A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Funding, the SPNM and the ICA

The archived documents for the Arts Council of England’s annual report for 1965/66 includes a brief report from the SPNM accounting for its activities, which closes with the sentence:

‘In addition to these activities, a contribution of £250 was also made towards first performances of new works by young composers at the Wardour Castle Summer School of Music.’ (ACGB/51/265, ACGB/50/1310; see 1)

The Arts Council’s annual report included the following about the SPNM:

‘The Society for the Promotion of New Music continued to present concerts both in London and in provincial university towns. In collaboration with the music section of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the S.P.N.M. presented a concert at the Summer School of Music held at Wardour Castle.’ (ACGB/51/265; see 1)

The Institute of Contemporary Arts’ (ICA) report to the Arts council did not include mention of the WCSS, preferring to report on it’s ‘main’ activity:

‘The main presentation by the Institute of Contemporary Arts Music Section last year was the London Days of Contemporary Musich [sic] which took place in London from the 2nd to the 5th December, 1965. This festival was based on the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and opened at the I.C.A. Gallery with a General Forum with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mr. Howard Hartog in the chair. On 3rd December, a chamber music concert was given by the Melos Ensemble under the direction of the young American conductor, Lawrence Foster [who was 24 at the time] and included works by Peter Maxwell Davies, Isang Yun, Harrison Birtwistle, Webern and Berg. [….]’ (ACGB/51/265; see 1))

There is clearly some difference here in the perceived prestige of the WCSS. For the SPNM it was an event of note, as it was for the Arts Council, whilst it isn’t mentioned by the ICA. A visit to the SPNM archives will be invaluable in clarifying this point.

Elsewhere in the Art Council archives is raised the question of the efficacy (or perhaps more accurately clarity) of SPNM giving money to the WCSS alongside a contribution from the Arts Council, creating what is in effect double support from the Arts Council (since the SPNM was Arts Council funded). Certainly the annual report emphasizes the ‘collaborative’ aspect of the SPNM’s support of the WCSS, and the way in which this strengthened its ties with the ICA. The extent of influence that these ties enabled is unclear. The Annual Report juxtaposed the SPNM’s support of the WCSS with the comment that:

‘The I.C.A. (music section) also mounted three concerts in London the third of which contained four works (by Gordon Crosse, Robert Sherlaw Johnson, Neville Gambier and Harrison Birtwistle) each of which has been specially written for the concert, during which it received its first performance’. (ACGB/51/265; see 1)

All this needs to be understood in the light of Alexander Goehr as chair of the SPNM in the years leading up to the WCSSs and the person requesting funding for the 1965 WCSS from the Arts Council.

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