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Bulletin of the American Composers Alliance

(New York, 1938, 1952-1963)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2018)

A music bulletin dedicated to the promotion of original compositions by American composers under the auspices of the American Composers Alliance (ACA), in cooperation with BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), the Bulletin was published sporadically in New York City in 1938. The publication reappeared as a full-fledged music journal under the same title in February 1952 and continued until 1962. In all, twenty-four issues were published in the twelve year period of activity. Most issues contain twenty or more pages printed in a mixture of single, double and triple column format.

The American Composers Alliance was founded in the mid-1930s by a number of highly regarded American composers including Henry Cowell, Wallingford Riegger, Elliott Carter, Robert Ward and Ben Weber, among many others, representing by the 1960s over one-hundred thirty members, all composers of serious music. ACA’s activities, all reported in the journal, included assistance to its members in the collection of fees for radio, television and concert performances, made the works of members available through a manuscript library and publication in the Composers Facsimile Edition, and further promoted recording, publication and performance through other existing organizations.

Each issue begins with a biographical sketch and an examination of a particular composer’s musical style, (or, later, two composers’ styles), with descriptions and musical examples derived from actual compositions, giving rise to discussion of composers’ personal methods and techniques found in traditional tonal, neo-tonal, neo-classical and twelve-tone compositions. These works embrace all genres from solo instrumental forms to symphonic compositions, vocal and choral compositions and operas, and incidental music for film and television productions. Within the biographical studies of individual composers there are explanations of specific compositional techniques including a number of derivations of twelve-tone composition and advances in the electronic medium.

A unique method of promotion is employed: lists of concert, operatic, radio and television performances include extracts from reviews of specific compositions taken from local newspapers and major magazines devoted to musical matters. These sources include The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor and many other important American daily publications, as well as Musical America, The Musical Courier, Notes, The American Record Guide, HiFi Stereo Review, and The American Organist among the publications devoted to music. Thus the opinions of many of the most important American thinkers and writers on music are collected in a single source: among these scholarly writers are Ross Parmenter, Paul Henry Lang, Irving Kolodin, Eric Salzman, Louis Biancolli, Alfred Frankenstein, Howard Taubman, Albert Goldberg and Alexander Fried. The propagation of the compositions by American composers was further assisted through the reporting of radio performances and the making of phonograph recordings. Of particular interest are the recordings of new compositions by leading American and European musicians and institutions and individual performers issued by Composers Recordings Inc. (CRI), M-G-M Records, RCA Victor, Columbia and Epic companies.

Throughout the journal there are numerous portrait drawings and photographs of composers and colorful illustrations often related to various topics under consideration. Advertising is limited to one or two pages at the conclusion of each issue, which feature publications associated with ACA composers.