisation (the successor to SPNM) in 2008. By 2008 the BMIC collection was being housed in a storage facility in Southend, and the records of the predecessor bodies of Sound and Music were sent there on the creation of the new body. The SPNM archive was transferred to the University of Huddersfield Archive and Special Collections in 2016.

Related Material

British Music Information Centre Archive (BMC)