The inaugural convention of the Composers Association of Serbia was held on February 18, 1945 on the premises of Radio Belgrade, located at the House of Engineers. The first Governing Board was presided by Milenko Živković, and it included Stanojlo Rajičić (vice president), Đorđe Milojević (secretary), Ljubica Marić, Kosta Manojlović and Milan Urošević (members).
The aims and the scope of activities of the Association was defined by the Statutory Act as “to assemble composers from the territory of federal Serbia in order to provide an organized force which would protect the moral and material interests of its members… to secure an appropriate position in the society, undertake necessary actions to ensure regular performances of works by its members, to organize festivals, concerts, lectures in order to present works primarily by Serbian, Yugoslav and Slavic composers, and secondarily composers from abroad” (article 12). Today, when social circumstances are vastly different, these provisions still constitute the platform for Association’s activities. The most important aims of the Association remain fundamentally unchanged: to encourage the creation of new works, to promote the achievements of Serbian composers at home and abroad through publishing activities, concerts, round tables, care about the material and social status of composers, to attract performers to the repertoire of contemporary music
Initially, the members were only creative artists; one year after the foundation of the Association, the Section of Music Writers was established (1946), and from 1953 the Section of Jazz and Popular Music also functions within the Association. Assembling in this way a wide circle of music creators and writers, the Association has become the hub of contemporary musical activities in Serbia. For over six decades it has been headed by the most prominent Serbian composers. Although the first decades of the Association were marked by the ideological matrices and the aesthetics of socialist realism dictated by the regime, which took the form of directives for the development of music creation and evaluation of new works through discussions and open criticism, one should not overlook the rather lively plenary sessions which involved not only listening to new works and their ideological evaluation, but also genuine artistic reviews, as well as impressions that members brought from their travels abroad. Indeed, the exchange with other countries was intense. Members visited foreign countries and festivals in response to invitations from respective composers’ associations, or for extended study visits; certain delegates attended various conferences and symposia. Plenary sessions are devoted to the musical life of the countries they visited or the festivals they attended. Some of these festivals were domestic (Zagreb Biennale, Chamber Music Festival in Rogaška Slatina, Review of Yugoslav Music in Opatija, Opatija Festival of Popular Music etc.), some took place in various countries throughout Europe (Paris, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg). Besides reports submitted by our members, of special interest were meetings and guest lectures by foreign lecturers – renowned composers, performers or theorists (Aaron Copland, Jean Barraqué, Zofja Lissa, Nicholas Slonimsky, Everett Helm, Kendal Taylor, Germaine Tailleferre, Ivan Martinov, Zlatko Baloković, Nikolai Orloff, Igor Markevich, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Grazyna Bacevicz) who visited the Association and presented new tendencies in the world. With the aim of advancing works written by its members, Association delegated its representatives to various government bodies in charge of culture and arts, such as the Ministry of Education and Culture etc., as well as musical institutions: Belgrade Philharmonic, Artistic Ensemble of Yugoslav Army, Radio Belgrade, National Theater and the Association of Performing Artists. In that sense, actions were undertaken to promote domestic music abroad, by sending scores, and by concert tours of Belgrade Opera, Belgrade Philharmonic or individual artists. On the domestic stage, promotion meant the inclusion of compositions written by the members in the repertoire of Belgrade Philharmonic, and monthly radio concerts held at the chamber studio of the Radio Belgrade – an important event that took place 1952-54.
In addition to the Association’s endeavors to encourage the performance of its members’ compositions during the regular concert season, the Managing Board founded in 1976 the Festival “Music in Serbia”. The aim of the Festival, held during the period 1976-1991 in Belgrade and other places in Serbia, was the systematic presentation of the most valuable achievements of our music, from its beginning to the present moment. This included reviving the forgotten works form the past, new encounters with classical values, establishing or revaluating already created value categories, as well as making room for the promotion of new works and premiere performances. Commemorations and anniversaries were also part of the Festival (Josip Slavenski, Petar Konjović, Miloje Milojević, Josif Marinković, Stevan Hristić, Marko Tajčević, Predrag Milošević) with musicological symposia and round tables that went along with concerts.
Presentations of the latest achievements through public listening and discussion, as practiced during the first decades of the Association, were revived during the 1980s and 90s under the title Review of New Compositions. These reviews were dedicated to serious musicological presentations of selected examples of the recent production and were organized in cooperation with Radio Belgrade Third Program and held at the Composers Association Hall. Special commissions appointed by the Association made recommendations which compositions were to be performed at the Review of Yugoslav Music in Opatija, and Belgrade Music Festival, and those which were to become mandatory pieces at the International Jeunesses Musicales Competition in Belgrade, or Jeunesses Musicales Courses in Grožnjan
In 1989/90 the Association was struck with serious difficulties, primarily of financial nature, and the realization of its basic tasks was all but blocked. Unable to sustain the existing supporting staff and carry on with publishing activities, the Association was facing the danger of complete disintegration.
The wars and political turmoil of the end of the 20th century left a strong mark on the lives of all, and the Association itself was in a position to react to them and to take a stance. Following the students’ protests of March 1991, the Association joined the plea of the Association of Writers and the Committee for the Protection and Advancement of Democracy “Francuska 7”. At the plenary meeting of March 12, 1991 the Association reached the following decision: “in support of the students’ demands and in protest against repression of any kind, members of the Association decline the right of the public performance of their compositions, particularly on radio and television, until all students’ demands have been fulfilled and free and impartial information through public media have been fully achieved.” President of the Association directed a series of letters to the management of the Serbian Broadcasting Company in reaction to the withdrawing of passes, suspension and harassment of outstanding creative personalities (Ivana Stefanović and Ana Kotevska). In protest of the harsh political circumstances the Association convened on June 10, 1992. Ninety two composers, musicologists and performers were present, and they all with their signatures supported the Appeal of a group of academicians, which contained, among other points, the following demand: “…we, the undersigned members of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences would consider it a gesture of ultimate patriotism the withdrawal of Slobodan Milošević from political life. Having lost political credibility world-wide, with his political actions and the actions of those supporting him, under such circumstances he can only be an impediment to the efforts Serbia must undertake in order to regain its position in the civilized community of nations and states”.
The UN-imposed sanctions interrupted cultural exchange with the world and made any creative work more difficult. In June 1992 an anti-war protest was organized in which around fifty of the Association members assembled in front of the President’s Office, kneeling for one hour, thus symbolically imploring Slobodan Milošević to step down.
The Association’s voice was heard once again on February 4, 1997 in support of students’ demands: “Exasperated by police brutality against the citizens of Belgrade and the police raid of the Faculty of Philosophy we express our strongest protest and demand that the state terror be stopped immediately. We also insist that all demands of students of the University of Belgrade and the University of Arts in Belgrade that we uphold from the very beginning of the students’ protest be fulfilled.
During the NATO aggression in 1999, the Association wrote a Letter to the Public, pointing to the tragic consequences of the breach of international law and the loss of life of innocent civilians.
Partial financial recovery during 1991 prompted new plans for further activities, the most important of which being the initiation of a new festival. As the disintegration of Yugoslavia brought about the cessation of the Yugoslav Review of Composers in Opatija (of which the Association of Composers was a co-organizer), a need was felt for a new event of that type. It is with this motive that in 1992 the International Review of Composers was founded, at which prominent domestic and foreign artists perform approximately fifty most recent compositions by composers from all over the world. The first two Reviews took place in Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad (1992-1993); it is held in Belgrade since 1994. The most successful pieces received awards according to decisions by specially appointed juries (this practice was later abolished).
During several earlier decades, annual awards were given in the categories of symphonic, chamber, soloist and vocal music (up to three awards in each), and there was also a practice of providing financial stimuli for the works which were performed for the first time during the previous year. The “Petar Konjović“ Prize was awarded for the areas of symphonic, vocal-symphonic and music for stage. With the establishment of the Review, the awards for new works became part of this event. In 1994 the annual “Stevan Mokranjac“ Prize was inaugurated, the most prestigious award in Serbia, awarded to a work premiered during the previous year
On various occasions the Association organized concerts of its members. In addition to a series of concerts devoted to individual members, a special mention is due to the 1990 London concert of Serbian music given by the Belgrade String Orchestra DUŠAN SKOVRAN; concert of award-winning compositions at the Belgrade Festival Theater (December 14, 1991); Belgrade Philharmonic concert in April 1992 featuring works by Ljubica Marić (Songs of Space) Predrag Repanić (Cello Concerto) and Vasilije Mokranjac (Third Symphony). The Association’s 50th anniversary was commemorated on December 15, 1995 by a concert at the Kolarac Foundation Hall. Under the baton of Darinka Matić Marović and Biljana Radovanović, Belgrade Philharmonic played Ostinato super thema octoicha by Ljubica Marić (solo piano Nevena Popović), Third Suite from the ballet Goldfish by Mihovil Logar and Piano Concerto in A MinorbyStanojlo Rajičić (solo piano Lidija Bizjak). The same year saw the foundation of the Ensemble for New Music affiliated with the Association. It is made up of twelve eminent soloists and its aim is to promote Serbian music at home and abroad, and to perform important achievements of 20th-century music by composers world-wide. Apart from the Review of Composers and Belgrade Music Festival, the Ensemble also appeared at concerts in Belgrade (Atelier 212, Kolarac Foundation and Festival Theater), Novi Sad, Subotica (1997), festivals in Romania and Bulgaria, in Macedonia (Skopje 1999) and Croatia (Pula). The Composers’ Association and Radio Belgrade Third Program took special care in organizing concerts dedicated to individual composers: concerts in Atelier 212 featuring Ljubica Marić (February 3, 1993), Mihovil Logar (June 9, 1993) and Zlatan Vauda (April 6, 1994); chamber evenings of Dejan Despić (Atrium of the National Museum, June 14, 1994), Rajko Maksimović (Kolarac Foundation, February 9, 1996), as well as concerts of the Belgrade Philharmonic dedicated to Milan Mihajlović (June 16, 1995), and Vlastimir Trajković (October 24, 1997).
Composers Association of Serbia undertakes to copy and print scores, promotional materials and musicological works by its eminent members.
A very important segment of the Association’s activities is publishing scores and audio editions, as well as musicological studies devoted to music of Serbian composers. Concerned about the preservation of musical heritage, the Association joined forces with the Croatian Composers’ Association in the project of publishing the collected works of Josip Slavenski. The project was partially realized in 1983-1989. Another publishing achievement was the capital edition of the revised (by Dejan Despić) score of the ballet Legend of Ohrid by Stevan Hristić; other publications include songs of Josif Marinković, Anthology of Serbian Piano Music (five volumes), Anthology of Serbian Art Song (five volumes, sixth pending) and a CD series with Serbian composers (selection of orchestral works by Vasilije Mokranjac, Ljubica Marić, Milan Mihajlović), and an Anthology of Serbian Popular Music (Volume I – the Time of the Schalger with songs up to 1960; Volume II – The Time of Festivals – 1961 to present).
After being severed for some time, the ties were renewed with Macedonian, Croatian and Slovenian composers’ associations, with many institutions, foreign cultural centers, embassies and information centers. The Association became a member of the international Association of New Music Promoters.
The yeas of 2008-09 saw the revival of the custom of occasional gatherings in the Composers Association Hall to celebrate anniversaries of notable personalities (Vojislav Simić, Dušan Radić, Vasilije Mokranjac). A series of postal stamps was issued with the images of eight Serbian composers, and memorial plaques placed on the buildings where Petar Konjović and Ljubica Marić used to live.
The Association possesses state-of-the-art computer equipment available to all its members as they may need it for their creative work.
The three sections of the Association: serious, popular and jazz music, and music writers assemble the total of 250 members.