The materials in the collection document New Music America (NMA) festivals, which got their start as "New Music New York" in 1979, and were produced afterward annually by the New Music Alliance in cities across North America from 1980 to 1990. A bulk of the materials document the 1986 NMA in Houston. The records primarily consist of administrative documents, such as professional correspondence, meeting agendas, or mailing lists. Secondary records include catalogs, programs, and press related materials like newspaper clippings, magazines, and photocopies of press articles. Remaining records consist of photographs, slides, and digital media. The collections are arranged into five series: Festival History; Business and Administrative Records; Catalogs; Publicity and Press; and New Music America in Houston. The records are arranged by festival and year where possible, offering unique and important insight into the history of a premier experimental music festival and experimental music in general in the latter portion of the twentieth century.
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The New Music America Collection contains correspondence, posters, programs, photos, and artwork documenting New Music America (NMA), a peripatetic festival of experimental music. The festival was, at that time, the largest new music celebration in the world. Its origin was New York City in 1979, and in subsequent years, the festival traveled to major cities across the US, landing in Houston in 1986. The festivals connected large audiences with works that were considered by critics and the music industry to be too serious, complex, or difficult. During the decade that New Music America festivals transpired, thousands of experimental/improvisational musicians graced its stages, including John Cage, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Rhys Chatham, and Earle Brown. The 1986 New Music America festival was organized in the spring along with The Houston Festival, an arts festival which later turned into Houston’s iFest, and the Texas sesquicentennial celebration. The 10 day festival comprised of more than 200 participants spread out over 50 events and locations. In numerical terms alone, there was nothing like it before in Houston, and there hasn’t been anything like it since.
The New Music America Records, 1979-1990 were donated by Michael Galbreth, part of the duo known as The Art Guys whose records already reside at UH Special Collections. Galbreth organized the 1986 NMA festival and served as president of its governing board, the New Music Alliance, from 1986-1989. The collection also contains administrative records of the New Music Alliance. Directed by Michael Galbreth, the 1986 NMA festival employed the organizational expertise of the Houston Festival, particularly Jerry McCathern and Rochella Cooper. Native Houstonian Pauline Oliveros served as artistic director and Art Gottshock as technical advisor.