A new acquisition at University of Houston Libraries Special Collections features 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, and in subsequent years, the festival traveled to major cities across the US, landing in Houston in 1986.
The New Music America Records, 1979-1990 was 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 – 89. He was inspired to donate the records to UH Special Collections through a conversation with Mary Manning, university archivist and curator of the Performing and Visual Arts Research Collection. “Mary immediately recognized the value of these materials,” said Galbreth. “More importantly, and by coincidence, Mary was there! Mary attended many of the events of New Music America 1986 so she knew firsthand what the festival was and the impact it had on Houston at the time.”
The scope of the NMA Collection documents the production and performances of the Houston festival, and reveals ideas and culture of the day. “Therein lies much of the value of this collection, as with any historical collection,” said Galbreth. “By studying the New Music America Collection, I think students and scholars (or anyone) will discover a spirit of invention and innovation that was peculiar and special to Houston at that moment. Artists are unafraid of discovery and “the new” and Houston was a wonderful place to work, create, and perform in the 1980s.”
The collection is currently being processed at UH Special Collections. For questions about materials in this collection or to request access, contact Mary Manning.