Starting From Scratch: Cornelius Cardew and the Orchestra as Insurgency

“… A newspaper ad appealing for witnesses even misidentified the victim. The deceased was a member of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). Over the preceding years he had clashed numerous times with far-right political groups in East London. Just six weeks before his death he had been arrested at the House of Commons for scattering leaflets and shouting, ‘This house stinks of racism!’ during a speech by the Ulster Unionist MP (and former Conservative Health Minister) Enoch Powell. In the coded communications of his Party, the dead man had been known as Ernest. But he was born Cornelius Cardew, in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, in 1936, and he was one of the most fascinating composers of the 20th century. Michael Nyman had first spoken of musical ‘minimalism’ in a review of one of his works; Brian Eno was a fan. So was Robert Wyatt, who called Cardew ‘a real fountain of breathtakingly adventurous music.’ But at the time of his death, Cardew’s works were spurned and few obituaries treated him kindly. Two decades earlier, Cardew was Britain’s most important exponent of modern music. Upon leaving the Royal College of Music in 1957, he had left for Cologne to serve an apprenticeship at the electronic music studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk. There he became the friend and protégé of Karlheinz Stockhausen and assisted in preparing some of the German composer’s most complex scores. Upon returning home he was a key performer of works by Stockhausen and other modernists like Pierre Boulez and John Cage, often introducing them to a broad public through talks on BBC radio. Meanwhile, his own compositions were attracting attention of their own. In 1966, the American composer Morton Feldman insisted that ‘any direction modern music will take in England will come about only through Cardew, because of him, by way of him.’ What happened next, though, pushed him to the fringes of the musical establishment. …”
Red Bull Music Academy
W – Scratch Orchestra
Spiral Scratch By Robert Barry
Documenta 14: Scratch Orchestra (1969–1974)
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: The Great Learning 1971 Avantgarde Modern 41:53

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Music, Poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Starting From Scratch: Cornelius Cardew and the Orchestra as Insurgency

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s