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Bozzini + 4 >> Cardew

This is the first in my series of articles about the composers we are performing on suddenlyLISTEN's Bozzini + 4 concert. First: Cornelius Cardew!

The first of the pieces to be performed is Paragraph 6 of The Great Learning by Cornelius Cardew.

Cardew has a story! Born of artist parents in Britain, he studied music at the Royal Academy and later was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s assistant in Cologne from 1958 to 1960. Stockhausen wrote: “As a musician he was outstanding because he was not only a good pianist but also a good improviser ….. I gave him work to do which I have never given to any other musician, which means to work with me on the score I was composing. He was one of the best examples that you can find among musicians, because he was well informed about the latest theories of composition as well as being a performer.”

Cardew was a serialist composer until he heard some concerts by John Cage and David Tudor. Then it all changed. He abandoned serialism completely to compose indeterminate and experimental scores. He also introduced the music of Feldman, Wolff and Cage to English audiences, which had a big impact on the development of English music in the late 60’s and onwards.

His composition of The Great Learning (based on translations of Confucius by Ezra Pound) prompted the formation of The Scratch Orchestra, an experimental ensemble made up of both trained and non- trained musicians. The hierarchy was based on a principal of “reverse seniority” where age and musical experience placed you lower in the chain of command. Christopher Hobbs, an eighteen-year-old student of Cardew’s at the Royal Academy of Music, programmed the first concert of the Scratch Orchestra, on 1 November 1969 at Hampstead Town Hall. Eventually the strains of the rigid Constitution, upon which the orchestra was formed, and an increasing interest in political aesthetics led to the dissolution of the Orchestra by 1974.

Cardew became increasingly active in left wing politics, and abandoned avant-garde music entirely. He adopted a much more populist style, often drawing from traditional English folk songs to accompany his Marxist-Maoist texts. In 1974, he published a book entitled Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, which denounced, in Maoist self-critical style, his own involvement with Stockhausen and the Western avant-garde tradition. Cardew eventually became prominent in the Communist Party of Britain.

Cardew died on 13 December 1981, the victim of a hit-and-run car accident near his London home. The driver was never found. Some suggest the accident was actually an assassination by a socialism fearing government.

Amazing. Come to Saint Matthews United Church, 1479 Barrington Street to learn and listen to more! Tuesday, November 17, $20 or pay what you can.

Nov 6, 2015 at 14:23

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