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Europe’s largest record library is shutting down

Dutch Radio is getting rid of its sounds.  It’s happening today, as we speak, at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep.

UPDATE: Also onto the skip, they are chucking out rare and possibly irreplaceable original scores. It gives a whole new meaning to going Dutch.


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  1. …and doing what with them? Did they digitize everything?

  2. I found this at the main page for the music library. Let’s hope the collection and archives aren’t dispersed and that they do find a new home in The Hague.

    De muziekbibliotheek sluit per 1 augustus haar deuren.
    Vrijdag 26 april was de laatste dag waarop werd uitgeleend.
    In mei en juni zijn de openingstijden van 11–15 uur.
    Naast het inleveren van muziekwerken en boeken is het in deze twee maanden nog mogelijk de naslagwerken, boeken en tijdschriften in te kijken. Daarnaast is het mogelijk om partituren ter inzage aan te vragen.
    Wij hopen op een doorstart voor de collectie, uiteindelijk in Den Haag.

    Google Translate renders it as:
    The music library closes its doors on 1 August.
    Friday April 26 was the last day on which it was borrowed.
    In May and June are the opening hours of 11-15 hours.
    Besides the return of musical works and books it is still possible in these two months the reference , books and magazines to look. It is also possible scores for inspection on request.
    We hope for a new start for the collection , eventually in The Hague.

    • Dominy Clements says:

      This is indeed part of the incredibly stupid government policies of recent times.
      My understanding is that it’s hoped to integrate this library with other closed archives as part of the new ‘Spuiforum’ development, which is planned to house the Residentie Orchestra, Nederlands Dans Theater and Royal Conservatoire. You can see artists impressions here:

      You can’t please everyone however, as protests against the project have been highly vocal and persistent.

      Unfortunately the closure or drastic cutting of numerous local music schools, theatres etc. makes it harder to argue in favour of an expensive new development, but most of these negative noises are as visionary as the policies which is closing all those archives, orchestras and schools in the first place. It used to be the Netherlands was a pioneer in the arts and liberal thinking. Ever since it was absorbed into the Eurozone money machine and lost its beautiful Guilder banknotes it seems to have lost all confidence in itself.

      • Good points, but what would you propose as a sustainable solution? You need money or some form of means of exchange to support these essential cultural and educational institutions. Why not reverse what has become a redistribution of wealth in favor of the super rich and the multinationals? Why does privatization have such a talismanic effect? Companies bill out at a multiple of what they pay their employees, and the supposed increase in efficiency is sucked up in obscene benefit packages for top management. What is more important, ideology or people? My own antiquated sense is that a less imbalanced distribution of income and wealth, together with some measure of self sufficiency, and State ownership of the most essential community assets and resources is the better way, whatever the “experts” at McKinsey or Booz Allen may tell us.

      • Frank Gijsberts says:

        Unfortunately, building this new ‘Spuiforum’ has nothing to do with vision on arts. What we had is some top-of-the-world institutions in multiple places. What we will get back is an empty, very expensive shell laying empty because there is nobody left to play in it. It sure does look visionary, but in truth it is a toy project for the municipality.

        The best artist can make excellent art everywhere. If the infrastructure is crappy, crap will be produced and no fancy building will fix that.

      • “It used to be the Netherlands was a pioneer in the arts and liberal thinking.” That is, pioneer in modernism and all of its watered-down progeny, leading to a delta of nonsense and crap and cheating. A recent research has shown that in the period that state subsidies for the arts in Holland have immensily increased – i.e. from the sixties onwards – the number of artists who ‘broke-through’ declined proportionally. That is: even within modernism this number declined. New art and new music in the Netherlands have committed suicide and the government is merely hammering the nail in the coffin.

        But that is something very different from cancelling the institutions, which are much older and cultivate the core of the art form. That Holland is selling-out its cultural institutions is because they were never taken seriously anyway, they were a little superfluous luxury, a veneer, to give the impression of a sophisticated European country. The lack of a cultural elite makes itself felt now that economic pressures blow away the pretense.

        It is a disaster for the individual artists and performers with real talent, who now have to emigrate, leaving the country even more empty than it already is.

        • Dominy Clements says:

          Oh dear, well just a few points. The Spuiforum is unlikely to be an ‘expensive empty shell’ for the reason it will be stuffed with dancers and musicians for most of the year, and if we make sure there are enough interesting events (and why shouldn’t there be) then there should be plenty of public. The Dr A. Philipszaal was never built to last and is visibly collapsing. Repairs for that, finding a use for /repairs to the windswept wasteland of a square in front of it, repairs to the current Royal Conservatoire building etc. etc. are apparently unrealistic by comparison with the new development.

          I’m a Brit and came to the Netherlands in 1987 simply because, by comparison with the UK, it did seem to be a pioneer in the arts and liberal thinking, though the symptoms of malaise were already setting in by then – that was after all when Dr A. Philipszaal was built, and the Stopera (another design triumph, ahem). I wouldn’t however say that ‘its cultural institutions… were never taken seriously anyway.’

          Sustainable solutions? Well, there is an argument for artistic institutions becoming more self-sufficient, but seeing as we are surrounded by corporations awash with money I can see where a little ‘gentle persuasion’ might go a long way…

          Cynicism is justifiable in the current climate and the Netherlands is dreadful place for wanting everything on the cheap and then wondering why it all falls apart and ends up costing a fortune in the not very long term, but there’s room for being a bit aspirational as well, surely?

          • John Borstlap says:

            Holland is still a very rich country – given the many millionairs around. But because the arts have been watered by state subsidies all the time, a tradition of private patronage and corporate sponsoring has never fully developed. But also Dutch millionairs are Dutch, and most of them are as reluctant to invest in culture as the poorest plumber. If the government had begun a campaign for stimulating patronage and sponsoring years ago, they could have gradually diminished arts subsidies – but they would never get such ideas, being Dutch.

            I have the feeling that the only way to revive some cultural awareness would be in a situation where the Netherlands have dissolved into a big European state, so that they become part of a Europe where cultural identity and its cultivation is a normal part of life. The problem is really not the financial crisis but the unsophisticated and uncultured majority of inhabitants, and the lack of cultural awareness in education.

  3. A tragedy. Hopefully, some of the universities will be able to store and use the collection. The Dutch Government made its choice of guns over butter several years ago, when subsidies to the record library and broadcasting orchestra were to be phased out by 2015. NATO guns and EU banks are not only killing people, ideas and culture abroad, they are doing it at home and anyone who doesn’t like it, whether they say so or not, will find their most private thoughts in the biggest records library of all. That’s the one that should be closed so that the good ones can be saved.

  4. David Boxwell says:

    Who needs brick and mortar record libraries, staffed with knowledgeable people?

    We got Spotify “in the cloud”!

    (As long as Spotify is in business, that is).

    • Spotify is shit quality, even if you use the premium version (at most 320 kbits/sec), and then off course there is something called ‘emotional value’. i can very easily tell the difference using reasonable headphones/speakers in a quiet space

  5. Tom Emlyn Williams says:

    Having sung with the Dutch Radio Choir for nine years and used that library, all one can feel is profound sadness at recognising that the greed encouraged by Reagan & Thatcher has really worked its deep evil on the Nederlands. One thinks of great funereal music and weeps.

  6. May I add that this item is not about a record library but about what is going on with the Netherlands Radio Music Library. What is happening to the library (because the budget of the Music Center is cut drastically) is a tragedy.
    What the pictures show is that today we moved collected editions and many other series from the central hall of the Music Building to other parts of the building, but everything is kept intact.
    The library services come to an end this month, all staff members are fired by August 1, but the collections remain in the present building, for the time being. We expect to move parts of the collection to The Hague in the future, to be housed together with collections of other institutions like the Netherlands Music Institute and the Library of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
    Other parts will be used as before by the Radio Orchestra, Radio Choir and Metropole Orchestra.
    Last week we were informed that the Ministry responsible for Media is offering a (very small) budget for the months August-December 2013. With this budget it will be possible to explore further the possibilities to create in The Hague a National Music Library, including valuable and unique collections from Hilversum.

    • Michael Gray says:

      Yes, this is a *reference* library, not a *record* library. I presume as well that this is not a *performance* library
      that contains marked conductor’s scores and orchestral parts. But on this point I can only surmise and await correctikon.

      That said, it’s a great shame that the staff are to be let go – let’s hope they’re able to find situations elsewhere …

      • @Michael Gray This is not a mere reference library. The sheet music (spanning 5.000 metres) is used by all ensembles related to Dutch radio and tv, by sound engineers recording music throughout the country and sometimes borrowed or hired by other ensembles. It contains marked conductor’s scores, chamber music scores, light music, popular music (songbooks) and (orchestral) parts. Moreover it serves as an archive with all sheet music written for and performed by former radio ensembles (from 1930 – present).

  7. Paul T. Jackson says:

    At some point the super rich will understand…only too late…they have confiscated all the wealth and won’t have anything or anyone available for entertainment and enjoyment such as the rest of us, going without attending concerts, unable to play in ensembles for lack of expensive instruments. If any of the performing arts are left, they will be like the dark ages; outdoors in grass fields. History itself will be re-written for lack of supportive prime resources.
    The robber barons are back.
    Our monopoly energy company wants nearly a 4% raise in rates, while the CEO gets a $4 million annual compensation package. And our State Commissioners allows this?
    Our banks still think debt is generating money; unsustainable debt (paper) basically, and they wonder and get away with “we didn’t know this would happen” when another recession hits. Which will be sooner than most are ready or willing to address because those who can change things won’t.

  8. Nicolas Mansfield says:

    So many people know what it costs, and so few appear to know what it is worth.

  9. Nicola Mills says:

    Hello. I moved to The Netherlands as a classical singer in 2008 to experience living in a different country and loved the fact that the arts were so well supported and appreciated by people. For me it gave Holland it’s appeal to me. I attended the Opera Studio there, was paid a wage and worked also for Dutch Opera and various other companies. It cost more to see a concert there but it also meant I was paid more to sing in a concert and there was a sense of appreciation to what I did. I always managed to get work as a singer there and sang for the Grootomroepkoor and also used the library. I now live in Belgium as it got to the point where the work was drying up and so many people were losing their funding and so many good things for musicians were ceasing to exist which I find very sad. I just wonder what kind of people we are cultivating in the western world. It seems we want to cultivate people to watch drab programmes on television and to shop for meaningless things in their spare time. The Netherlands will never be the same again. To know that the government plan to close libraries in general is ridiculous and to see so many cultural things no longer happening is such a shame. I know of many musician friends who can no longer make a living as a musician or have left because there just isn’t any work anymore. Why are the arts not seen as important enough anymore?

  10. Evert Larik says:

    Speaking about Belgium. That is also part of the ECC (European Crises Countries).
    There is yet the system of part-time artistic education, meant for children and adults. Academies are all over the country. And it does hardly cost anything! It is so subsidized. So everybody who wants can do something in art: Music, Visual Arts, Dance.
    (Long ago it was even cheaper, I did flute, piano, ear training during many years. It costs 25 Guilders a year. Now I’m doing Photo Art at an Academy and I pay € 250,- per year.
    What I want to say is, how do THEY do it?

    • Belgium is a normal European country with a cultural elite, who influence a consensus that cultural institutions are important for a country which feels itself being part of European civilization. Holland does not feel that way, it is a populist, materialist country where the consensus reigns that culture is NOT a normal part of life. It does NOT feel part of European civilization. There are long roots in history for this mentality which differ from those of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy etc. etc.

  11. The UK set a trend here with the termination of the British Music Information Centre due to slack leadership and the merging with Sound and Music.
    this valuable resource has been marooned in Huddersfield for the last couple of years.
    Passionate people on Youtube have partly come to the rescue, where many videos are coupled with a score.
    eg. George Benjamin’s ‘Sortileges’ and Brian Ferneyhough’s 4th String Quartet.

    • But Benjamin and Ferneyhough are dinosaurs of a totally outdated aesthetic, which belonged to the utopian nonsense of the last century…. sonic art, not music. If this sound art is put away somewhere in the margins, it will do less harm to the art form and its institutions.

      • Benjamin and Ferneyhough have little in common…how on earth you can lump them together as part of the same problem is beyond my comprehension.

      • Russell Postema says:

        Even so, in the course of history they have a place.
        The issue at hand here is the destruction of our cultural heritage, of which the Dutch it seems do not realize the value.
        The problem with the Dutch is their EIC-mentality, i.e. East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, “United East India Company”): they venture the buccaneering spirit abroad, and forget their own values.

        • John Borstlap says:

          True. And those expeditions in foreign lands (spices, slaves, etc.) were not inspired by a wish to understand the wider world or other cultures, but by pure greed. Tolerance at home was also motivated by greed: all those Portugese Jews brought their full money boxes with them. Dutch values like tolerance and freedom never had anything to do with some consciousness of civilized or cultural values but were a result of practical, economic thinking – the mentality of stubborn peasants.

  12. KProctor says:

    I find this all very sad — The Dutch going the way of the U.S. I hoped for a different outcome.

    It is sad the only thing left is youtube. I’m not knocking youtube — its introduced me first to the RKF. From there I googled them and was introduced to MCO, and RFO. I was hoping that at the last minute things would change for the better.

    Thanks for the music. Best wishes to the musicians — I already miss some of the faces I’ve come to know.

    For now, we have the videos.

  13. Fabio Fabrici says:

    How come money is printed all the time to feed major parasites and culture destroyers, namely investment banks, but when it comes to feed the cultural seeds and soil of our civilization, no money press is available? Confusing.

    Holland, undergoing voluntary brain amputation these days it seems. Too much smoking pot? What’s going on in the Lowlands?

    • See some of my comments above.

      In the sixties of the last century, a form of liberalism, lefty thinking and modernism in the arts was embraced as a liberation from the constraints of tradition, only to create a new sort of constraint which has become more suffocating than tradition ever was. The cultivation of immaturity and amateurism led to a political elite without any idea about culture, so what is happening now in the Netherlands is the logical result of the cultural revolution in the sixties.

    • Timon Wapenaar says:

      Printing money to hand to artists sound like a good idea – only one problem: inflation and destruction of the currency. This is why all the money being pumped into the system by the ECB/Fed/BoJ is either being put back on deposit with the central bank in question (in the case of the Fed), endlessly washed, rinsed, and cycled through banks, governments and the central bank (the ECB) or sitting on the balance sheets of large corporations (Japan). Were that money ever to make its way into the real economy, we’d see fireworks.

  14. All to be replaced with a myriad of misquoted lyrics on poor quality Web sites written by people either unfamiliar with good loudspeakers, or simply unable to listen and make sense of what they hear.

    Thus we continue to drift towards a certain baseline of pure mediocrity (to paraphrase Einstein)

    • Except that’s not true. It would seem there’s an intent to continue to make the library available, just not at its current location, or in current form. Putting it together with other currently “closed” material seems to be a good plan, eventually opening up more material overall to the public, no?
      Quite what people’s knowledge of good loudspeakers has to do with it, I’m not sure. Most musicians aren’t as familiar with really “good” loudspeakers, or the other equipment that goes in to driving them and sending a good signal to them as an outsider might expect anyway, and nor have they ever been. And neither is it necessary to have them in order to appreciate “good” music and a “good” performance.

  15. This is not a mere reference library. The sheet music (spanning 5.000 metres) is used by all ensembles related to Dutch radio and tv, by sound engineers recording music throughout the country and sometimes borrowed or hired by other ensembles. It contains marked conductor’s scores, chamber music scores, light music, popular music (songbooks) and (orchestral) parts. Moreover it serves as an archive with all sheet music written for and performed by former radio ensembles (from 1930 – present).
    Half of the collection is catalogued according to international rules and can be found in the online catalogue (on our website, also in English)
    Some 4.700 scores are digitized and made available publicly (download after registration) via (some also via

  16. Note the green boxes. That’s for the trash… By the way, not only this library shuts down, this one is also under attack. Not only sheet music there, but also a big, big audio collection. They have EVERY record Willem Mengelberg ever made commercially stored in pristine condition. Many acetates and tape recordings…


  17. Martin Locher says:

    Surely the space all this paper and plastic takes up can not be that urgently required, so time should be given to digitalize everything – in case this did not happen already.

    I understand, that the maintenance and space costs money. It did for a long time though already. So another few years won’t matter for sure.

    Digitalize and look for a private intitution who’d like to store the originals. If none is found, bin after digitalizing. It could be pretty simple or am I too naive?

    • Elisabeth says:

      Because many of these measures have been imposed in a very short period of time, in many cases there just hasn’t been enough money to be able to digitalize all these files. It takes time to raise money, file for subsidies etc. The present government has made it impossible to react and work on various options- there is a force of destruction that is implemented by people that have reached their position through the Peter Principle and enjoy their hour of power.

      Destroying a culture, its people will be without identity, without voice.
      They fill that silence with imported US crap and pass it off as the new face of culture.

      Rutte refers to his government as “the administration”. I bet they laugh their heads off in Washington.

      Fool country.

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