Archive for April 2010

Timecode Seminar

April 29, 2010

Unsettling the Score: Musical Thinking Along the Lines of Cornelius Cardew

Marcel Swiboda (University of Leeds)

Wednesday 12th May, 6pm, On Location, National Media Musuem

British composer, improviser and activist Cornelius Cardew (1936-81) became recognised as a major figure in twentieth century music whose relatively short career – curtailed by his untimely and suspicious death – included phases of post-serialism, avant-garde experimentalism, free improvisation and what he termed‘people’s liberation music’. Cardew’s fame and notoriety as a musical figure cuts across these diverse and often overlapping phases – not least of all in his radical approach to graphic musical inscription that is often so experimental that to call it ‘notation’ in any straightforward sense would be a step too far.

Trained in graphic design, Cardew’s musical ‘scores’ would employ a profound array of visual and graphic materials and in some instances (notably the work of the Scratch Orchestra) would literally incorporate found materials as part of an eminently original improvised approach to musical inscription.Cardew’s scores variously testify to a radical, ethically- and politically-engaged approach to music-making, and to his prodigious creativity in the areas of visual and graphic representation.

This paper will use examples of Cardew’s audio-visual practice as a sounding-board for exploring the question as to how one think ‘intermedially’ with a mind to conceptualising the complex counterpoint and interplay between visual, graphic, sonorous and textual materials across the conventional divisions between composition and (improvised) musical performance and reception, in order to gain access to some of the philosophical, ethical and political dimensions of such participatory approaches to music and auditory practice.

Marcel Swiboda is the author of Deleuze and Music (EUP).