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Society for New Music Archive

An inventory of its papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: PRB
Date: 1996

Biographical History

[Taken from the Society's website,, 7 Nov 2005]

Founded in 1971, the Society's purpose is to act as a catalyst for the continued growth of the central New York musical community by commissioning new works, through advocacy (e.g. Society News and Fresh Ink on WCNY-FM and its Watertown and Utica affiliates), by featuring regional composers alongside guest composers, by providing regional musicians an opportunity to perform the music of their peers in order to gain new skills and techniques which they then share with their students, and by bringing new music to as broad an audience as possible through performances, broadcasts and cable TV.

The Society has grown from five concerts to approximately 25 per season, plus workshops and masterclasses, in addition to funding composers-in-residence in inner-city schools. The Society has participated in consortia with other groups throughout the U.S. for commissions, recordings, and exchanging performances and scores. In 1988/89, 1991/92, 1994/95 and 1996/97 the Society received ASCAP/Chamber Music America programming awards. In 1994 Neva Pilgrim and the Society received ACA's 'Laurel Leaf' Award. In 1999, the Society was chosen as the New York State representative for the national Continental Harmony Millennium commissioning project. In March 2001, the Society hosted the National SCI Conference. In 2001, the Society was honored with a NYS Governor's Arts Award, the only music organization among the 11 awardees.

The Society provides a format for living composers in the same way art galleries provide a format for visual artists, and is the only year-round new music organization in New York State outside of Manhattan. The Society annually awards the Brian M. Israel Prize to a composer 30 years of age or younger. The winner receives $500 and a performance. Honorable Mentions are also performed. Several winners have been women and minorities, most recently Evan Johnson, Huang Ruo, Winnie Cheung, Mark McConnell, Rob Paterson, and Derek Bermel.

The Society funds four composers in inner-city schools to work with 4th - 12th graders in writing new works for chorus, orchestra, and band, which are premiered by the students with professionals. This several-month project has students writing texts (language arts program), and setting them to music working in "composer teams" with the composer-in-residence. This program is so successful that composers and schools ask to be involved. Each year some problem students are re-labeled "gifted". The local media provides excellent coverage.

The Society commissions at least one new work each season and has produced four recordings and one CD of works by commissioned composers. The By-Laws of the Society stipulate that the organization commission regional composers. Commissioned composers have included women and minorities.

Since May 1996, the Society has produced Fresh Ink, a weekly program of recent music for WCNY-FM and its Watertown and Utica affiliates. It combines varied styles of new music into programs of interest to the listener, e.g. Sound Designs, Borrowed Music, Color Music, It's all Music, Cross-Cultural Cadences, etc., plus a new music calendar for all of upstate New York. CDs and DATs for this program have been submitted from around the globe.

Society News is published twice each season and mailed to a well-maintained list of 5,200 and includes information on concerts, composers, and a calendar of all new music concerts in central New York from Buffalo to Oneonta and Binghamton.

To attract an audience, the Society aims for a wide diversity of styles of recent music. The Society's vision is to provide enough opportunities in various contexts so people of all ages are conversant with the music of their own time. This translates into modest ticket prices, free concerts in extended-care facilities, libraries, galleries, and schools, plus programs with dance, theatre, poetry, film and/or art exhibits. The Society's Cazenovia Summer Series has expanded into a festival titled Cazenovia Counterpoint and spread over three weekends. In 2003, there were 20 events, 15 of which were free - all featuring new work by regional artists.

Over 20,000 people attend new music programs each season, plus weekly radio broadcasts, newsletter readers (10,500) and TV.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Society for New Music Archives is made up of two series, Compositions and Published Material. Compositions includes commissioned pieces and Brian M. Israel Prize winners from regional composers (one audiotape of one composition, the remainder are written scores). Published material includes a complete run of concert programs and announcements for seasons from 1971-2003, as well as issues of the Society's newsletter, Society Music (later rechristened Society News) and miscellaneous posters and promotional material.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings

Corporate Bodies

Society for New Music


Composers -- New York (State)
Music, New York (State) -- Syracuse -- 20th century.
Music, New York (State) -- Syracuse -- Societies, etc.


Syracuse (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs.

Genres and Forms

Programs (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Society for New Music Archives,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of the Society for New Music

Table of Contents

Compositions - commissioned pieces and Brian M. Israel Prize winners

Compositions - other works premiered by the Society for New Music

Printed material