International Society for Contemporary Music.Variant names
The League of Composers was co-founded in 1923 in New York by Claire Raphael Reis and several contemporary composers. Conceived as an alternative to the International Composers' Guild, the League's mission was to promote the composition and performance of contemporary music. By 1954, the League had commissioned 110 works by outstanding American and European composers (including Aaron Copland, Bela Bartók and Samuel Barber), sponsored American stage premières of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Oedipus Rex and The Wedding, and presented some of the first radio broadcasts of contemporary music sponsored by the Pan American Association of Composers. It also gave concerts and receptions honoring Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith, Darius Milhaud and other composers who had recently immigrated to the United States. Its quarterly Modern Music (1924-1946) contained critical reviews of new works and articles by leading composers. The executive directors of the League were Reis (1923-1948) and Copland (1948-1950).
The International Society for Contemporary Music was founded in 1922 after the Internationale Kammermusikaufführungen Salzburg, a festival of modern chamber music held as part of the Salzburg Festival. It was intended to help break down national barriers and personal interests and publicize and promote contemporary music 'regardless of aesthetic trends or the nationality, race, religion or political views of the composer'. These aims were to be pursued through annual music festivals in different countries. The first (1923) was restricted to chamber music; in 1924 and 1925 separate chamber and orchestral festivals were held, and from 1926 the festivals included various genres. The society's activities were also promoted by the autonomous national sections, numbering 46 in 1995. Each country is represented by one section.
From its inception the ISCM was plagued by internal disputes concerning its purpose and operation. There was conflict between those countries that felt that it should promote avant-garde music (principally Germany before 1933 and Austria and Czechoslovakia before 1938) and those that considered any contemporary music to be worthy of the society's interest (principally France, Great Britain and the USA). Despite the internal weaknesses of the society, the pre-war ISCM festivals were most significant as forums for leading contemporary composers, providing the occasions for important premières and performances of music by Webern, Berg, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and others.
The League of Composers merged with the United States section of the ISCM in late 1954. The combined organization continued to sponsor performances of music by contemporary composers such as William Schuman, Henry Cowell, Virgil Thompson, John Cage, Jacob Druckman, Elliot Carter, Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuorinen, and others. In 1976, it helped organize the World Music Days Festival in Boston. The ISCM continues to sponsor an annual National Composers Competition, recordings of contemporary music and an annual concert series in New York.
Claire Raphael Reis (1888-1978) was a music promoter and author. Born in Brownsville, Texas, she was educated in France, Germany, and New York. In 1912 she founded the People's Music League of the People's Institute in New York, an organization that provided free concerts for immigrants and public schools. She became licensed as a kindergarten music teacher and adapted Montessori teaching methods to music. In 1914, she helped establish the Walden School.
In addition to co-founding the League of Composers, Reis was its executive director for twenty-five years. In 1955 she published Composers, Conductors and Critics, which describes events and people from her experience in the League. She also wrote several articles, two catalogs for the International Society for Contemporary Music, and American Composers of Today (1947; revised and enlarged as Composers in America: Biographical Sketches, 1977). She was secretary of the board of directors of the New York City Center of Music and Drama. Reis helped found the Women's City Club and was a member of the advisory board for the Work Projects Administration. She served on the advisory committee of music for the 1939 New York World's Fair, and she was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to the New York Committee on the Use of Leisure Time. Among the awards she received were the National Association of American Composers and Conductors award for outstanding service (1945-1946); the Laurel Leaf award of the American Composers Alliance (1963); a scroll from Mayor John V. Lindsay acknowledging her assistance in founding the City Center (1968); and the New York City Handel Medallion for "her outstanding contributions and dedicated efforts for cultural achievement" (1969).
Rita H. Mead. "League of Composers." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/16180 (accessed January 6, 2012).
Anton Haefeli and Reinhard Oehlschlägel. "International Society for Contemporary Music." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/13859 (accessed January 6, 2012).
Donna P. Parker, "Reis, Claire Raphael," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fre51), accessed January 06, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
From the guide to the League of Composers/ISCM records, 1906-2009, 1923-2009, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)
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