Author Topic: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.  (Read 573 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« on: March 05, 2020, 10:33:42 AM »
I've just bought John Tilbury's enormous, magisterial, acclaimed biography, which is affordable if you buy it from Cafe Oto, so I thought I'd create a thread for any ideas I have, notes I want to make, and for any thoughts you may have about this interesting composer.  My own contributions may come slowly and be few and far between -- so feel free.



http://matchlessrecordings.com/book/cornelius-cardew-life-unfinished
« Last Edit: March 05, 2020, 09:35:48 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2020, 10:40:55 AM »
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/d_asOAHIIqA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/d_asOAHIIqA</a>

This is his 3rd piano sonata, from 1958 so a really early piece, serial more or less. The earliest work by Cardew I can find -- finished when he was 22 but, for all I know, he may have started it when he was at school! We're in the world of the European avant garde. I like the harmonics at the start of the second movement, from 5,44. In fact I like the whole of the second movement, including the virtuoso stuff at the end. The first movement is a bit busy for me, but I guess anyone who likes Stockhausen's Klavierstuck XI will enjoy it.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2020, 10:42:33 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2020, 02:14:39 PM »
Cardew wanted to write scores which the performers could respond to spontaneously. He didn't want his performers to approach scores searching for rails, guidelines, like composer's intentions about how it should sound or historical or social expectations about touch, intonation etc. Rather he wanted to free the performer to interpret authentically, in the moment, now. (I don't say this idea makes sense.)

An early example is the sequence of three February pieces for piano. In the notation for February 1 the duration is determined entirely by the composer's actions and his instrument. There is no preexisting "correct" duration.

Quote
One feature of the piece February Piece 1 is the method used for controlling the length of tones: a tone is struck at a particular dynamic, and is released when it has reached another. So for example, the length of a tone is the time taken by this particular tone to make the diminuendo from mf to pp. Such tones are sometimes accompanied by a sign meaning e.g. 'relatively long', and it becomes clear that our interpretation of the signs mf and pp will also have to be relative, and we come up against the question: 'are the dynamics controlling the durations, or are the durations controlling the dynamics?' Neither, for the player controls both, that is he controls their interaction. This is the real meaning of such signs as 'long', 'loud', etc.: their function is to put the player in a position where he is conscious of himself, of his own experiences of 'long', loud', etc. He is conscious of what he is doing and of the capacities of the instrument at which he sits. The function of such signs is to bring the pianist to life.

Here's John Tilbury responding on youtube

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/v7HWyYCvRDU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/v7HWyYCvRDU</a>

The album available here

https://www.cafeoto.co.uk/shop/john-tilbury-cardews-piano-music-1959-70/
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2020, 02:21:14 PM »
I just want to make a personal comment. It's interesting how the act of writing music for Cardew is about releasing the creativity of the perfomer. The composer is not at all primary in the creation. And so far, the audience seems to have dropped out of the picture.
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Offline Roy Bland

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2020, 09:34:18 AM »
Here's an interpretation of Autumn 60

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/eBqvW2-UJ5Q" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/eBqvW2-UJ5Q</a>

The score consists if 16 sections which look like this



Each musician composes a piece which fits the two bars with their time signature. He has to observe all but two of the other indications.

Why did Cardew do this? Simples. He wanted to get the musicians to engage more thoroughly with the music they were creating together.

The first performance in Cambridge was the occasion of a huge altercation between Cardew (conducting) and the instrumentalists -- he accused them of entering superficially into the spirit of the score because they composed sections which sounded like conventional classical music. They weren't avant garde enough.

Here's an interesting video of John Tilbury conducting it in the ICA in London 10 years ago. Rather good if you've got a taste for music like this, but it oustays its welcome for me. Again I can't help but notice how composer and performer are central to Cardew's considerations at this time, but not listner. 

https://vimeo.com/10805662
« Last Edit: March 06, 2020, 09:46:06 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2020, 05:38:54 AM »
Sunny day in London. Locked down. Bored as fuck. Time to take the plunge. Free improvisation.


https://www.discogs.com/AMM-Ammmusic/release/9057999

and I'm listening to In The Realm Of Nothing Whatever.

What is this Nothing Whatever? Well in a note to another recording made two years later, The Crypt, AMM give us a clue

Quote
Hui-sze said to Kwang-sze: 'I have a large tree which men call Ailantus Glandulosa, or the "fetid tree". Its trunk swells out to a large size, but is not fit for a carpenter to apply hes line to it. When he looks up at its smaller branches they are so twisted and crooked that they cannot be made into rafters and beams, when he looks down to its root, its trunk is divided into so many rounded portions that neither coffin nor shelf could be made from it. Lick one of its leaves and your mouth feels torn and wounded. The mere smell of them makes a man frantic, as if intoxicated, for more than three whole days on end. Though it were planted in the most convenient spot beside the road no builder would turn his head to look at it. Now your words, Sir, are great, but of no use; all unite in putting them away from them.'

Kwang-sze replied: 'Can it be that you have never seen the pole-cat, how it crouches waiting for the mouse, ready to leap this way or that, high or low, till one day it lands plump on the spring of a trap and dies in the snare? And what about the Yak, so large that it is like a cloud hanging in the sky? It maintains this vast bulk but would be quite incapable of catching a mouse. You, Sir, have a large tree and are troubled because it is of no use; why do you not plant in the realm of Nothing Whatever, or in the wilds of the unpastured desert? There you might saunter idly by its side, or in the enjoyment of untroubled ease sleep and dream beneath it. Neither bill nor axe would shorten its existence; there would be nothing to injure it. What is there in its uselessness to cause you distress?' (Kwang-Sze I and IV)


So now I know what to do with music --  saunter idly by its side, or in the enjoyment of untroubled ease sleep and dream beneath it.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2020, 06:25:42 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2020, 07:00:48 AM »


https://www.discogs.com/Various-AMPLIFY-2002-Balance/release/399000

Treatise is a graphic score. And hence while there are many many performances on record, of some or all, they are rather different. One which has grabbed my attention is on this recording, a big box unfortunately, the performers are seven guitarists viz. Keith Rowe, Tetuzi Akiyama, Oren Ambarchi, Toshimaru Nakamura, Otomo Yoshihide, Burkhard Stangl and Taku Sugimoto. 30 minutes, that's all, but very recommendable nevertheless.

It's introspective. And it made me think of something Nicholas Cook said in Music, Imagination and Culture, which seems to me to touch on the essence of something not only in Cardew, but also in Wolff and possibly Cage too. It's about form.

Quote
...Form inheres not so much in the influence of the whole over the experience of the parts as in the influence of each part over the experiencing of other parts. 

There is something organic about the way this music flows, but nevertheless I'd be hard put to identify connections at all. It's a mystery.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2020, 07:09:08 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2020, 12:30:59 PM »


Very effective, Satie-esque, realisation of four pages of Treatise here from Oren Ambarchi and Keith Rowe ‎. Anyone who appreciates the sparser number pieces by Cage should try to hear this. Superb! I have a FLAC transfer I can give to people who are interested, I don't think there has ever been a commercial transfer from LP.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2020, 12:58:35 AM »
From Cornelius Cardew’s 1971 text “Towards an Ethic of Improvisation”

Quote
Virtues that a musician can develop

1. Simplicity Where everything becomes simple is the most desirable place to be. But, like
Wittgenstein and his ‘harmless contradiction’, you have to remember how you got there. The
simplicity must contain the memory of how hard it was to achieve. (The relevant Wittgenstein
quotation is from the posthumously published ‘Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics’:
“The pernicious thing is not, to produce a contradiction in the region where neither the
consistent nor the contradictory proposition has any kind of work to do; no, what is pernicious
is: not to know how one reached the place where contradiction no longer does any harm”.)

2. Integrity What we do in the actual event is important – not only what we have in mind.
Often what we do is what tells us what we have in mind.
The difference between making the sound and being the sound. The professional musician
makes the sounds (in full knowledge of them as they are external to him); AMM is their
sounds (as ignorant of them as one is about one's own nature).

3. Selflessness To do something constructive you have to look beyond yourself. The entire
world is your sphere if your vision can encompass it. Self-expression lapses too easily into
mere documentation – ‘I record that this is how I feel’. You should not be concerned with
yourself beyond arranging a mode of life that makes it possible to remain on the line,
balanced. Then you can work, look out beyond yourself. Firm foundations make it possible to
leave the ground.

4. Forbearance Improvising in a group you have to accept not only the frailties of your
fellow musicians, but also your own. Overcoming your instinctual revulsion against whatever
is out of tune (in the broadest sense).

5. Preparednessfor no matter what eventuality (Cage’s phrase) or simply
Awakeness. I can best illustrate this with a special case of clairvoyant prediction. The
trouble with clairvoyant prediction is that you can be absolutely convinced that one of two
alternatives is going to happen, and then suddenly you are equally convinced of the other. In
time this oscillation accelerates until the two states merge in a blur. Then all you can say is: I
am convinced that either p or not-p, that either she will come or she won’t, or whatever the
case is about. Of course there is an immense difference between simply being aware that
something might or might not occur, and a clairvoyant conviction that it will or won't occur.
No practical difference but a great difference in feeling. A great intensity in your anticipation
of this or that outcome. So it is with improvisation. [...]

6. Identification with nature Drifting through life: being driven through life; neither
constitutes a true identification with nature. The best is to lead your life, and the same applies
in improvising: like a yachtsman to utilise the interplay of natural forces and currents to steer
a course.

My attitude is that the musical and the real worlds are one. Musicality is a dimension of
perfectly ordinary reality. The musician's pursuit is to recognize the musical composition of
the world (rather as Shelley does in Prometheus Unbound). All playing can be seen as an
extension of singing; the voice and its extensions represent the musical dimension of men,
women, children and animals. [...]

7. Acceptance of Death From a certain point of view improvisation is the highest mode of
musical activity, for it is based on the acceptance of music’s fatal weakness and essential and
most beautiful characteristic - its transience.

The desire always to be right is an ignoble taskmaster, as is the desire for immortality. The
performance of any vital action brings us closer to death; if it didn’t it would lack vitality. Life
is a force to be used and if necessary used up.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2020, 01:01:46 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2020, 04:40:02 AM »
From Cornelius Cardew’s 1971 text “Towards an Ethic of Improvisation”

Most interesting, thanks for posting. Too bad he was a Communist but nobody's perfect...  :D

What work of his would you recommend me for a starter?
“I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.” --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2020, 05:43:29 AM »


What work of his would you recommend me for a starter?

He doesn't do "works"
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2020, 05:48:29 AM »
He doesn't do "works"

Well, probably, but I'm sure you got the idea behind my question, which still remains: where do I start?  ;D
“I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.” --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2020, 05:57:48 AM »
Well, probably, but I'm sure you got the idea behind my question, which still remains: where do I start?  ;D

Try this


<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/zzMPQQAPvw4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/zzMPQQAPvw4</a>
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Keep the red flag flying for Cornelius Cardew.
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2020, 06:09:00 AM »
Try this


<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/zzMPQQAPvw4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/zzMPQQAPvw4</a>

Thanks.

A catchy tune in a good harmonization. The lyrics are rubbish through and through. Pretty much like Bandiera rossa (which is a perenial favorite of mine in this genre, mind you.)
“I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.” --- Rachmaninoff