Centre for Research in Creative and Performing Arts

Barrie Gavin Music and Musicians Documentary Films Archive

The University Music Department has acquired access to some 80 films on musicians, composers and their music by the esteemed film director Barrie Gavin. His close collaboration with composer Pierre Boulez, lasting 40 years, resulted in a series of analytical documentaries on key figures in 20th century music. During the 1970's Gavin worked with folk writer and musician A.L.Lloyd to produce a series of documentaries on folk music and culture in the UK and parts of Europe.  The collection can be studied by students and visiting researchers to the University via the School of Media, Film and Music's Resources Centre.

The Centre for Research in Creative and Performing Arts is supporting activities and funding bids to raise awareness of this archive.

Featuring interviews with composers and performers, footage of rehearsals and performances from some of the world's most esteemed orchestras and ensembles, the work is a valuable resource for music and film researchers alike. The films consist of a number of portraits of modern composers including Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio and more.

As well as an insight into particular composer's methods and major works the collection illustrates the development of modern composition as a whole, dealing with the historical, cultural and philosophical origins of 20th century art music. In particular such films as The New Language of Music and A Different Beauty both presented by Boulez, explore the beginnings of atonal music, charting comparisons with that and contemporary abstract art.    

Along with the series of composer portraits is a series of films focussing on individual pieces. The Beyond the Score series of programmes originally shot for the BBC during the 1970s and 80s features in depth analysis of several major works of music including The Planets, The Brandenburg Concertos and more.  

Shot from the early 60s until the present day, the films present a unique insight into music documentary making throughout the years. Many of the early documentaries are shot on film and later works include several pieces of digital abstract film accompanying famous works, notably some by Toru Takemitsu and Jonathan Harvey. Most of the documentaries were made for the BBC including some Omnibus editions.

Examples of films in the archive:

Composer Documentaries

Bartok: Miraculous Circumstance (BBC, 1980)

Benjamin, George: A Mind of Benjamin

Benjamin, George: Towards Antara

Benjamin, George: A Mind of Winter (music by George Benjamin, words by Wallace Stevens) film portrait by Barrie Gavin


Berio: A Line Through the Labyrinth (BBC Omnibus, 1978)

Berio: Sinfonia

Boulez: Notations

Boulez Now

Boulez on Berg, Schoenberg and Webern

Boulez: Workshop: The New Rhythm of Music - Pierre Boulez on Stravinsky, Bartok (BBC, colour, 1970?)

Boulez: Portrait, Analysis, Performance (BBC, ?)

Boulez: Hommage à Pierre Boulez 26.3.1985 (Südwestfunks Baden-Baden, 1985)

Boulez at 80

Boulez: Pierre Boulez: Living in the Present (BBC, 2006)

Takemitsu: East meets West: 13 Steps Around Toru Takemitsu (BBC, 1986)

Debussy: La Mer

Gerhard, Roberto

Grainger, Percy: The Noble Savage (Central Independent Television, 1986)

Gruber, H.K.: Nali - Momentaufnahmen aus dem Panoptikum des H.K. Gruber - Komponist (Hessischen Rundfunks, 1981, German language)

Harvey, Jonathan: Towards and Beyond

Harvey, Jonathan: 80 Pictures for Jonathan Harvey

Harvey, Jonathan: Omnibus at the Proms: Madonna of Winter & Spring (BBC, 1986)

Lambert, Constant: In search of Constant Lambert (BBC: Workshop: A BBC Music Documentary, 1960?)

Mahler, G: Faraway (Barrie Gavin, 2013)

Matthews, Colin

Messiaen: Die musik im 20.jahrhundert Musik trienniale: Köln: Boston Symphony Orchestra (Seiji Ozawa) Turangalila Symphony concert relay

Mozart: [Symphony 27?]

Osborne, Nigel: interview [unpublished?]

Schwertsik, Kurt: Eine Reise nach Mu [German language: Hesischen Rundfunks, 1983]


Telemarteau [Boulez?]

Takemitsu: Green

Webern, Anton



Beyond the Score:

Beyond Bartok

Beyond Brandenburgs

Beyond Dvorak

Beyond Holst the Planets

Beyond Mussorgsky

Beyond Shostakovich

Beyond Sibelius 5

Beyond Tchaikovsky

Beyond The Score: The Four Seasons



A caravan of sounds (Hessischer Rundfunk, 1999)

Bert (A profile of A L Lloyd)

Omnibus: AL Lloyd on Folk artists in North Carolina, United States of America; country music; Doc Watson (BBC, 1977)

Omnibus: AL Lloyd on folk culture of industrial towns in Britain (Rap her te bank: a pnorama of the songs of work and city life by AL Lloyd) (BBCTV colour, late 1970s)

The People Tell Their story - music by Aaron Copland (BBC, 1977)

Blues on Times Square (BBC, 1977)

Bogeyman: Prophet, Guardian

Chadwick, Lyn: sculptor (HTV, 1990)


Concert: Hamel, Messiaen, Ravel (Hessischer Rundfunk, 1994)

Ensemble of Possibilities: 25 years of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (inc. interviews with Knussen, Rattle et al) (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, 2012)


Face behind the face

Fantasia for Guitars

Feiffer’s Folies: Jules Feiffer, cartoonist (Channel 4, 1983)

How Slow

Man on Hill

Neruda, Pablo

Rhoda_Comm_9_4_13 [?]

September Garden

Sir William in search of Xanadu: The story of the Burrell Collection (Channel 4, Scottish Television, 1984)

Song of Maramures

Three Postcards from Arcadia

Tower of Dreams


Virginia Woof

Wege Zur Neven

Wagner: Das Rheingold Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden (Simon Rattle)