These posts were extracted from the Brian Eno mailing list in response to some queries about Cardew.
From email@example.com Thu Jan 13 12:41:36 1994
Subject: Cornelius Cardew and his Scratch Music --------/\--------- Cornelius Cardew wrote a neat little book called "Scratch Music" which is available from the MIT Press. It is filled with scores of Scratch Music pieces, which are roughly like something Yoko Ono would suggest, "instructions" to the musicians that are designed to be interpreted rather than followed to the dot. (example: "Tune a Brook by moving the stones in it.") It also contains 1001 Activities, a list of helpful things to do when you're not sure what to do. Some examples: Subsist on a diet of love letters Make no mistake about it A great noise -- A /very expensive/ noise YH 698256C Wait in the labour exchange Scratch Music edited by Cornelius Cardew The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA ISBN 0 262 53025 2 (paperback)
From Johann Haidenbauer firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Jan 14 03:29:20 1994
Cardew was a contemorary British composer who, by the end of the 60s, became fed up with the very academic role of contemporary (serious) music and decided to involve a wider audience for what he was doing. One of those projects was the Scratch Orchestra, founded in 1968 (or so). Another of this projects was the Portsmouth Sinfonia, founded around the same time, where people of rather different musical abilities tried to play classical 'hits' such as Beethoven's 5th symphony. Some of us are certainly familiar with the PS since Brian Eno played occasionally clarinet in this orchestra. Cardew died in the late 70s (I think) under mysterious circumstances. It is said that he became a rather unconvenient guy for part of the British establishment and therefore was simply 'removed'. He was also an active member of the Communist Party. 'The Great Learning' is a composition with 7 parts. On the record are only part 2 and 7, each about 20 minutes long. It was recorded in Feb. 1971. One of those parts was inspired by the following story: It is said that Buddhist monks in a certain part of Asia have a special way of practicing their voice. They go to a very high waterfall and then they start singing there. Their aim is to make their voices so powerful that their chanting will be stronger than the noice produced by the waterfall, which they will eventually reach. Now, on this record by Cardew one can hear a lot of drums (instead of the waterfall) and then there is a chorus of around 40 people and they have to sing against those drums. In the course of the record their singing becomes stronger and louder and finally they succeed over the drums. I don't remember how the other part sounds like which means that it was obviously less impressive. Eno was (according to Tamm's book etc. - as there are no names mentioned on Cardew's record) a member of the chorus. You can imagine that it is somewhat difficult to identify him among those 40 singers, though. Cardew's record was released by Deutsche Grammophon as part of a box set with records by contemporary composers (Nono, Fortner, etc.) titled AVANTGARDE MUSIC. I think there were about 4 such box sets in total. Thus, anyone who spots such a box set should check first whether it's really the one with the Cardew record inside. Johann
From Brian Duguid (BD1@MM-CROY.MHS.CompuServe.COM ) Fri Jan 14 06:39:12 1994 The late Cornelius Cardew is one of the most important figures in the British post-war avant-garde, and also one of the most often ignored by the musical establishment. There is quite a good documentary on him that has been televised a couple of times (I have a copy on VHS-PAL but can't make copies). Amongst other things he was a (founder?) member of the improvising group AMM, which also featured the likes of John Tilbury, Eddie Prevost & others, and is still active. They had classical and jazz backgrounds, but the music they produced sounds nothing like jazz improv: scratchy, atonal, harsh are suitable verbs, and as far as I can tell it sounds like nothing produced previously. The total lack of rhythm, melody, harmony makes it "difficult listening"; but fascinating. Much AMM stuff reissued on CD on the UK's Matchless Recordings. I also seem to recall that they performed with Pink Floyd in the Floyd's very early experimental days. As a classical composer, outwith AMM, his work is very mixed. The Great Learning is a mammoth work with a score that I think employs text, instructions, symbols and very little musical notation. The performers followed the instructions, which were pretty vague, and the music that resulted was unpredictable. Excerpts on the TV documentary include lots of wordless singing and improvised percussion. Cardew was a major force behind the Scratch Orchestra, an ensemble of shifting membership and a wide range of musicianship; from professional musos to people like Eno with no instrumental skills whatsoever. I don't think Eno was a particularly regular member of the Scratch Orchestra; the only other members I know of include David Jackman and Roger Sutherland (now of improv-electronics group Morphogenesis), but all sorts of people were involved. Always a socialist, Cardew became a Maoist, repudiated his avant-garde music as being incapable of reaching "the masses", and composed lots of, allegedly VERY dull, more populist stuff. All the above off the top of my head, so I apologise for any errors. Most of the British musicians who ended up on Eno's 70s Obscure label would have been extremely well-aware of Cardew's work and some probably worked with him.
From: Gregory Taylor Those of you who are interested in reading more about both Cardew's music and the wider context within which he worked might be interested in seeing if you can locate a copy of Michael Nyman's book "Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond" [Schmirmer - at least in the US]. I think the last printing contains an update or two (particularly on Minimalism). This book is more about the conceptual work of Eno's *teachers* and conceptual forebearers than Eno himself; I think that the discussions of him are limited to the occasional mention of name. You will, however, find a fair amount of material on a wide variety of the composers whose works appeared on the Obscure label, some facsimile scores, etc. The MIT Press volume "Scratch Music" comes from Cardew's more explicitly "avant-garde" phase, which he spent a large amount of the decade before his death explicitly repudiating. The Scratch Orchestra work shares an interest in the inclusion of "regular" people in the practice of making music, but Cardew's Maoist period compositions eschew anything that even remotely smacks of the "elitism of the avant-garde", concentrating instead on tonal works with explicitly political or didactic lyrics ("There is only one lie, there is only one truth", "Soon", etc.). There is a collection of essays on the thinking behind the radical break between Cardew's experimental ("Treatise", "Boovalogue", "The Great Learning") and later work by Cardew himself, entitled "Stockhausen Serves Imperialism" (and other essays). Interestingly, there's even an essay on Cardew's attempts to "rehabilitate" TGL by relocating the texts to Mao from Confucius; he concludes that the work cannot be rescued from bourgeois wankery in the end. There are really only two recordings of his later works, which I'm informed have recently been collected and reissued on CD by his friends/colleagues; there is an LP on Impetus of Cardew playing his own piano works, called "The Thalmann Variations", which includes "Four Principles for Northern Ireland" and "The Croppy Boy." Also, after Cardew's death, there was a memorial concert of a variety of *all* his works held. That concert was issued as a 2-LP set, also on Impetus. Lately, John Tilbury has collected some of the works from that concert and the Cardew disc and issued it on CD through a small and independent UK label whose name escapes me (It's *not* Impetus, though), with a title like "The Piano Music of Cornelius Cardew." I think the Memorial Concert disc is wonderful; it has one whole side of Paragraph 1 of TGL, a number of his Maoist "songs", and performances from his "Treatise" period, all undertaken by a number of his close friends. >>From email@example.com Fri Jan 14 03:29:20 1994 > Another of this projects was the Portsmouth Sinfonia, founded >around the same time, where people of rather different musical >abilities tried to play classical 'hits' such as Beethoven's 5th >symphony. Some of us are certainly familiar with the PS since Brian >Eno played occasionally clarinet in this orchestra. This is from memory, but I don't believe that CC was involved in organizing the Sinfonia - although a fair number of his students and colleagues were active. I believe that he sat in from time to time. > Cardew died in the late 70s (I think) under mysterious circumstances. >It is said that he became a rather unconvenient guy for part of the >British establishment and therefore was simply 'removed'. He was also an >active member of the Communist Party. Cardew was struck by a hit-and-run driver on his way home one evening from a tete-a-tete with his students. While it's always nice to have some great and grand explanation for a senseless death, none of his acquaintances that I've met have offered assassination at the hands of the Tory government as an explanation. I chatted briefly one evening with his wife, who discussed only the possibility of a drunken driver at the time, and commented on the narrowness of the street, lined with cars. As for his political leanings at the time of his death, everyone I know who knew him at the time (Tom Philips, Tilbury, Eddie Prevost) insist that CC had largely turned his back on the strident Maoist views that characterized his writings in the 1970s. It was discussed as being everything from a conversion away from Mao occasioned by the trial of the Gang of Four, to a more complex process of "mellowing with age" and "having less to prove". At any rate, I think a large number of his students would claim his influence and still believe that Ms. Thatcher and the Tory death squads would, by the time of Cardew's death, have been able to find far more strident and visible targets. > 'The Great Learning' is a composition with 7 parts. On the record are >only part 2 and 7, each about 20 minutes long. It was recorded in Feb. 1971. Those of you with access to a good music library with interlibrary loan may not have a great deal of trouble locating a copy of Cardew's score. I believe that Matchless Records used to handle some of Cardew's scores, and perhaps TGL was among them. I recommend them. There was an old article that Eno wrote for the UK publication "Studio International" in '76 or so, called "Generating and Organizing Variety in the Arts", which is reproduced in a Gregory Battcock anthology "Breaking the Sound Barrier", which contains the score for paragraph 7 along with Eno's observations on the piece. I had Harold Moore in London locate me a copy of the LP in 1990. My copy came without the other discs in the box of four [the rest included, I think, some Mauricio Kagel and David Bedford recordings as well]. It's correct that there are no names mentioned for the performers, save "The Scratch Orchestra" I much prefer the vocal-only Paragraph 7. At one point, Eddie Prevost told me that there was an attempt made to record the whole of TGL, but I don't think anything ever came of it. >>From BD1@MM-CROY.MHS.CompuServe.COM Fri Jan 14 06:39:12 1994 >There is quite a good documentary on him that >has been televised a couple of times (I have a copy on VHS-PAL but can't >make copies). Wow. What I wouldn't pay to see *this....* >Amongst other things he was a (founder?) member of the improvising >group AMM, which also featured the likes of John Tilbury, Eddie >Prevost & others, and is still active. They had classical and jazz >backgrounds, but the music they produced sounds nothing like jazz >improv: scratchy, atonal, harsh are suitable verbs, and as far as I >can tell it sounds like nothing produced previously. The total lack of >rhythm, melody, harmony makes it "difficult listening"; but >fascinating. Much AMM stuff reissued on CD on the UK's Matchless >Recordings. Actually, the AMM work actually edges close to some of Derek Bailey's work with the Music Improvisation Company/Company stuff from that time. The observation that this work is *terrifically* far from his Maoist work is absolutely true, but not really so far from any number of realizations of Cardew's "Treatise" (a very large "graphic score" piece which has very little explicitly "musical" content"). The earlier AMM recordings have been reissued, including the double-disc set "The Crypt" which Includes Eddie Prevost (who still plays with AMM's current lineup and runs Matchless Records) and Keith Rowe (the man from whom Fred Frith borrowed tremendous amounts of the idea of "treated guitars" from, by the way. You might want to check out Rowe's "A Dimension of Completely Ordinary Reality" if that interests you). There's a shorter one-disc release on Recommended called AMMmusic or somesuch which might be a good place to start. >Always a socialist, Cardew became a Maoist, repudiated his avant-garde >music as being incapable of reaching "the masses", and composed lots >of, allegedly VERY dull, more populist stuff. It's interesting to listen to that work now, following the reinstatement of tonality, and the emergence of his friends and students like Tilbury and Skempton as masters of tonal "small scale" works. I think that CC's texts are sufficiently didactic to make it impossible to think of them as populist per se, but your mileage may vary. I hope this is of some use. Gregory Taylor
From: Brian Duguid BD1@MM-CROY.MHS.CompuServe.COM
A postscript to the Cornelius Cardew information ... this year is the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Scratch Orchestra, and in October a festival is planned to celebrate, probably at the I.C.A. in London. It will include some sort of exhibition, plus concerts, which I gather are to be by a re-created Scratch Orchestra. Re: A Brief History of Ambient 152:33. The total length is presumably a tip of the hat to John Cage's composition 4'33", which consisted of 273 (absolute zero, geddit?) seconds of silence. Maybe the title IS tongue-in-cheek, but I'm still put off by it. It's also worth noting that when EMI bought Virgin a couple of years ago, some of the bands included on these two Ambient compilations were casualties: God, on the second compilation, spring immediately to mind. The amount of product devoted to back catalogue rather than new artists has grown enormously since the EMI takeover. I just feel that Virgin's view of "ambient" is such a narrow one: there are too many ambient genres that Virgin's pop-based output just doesn't touch upon. Re: John Cage's "Silence" and indeterminacy. Malcolm suggests that even random music, or aleatory music as it's proponents prefer to call it (don't know why) must require some sort of intentionality. Well ... when setting in motion a system that will produce music, there's obviously an intention to produce music, and obviously the parameters of the system are defined by the composer / performers, but the actual end-result is free of intention, inasmuch as it is unpredictable and indeterminate. The point behind such music is to reduce the number of predetermined value judgments, but it's obviously difficult to reduce them to zero. As far as I can see, the only point of introducing indeterminacy into music is to encourage the listener to listen to something they otherwise couldn't have heard, and to set up a situation where they are prepared to re-evaluate it, without preconceptions. The book "Silence" is presumably very relevant in that it is also concerned with a desire to encourage people to re-evaluate the sounds they hear; not to *automatically* differentiate between natural noises and cello drones, for example. Whilst this obviously has some relevance to Eno's work as well as Cage's, I'd also point to one of Cage's main concerns in producing indeterminate work as being the need to free the performers from the authoritarian dictate of a composer; to prevent them being dehumanised cogs in a music-making machine. Methods of doing this included graphic scores (where the performer's interpretation is all-important), elimination of fixed time signatures, and specific (if paradoxical) instructions to improvise. Many other composers explored similar areas (eg Stockhausen's improvisation works), including of course Cornelius Cardew (to return to the start of the posting). Cardew, however, focused much more on this latter aspect, the need to give the performers a say, to create a cooperative social relationship in performance. Eno may have performed with Cardew, but I think this shows that his attitudes were much closer to Cage; in published interviews Eno expounds at length about the musical creator's role, but I've hardly ever heard him explore performance-related issues.