The EMC: History

Much of the music of the Hobbs-White Duo, the PTO, the Scratch Orchestra, and [Gavin] Bryars and Portsmouth Music would have disappeared and been unknown if it were not for the Experimental Music Catalogue. The EMC was founded by [Christopher] Hobbs in 1969 to provide a forum for these composers, as well as a few American and European ones.  By 1972 Hobbs found that demand exceeded the time he could devote to it, so a committee consisting of [Michael] Nyman, Bryars and Hobbs ran the Catalogue until the late 1970s. Bryars took over most of the business of distributing pieces and taking orders; Hobbs and Nyman acted as artistic consultants.

Pieces were organised into anthologies of styles or groups or even of individual composers’ works, such as [Cornelius] Cardew’s Piano Album 1974. The Catalogue represents a cross-section of the entire English experimental music movement: the Scratch Orchestra, in Nature Study Notes and Scratch Anthology of Compositions, the Majorca Orchestra, and individual composers in the Verbal, Visual, String, Keyboard, and Vocal Anthologies. The difference between the EMC and a normal publishing house was that EMC composers could remove any work from publication at any time. These works would remain in the EMC archives for research only. By accepting only works which were ‘unlikely to be considered by other publishers,1 more experimental composers, both English and American, are represented than in any other publishing house.

Virginia Anderson, British Experimental Music: Cornelius Cardew and His Contemporaries (1983; reprint, Experimental Music Catalogue, 2000), pp. 134-35.

1 Gavin Bryars, ‘Experimental Music Catalogue’, Contact 6 (1973), p. 25.

Statement of Purpose

The new EMC is still not a publishing house: more a distribution centre of documents, both of the classic experimental era and of today. No one is making money from the EMC. Prices are fixed by the cost of reproduction (by the most economical means possible), a small percentage for composer royalties and a small administrative fee (to cover broadband and petrol costs mostly). Some of the EMC scores are meant for performance; some are study scores for historical research and, as such, are clearly marked.

In the years since we at the EMC have been online, we have been asked many times whether the music of English experimentalists were available. Until now we have only been able to direct our questioners to libraries, or to the composers themselves. We hope that the EMC will be of use to you as a document centre for all future requests and that if you have a suggestion for specific works you would like to see, that you tell us.