Exhibition

Cornelius Cardew

5 Nov 2009 – 13 Dec 2009

London, United Kingdom

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This exhibition pays tribute to the work of the experimental British composer Cornelius Cardew [1936—1981] and to the activities of the Scratch Orchestra. Cardew brought music and visual art closely together in his work. The Scratch Orchestra was formed in 1969 and reflected the breaking down of boundaries between the different disciplines which took place during that decade. Influenced by John Cage and Fluxus musicians George Brecht and La Monte Young, Cardew in turn exerted a huge influence on a younger generation of musicians including Brian Eno and Michael Nyman. The exhibition will include scores, original manuscripts, Scratch Books and other archival material brought together for the first time in the UK. The legacy of Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra will be explored through this material, a publication, screenings, talks and a symposium hosted by the ICA. Cardew's annotated musical score for ‘Treatise' (1963-7) will be central to the exhibition. This 193-page graphic score uses lines, symbols and various geometric or abstract shapes rather than traditional musical notation. ‘Treatise' was published with no explanatory notes since Cardew did not want to dictate how the score should be played — he was interested in the performers' individual interpretation of it. Cardew is perhaps best known for his subsequent composition, ‘The Great Learning' (1968-72), a work in seven parts which instigated the formation of the Scratch Orchestra in 1969. Anyone was invited to join the Scratch Orchestra, regardless of their musical skills or aptitude. Its membership included artists associated with Fluxus, musicians and other interested parties. In 1971-2 Cardew became engaged in a radical reconsideration of all his work up to this time and came to adopt a Marxist-Leninist position. He thoroughly revoked the ethos of the Scratch Orchestra and many of his earlier endeavours in his book ‘Stockhausen Serves Imperialism' (1974). Turning his back on avant-garde artistic practices he embraced political militancy, and used classical and folk traditions to inspire the composition of lyrical protest songs.

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