1931 Oxford, London

Jun 24, 1931 – Jun 28, 1931
Oxford, London

Festival info

Start: Jun 24, 1931

End: Jun 28, 1931

Locations: Oxford, London

Hosting member(s)


From contemporaneous reviews:

“The International Society for Contemporary Music gave its ninth annual festival at Oxford and London at the end of July. This group, which began so bravely at Salzburg in 1923, has recently been left in the embarrassing position of seeing the thing it had championed come to be taken for granted. Having won its cause, it no longer represents exclusively the most revolutionary tendencies in music, but exists rather to consecrate the glory of established reputations and to call to the attention of an international public the music of certain newer composers. Thus, it becomes increasingly important that the programs should be chosen with the utmost care. The festivals of the past few years have been severely criticized because this very point was their weakest. Fortunately, this year’s festival, held for the first time in England, helped somewhat to check the downward course.


“Not least in value was the opportunity the Festival supplied to gain a more intimate contact with English musicians. […] [I}t was made clear that the furtherance of rapprochement between musicians of different countries is one of the most important services these annual musical festivals perform.”

–Aaron Copland, “Contemporaries at Oxford,”
Modern Music, Vol. IX #1 (Nov-Dec 1931), pp. 17, 23.

“At Oxford this week the ninth annual festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music is being held, and some three hundred persons are in attendance. That amount of practical interest in the festival is regarded by its promoters as quite satisfactory, for they do not expect an enthusiastic rush of patronage for a musical function which is essentially a matter for specialists in ultra-modern music.”

–Unattributed (“From a Special Correspondent”), “Music in London: A Festival of Modern Music,”
The Age [Melbourne, Australia] (29 August 1931)

“On the musical side there is to be noted first of all the remarkably high level maintained throughout in performance. There was not a work presented that was not put in the most favorable light. As for the works themselves, they showed that … [t]he hectic period of innovation is definitely over. Some of the ‘isms survive, but they are far less sharply defined, and correspondingly less exciting.”

–Edwin Evans, “The Oxford Festival,”
The Musical Times (1 September 1931)

“One recognized almost nothing that was like music of any accustomed kind and hardly even the twelve-tone theme on which it is based in some unfathomable way. What one did recognize, though, was a superior mentality and a sense that art is not something to be toyed with.”

–Eric Blom, “The Listener’s Music: Music of the Month,”
The Listener (12 August 1931)

“We are faced with a pattern of sounds based on entirely new laws and principles, which apparently bear little or no relationship to what we understand by the terms melody, harmony, and tonality.”

–Ralph Hill, “Contemporary Music Festival,”
The Musical Mirror and Fanfare (September 1931)

“So far is this series of isolated sounds from spelling to the ear a tune or recognizable theme, that to follow the intricate workings, in which excessive ingenuity is displayed, by merely listening once to them, is practically impossible. This is a queer conception of music…”

–H. F. (Harry Farjeon), “The Week’s Music: The Oxford Festival,”
The Sunday Times [of London] (26 July 1931)

Programme information