The role of the American Composers Forum (ACF) is “to bring composers and performers of new music to communities, to foster appreciation, build relationships, and develop a base for the future of new music.” In 1973 the organization began in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and has grown to a membership of 1,400, made up of composers, performers, and advocates, both from the U.S. and abroad. John Nuechterlein, Managing Director of ACF, states that “the Forum’s role is to help mid-career, generally, or emerging composers establish themselves in the field. It does that by creating partnerships with various communities that they may not normally associate with opportunities. So we basically are here to create opportunities just like everyone else, but we do it a little differently.”
ACF hosts community-based chapters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, southern Minnesota, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Washington DC, and the tenth chapter is set to open in Los Angeles in March 2000. Currently, the nine existing chapters have 100 projects going on that are totally independent from the central Minnesota office. Managed by local coordinators, each chapter goes its own way to develop a specific program to serve their individual community. “They are really the reason that the Forum also is doing things differently from its partners, and why the three of us (ACF, AMC, MTC) are very intent on working together.” Neuchterlein believes the chapters “are the reason that the Forum is the size that it is, because it is reaching composers at the grassroots level.”
ACF provides assistance to over 250 composers per year. The Continential Harmony program has 59 commissions/residencies going on throughout the country linking rural communities to new music. ACF also sponsors other residencies, the Sonic Circuits Electronic Music Festival, and a radio program dedicated to new music, The Composers Voice. ACF also sponsors Innova Recordings, featuring the compositions of members, music from the Sonic Circuits Festival, and special historic recordings, such as the Enclosure Series with the music of Harry Partch. ACF also publishes Sounding Board, a monthly newsletter.
In the technological realm, ACF hosts a Web site with basic information on the organization. In so far as taking even further advantage of Internet technology to further the cause of the ACF, Neuchterlein states that “we would like very much to create something different that doesn’t exist, and yet there’s so much activity right now its even hard to find that outä.It’s certainly important because we know that MP3 technology is changing the way music is deliveredäthis is all happening faster than anyone can keep up with. We’re still looking at opportunities and have not made any decisions.
“We don’t see it as the primary goal, because we have to stay focused on our mission. But we do see the Internet as a community of sorts, which I think is a kind of unique perspective. But it’s a community that’s unlike any other, and so how do you best tap into it for the benefit of members, which is basically what we are, but also to help further the whole field of composing in twenty-first century America.”
From Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call
by Karissa Krenz
© 1999 NewMusicBox