AMC Library Moves to NYPL at Lincoln Center



Moving the AMC Library
Photos by Lyn Liston

On June 29, 2001, the American Music Center (AMC) historic collection of more than 60,000 scores and recordings of works by American composers was transferred to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (NYPL) at Lincoln Center. In a joint statement issued by AMC and NYPL, AMC Executive Director Richard Kessler and NYPL Executive Director Jacqueline Davis announced that the collection will henceforth become known as the American Music Center Collection at The New York Public Library (NYPL).

The AMC Collection is the largest single collection of scores and recordings by American composers in the world and contains many items that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. Since its establishment in 1939, the Collection has filled a need in the new-music community as an important resource for programming concerts and recitals or for scholarly research. A significant number of scores in the Collection are by self-published composers who have for years viewed the AMC Collection as a primary source for making their music accessible worldwide. Throughout the years, tens of thousands of works have been discovered, performed, and recorded as a result of their inclusion in the AMC Collection.

The American Music Center Collection was for years the repository of scores and recordings for the National Endowment for the Arts Composer/Librettist Program. The earliest works in the AMC Collection, a string quartet by Giorgio Garofalo and Un Grand sommeil noir by Edgard Varèse, were composed in 1906, with the most recent additions being made as late as June 2001. The recordings in the Collection total over 20,000 reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, and LPs, a vast amount of which are of live performances unavailable through any other source. Works in the AMC Collection cover the widest range of styles and genres—including solo, chamber, orchestra, opera, music theater, electro-acoustic, art songs, choral music, and more—all reflecting the chronology of styles that have shaped the history of 20th century American music.



Moving the AMC Library
Photos by Lyn Liston

This new arrangement between the American Music Center and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts represents a unique partnership between the two organizations. In the past, the AMC has provided an invaluable service to the new-music community by circulating items from the Collection throughout the United States and internationally as a means of promoting American music. Under the new agreement, AMC will continue to circulate perusal copies of scores from the Collection, and NYPL will house, maintain, and make the original items from the Collection available for on-site perusal, listening, and research.

In a letter to members, John Luther Adams, Board President of the American Music Center described this new arrangement as “the most significant improvement to the American Music Center’s Collection of Scores and Recordings since it was established in 1939.” He noted that the transfer of the materials to NYPL would upgrade the Collection by: (1) dramatically improving the level of collection care, with state-of-the-art storage facilities; (2) providing for a higher level of visibility of the collection through the combined networks of AMC and The New York Public Library; (3) restoring fragile scores and recordings on a case by case basis; and (4) preserving the Collection for years to come.”

“We welcome 62 years of vital and unique American music history to the collections of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, ” said Jacqueline Davis, Executive Director of the Library for the Performing Arts. “We look forward to maintaining this important collection, which will reveal its riches over time as it is explored by musicians and scholars.”



Moving the AMC Library
Photos by Lyn Liston

Susan T. Sommer, Chief of The New York Public Library’s Music Division, said of the acquisition that “the arrival of the American Music Center’s Collection at NYPL’s Music Division is one of the most exciting events to occur during my long tenure with the Library. Not only does this mean that the AMC scores and recordings will remain a living collection, but it insures that their historic importance will continue to grow in significance as a cross-section of American composition in the latter half of the twentieth century. Future generations will be able to see not only individual works, but the whole panorama of American music of our time, preserved by NYPL under optimum conditions. We are grateful to the American Music Center for their foresight and enterprise in initiating such a valuable project.”

The partnership between the American Music Center and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts began in 1976 when the two organizations created an arrangement whereby after the death of an AMC composer member, their scores would eventually become part of the NYPL collections. Later, NYPL and AMC worked on a joint project through which 20,000 scores in AMC’s collection were cataloged in CATNYP, The New York Public Library’s online catalog. With this latest agreement, The New York Public Library will now acquire the entire score collection and help preserve a collection of American music that is historic and unique.

The American Music Center, founded by Aaron Copland, Otto Luening, Harrison Kerr, Marion Bauer, Quincy Porter, and Howard Hanson in 1939, is the world’s first service organization and information center for new music. In the past two years, AMC has introduced a variety of exciting new programs and services, including: an online catalog and print directory of new American music written expressly for student audiences; a Professional Development Program that includes a series of workshops supporting those pursuing careers in new music; and NewMusicBox. Last year AMC’s Information Services fielded more than 35,000 inquiries concerning composers, performers, data, funding, and support programs. Each month AMC publishes the Opportunity Update, a listing of opportunities in new music including calls for scores, competitions, and other new-music performance information. AMC, deeply involved in grantmaking to the field, administers over $1.5 million yearly, through grant programs for the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Henry Cowell Fund, and its own program, the Margaret Fairbank Jory Copying Assistance Program. The American Music Center is a membership organization, with over 2500 members in the US and abroad.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, one of four major research centers of The New York Public Library, serves more than 350,000 visitors a year and houses the world’s most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. The materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of exhibitions, seminars, and performances. Approximately 30 percent of the Library’s holdings are books, but it is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters, and photographs. The Library’s Research Collections are: the Billy Rose Theatre Collection, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the Music Division, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound. It also features extensive Circulating Collections with materials in Music, Dance, Drama, Film, and Arts Administration, including large collections of circulating audio and video recordings.