Contemporary Music Lecture 4
• To look at work of 60s generation of British
composers that came out of the experimentalism
and minimalism in the 60s and 70s.
• All were involved to some extent with Cardew,
the Scratch Orchestra and the Portsmouth
• Best read about in Michael Nyman’s Experimental
Music, Cage and Beyond.
• To look at what they did in the 60s and 70s and
Who were they
• In America the group was lead by Cage – but
included Morton Feldman, La Monte Young, Earl
Brown and Christian Wolff
• First Generation of American Minimalists – Steve
Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Ben Jonson.
• In Britain the experimentalists and minimalists
were never clearly separated – led by Cardew the
generation included Michael Nyman, Gavin
Bryars, Michael Parsons, Chris Hobbs
Definitions of Experimental
• Cage quote – evolving processes to bring about
acts `the outcome of which are unknown’
• 1. Chance determination processes – e.g. Music of
• 2. People processes – performers go through
material at his own speed – Cardew’s Great
Learning – Portsmouth Sinfonia
• 3. Contextual processes – actions dependent on
• 3. Repetition processes – Riley’s in C
• 4. Electronic processes -
• Cage’s Harpsichord
• All processes produce configurations that are
impermanent and unique to that moment.
• No performance can be repeated – the outcome
will always be strikingly different.
• Recordings of such works are no more than
postcards of the events.
• Fluidity of composer/performer/listener roles –
breaking away from the standard
sender/carrier/receiver information structure of
other forms of Western Music.
• Cage’s 4’33’’ the starting out.
• Focus on the theatrical event – Happening at
Black Mountain College.
• Development of a school of artists interested in the
performance aspects of musical events. Marcel
Duchamp an inspiration.
• George Brecht best known – e.g.Comb music and
Drip music. (others – La Monte Young and T.
• Most Fluxus occurred in the early sixties on
• Reich’s Pendulum Music – also an electronic
piece and an early minimalist piece. One of many
pieces of the time that used feedback.
• Bryars interested in this from the first – hidden
systems in particular. E.g. 1-2-3-4- (1971).
• Many of such pieces developed into `gradual
music processes’ which developed slowly over
time. Creating loops – which may be lengthened
little by little so that the reverberation time
produced a complicated process that could be spun
out over time.
Cardew in the UK – New takes
• One direction of indeterminacy in the late sixties
was towards accessibility by non-musicians – this
contrasts with the early sixties when it was
dominated by an elite of mainly professional
• Notations gradually adapted from the specific to
the generalised graphic scores.
• Cardew’s scores form 1961-70 show desire to
nurture performers. Ideals and aspirations at the
• A pool of performers and composers – notation
developed to engage the people. Notation to
stimulate the performer.
• Treatise 1963-7. Totally graphic ‘the sound should
be a picture of the score not the other way round’.
• The Great Learning 1968-71. Based on 4 books of
• Example of paragraph 2: the available resources
are divided up into a number of groups – each has
a drummer, lead singer and other singers. The
drummer begins by playing any the 26 notated
rhythms and he it over and over again like a tape
vailable resources are divided up into a number of groups – each
• The need to bring a large number of non-specialist
people together as doers rather than watchers – for
paragraph 2 of the great learning, led to The
• Co-founder by Cardew, Skempton and Parsons.
• Embodiment of educational, musical, social and
ethical ideas. `It fosters communal activity, ti
breaks down barrier between private and group
activity, between professional and amateur – it is a
means to sharing experience’. 1970.
• Each member in rotation starting with the
youngest had the option of designing a
concert – location, duration, contents, etc-
in which as many of as few as were able or
interested took part.
• Main activity between 1969-1970. Hugely
influential in ideas of community music
making and improvisation.