Fonds MsC-24 - Martin Bartlett fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Martin Bartlett fonds

General material designation

  • Textual records
  • Photographic materials
  • Moving images
  • Sound recordings

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Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Series titles are based on the content of the series. Where files had existing titles, these titles were maintained. Where there was no title for a file, a title was created by the archivist based on the contents of the file; such titles have been placed in square brackets. In cases where the original title needed additional information, the supplemental information has been enclosed in square brackets. Sub-series titles are based on the content of the sub-series.

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1940-1993 (Creation)
    Bartlett, Martin

Physical description area

Physical description

2.2 m of textual records
2016 photographs : col. prints
1579 photographs : col. negatives
291 photographs : b&w prints
82 photographs : b&w negatives
536 photographs : col. slides
224 audio cassettes : 1/4 " tape
3 videocassette : VHS
31 audio disks : 30 cm vinyl
1 audio disk : 7 " vinyl
2 optical discs : CD
133 audio reels : 1/4 " tape
5 audio reels : 8 mm tape
7 audio reels : 1/2 " tape
153 computer disks : 3.5 " floppy
2 computer disks : 5 " floppy
33 computer disks : 8 " floppy
2 computer cartridges : 2.5 "

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Martin Bartlett was born in Croydon, England, in 1939, and grew up in Vancouver, BC when his family immigrated in 1952. He received Bachelor’s degrees in English (1960) and Music (1965) from the University of British Columbia and a Master’s Degree in Arts (1968) from Mills College, Oakland, where he studied electroacoustic music and composition with Terry Riley, Pandit Pranh Nath, and Pauline Oliveros.
He was influenced by David Tudor and John Cage, having met Cage at Emma Lake in Saskatchewan in 1965. He was a founding member of the Western Front Society in Vancouver, an artist-run gallery, studio and performance space, and started the music program there in 1974. He taught composition at the University of Victoria (1974-1982) and later at Simon Fraser University (1982-1992), eventually becoming the first director of graduate studies for the School for the Contemporary Arts at SFU.
Bartlett took an early interest in building electronic instruments, working with Don Buchla, David Behrman and others. One of his synthesizers, the Black Box, is in this collection. He built it with Bill Hearn while studying at Mills College. The Black Box can be seen in performance at the Western Front in this archival footage: He also worked extensively with his Buchla 400, a commercially available polyphonic synthesizer built by Don Buchla in the early 1980s. The Buchla 400 has a touch-sensitive keyboard that was designed to allow for non-traditional keyboard gestures to be used.
Martin Bartlett had a great passion for the music of Indonesia, making several trips to south-east Asia in the 1970s and 1980s to learn in situ. He also visited India and Nepal on these trips. Many photographs of these trips, including of musicians and musical instruments (especially Gamelan), as well as shadow puppetry and dance from Indonesia (predominantly Java) are included in the archive. In the mid-1980s, Bartlett was responsible for bringing the Javanese Gamelan to Simon Fraser University. He spearheaded several large-scale productions at SFU featuring the Gamelan including a festival in the summer 1986 that coincided with a visit from Indonesian officials to Expo ’86, and The Gamelan Tempest in 1989, a cross-cultural show with music on the Gamelan and story-line from Shakespeare’s Tempest. The SFU Gamelan is still active as the Vancouver Community Gamelan.
His own work was often collaborative and aleatoric, and he also worked in theatrical and mixed media environments. He made an important and original contribution to the development of live electronic music, devising elegant and open interactions for instrumental performers and computer-controlled synthesizer.
He was passionately interested in sailing, and owned a sailboat on which he made numerous voyages around Canada’s west coast. He was particularly interested in natural world and in the traces of First Nations art in remote areas, taking many photographs of what he saw.
Martin Bartlett died in 1993 of AIDS-related causes.

Canadian Music Centre. (no date). Martin Bartlett: Biography. Retrieved from
Bob Pritchard. (2018). Personal Communication about Martin Bartlett.
Martin Bartlett Fonds. Simon Fraser University Special Collections and Rare Books.

Custodial history

This fonds was donated to Simon Fraser University in 1994 by the Estate of Martin Bartlett. One subsequent accrual was received in 2014 from the Western Front Society.

Scope and content

This fonds contains writings, notebooks, scores, computer software, photographic materials, audio and video recordings, two synthesizers, a computer and other material relating to the life experiences and creative output of Martin Bartlett. Most of the material dates from Bartlett’s active work life from 1965-1993, although there is some information from his early life, 1940-1965. The contents of the fonds have been divided into 11 distinct series representing different aspects of his life. One series (9: Compositions) has been divided into three sub-series determined by the type of material (scores, computer programs, and recordings).
The series contained in this fonds are as follows: Series 1: Correspondence; Series 2: Personal Papers; Series 3: Notebooks; Series 4: Teaching; Series 5: Gamelan; Series 6: Research Materials; Series 7: Writings; Series 8: Computer Programming; Series 9: Compositions including subseries 9:1: Scores, 9:2: Computer Programs, and 9:3: Recordings; Series 10: Photographs and ; Series 11: Objects.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


The processing of this fonds prioritized the compositional and textual output of Martin Bartlett. Item-level description was made of all recordings and items relating to compositions. A few photographs have item numbers, but the bulk of photographs was not itemized. Photographs appear to have been reorganized by a previous archivist. Some have been sorted into thematic folders, while others are not organized. Recordings are generally grouped in sequential item numbers, but a few were re-assigned to different series.
Identifying numbers are item numbers (such as 24.206) and RAD-compliant numbers for folders (such as MsC-24-0-8-0-0-4).
Textual records were preserved in the order they appeared in folders, though it is unknown how much reorganization was done prior to full processing. Where information might be useful in more than one series, note was made in the Notes field with appropriate other series the items are related to.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

    Location of originals

    Availability of other formats

    Restrictions on access

    Several photographs are of a personal nature and access is restricted. Researchers wishing to view the photographs will need to sign a research agreement.

    Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

    Finding aids

    A file list for compositions and writings is available in addition to a series-level description. There is also technical information on the two synthesizers included in the administrative file.

    Generated finding aid

    Associated materials

    Related materials


    One subsequent accrual was made from the Western Front archives on July 29, 2014. It consisted of one box of materials including a score for Helix and 15 audio reels.
    Further accruals are possible.

    General note

    Digital copies for some recordings are available. Please consult the Archivist for details.

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    Rules for Archival Description



    Level of detail


    Dates of creation, revision and deletion

    Created May 16, 2014, LZ
    Revised Dec 4, 2018 CM

    Language of description

    • English

    Script of description


      Accession area