EMC Founder’s Statement

Christopher Hobbs and Maggie Nicols, London Contemporary Music Festival, May 2014

My primary reason for founding the EMC in 1969 was a simple one; there were at that time a fair number of composers, both in Britain and the United States, writing music which could broadly be defined as ‘experimental‘ — that is to say, music tending broadly speaking towards Cage, simplicity and inclusivity rather than Stockhausen, complexity and virtuosity — which was unlikely to be disseminated by conventional publishing houses. The only way of getting hold of this music was by contacting the composer personally (inconvenient) or making a photocopy of someone else’s score (technically illegal). So I wrote to all the composers who I suspected would be sympathetic to the idea of a central, non-profit-making distribution centre and simply printed a list of lists; those pieces which each composer was willing and able to provide if asked.

From very early on it became clear that, while some of the pieces were substantial enough to be sold as single items, many more were better off being anthologised (my own Word Pieces 1966-69 are a case in point). So we started the idea of a Verbal Anthology, a Rhythmic Anthology, a String Anthology and so on. Because composers tended to use a variety of formats — page sizes, typography and so on — we decided that for the most part these anthologies would achieve a uniformity of style by being copied out by one person, usually on to transparencies; dye-line printing was the cheapest reproduction technique available to us at that time. Nowadays, of course, there are plenty of notation software packages available, and though we still use composers’ manuscripts (e.g. in the Anthologies by Hugh Shrapnel and Dominy Clements) more of the music (especially my own) is gradually getting set in Finale.

It is becoming clear that as much interest is being generated by recordings as by scores, and we have now issued three CDs published by us and two more for which we are the distributors. The ones we produce will probably continue to be do-it-ourselves jobs — we don’t sell enough to issue an edition of 500 or 1000 copies — but we trust that the quality of the music will continue to outweigh the cheapness of the operation.

Christopher Hobbs, March 2004