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Cardew, Cornelius

london music scratch orch

Cardew, Cornelius, English composer of extreme avant-garde tendencies; b. Winchcombe, Gloucester, May 7, 1936; d. in a road accident in London, Dec. 13, 1981. He studied composition with Ferguson at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1953–57); in 1957 he went to Cologne and worked at the electronic studio there as an assistant to Stockhausen (1958–60). Returning to England, he organized concerts of experimental music. From 1963 to 1965 he had private lessons with Petrassi in Rome. In 1967 he was appointed to the faculty of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1969, together with Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton, he organized the Scratch Orch., a heterogeneous group for performances of new music, militantly latitudinarian and disestablishmentarian. Under the influence of the teachings of Mao Zedong, Cardew renounced his modernistic past as a bourgeois deviation detrimental to pure Marxism, and subsequently attacked his former associate, Stockhausen, in a book ominously entitled Stockhausen Serves Imperialism (London, 1974). He also repudiated his own magnum opus, The Great Learning, which was orig. performed at the 1968 Cheltenham Festival, scored for a non-singing chorus to the words of Ezra Pound’s tr. of Confucius, a chorus which was admonished to bang on tapped stones, to whistle and shriek, but never to stoop to vocalizing. In the revised version of the work, he appended to the title the slogan “Apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought in a living way to the problems of the present” This version was first performed by the Scratch Orch. at a Promenade Concert in London on Aug. 24, 1972. His other works include Volo Solo for Any Handy Musical Instrument (1965); Three Winter Potatoes for Piano and various assorted Concrete Sounds, as well as for Newspapers, Balloons, Noise, and People Working (London, March 11, 1968); The East is Red for Violin and Piano (1972); and The Old and the New for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1973). He also publ. several pamphlets containing some confusing confutations of Confucius. In addition, he compiled a seminal manual, Scratch Music (London, 1970).

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