One of the oldest American organizations for composers is the American Composers Alliance (ACA). The Alliance was founded in 1937 by a group of composers, including Virgil Thomson, Wallingford Riegger, Otto Luening, Henry Cowell, and Elliott Carter. According to Bob Goldfarb, executive director of ACA, “Very quickly in the late thirties they had a couple of hundred people who joined together – really distinguished names – it’s an incredible history.” The Alliance works “to protect the rights of its members and to promote the use and understanding of their music.” ACA offers a number of services and benefits to its over 300 composer members, ranging from the registration of works with BMI and the U.S. Copyright Office, to the incorporation of works into the ACA catalogue and responding to inquiries and the rental of scores. “It’s quite different from the people who give away money.” (The ACA is not non-profit and ACA membership is currently restricted to BMI-member composers.)
Goldfarb states that ACA was founded “to collect royalties that concert composers weren’t getting. Then when ASCAP and BMI started to collect royalties for symphonic music, ACA became a publisher. And that’s what it’s been doing for a number of decades. Our biggest feature if you were to walk into our office is the 8,000 scores that we have. And that’s really been our main identity – everything else really revolves around that. That’s the main reason people have joined us and people have stayed with us because they just like having a publisher that will handle their scores for them.”
ACA publishes members’ scores under the imprint of American Composers Edition (ACE), its associated Composers Facsimile Edition, and its newest imprint, the Award Edition, including works by emerging composers who have received special recognition. The catalogue includes works that are available for sale or rental. ACE will publish any score submitted by an ACA member, and the member holds the copyright. The ACA website also includes a page for users to search for scores.
ACA also promotes its members through its relationship with major radio stations and record labels, and occasionally produces concerts of works by member composers. On its own, ACA has supported and promoted composers through its recordings, first releasing LPs on the Remington label, and then on Composers Recordings, Inc. (CRI), which it helped to found in 1954. Now, ACA plans to release a series of recordings on Albany Records.
The Alliance occasionally produces concerts of works by member composers and promotes music by members to orchestras, soloists, and various types of ensembles. To celebrate its 40th anniversary in 1977, the ACA, under the direction of then president Nicholas Roussakis, helped to found the American Composers Orchestra, together with Francis Thorne and conductor Dennis Russell Davies, “specifically to serve as a showcase for the music of American composers.”
ACA’s website is a good place to start when looking for information about the Alliance. The site includes very basic information about services offered, membership, and contact information, and highlights a particular member composer. In addition to the website, ACA has also created an on-line mailing list in order to build a “virtual community” of the new generation of composers.
From Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call
by Karissa Krenz
© 1999 NewMusicBox