Composers from 86 countries have submitted more than 7,800 musical compositions as part of a collaborative project by the UCLA Music Library and the Los Angeles–based Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra to highlight the work of living composers and bring it to a wider audience by making it available online.

The project, which the organizers say is the largest call for scores in the world, also represents the largest open-access publishing effort for contemporary music compositions, with more than 6,000 of the submissions — including scores by recent finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for music — being published on eScholarship, an open access repository where UC scholars share their work.

“The music library’s unprecedented collaboration with Kaleidoscope advances the library’s leadership in the area of open access publishing by making accessible a significant number of compositions for future performance and scholarly work,” said university librarian Ginny Steel. “At the same time, it offers living composers the opportunity for their music to be seen and studied by musicians and musicologists located around the world.” 

Kaleidoscope, founded by clarinetist and UCLA alumnus Benjamin Mitchell, launched its Call for Scores program in 2015 to recognize the most innovative and engaging music being written today. Each year, the conductorless orchestra selects a number of scores from among the annual submissions to perform publicly, including at UCLA.

While in past years composers paid a $30 application fee to submit scores, this year, the UCLA Music Library received one-time funds from the library’s Scholarly Communication Services to eliminate the fee and offer composers the opportunity to publish their submitted works in eScholarship’s Contemporary Music Score Collection. Those who elected to publish in the open access collection retain the full copyright to their works. Collectively, their works now represent 1 in 10 of UCLA’s total items on eScholarship and 1 in 50 across the UC system.

“I think what helped drive the incredible number of scores we received for online publishing was grounded in the recent work of the Contemporary Score Edition, published on eScholarship,” said Matthew Vest, UCLA’s music inquiry and research librarian, referring to the open access repository of scores published by the music library.

“The Hugo and Christine Davise Fund for Contemporary Music made possible the online publication of the edition, allowing composers to see open access–published music scores, which helped put them at ease with what the music library was trying to accomplish,” he said.

One of the most important audiences for the openly published works is composers’ peers. “Mother Chords,” which was premiered during Kaleidoscope’s 2019 season, was a transcription for string orchestra of the first movement of Michael Gilbertson’s Quartet, a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for music. The transcription has a crystalline sound at the beginning that, Gilbertson said, is meant to suggest a musical glass ceiling. 

“Composers frequently ask for a perusal of the score to ‘Mother Chords’ to see how the distinctive harmonic color is achieved at the beginning of the piece,” he said. “Hopefully this will make it more accessible to composers who want to study it as a resource and musicians who are interested in performing my music.”

The discussion of open access publishing has often focused on journal publishing in the sciences, even though the products of academics and researchers in the arts and humanities are more diverse. This project diverges significantly from past open access projects by focusing on music compositions and by publishing current, under-copyright work. 

“This collaboration has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about the publishing of music, the role of libraries and the impact and accessibility of music by living composers,” said Vest. 

Scores are being published in batches over the summer. To explore the compositions, visit the Contemporary Music Score Collection on eScholarship. 

The collaboration is a project of OpenUCLA, the UCLA Library’s Centennial Initiative.