About the collection

The Sheet Music Collection of the Belgian State Broadcasting Company (BOO) is unique in Belgium. It is one of the most important collections of Belgian music of the 20th century in our country. Not so much because of its large size of more than 1.1 km, but mainly because of its direct link with the various broadcasting ensembles of the past. BOO is also a silent witness of the impact broadcasting had on the cultural musical life in Belgium.

The collection has developed organically from the mission and functioning of the Belgian public broadcasting corporation. For almost all works, both the score and the parts are present. This clearly demonstrates that this library was completely focused on musical performance.

Ever since the establishment of the public broadcaster, the 'Nationaal Instituut voor Radio-Omroep' or 'Institut national de Radiofusion' (NIR/INR), music has had a special place in the broadcasting company. Because there were hardly any recordings available in the pioneering years of radio, broadcast time was filled with productions made in the recording studios and broadcast live. The collection was therefore formed almost entirely in function of the programming of the broadcasts. This is reflected in the genres present: orchestral repertoire, jazz, 'casino' music, choral works, oratorios, operas, songs, instrumental solo repertoire and chamber music.

Besides the productions of all available repertoire performed by their own ensembles, music was also written on commission. The performance of contemporary music was, after all, for a long time considered an important, 'popularising' task of the public broadcasting corporation. This explains the large number of composition commissions for orchestras and smaller ensembles, with the result that BOO was one of the most important centres of contemporary music practice until the 1970s.

Written specifically for broadcasting, and to a large extent only kept there, are the radio and TV tunes and the 238 transmitted radio plays. The 16,000 or so scores written for big band orchestras and jazz ensembles are also often unique and too little known. This material is indispensable for the further exploration of jazz history.

Due to the increasing possibilities of copying techniques, the number of one-offs decreased substantially from the 1950s onwards. This does not apply to the light music that claimed its place in public broadcasting in the post-war years. Countless songs were written and arranged for the programme Canzonissima, and the music of various popular TV series, such as De kolderbrigade, Het pleintje and Heterdaad, can also be found in BOO.