June Music: Analyzing a page of Treatise

Cornelius Cardew's Treatise page 72
Page 72 from Cornelius Cardew's Treatise

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to the readers of these pages to hear that there has been little music this year, especially improvised music, that has really captured my interest. Certainly there has been well received releases and all of that but with only a couple of exceptions I’ve found little of it to be of sustaining interest.  This is why for these monthly music entries I’ve been primarily focusing on releases of mostly composed music which has been engaging my interest.  While I’m still listening to plenty of music from my collection I don’t think I bought a single piece of music this month and since I don’t really want to delve into stuff from the collection for these posts,  I thought I’d do something different this month: analyze a recording of a couple of pages from Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise that I recorded myself but have not made available in any form.

In the autumn of 2005 I went to New York City for the ErstQuake 2 festival where Keith Rowe performed in several sets. Over the course of the festival I was able to meet and talk with Keith a bit in which I learned that he’d be playing a couple of shows in Seattle.  One of his two dates in Seattle he played from Treatise and I ended up talking to him quite a bit about this as at the time as I was actively engaged in performing it with the Seattle Improv Meeting.  While I had at that point researched Treatise extensively this first discussion with Keith was the beginning of a much deeper relationship with the score. Keith showed me his personal copy of the score and I noted how extensively marked up each page was with direct indications of the gestures performed for specific symbols and even an overall time range for some (perhaps all?) pages. This of course is a fundamental aspect of really treating the material as a score and not just as a springboard for improvisation. I took these ideas back to the Seattle Improv Meeting and had us work on a single page from the score for several months in a row. The idea was to build up a body of gestures to map to the symbols consistently. Over the weeks we’d refine our approaches and ideally, at least within the subset of the symbols on the page we were working on, develop  our own personal but consistent language for the score. This worked out well and from that point on I would use this language as I played from the score, sometimes iterating on it, sometimes refining it and sometimes abandoning specific gestures as I altered my approach. I should of course note that we had more or less been developing our own language all along as we’d been working on Treatise all that year winnowing down the body of gestures we had experimented with, but this exercise I think was fundamental in our approach and understanding of  the score.  You can check out our results of working on page 72 on the meeting recording archive.

Prepared Wire Strung Harp 3
Not the exact setup from this recording, but typical for that time

Several years later,  I found that notated page and decided to record a solo version of it plus the following page. I’d been developing my prepared wire strung harp into a very particular setup combined with electronics and this seemed an ideal way to fully explore this setup.  So late winter 2007 I set my harp upon the table and recorded these pages resulting in this recording. The downside of recording oneself is that one is playing as well as engineering and one can really only focus on one of these. Thus in this recording the levels were too high initially which I eventually noticed and turned down. This has led to the first part of the score seeming much more dramatic then the rest of the score as if its symbology in some way demands this,  but of course on looking at the score you see this isn’t the case. For this reason I’ve always felt this recording was somewhat compromised and post processing on this was never able to satisfactorily resolve this (because it is I think clipping initially and that is obvious even if the volume is brought more in parity with the rest of the recording).  So I just filed this one away for years now but in many ways it is the best document of a portion of my musical life that isn’t documented anywhere else. So I present this now for the first time as a vehicle for examining an approach to the score.

Cornelius Cardew's Treatise page 72 (working score)
My annotated page 72 from Cornelius Cardew's Treatise

Cornelius Cardew Treatise page 72 & 73

Use the player above to listen along as you read, or you can download one of several archives (recommended) that contain the recording plus PDFs of the Treatise pages including my annotated page: Apple Lossless, FLAC, 320kbps mp3.

00’00”- 2’20”
The first symbol, apart from the center line, on this page is the number 3. The numbers in Treatise are about the only concrete symbols, that is to say they aren’t an abstraction upon which an interpretation can be placed but actually have a meaning in and of themselves. Of course as Cardew offers no direct explanation of how to interpret any aspect of the score, much less the numbers, one could just treat them as just another symbol with which one is working with.  However it is part of the oral record of performance of Treatise, which I first heard from Keith, but later also from John Tilbury both in person and in his essential Cardew biography, that the numbers are  treated as outside of the system, that they are interpreted as the number of repetitions for an event. Since learning this I’ve always treated them this way and in this recording it is no different. As you can see in above scan there is an notated event associated with each number; part of the assignment from the SIM was to notate what we’d done after we played from the page. So from the session where these notes where taken I applied “3 Sets of Bowed strings” a here set meaning a full bow stroke.  In this recording I instead strike a spring that is mounted on strings above a contact mic. This is repeated three times each time waiting for the spring to settle before striking it again.

The next symbol is an upwardly inclined  line of moderate thickness which ends with a short vertical line, creating two sides of an scalene triangle. For this symbol I note “descend by 1/3rd” which I do, by playing down a series of strings with a bolt, repeating it a third lower for the gamut of the harp. For the sharp vertical drop I “ascend by 1/5” which is the same gesture only moving up by fifths for each repetition.

The next number, a 2, follows a short  gap to which I respond with a pair forceps which are clipped to the strings in such a fashion that it can be lifted up, dropped on the strings whereupon it oscillates for a time. This is of course repeated twice. The resonance of the harp, from sympathetic vibrations as well as the long sustain of the wire strings can be heard well beyond the last of the forceps oscillations. In the original notes I again bow the strings, specifying that I use high strings.

A pure tone comes in at this point, in response to the thin curving line that comes in from above. I always use pure tone for curved lines, either from an eBow on the strings or live or sampled electronics. In this case it is the oscillator that you can see in the setup picture above, but it has been recorded and is being played off an iPod. I had created a sample library from that oscillator as I loved it’s sound but it is rather unwieldy to lug around. However unlike the oscillator you can hear the sample repeat, which I consider somewhat unfortunate. Momentarily after the tone comes in you can hear the excitation of multiple strings with a rather circular sound. That is in response to the thin parallel lines, which my standard gesture is to rub multiple strings with a stone. This is indicated by the “Rub Strings” note, to which, by this time, I would be fully prepared to apply the rock to the multiple strings – one of the earliest and most consistent gestures I developed. Along with the stone I am also observing the “descend by 1/4” instruction for the sharper angled heavy lined triangle, which is again done via a bolt. The abrupt dropout is again similar, but its greater length modifies the gesture to “ascend by octaves“. For the last few seconds the one thin horizontal line is the only thing you hear in this cluster now, the stone rubbing on a single string. Just about the end of the line is a circle above it, for circles I always use a percussive event here it sounds like I tap the body of the harp with an object.

There is a gap between that last cluster and the next event: the number 5. Five repeated events, in this case it is bringing up the volume on a radio that I have in a feedback loop. It is tuned to static and bringing its volume up in this way creates that abrupt whispery sound, with that hollow almost echo-y sound that feedback adds.

Another short gap and then another cluster of sounds. Again there are several parallel horizontal lines which I address via the stones on several strings. I chose to excite the strings around the spring/contact mic resulting in an over-driven metallic assault. The surrounding spring represents the surrounded larger circle with its percussive attack on the contact mic. Around 8’25” you can hear a percussive event necessitated by the smaller circle: the forceps vibrating against strings. But what of the square? In the notes, I indicate “gliss strings” (I think) but I had long since settled on using the square as a symbol to listen, based on a comment that Tilbury made in the Treatise workshop I took with him; that the symbols do not have to correspond solely to musical gestures. When playing a score the important thing is to respond to the symbols regardless of what the ensemble is doing; they may be playing whisper quiet but if the score says to play loud, that’s what you do. I treat Treatise the same way, but I use the square when it comes up as a direction from the score itself to listen to the surroundings and to bring them into the proceedings. Since I was playing this alone in my living room, I think you can hear this in the change in tone toward the end of this cluster, as the single line curves downward. The percussive event at 9’48”, muted strike on the strings by a mallet, is probably slightly off-time and should have been in response to the black circle just before the line begins to curve.

After about thirty seconds of silence the number 1 is responded to with an electronic tone turned on and off.

Another pause and then a pure tone, louder then the earlier one, for the thicker downward curving line. At 13’05” I begin to softly rub the strings as the horizontal lines require. The thinness, shortness and stagger nature demand the softer approach. The vertical segments are handled by brushing against the spring and contact mic at times. A very short pause and then a strike on a piece of metal lodged under the strings for the percussive dot right at the end of this cluster.

Another 1 this one handled with a single pluck on one of the lower strings.

A pure tone for the ascending curved line, this one lower and richer, most likely from an eBow on the strings, though again a sample of this as opposed to a live eBowing. The stone comes in and out for the horizontal strings and you can hear a rather squeaky bowing now and again for the vertical lines. The radio is brought in at 7’44” with gentle static for the thick line paralleling the center line and the tone shortly thereafter stops a bit after the percussive event at 8’08” for the circle (the pure tone actually goes on a bit too long after that, most). The soft radio static plays out to the end with a sharp, by soft percussive attack for the final three dots at 20’19”.

That concludes the first page and this in-depth study, though I describe the second page in brief below.  What is interesting to consider here is the difference between the notated score above and what I actually played. Now I made at least two notated scores during the SIM project and I suspect that the above score was the first one of these. It has the hallmarks of notating what I did in a session before refinement and abandonment of rather unsuccessful gestures. Many of the techniques notated here are ones I have not kept in my repertoire and just rereading them know they aren’t things I’d regularly use especially as a constant response to a symbol in Treatise. The gestures that you use in this have to be consider, have to be adaptable, have to be amenable to the interpenetration that so often occurs amongst the symbols in the score. It is instructive to see this work in progress as I was learning both the instrument and the score. The pitfalls of poorly considered gestures was only just beginning to make itself understood. Playing the same page over and over again taught some of these lessons, but playing more of the score really brings them home. When you play the same symbols for page after page, the all their permutations, variations and interpenetration, you learn the weight of each single sound.

Cornelius Cardew's Treatise page 73
Page 73 from Cornelius Cardew's Treatise

A bit over twenty minutes into the recording I leave page 72 and proceed onto page 73.  As I’ve described above at the time of this recording I was several years past the page 72 exercise I did with the SIM and had quite extensively developed my personal language with it. When I’d play pages that I hadn’t played before, hadn’t explicitly worked out what I’d do for every symbol on the page I was still able to play it with a high degree of consistency and rigor.  While still working with the same set of tools it would be a bit different when I’d “sight read” these pages:  perhaps I’d  not respond to every symbol(which  is always an option and in fact preferable in many cases), perhaps some nuances w/r/t the variation in some symbols wouldn’t be as developed. In the case of continuing from page 72 to page 73 it was rather straightforward and I quite like how it developed. The symbology  of page 73 directly continues on from page 72 with its lines and dots at first exactly how it was used in the previous page but then becoming scattered and more fragmentary. The center line also loses fidelity; always an important event to take notice of. My response to this page was to continue playing it as I had page 72 but to reflect its fragmented nature, to work with the gaps, the variations alter the techniques used for these symbols to try to capture this essence.

While I never was satisfied enough with this recording, this is probably my single favorite performance of Treatise that I’ve done, certainly as a solo.  The rawness of it, its mix of the prepared wire strung harp and primitive electronics, the layering of disparate elements, all of these I think worked really well and I find completely engaging.  It reminds me a bit of David Tudor’s epic performance of John Cage’s Variations II in its use of over-driven amplified acoustic sounds. While not in that league of course to me it is in the same general area which I find all the more striking as I really hadn’t listened to that piece until a month after this recording was made. Additionally there are a lot of my concerns with sound addressed here, things that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily like, don’t find beautiful: flatness, hums, lack of warmth – these are things that I’ve engaged with for years and are well applied here. I like how the more dramatic feel of page 72 persists into page 73 but as the lines fragment and become more scatter so to does the music.

Further reading

A Young persons Guide to Treatise – my Treatise resource page.
Cornelius Cardew – A Life Unfinished by John Tilbury, Copula, 2008.
• My report on a Treatise workshop with John Tilbury.
• Seattle Improv Meeting recording archive containing many recordings of Treatise.
Keith Rowe’s solo Treatise performance in Seattle.
• On performing Treatise. My analysis of several recordings of Treatise.


AMM Membership timeline

There has been some question as to the AMM lineup at various points in their history.  It is a complicated issue considering that the group has been around for nearly fifty years now and has constantly changed its membership over the years.  Additionally there have been plenty of guests, members at large and collaborative performances to further complicate the issue. Over the course of my reviews of the various bootlegs floating around I have made various assumptions w/r/t to the line up on a particular recording, some of which have conflicted with the information circulating with the sources.  In general the information that comes with the sources is highly suspect – they simply use information that is highly generalized or from sources that are not particularly accurate (the AMM page on Wikipedia is fairly useless for instance).  My process is to always start with principle sources, amend it with secondary sources and then to finally rely on the evidence of my ears. Based on this process I have complied the following timeline of AMM’s membership, all of which is verified via the sources cited.

AMM Timeline


Early 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare(1)


Mid 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff (1, 5)

1966 to mid-1967
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2)

Cardew officially joins in January(2; p. 254)

Mid-1967 to April 1968
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2, 8)

Lawrence Sheaff leaves group a few months after recording AMMMusic (8, 5, 1; p185) probably April 20th 1967

April 1968 to 1969
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Christopher Hobbs joins April 1968 (2; p. 304)
Christian Wollf’s Sabbatical Year(1; p.185, 2; p.304)
John Tilbury filling in for Cardew at times
(1; p.185)

1969 to May 1971
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Hobbs leaves the group in May 1971(2, p.650)

May 1971 to March 1972
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2; p.650)

March 26th 1972 – final AMM show(2; p. 651)

AMM: double duos

March 1972 to January 1973

The occasional double AMM:  Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare and Cornelius Cardew, Keith Rowe(1, 2; p. 651)


mid-1972 to 1975
Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare (1, 2, 3)


Summer 1976
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew(1; p.186, 2l p.816)

Unrecorded, no performances, practices only, which apparently didn’t work out.


1977 to 1979
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost (1, 2, 3)

(1979/80:  Supersession: Evan Parker/Keith Rowe/Barry Guy/Edwin Prévost)


late 1980 to 1986
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury  (1, 3)

1986 to 1994
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram (1, 3)

1989(?) to 1992
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram, Lou Gare(4)

1994 to mid-2004
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury

May 1st 2004:  Final AMM show


2005 to present
Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury


The sixties are of course the most contentious, being a long time ago and featuring the largest amount of changes. Cardew joining, Sheaff leaving in 1967, Hobbs and Wolff joining and then the fracture in the 70s. Tilbury’s Cardew bio goes a long way to providing specific dates for some events though others remain somewhat vague (no specific date for Sheaff leaving the group for instance just “April 1967, though his last concert with the group is mentioned, as being at the Commonwealth Institute which the Factsheet(5) lists only one in April on the 20th.

1968 to 1970
The information that I begin with for AMM from 1968 to their breakup in 1972 is primarily sourced from Prévost’s article AMM 1965/1994 — a brief and mostly chronological historical summary published in No Sound is Innocent(4) :

In 1968 American composer Christian Wolff joined the ensemble for the duration of his sabbatical year in Britain. Also during this time Christopher Hobbs, a percussionist and composition student of Cardew’s, at the Royal Academy of Music, regularly performed with AMM. John Tilbury occasionally participated when Cardew was not present.

From the early 1970s until the fracture of AMM in 1972 the ensemble remained the quartet: Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe.” (4, p.185)

1969 is a question: was Christian Wolff’s “sabbatical year” – was it a school year, so Autumn 1968 to Summer 1969? Or was it literally 1968?  Additionally by saying that Hobbs played “during this time” does Prévost mean exclusively during Wolff’s time? Considering that Hobbs is part of the group for The Crypt sessions (12th June, 1968) but not Wolff I’d say this is the case.  This is further backed up by the fact that Hobbs was part of the group ion December 1969 when they played in Denmark as released as part of the Laminal box set. Thus I think that that sentence is too compress, it seems that Hobbs was a part of AMM from 1968/1969 presumably starting around the time that Wolff did. Alas there are no AMM recordings floating around with Christian Wolff , leaving this as one of the most egregious missing eras in the historical record. In the various bootlegs floating around It seems to be generally assumed that Hobbs is still part of group in 1970 and there has been some question as to why I don’t always follow this assumption. Again it is the above quote that by “early 1970 the ensemble remained the quartet”.  Clearly Hobbs left at this point but what exactly qualifies as the “early 70s”? Of the two bootlegs that I have in question from this period (Jan. and Feb. 1970) it sounds like there are two percussionists in the January recording and only one on the February recording. Thus I make the cutoff here.

In the 70s the originally group came to an end but several interesting events occurred. First off due to prior commitments the group had a tour and a festival in the Netherlands. With irreconcilable differences between the Rowe/Cardew and Gare/Prévost camps they played as the double duos. Gare/Prévost presumably playing as they would in AMM II but the Cardew/Rowe duo is completely unheard at this point. The record indicates that they were more in the traditionally abstract AMM realm (as opposed to Gare/Prévost’s more ‘free jazz’ sound) and would often play over tapes of the Peking Opera and other such revolutionary sound musics). AMM II would be the other major event of the mid 70s, this was the continuing duo of Gare and Prévost, who constantly got billed as AMM so they rolled with it. At the end of the 70s when the duo of Rowe and Prévost formed they used AMM III a the moniker indicated that the Gare/Prévost duo was AMM II, which I’ve used throughout.

The most strange and interesting things though occurred in 1976 when Rowe made an attempt to get the quartet back together again. There was a concert on April 1st of that year that Rowe refers to as a “hidden” AMM concert that included himself, Cardew and Prévost plus flautist John Wesley-Barker and double-bassist Marcio Mattos(2; p. 816). This event has been heretofore unknown only revealed in Tilbury’s massive Cardew biography.  The other event, more well known, was a series of practices in June of 1976 of the quarter of Gare, Cardew, Prévost and Rowe(2; p.816).  These apparently didn’t work out and Tilbury cites Gare as feeling that Cardew didn’t have the level of commitment necessary and abandoned the attempt.

This is basically the question of Rohan de Saram. He was definitely considered part of the group, but he clearly was the one with the most demanding schedule (being a member of the Arditti String Quartet at this time) and thus there are cases of the trio AMM as well as a quartet with Lou Gare.  There also are various lineups with the clarinettist Ian Mitchell (quartet and quintet with de Saram) but I tend to think of those as more guest spots as I would the occasional shows with Evan Parker.

1989 to 1992
The early 90s quintet AMM was something I only stumbled upon during the course of this review process. I have a bootleg from 1987 from this quintet and in the course of my research I found this line in the updated CD liner notes accompanying the CD release of The Crypt:

“And the band goes on: for to date we have still not recorded the current quintet line-up of de Saram, Gare, Prévost, Rowe and Tilbury.” – Edwin Prévost, Februrary 1992(5)

This version never would be recorded and it seemed that Gare left again soon after. De Saram would soon follow though there would be the occasional gig through at least 1994.

After Rowe left AMM in 2005, Tilbury and Prévost made the controversial decision to continue on as AMM as a duo. I refer to this as AMM IV as per Rowe’s definition that AMM should be at least trio with himself and Prévost at the core.  It is interesting to note that AMM IV now often plays with other musicians but they are always listed as “AMM+” indicating that these are all guest spots. These guests have included Sachiko M, Christian Wolff and John Butcher among others (see the comments for more info).


1) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
2) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula, 2008
3) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
4) Edwin Prévost, The Crypt Liner notes, 1992 (Matchless)
5) AMM FactsheetThe Crypt Liner Notes (not online), Matchless Recordings 1992
6) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
7) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
8) Edwin Prévost, AMMMusic Liner Notes (originally published in RER Quarterly vol.2 no.2, Nov. 1988)

Cornelius Cardew et la liberté de l’écoute

In the spring of this year there was a Cardew retrospectiv-ish looking thing in France put on by the Centre d’art contemporain de Brétigny that included John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Marcus Shmickler, Rhys Chatham and many people I’m unaware of. I’d read about this back when it was going to be put on and apart from a regret that I couldn’t attend it more or less slipped my mind. In doing some searches for the Tiger’s Mind (I was curious if anybody had made a recording of the performance that Keith Rowe put on at Mills College as the David Tudor Composer-in-Residence ) I discovered that that the CAC Brétigny had setup a website for the festival and put up mp3s of the entire thing.  These are all streamable from the website site but you can also get into their FTP and download them all directly from this directory. This was a pretty impressive event and I have to say that it is great that they have put it all online.

Cornelius Cardew et la liberté de l’écoute
Exposition et programme de manifestations
5 avril – 27 juin 2009

The festival included performances of:

  • Treatise (p. 50) performed by Keith Rowe with projections by Luke Fowler and Peter Todd
  • Cornelius Cardew Piano works performed by John Tilbury
  • Treatise (p. 170, 136, 168, 167, 140) performed by Michel Guillet, Jean Jacques Palix, Marcus Schmickler and Samon Takahashi
  • Volo Solo performed by Rhys Chatham (!)
  • Tiger’s Mind performed by Nina Canal, Nadia Lichtig, Michael Morley & Sara Stephenson
  • The Great Learning paragraph’s 5 & 7
  • Christian Wolff’s Stones
  • Micheal Parson’s Walk
  • A Terre Thaemlitz performance

So far I’ve only listened to the Keith Rowe Treatise, which is quite nice, the Tilbury Piano Music, which is excellent and the Tiger’s Mind, which was interesting but not to my taste, nor did I really get much of a sense of the score from it. I look forward to working my way through the rest of the material.

Forty Years from Scratch

Forty Years From Scratch
Broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM

May 2nd & 3rd, 2009

In June 1969 the draft constitution for the Scratch Orchestra was published in The Musical Times.  A month later the first meeting of the orchestra took place.  The concept for the orchestra was Cornelius Cardew’s and it arose as an extension of the improvisatory work that he’d been doing in AMM.  He had for some time been teaching an experimental music class at Morley College for which he’d written The Great Learning.  Needing a larger amount of people for this piece’s choirs of trained and untrained musicians he, along with Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons, put together the draft constitution and put out an open call for members.

In celebration of the forty year anniversary of the Scratch Orchestra, Carole Finer put together an entire weekend, thirty-six hours worth of interviews and music. The last major Scratch event was fifteen years ago for the twenty-fifth anniversary (pdf of the 25 Years from Scratch programme) which involved a whole day long concert but like so much of the Scratch was London centric. The impact of the Scratch extends far beyond the UK and this radio program, available worldwide on the Resonance internet stream brought this celebration to all.

36 hours of material is really too much to remember much less go over, so I’m just going to summarize each segment with extended details on some of the really striking material. If the post gets too long I’ll probably break it up into a couple of parts.  Basically you can summarize this program in three major categories: music, reminiscences, and legacy.  There currently is only about two hours of recorded material available from the Scratch which makes the vast amount of musical material broadcast in this program the most valuable aspect in my opinion. The individual experiences and anecdotes of the members is fascinating, though with the publication of John Tilbury’s exhaustive Cardew biography many of the best of the anecdotes are familiar.  Getting these direct from the sources without any editing or filtering certainly adds a lot though in both content and perspective.  Finally the aspects of the program that dealt with the the impact of the Scratch on the world beyond itself for musicians and beyond are fascinating.  Whether it is the current activities of the original members, members of the British musical community that were influenced by the Scratch or new students just beginning to learn about them the legacy of the Scratch is vast and underrated.

The program began Saturday 4am Seattle time and ran to 6 pm Sunday. I listened from 4am to midnight, slept for 8 hours or so and returned to it before 9am Sunday listening until its conclusion.  I recorded the entire stream using the excellent Audio Hijack program and have since the initial broadcast listened to the 8 hours I missed and re-listened to many of the various chunks. Overall I found the whole thing very charming, the members would be talking to each other and cutting off anecdotes as everyone knew about that, as if they weren’t on radio at all. The music displayed the whole range of the orchestra from inspired cacophony to clumsy political anthems.  Their setup, being that most of them were inexperienced radio presenters was quite well done; they had a collection of files that they referred to as the Scratch Jukebox that they would dip into when they finished interviews early, needed to set up for live performance and any sort of potential “dead air” situation.  Of course this lead to a number of tracks being played a multiple times and many (too many) of them weren’t ID-ed.  So scatted among 36 hours of recordings is tons of music, of varying interest and mystery.  Without listening again to every hour I can’t talk about all of them but I would like to try to catalog them at some point, perhaps in a latter post.

Saturday, May 2

12:00pm (GMT)

1) Forty Years from Scratch: Introduction

The program began with Carole Finer, giving a brief introduction to the Scratch, how the 36 hours was going to run and then played an excerpt of the first Scratch Concert, from Hamstead Town Hall the summer of 1969. This portion at least of the concert had an a similar feel as parts of The Crypt with an almost undifferentiated background roar overlaid with barking,  blasts from various brass instruments and innumerable percussive sounds. Pretty interesting in a way, lacking the focus of AMM but capturing a pretty overwhelming though fascinating soundworld.

The Scratch Orchestra Hampstead Town Hall concert (two excerpts, 1969)

This was followed by Virgina Anderson (who wrote a thesis on Cardew and the Scratch) gives an introduction to the Scratch. This seems to be from a  podcast that she is doing on British Experimental Music but I’m not sure if it is actually available.  Carole is then joined by Hugh Shrapnel who plays 4 piano pieces he wrote between 1970-1973 during the Scratch: a) Lullaby b) Le Shell for the Promenade Theatre Orchestra c) Aria from Sweet FA, b) Ursa Fling

There is more chatting and piano from Hugh and then Frank Abbot, who discovered the Scratch thanks to a friend into avant Jazz. After seeing them perform he joined the group. They played an 8 min piece of his that he spliced together from cell phone recordings he made with the visual artist Duncan Higgen. The segment concludes with  Carole playing the banjo: two pieces by Howard Skempton Banjo Piece for Carole from 1970 and another short one from 1972. and a recorded piece by Micheal Parson for Carole’s 70th Birthday (from a recording) and a reading from Tilbury’s Cardew bio.

2) Forty Years from Scratch: Keith Rowe

When the schedule for this was first announced I was rather surprised that what with all the key members they were talking with Keith Rowe wasn’t among them. So when the program was finalized I was pleased to see they had added Ed Baxter talking to Keith Rowe on the phone

He begins by asking Keith what he’d been doing when the Scratch was formed which was of course AMM which Keith described as the most important musical thing he’s done in his life. He described Scratch as an extension of the way that Cardew was dealing with notation. The orchestra as notation.  Did the Scratch Orchestra impact AMM Ed inquired: ” Not really.”  Cor was kind of moving on from AMM having “figured” them out and needed more challenges. Keith felt his role in the Scratch was as an orchestral member, he never wrote any pieces for it.

I found the section of the interview about the political transformation to be the most surprising.  How the Scratch and Cardew in particular became so politicized is a big part of Tilbury’s Cardew biography but Cardew’s transformation from being rather apolitical to a complete radical is still somewhat mysterious. But he does imply that Keith became totally transformed (though no explanation of how that happened) and that he was a major influence on Cardew and this was a big part of it.  I can’t help but wonder if the way this was presented in the bio influenced Keith’s thinking on this. In this interview he says:

“.. At the time it was uncomfortable but [we felt] necessary.  We were  ‘politically clumsy’,  not to say that  the content of what we were trying to do was wrong but the way we did it was really, really clumsy. … I guess it would have all been avoidable and I feel a great responsibility for its ultimate demise but maybe it would have demised anyway in one or two years but in a less spectacular fashion. Who knows?”…” Humanly clumsy; the way we dealt with people.” [emphasis mine]

They return to the music with Ed asking was was the best aspect of the SO for Keith to which he replied, the all-over nature of the Scratch ala abstract expressionism. The interview concludes with some discussion of Keith’s current activities which have been playing in the pit for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company with Christian Wolff and Takahashi Kosugi. These sound as interesting as ever for the Merce Cunningham dance company – wish I could have seen some of these.

3) Forty Years from Scratch: Parsons in the Afternoon

This segment with Scratch Orchestra co-founder Michael Parsons begins with a section from the Scratch’s Pilgrimage to Scattered Points of the Body to the Brain, Inner Ear, Heart and Stomach from Queen Elizabeth Hall 1970.  This piece was a typical Scratch concert in that it involved a lot of disparate material being played simultaneously. A number of sections from this concert was played throughout the 36 hours and it seems to be one of the better recorded concerts they have.  A CD (or even better a DVD with some of the filmed material as well) release of this would be I think a valuable addition to the Scratch Body of work.

The Scratch Orchestra Pilgrimage to Scattered Points.. (excerpt, 1970)

After the above chunk of Scratch music Parsons then has a discussion with Seymour Wright,  Sebastian Lexar and John Lely, emphasizing the legacy of Scratch on later generations of British improvisers. John Lely is a British composer who studied with John Tilbury and Micheal Parsons and has played with Scratch stalwart John White.   Lely first encountered the Scratch in Micheal Nyman’s Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond and he said it was the Scratch scores in the book that immediately appealed to him. The accessibility and informality of the musical approach, that anyone could do it with any objects.   Wright and Lexar are both members of Eddie Prévost’s long running improvisation workshops and clearly have transmitted some of the ethics and methods of the Scratch to the younger generation.  Wright cites a direct oral tradition from form members citing Tilbury, Prévost, Rowe and Jackman in specific.  Lexar who took piano lessons from Tilbury said that Scratch stuff would occasionally crop up but that it was a lengthy process the transmission of the approach. Cardew’s notion that music is a dimension of perfectly ordinary reality was stressed by Wright and Lexar.  Wright states that walking through London to the studio is no different then the performing that they’d be doing later on.

Parsons described how a number of the Scratch composers, including himself, Skempton, Hobbs etc went on to the LMC where their influence passed on to some degree. Then in the 90s he wrote a number of open pieces for Apartment House who are a group that certainly worked in the spirit of the experimental music of the 60s.  He played several of his piece’s as interpreted by Apartment House, first  Rythmic Canons which he wrote in 1998 for Apartment House followed by Sustained Sounds with Percussion. The first piece has a dynamic rhythmic feel rather like Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and the second more or less sounded as the title indicated with a fairly spare feel. Later Parsons played a third piece of his performed by Apartment House that was of an indeterminate nature called Glissandi and Woodblocks.

“Inexperienced Improvisers tend to be playing for themselves. With experience one learns to listen and to respond and to leave space for other people.” – John Lely

There was a lot more in this segment, really one of the most interesting dealing with the ongoing legacy of the Scratch.  The importance of Eddie Prévosts workshop was stressed and there was a bit of discussion on how those ran.  The role of listening and responsibility of the player to work with the others was stressed. Also the moral element of the workshops. Lely: “Its a very serious occupation…Its partly to do with restraint and allowing other people to have space around them”.  At one point Wright asks Parsons about the ideas behind the genesis of the Scratch Parsons cites Cages Black Mountain College happening with Cunningham, Rauschenberg, Tudor et al.  The influence of Cage is cited over and over again among the 36 hours, from a live concert in London of the Cunningham Dance company with the Rauschenberg sets and Cage and Tudor performing that many of the members say, to Cardew’s closeness to the New York School and so on.  He traces the notions even further back to Man Ray and Duchamp, once again connecting the visual arts to experimental music.  Wright tries to insist on some sort of British experimental tradition but they had nothing to back this up.  After this there was some interesting discussion on notation and Wright pointed out how useful the material in the Scratch Book has been for him, filled with ideas and notations that he can put to use.

Quite a bit of music was played throughout this block, new recordings from this younger generation. An excerpt from Wright and Lexars excellent duo blasen, and several pieces from John Lely’s including aduo with Scratch stalwart John White, amusing entitled LelyWhite and his Parsons Code for Melodic Contours. The final piece in this block was an extract from Lely’s Mechanical Rite which was a kind of an sample based take on the Scratch’s improvisational rites. There was a lot in  this two hour block and I really only touched on it in this overly lengthy writeup but the primary notion is that the influences from the Scratch are legion amongst the current crop of British Improvisers and clearly the transmission continues. i found a lot in this segment highly interesting as of course I am quite involved in current trends in improvisation and it was really current improv that lead me back to Cardew and the Scratch in the first place.

4) Forty Years from Scratch: Independent Pulses
5) Forty Years from Scratch: Some M-Chanted Evening

While there were completely set programs for every hour of the 36 things got progressively looser and some things ended up not happening.  This block of programs covering four hours all kind of merged together.  There was more chat with Michael Parsons followed by a  live performance of his Independent Pulses.  There was a bit from the Scratch jukebox after this, Howard Skempton playing a couple of pieces on the accordion.  This was followed by Haydn Dickenson playing two Cardew piano pieces, Croppy Boy and Father Murphy, followed by short extract from an Eddie Prévost improvisation.

Cornelius Cardew Song of Pleasure from Schooltime Compositions
performed live in studio by Harry Gilonis, Psi Ellison, Derek Barker, Hugh Shrapnel and Frank Abbot

Next up was another in studio performance this time Cardew’s Song of Pleasure performed live in studio. There was some filler as then transitioned into Michal Chant including Pilgrimage 1 & 2 from Pilgrimage to Scattered Points of the Body to the Brain, Inner Ear. Heart and Stomach. and Laurie Bakers Circle Piece from 1970.

Laurie Baker Circle Piece (1970, performed by Scratch members)

It evolved into Micheal Chant first talking but mostly playing One Day in the Life of John Tilbury, a 24 hour piano piece that he wrote for John TIlbury’s 60th birthday.  This gets played on and off throughout this marathon broadcast. Its a nice rather minimalist type of piece with slow repeated phrases.  The first performance of the piece was actually over 24 hours by multiple performers for Carole Finer’s 70th birthday. This is a nice relaxing piece, that I could definitely see having on for hours in the background.

6) Forty Years From Scratch: Mao destroyed my Band

The Scratch Orchestra’s agent, Victor Schonfield, is interviewed by Ed Baxter.  Schonfield set up concerts as Music Now for many British musicians including AMM, Cornelius Cardew, John Tilbury, Christopher Hobbs, John White and the Scratch itself. As an agent Schonfield didn’t get rich didn’t even really make money at all.  He mainly worked to get gigs for those he represented but his main interest was to put on shows he wanted to see.  “It was a way to enable me to listen to as much music as possible”.  He was interestingly frank about the things he didn’t like; he wasn’t a fan of The Great Learning which he felt was the exact opposite of everything the Scratch Orchestra stood for. The best performance ever in his opinion was the Schooltime Compositions performance at the ICA pre-Scratch. What he loved about the Scratch it was the “One and only John Cage Big Band (or Orchestra)”.  He disliked how legalistic it was and he disliked the sub-groups that played straight music. He felt this was too choir boyish.

“I got driven out of supporting music by the Scratch Orchestra as much as anything”

On the politicization he was unimpressed as he had done actual political work for the Labour Party for years and felt that the Scratch’s sudden politicization was naive and ineffectual.  He once lectured the members of AMM in the mid sixties about their total indifference toward politics and the world outside of music.  He also describes Keith Rowe as being early and particularly politicized and stressed his closeness to Cardew. Most of the music though he felt wasn’t any help promoting the political ideas behind it. He described the political music of the Scratch as as “Fascist Sunday school hymns.  Sunday school hymns talking about the musicological aspect,  fascist in the sense of revealed authority, giving no scope for interpretation or ambivalence, ‘this is the message you’ve got to like it or lump it.’ ”  He thought almost all of the political material was rubbish though he gave the PLA some props.  He also quite liked Cardew’s piece ‘10,000 nails in the Coffin of Imperialism” which I have to say is a great score which would be great to hear live.  His final analysis was that you can do better work directly in politics and that political music never really does much good and thus he moved on to directly trying to move the Labour Party to the left in the mid 70s.

“They did lots of activities that you had to watch or there was nothing there.”

Schonfield’s analysis of the Scratch is actually some of the most astute in this whole program.  He connects much of the activities to Cage’s notion of combing music with other activities. Up to half of the actions going on in a Scratch performance maybe no sound Schoenfeld. Activities that don’t make any sound but are timed or scored. He gives the example of Cage’s Waterwalk but with forty or fifty people doing it all at once over wide area. The surprising things that would crop up in performance were Schoenfelds most treasured moments, inserting folk music into the piece,  or a short tenor sax obbligatos and short melodic phrases from Lou Gare or a small group spontaneously singing a fragment of a pop song.

Stay tuned for part two of my examination of this epic broadcast.

On Performing Treatise

(archived from this ihm thread)

Part I:

What I wanted to add to this thread was how to judge an interpretation of the score.  This is an incredibly complex issue but there are I think several basic rules of thumb that can be applied. First off, to get the most common objection out of the way, if you like a particular recording as a piece of music then that is great, no-one is denying you that.  On this issue I think there is no discussion to be had.  The question is though, is a particular recording an actual realization of the score, or more influenced by the score?

The key to interpreting the score is that you build up a consistent vocabulary for the symbols of the score. This vocabulary needs to be flexible as the symbols rarely stand on their own: they are constant intersected, amended, interrupted or overlaid with other symbols. This is an important issue that I think leads to failures in many interpretations, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.  The consistency issue is equally important, if you do not consistently interpret the symbols then you aren’t really playing this as a score. Let me give an example; if you created a version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that played all the notes, used the exact orchestration, followed all of the rules of the score, except that you played it at a tempo such that it lasted nine hours, this would no longer be Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  It would be at best “inspired by” or a gloss on it. Why? Because Beethoven gave explicit directions on the tempo for the score. Now there is a lot of debate on that and realizations of the score can vary in times by 15 or more minutes.  But these I think are all valid, they fall within the parameters of the score.

So am I saying that doing a short version of Treatise is a priori invalid? No, but to do a short version of the score requires a huge amount of work. Cardew’s composition Volo Solo is apparently a transcribed version of the entire scored to be performed by a piano virtuoso which can be done in about 10 minutes. But this is meticulously scored (and it is rather difficult to see exactly how it is transcribed from the score. Tilbury (for whom it was composed) goes into this in Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished) and contains thousands of notes.  So this is one solution to the issue of consistency and flexibility: rigorous transcription. In essence you are compressing the score into a smaller more compact version, a translation of all of this syntactic content into another system.

Beyond that level of transcription what else do we find in interpretations of the score? When you are not converting the symbols directly into traditional notation you tend to utilize varying degree of abstraction. That is you associate techniques, events, or sounds to the symbols. You then need to take into account the various permutations of the symbols, the spaces between them, the center line and the numbers. When sight reading from the score this is pretty challenging and the pages themselves contain varying degrees of density. In these sort of interpretations it takes much longer to work though each page, some pages have a lot of content to work through others have very little. Though the relationship between density and tempo is not precise, so pages with very little syntactic content can feel very slow while others dense with information feel fast.  When sight reading the score, the amount of time it would take is certainly highly variable, but I think that on average you’d be pretty hard pressed to fully interpret a page in less then five minutes.  Maybe a few pages would be less but many many more would require more time.  Even if you did spend one minute per page, which would really be a gloss over most of the symbols, you would end up with a three hour+ performance.  So when you are presented with a short performance there are basically five options:

  1. It is fully transcribed to traditional notation and is played at a very high tempo with a high density of notes
  2. The score is being broken up among the players such that for each page each player is playing only a small subset of the information there.
  3. The score is being played layered: that is you each divide the score up among each player so that each player is only doing about 20 pages)
  4. A subset of the score is being performed
  5. It is a gloss of the score

Now lets specifically consider the Hat[now]ART version of the piece. I think its fair to rule out option (1) – it is too sedate, too ambient to be like a 120 minute Volo Solo. (2) and (3) are possible though of course this is impossible to know.  Ideally any performance of the score should include information on the pages played and some description of the strategy adopted. I would guess that it isn’t a layered version of the score – it again doesn’t feel dense enough. (2) is certainly possible and I think would be the most obvious to someone who reads up on the available resources on the score:

“Performance advice. Divide the musicians into those involved in dot events (percussionists and pianists?) and those involved in line events. Dot events to be exclusively soft.” -Cornelius Cardew,Treatise Handbook(1)

However in this fashion to really treat it as a score, you’d basically have long rests between a lot of the events that you are playing. So it’d still come down to spending less then a minute a page, which even if you were only making a few amount of sounds would still come out to all the symbols in the score being played within this time.  Again this take just isn’t that information rich, or quick in tempo. Thus it seems fair to say that this performance is a gloss, a “take” on the score. And there is nothing wrong with that, except that they say this is the “World premier complete performance” on the set (which rules out (4) of course). You can still like the music here, enjoy it for what it is, but it isn’t Treatise anymore then a nine hour version of the Ninth Symphony isn’t Beethoven

This post has gone on long enough, but I think it establishes a set of criteria for examining realizations of the score and demonstrates how to apply it. If there is further interest, I’ll add examinations of a couple of other versions here over the next couple of days.

Part II:

The most successful (and common) strategy of interpretation of Treatise is to play a subset of the score.  This allows you to devote the time that each page requires.  When playing as a group without any sort of strategy of synchronization these types of interpretations necessarily become layered versions of the score. I for one am a fan of that type of layering and this was something well embraced by the 60s Experimental Composers (c.f.  all of the simultaneous Cage performances) including Cardew. The entire score could be played through in the fashion, playing a page or series of pages in a number of sessions. We began this process in the Seattle Improv Meeting and played through 44 pages in this fashion (these can be downloaded here). This attempt  to play through the whole score in sequence was stopped at that point as the interpretation was suffering in other ways.  This is a good example of one of the other failures in interpretation: using the score for structured improvisation.

“The score must govern the music. It must have authority, and not merely be an arbitrary jumping-off point for improvisation.” -Cornelius Cardew,Treatise Handbook(1)

Use of the score for structured improvisation again becomes a gloss of the score; one is not interpreting the symbols of the score consistently or rigorously. Again you can make good music this way and it is not an invaluable exercise. In fact I quite like structured improvisation, I think that it often adds depth to improv, just enough structure applied to give form and to curtail certain impulses.  However it is not following a score and as is quite clear with Cardew’s own intentions (“It must have authority”) this is not a rigorous realization.  I should point out that in the case of the SIM this was just how the group developed. In our three years of working with the score, we evolved from a tentative learning process, to a rigorous consistent approach and then it kind of slackened off into this more loose approach. See some of the recordings from the second half of 2005 to the first couple of months of 2006 for some of the more consistent realizations (my personal favorite from this period is Pages 146-148)

Other versions that most likely fall into the gloss of Structured Improvisation would include Formanex Treatise- Cornelius Cardew(Fibrr).  While they don’t explicitly say which pages they are playing on this recording (as opposed to their other recording) overall the music here is too overtly ambient to fit much of the score. However it is possible that this is the last three pages of the score in which this sort of interpretation would be valid. Again this is a case where it is frustrating that they don’t tell you the page(s) that are played. If you contrast this though with the other Formanex recording, Treatise-Live at Extrapool (also on Fibrr) it is markedly different, that one has the spaciousness and spikiness that more strict realizations tend to feature. I would also guess that the performance of pages 21 & 22 On the hat[now]ART release Material also leans this way. At least by some of the members (which is worth noting, there can certainly be degrees of rigor in any group performance of it) especially the vocalist who seems to be free riffing well past any material available from the score. This sort of free improvisation on the score I think is particularly egregious as this is adding semantic content which is not contained within the score.

Part III:

Quax Ensemble plays Treatise

Cornelus Cardew Treatise (Prague version 1967) (Mode)

The most recent Treatise recording out there came out just a couple of weeks ago on Mode.  This release is certainly of much historical interest, the QUaX Ensemble being one of the earlier groups to work with the piece. During the course of the development of the piece a number of musicians worked with it (including the members of AMM, in various combinations and of course AMM itself) and one of these was Petr Kotik. He was pretty young at the time, (early-mid twenties) and had was still in conservatory when he met Cardew and developed a relationship with him. He was able to get a number of pages (alas and annoyingly the liner notes do not specify these) prior to the scores publication in 1967 and put together the QUaX Ensemble to play it among other scores.  They played from these pages frequent but and eventually put together a 2 hour version of the pages they had which they performed once on October 15th 1967. That of course is this recording. He quite clearly states in the liner notes that he received a copy of the complete score in Buffalo NY in 1969, two years after this performance. So this two hour version is clearly a subset of the score, thus eliminating the issues that are rife with short complete versions.

“There is much to admire in this 1967 version of Treatise by the QUaX Ensemble from Prague: the feeling of spontaneity, its uninhibitedness, the rough-hewn sounds, the accidental, the half-intended, the blurred.” -John Tilbury(3)

The liner notes include a page from John Tilbury which tellingly is half devoted to quotes from the Treatise Handbook. The above quote from him, which is rather amusingly used in the Mode PR, I think sums it up perfectly: There is much to admire yes, but there is also much that is not so admirable.

First off they clearly did spend the time developing a consistent take on the pages they had. The liner notes includes reproductions of two of Kotik’s pages which have numerous annotations on them. These include notes on what to play for certain symbols but are actually mostly devoted to timings. Most interestingly the notes mostly resolve around who is to play for a given symbol.  For instance on the back cover there is an except of a page where the same symbol (black filled circles) are notated “Kotik”. Other notes seem to be either instruments or perhaps performance techniques that I can’t decipher (anyone who can, do let me know). These notes are pretty revealing in their take on the score, which to me seems like a fairly typical case of classical musicians trying to improvise.  It in fact reminds me a lot of the workshop and performance I did with Vancouver New Music (that Joda references (in the ihm thread) and which I wrote up at length here: VNM Treatise report) where I’d say most of the ensemble never really managed to work with the score in and of itself, they always were using it as a springboard.

In the case of this version, they seem to have a concern that I’ve encountered among virtually everyone I’ve seen play the score: playing together. It seems for classical and jazz musicians that the concept of everyone working through it at their own pace is a difficult concept.  This was constantly raised in the VNM group and also something that plagued the first half dozen or so sessions with the Seattle Improv Meeting (at least among certain people in both groups). Even a more recent performance that I did with a dedicated graphic score group (EyeMusic) under the aegis of Keith Rowe this issue was also raised. In this case since they seemed also to be working with the score in parts (that is assigning symbols to various performers) this seems a much more traditional approach.  Of course Cardew definitely worked with the score in this way especially before AMM and I wouldn’t be surprised if he recommended this approach to Kotik.

Based on the annotated pages that we have in the liner notes it appears that their working out of the score is more an assignment of who plays what, not much of an indication of what they play. In other words this approach is structured improvisation. Listening to this before I closely examined those score excerpts there were a number of passages I found troubling that are explained somewhat by this approach. These passages involve overtly melodic material from the saxophone (Pavel Kondelik) and kind of piano jazz breakdown complete with vocals (Vaclav Zahradnik). Now one might think that one could assign melodic content to the symbols as long as one is consistent and in theory you could. But as I pointed out in my earlier post, any symbolic association must take into account the various fragments, interjects, incomplete symbols, overlapping symbols and so in. With very few exceptions no consistent melodic line would survive that for long. Thus the multiple long melodic sax passages seem to me outside of a strict reading of the score, but would make sense if you just were using the symbols as sigils for when a particular musician was going to perform.

Apart from this melodic content there are a lot of great sounds in this recording and lots of space. Apart from the center line, there are many pages with long gaps between symbols and thus any performance should have these gaps (unless someone is focusing on the center line, but even in this case the other musicians should respect the spaces). There is even a nice background radio grab for a bit, giving it a bit of a Cage or AMM feel.  Much of the sounds are generated on traditional instruments with extreme extended techniques, using many of the sounds associated with avant-garde composition (ala Lachenmann) or post EFI improvisation. Additionally there are various ambient sounds, passing traffic, shifting chairs and the like that places this within a space and I think add a lot to the overall environment. Long stretches of this performance is fantastic in my opinion, though there often is something coming in that one may not like.  For me it really is the melodic content and even worse the semantic content from the singing that mar the performance.

Cardew on a number of occasions expressed his dissatisfaction with classical musicians performance of this piece. Too hard for them to break out of their routines and notions of performance. Impossible for them to capture the right balance between the spontaneous and the structured. This recording I think is somewhat exemplary of that. The fact that the performers were young and still students probably gives this the life and drama that it does have. It still I think would have somewhat dissatisfied Cardew in that it doesn’t go all the way to where he wanted to go w/r/t performer involvement but probably wouldn’t be the total disappoint of some of the performances by highly trained and rigid musicians. As Tilbury says there is much to like here, but this is not I think a wholly successful interpretation of the score. It is definitely recommended though, it is an important piece in the history of the score a history that is quite lacking in the early performances.

Part IV:

Getting back to analysis of performances of the score there is two important notions that I have thus far neglected to mention. This was deliberate as I wanted to approach these recordings in terms of their consistency and rigor. These notions basically subvert that to some degree but in general they can’t be used to excuse those primary notions.  These issues are numbers in the score and the notion of a perverse reading of the score.  The numbers are inescapable in the the score so lets take a look at those first.

As with everything else in the score there isn’t any instructions on how to handle the numbers. However in the Treatise Handbook he says thus:

“The numbers are included at the pauses for the reason that: any act or facet of the conception or composition of the score may have relevance for interpretation.[…] It is the fact that there were 34 blank spaces before the first sign put in an appearance” – Cornelius Cardew, Treatise Handbook (2, p. 251)

This singular note on the numbers from Cardew doesn’t really give much info on how to interpret them.  However it has come to be interpreted as a repetition of an event for the number of times of the numeric value. As there isn’t a specific symbol tied to the event the event is treated as outside of the score, that is it is independent of your consistent interpretation. So theoretically a performer could say play a chord 34 time, or make 34 sounds or what have you.  So does the potential arbitrariness of the numbers make possible the overtly melodic sax in the QUaX version discussed earlier? Probably not. In general the numbers aren’t too large after the initial 34 and there are multiple long sax segments in that version. So I think my previous read of it still stands, but it is worth taking the numbers into account when you listen to a version where something may seem out of place (for those interested Tilbury includes a breakdown of the number distribution in the footnotes to the Treatise chapter in his Cardew bio, on page 278 No. 16).

The notion of Perverse Readings of the score is a lot more problematic and there isn’t a lot of information to go on. From Tilbury’s bio:

“…John White’s precedent for ‘perverse readings’ by reading ascending lines as descending intervals” – John Tilbury (2, p. 251)

The first time I encountered this notion though was for the AMM+Formanex performance of Treatise at the Musique Action Festival, Nancy, France in June 2002. At this performance AMM performed several pages of Treatise with  John White who once again did his trademark Perverse Reading in this case interjecting banal samples into the performance. (Interestingly enough while looking for data on this, I found this tiny bit of video from this event here).

“AMM were extremely spartan (wonderfully so) while White, on some kind of sampling device, intruded with all manner of awful-sounding blurts, cheezy synth tones, sheep baa-ing, etc. It was very annoying and I found myself vainly attempting to mentally tune him out.” -Brian Olewnick

Now considering that Perverse Readings were par for the course, occurring from the very beginning of the scores history, can any out of the ordinary performance be considered “perverse”?  I tend to think not, I think that the perverse readings are still consistent and rigorous, but in such a way that may be contrary, controversial and against expectations.  Brian later asked Keith Rowe about that aspect of the performance and he went on to say:

“He felt that ‘Treatise’ performances had a tendency to get overly somber and reverential and wanted to inject a “low” element that he thought of as the sonic equivalent to US rags like Weekly World News, to introduce “transgressive” sounds that “simply aren’t done” at these types of events.” -Brian Olewnick

And this to me I think is the essence of the perverse read, not falling into a free for all, do as you wish sort of situation but subverting received notions. But I do find it a troublesome notion and this would certainly be an interesting point to have clarified.


1) Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981) A Reader (Copula, 2008)
2) Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, John Tilbury (Copula, 2008)
3) Liner notes from Cornelus Cardew Treatise (Prague version 1967) (Mode)

Eye Music

Eye Music
Friday April 4th, 2008 | 8:00 PM
$5 – $15 sliding scale
Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center
50th & Sunnyside, in Wallingford

So the group that I did that performance of Treatise w/ Keith Rowe is doing a performance this Friday of some of the other Graphic Scores we’ve been working on. Info about the group can be found here and info on the venue can be found here. We’re going to be playing the following pieces, in various combinations of the ensemble:

Mike Shannon Matrix
Toshi Ichiyanagi
Cornelius Cardew
Treatise (pages 72,73 and 76)
Bob Cobbing
Chamber Music
Robin Mortimore
Very Circular Pieces
Clifford Burke
Upside Down & Backwards
Michael Parsons
Piece for 1 or More Guitars
David Toop
Lizard Music

AMM – London 3 February 1970

“Certainly what I do on the guitar is there without me playing it.”
– Keith Rowe(3)

This is the last of the early boots that have been leaked to the nets. This set occurred about two weeks after the previous one and is most likely the lineup of Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe and possibly Hobbs (*see note below). While that set had that chamber feel to it with multiple bowed string instruments, this one differs in many ways yet feels informed by it. It has a very electronic, controlled noise feel in the beginning with the percussion sounding mechanical and various statics, pure tones and electronically amplified scrapes, buzzes and the like. It then enters a very spacious period, where drumming (very traditional jazz style), isolated piano clusters and a murmur of bowed instruments come in and out. Quite a bit of radio or tape or both in this one especially toward the end. Overall there is that uneasiness and tension from the previous set, but the variety of sounds used is a lot wider.

AMM – London 3 February 1970

This one begins tentatively, with a rattling metallic percussion, static and this intermittent high whistling sound. The occasional beat of a drum accentuates this rather mechanical noise. A bit into this a warbling bowing sound can be heard now and again pretty buried below the other sounds. A piano note or two. Then it drops dead. A bell rings out and then some squeaky bowing comes in and rises in volume.This doesn’t last and the playing becoming bursts of sound in space. Quiet piano chords, short snare rolls, guitar hum comes in and goes. Some faint radio at one points rises almost inaudibly in a fairly quiet place, so not much volume. Eddie then seriously picks up the snare rolls, not so much playing loudly as continuously and to this the piano responds accordingly. Again they break off and it becomes more pointalistic; electronics swelling via volume pedals, percussion effects, choppy bowing. More aggressive piano chords.

Things become very spacious, the piano plays short melodic figures, a persistent electronic hum, squeaks as of rubbed drumheads, the radio or tape coming in and then fading away, a cymbal crash.  Things meander for a bit before picking up again, once again led by the drums, this time a furious assault on a tom or bongo. Some kind of Cecil Taylor-ish figures on the piano, fingernails on chalk bowing and muffled radio. Again the dense part doesn’t last and fades to a persistent low volume wail, like an ebow’d string, quite piano notes, bowed metal, the occasional voice from the radio. After a bit of this a real beat driven thing come on the radio, to which the piano responds with a ragtime fragment of the Ode to Joy, and everyone else does this holding pattern of sounds – quite rattly percussion, low bowing and so on. The radio doesn’t last long but this uneasy, persistence does. Some louder percussion is brought in and the bowing becomes more aggressive. Things really quiet down from here, a background of humming, quiet percussion very steady state. Radio again briefly appears, with a snippet of the Beatles as does bowing of a sliding nature. Very electronic sounding in this bit almost like an ambient fadeout -if it was done on a factory floor with some of the machines winding down. In the last minute again the drums go crazy, almost in a full on drum solo. Clearly a full kit was present at this session. The piano tries to fight through this, with low end chord crashes, and there is a persistent electronic buzz and then the tape ends.

“This improvisation is inherently about problem-solving; it’s inherently dialogical.”
– Edwin Prévost (3)

The feeling to me of this one is that of a desire to not develop anything too far where too far is defined by the individual player. For some things this may be only a fragment of sound for others it may take a minute or five but nothing overstays its welcome. Now you might argue that this is what makes improvised music good in general, but as a deliberate strategy it creates something markedly different then just sensitive playing. Not to mention that this is quite different from later AMM with its layers of continuous sound. This constraint (if it really is one beyond my speculation of course) curtails droning, overuse of the same sound world, reliance on established gestures and so on. When allowed those things can all be great and used well and thus argued to not overstay their welcome. But in this piece it feels like a deliberate strategy and it gives a markedly different feel to it. At times it can kind of hint at insect music with a variety of short sounds coming and going, but as other sounds can last a few minutes or longer this is never a dominate mode. Especially as the individual players may not be synchronized in how long the develop what they are playing, so you get a nice overlapping of short quick events, with longer more developed ones.  Overall an interesting effect that gives this a brooding feel but with a prickly surface.

There has been some question as to the AMM lineup at this time in various places including in the published sources. My primary source has been Prévost’s article AMM 1965/1994 — a brief and mostly chronological historical summary published in No Sound is Innocent(4, p. 185-186) namely this quote:

From the early 1970s until the fracture of AMM in 1972 the ensemble remained the quartet: Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe.” (4, p.185)

However the AMM Factsheet in the Crypt Liner notes(8) states that Hobbs is still part of the group as of October 1970. Now while the Crypt Factsheet is quite possibly fraught with errors one would that this basic fact would be correct.  Finally the most recent and specific confirmation comes from John Tilbury’s recent biography of Cardew where he states that Hobbs “had already left the group in May 1971”(7, p.650). This I think has to be the case as the degree of scholarship is so high in this book and Tilbury was of course present and friends with all the principles. I’ll rely on his legwork with having asked all of the surving members of AMM w/r/t this issue.

All that being said I still don’t think that Hobbs was present at this concert. There is  plenty of documented cases of additions or subtractions from the group on a show by show basis, and clearly at some points people couldn’t make the gigs.  So my basic operating procedure has been to follow the lineup as the sources indicate, but to also follow the evidence of my ears.  The previously reviewed recording from January, does sound like there are five disparate sound sources and the most likely case would be that it is Hobbs. In this recording it sounds like four members and certainly there is little aural evidence for dual percussionists.  Barring confirmation from principles or contemporary sources this is I think the best that can be done.


1) Cornelius Cardew, Towards an Ethic of Improvisation Cornelius Cardew(1936-1981): A Reader, Copula 2006
2) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
3) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
4) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
5) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
6) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
7) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula, 2008
8) AMM Factsheet, The Crypt Liner Notes (not online), Matchless Recordings 1992

AMM – London 20 January 1970

“Documents such as tape recordings of improvisation are essentially empty, as they preserve chiefly the form that something took and give at best an indistinct hint as to the feeling and cannot convey any sense of time and place.”
– Cornelius Cardew (1)

The third of these early AMM boots puts us in the very earliest month of 1970. The group had coalesced into the quartet of Keith Rowe, Cornelius Cardew, Lou Gare and Edwin Prévost.  There is possibly a fifth member (probably Christopher Hobbs ed. Jan 30, 2009), as there is piano played throughout during which at times you can hear two bowed instruments (Rowe and Cardew presumably) but who knows who is playing what? It could be Cardew on piano the whole time, with Rowe on cello and someone else bowing objects or a guitar.  Without outside input it is pretty much impossibly to say but this quote from Cardew sheds some light on this situation:

“In 1966, I and another member of the group invested the proceeds of a recording in a second amplifier system to balance the volume of sound produced by the electric guitar. At that period we were playing every week in the music room of the London School of Economics -a very small room barely able to accomodate [sic] our equipment. With the new equipment we began to explore the range of small sounds made available by using contact microphones on all kinds of materials -glass, metal, wood, etc. -and a variety of gadgets from drumsticks to battery-operated cocktail mixers. At the same time the percussionist was expanding in the direction of pitched instruments such as xylophone and concertina, and the saxophonist began to double on violin and flute as well as a stringed instrument of his own design. In addition, two cellos were wired to the new equipment and the guitarist was developing a predilection for coffee tins and cans of all kinds.”
– Cornelius Cardew (1)

So it is quite possible, likely even, that this is Cardew on piano, Rowe on cello, or bowed guitar and Gare on violin (or his homemade string instrument). There is very little obvious sax here so this scenario is likely. This recording, moreso than any of the other early AMM I’ve heard has a chamber feel to it. It is rough, dark and brooding but with the primary instrumentation being cello, piano and percussion it really has this new music feel. It doesn’t stick with this feel throughout, one bit toward the middle has this jazzy duet between piano and percussion, but it always comes back to this brooding chamber feel.

“AMM music is supposed to admit all sounds but the members of AMM have marked preferences. An open-ness to the totality of sounds implies a tendency away from traditional musical structures towards informality. Governing this tendency -reining it in- are various thoroughly traditional musical structures such as saxophone, piano, violin, guitar, etc., in each of which reposes a portion of the history of music. Further echoes of the history of music enter through the medium of the transistor radio (the use of which as a musical instrument was pioneered by John Cage). However, it is not the exclusive privilege of music to have a history -sound has history too. Industry and modern technology have added machine sounds and electronic sounds to the primeval sounds of thunderstorm, volcanic eruption, avalanche and tidal wave.”
– Cornelius Cardew (1)

This gets at the heart of what I was trying to say in the last post; that AMM was constantly adding to their list the things that they should get away from. In each of these recordings they seem to move away from anything recognizable in each one. At the same time, the found object whether from tape, radio or fragments of recognizable melody or sound that in themselves do not stray toward informality. So while AMM in and of themselves “have marked preferences” they still admit all sounds in this fashion.

AMM – London 20 January 1970

“Improvisation is a language spontaneously developed amongst the players and between players and listeners.”
– Cornelius Cardew (1)

Again we begin in progress but instead of the usual burst of energy this one is much more brooding, and quiet. Slow, melancholy cello lines, very Tilbury-ish piano tinkles, interspersed with big low chords, wooden sounding percussion as of sticks between rolled in ones hands. The occasional melodic figure on the cello jumps in, perhaps there are two cellists? Drum rolls on a low drum, then washes of static and more metallic percussion. Amidst the inward facing strings and piano these drum beats increase, building the volume and density, but only in short bursts.  Ah that other bowed instrument seems to be revealing itself as bowed guitar, Rowe presumably, while the melodic figures are possibly the cello of Cardew or the violin of Gare. These brief flurry of activity calms down a bit to just faint cello and piano, but then some very melodic percussion comes in. Some loud, low electronic tones burst into this space, answered by chimes and cymbals, as scrabbly guitar work comes in. The cello fades. Piano pounding out some seriously deep chords. And a weirdly muted melodic figure either from the guitar or from real short, sharp bow-work on the cello. Echoed by percussion. Odd how this strain keeps running through this one, it must have been a theme, or constraint of some sort.  Crazy percussion now, the volume up, mostly on the drums. This again drops out and piano rolls, static washes, creepy bowed cello and only the occasional pound of a drum or cymbal roll.

“You choose the sound you hear. But listening for effects is only first steps in AMM listening. After a while you stop skimming, start tracking, and go where it takes you.”
– Cornelius Cardew (1)

Back to the brooding melancholy, we have a very distant sounding guitar tones, slow bowed cello, clusters of piano notes and what sounds like fingers rubbed across a drumhead. Into this comes a radio announcement, rather distant and garbled, greeted by some cymbal chimes. An absolutely stunning moment after this, where things just hover in a gentle buzz of bowed strings, spare piano chords a warbling guitar tone. Beautiful and yet drilling right to the marrow. These AMM boots really show the range of the group at this time. The Crypt and even AMMMusic make the 60s stuff seem much more chaotic and noisy but the moments of beauty were everywhere. And yet they could take it somewhere else completely. About 8 minutes before the track ends, it goes from the spare section, to solo bowed cello and then applause. Pretty good amount of applause, must have been a decent crowd. Someone says “Thank You” so they did seem to end. Then there is typical post show talking for a second. Then the tape clearly changes, almost sounds like David Tudors Rainforest now. Heavy static, faint dripping sounds and a twittering almost like birds. Sounds like children playing in the deep background. An odd little sonic fragment tagged on to this show.

As always this recording starts with them in progress so one does not know how much was lost at the beginning. It is the shortest of these early bootlegs at only about thirty minutes before the applause and then the odd little coda. It is as I alluded to in the introduction to this recording somewhat removed from other period AMM, though not shockingly so. Moments in the other recordings are akin to this and thus one could look at this as a thirty minute exploration of a (mostly) confined space.  It does hearken toward the later quartet AMM with Rohan de Saram in its more chamber like feeling, though of course it has the rough edges that the trio AMM had mostly smoothed away.

“Informal ‘sound’ has a power over our emotional responses that formal ‘music’ does not, in that it acts subliminally rather than on a cultural level. This is a possible definition of the area in which AMM is experimental. We are searching for sounds and for the responses that attach to them, rather than thinking them up, preparing them and producing them. The search is conducted in the medium of sound and the musician himself is at the heart of the experiment. ”
– Cornelius Cardew(1)


1) Cornelius Cardew, Towards an Ethic of Improvisation Cornelius Cardew(1936-1981): A Reader, Copula 2006
2) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
3) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
4) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
5) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic

AMM – London 16 March 1969

AMM in 1968


A couple of years back a collection of AMM boots appeared online that came with no documentation but were clearly from the same source. The 60’s AMM was the most exploratory and really revolutionary version of the group and while they kept up their uncompromising approach to music making, during this period there was no limitations. You could argue that eventually they created their own set of limitations, while AMMMusic may once have been defined by what it was not, in later years AMMMusic was clearly its own sound. The fundamental nature of what AMM is and more importantly isn’t was only really obliquely discussed outside of the group. The fact that they did reject many conventions of music is known, but there is no list of what was “in” or “out”. The musical documentation gives us the clues toward this and in the 60’s material you can hear things being removed and added between the recordings. So in these posts I’m analyzing the AMM recordings from this perspective: how do they fit into what we know, and what else can we learn from them. This post examines a recording from 1969 the only other AMM bootleg that I have from the 60’s. At this point Lawrence Scheaff would have left the group leaving the quartet of Rowe, Prévost, Cardew and Gare with the addition of Christopher Hobbs and possibly also Christian Wolff.

AMM – London 16 March 1969


The tape begins with the group already in the midst of a  maelstrom of percussion at that reminds me of the tribal organized chaos of the mass percussion sections of Cardew’s The Great Learning. From this peak it slowly backs down and sounds of flutes, metal percussion and a wandering hum perhaps from Rowe’s guitar become audible. This eventually works its way all the way to silence with the minutes before being small percussive sounds and various rattles, scrapes and buzzes.With the space now opened up a variety of sounds twinkle out of the darkness. One amusing bit is what sounds like recorder (or flute I suppose) playing a bit of an advertisement jingle. Another sound is a very electronic tone, almost sine wave like most likely from feedback. Bell like percussion, a distant grinding sound that reveals itself to be sax and bits and pieces of traditional drums and percussion. This all increases in frequency becoming a swirling stew of sounds that are still isolated and not overly dense.

The density begins to increase with snare rolls, long low tons on the sax and a sustained wind like electronic wail that’d either be Rowe or amplified cello. Again this fades away this time down to near silence with the quietest bowed cello and rare taps on a drum. The cello picks it up, with a kind of melodic sawing that is then complemented by a sustained electronic tone. This part hums along with a barely controlled malice that explodes in short burst of dry loud bowing, drum bashes and electronic squiggles. Eventually this loud moaning sound is brought in and out, never sustained too long but wholly dominating when it does. Again things mellow out, this set really is a roller coaster of density this time with hollow percussive sounds, either a mallets on cymbal or faint electronics and what sounds like whistling in the far background.

Back into spacious territory around the half way point some really interesting sounds are placed into near silence. Some very low sax moans that hover right on the edge of sax feedback. Later squeaks from the sax as drum rolls come and go while Rowe’s guitar evokes a metal object being dragged across a cement floor. Quite a bit of this half of the show is in this territory of isolated sounds, small swells and perceptible gaps. There is a pointillistic nature to this section, different from the “insect music” of some EFI as the sounds themselves can be of long durations. It is much more an element of restraint, not feeling a need to play. Putting a sound out there without consequence of what ever else may be going on. The last few minutes of this show feature some much more dramatic sounds, but still fairly isolated so not leading toward any sort of wall of sound. Some frantic electronic wails, muscular drumming and assaultive percussion in the main. These elements layer on top of each other at the very end and just as it becomes mass of serious density the tape ends.

“In 1965, AMM began a radically different kind of Music-making. The prevalent notions of musical theory, practice, hierarchy and structure (thematic reference, jumping-off points — for example the ‘head’ arrangements from which improvisation lifted off — and even the relatively informal criteria of the then ‘free jazz’ movement) were replaced by the creation of, and engagement with, a soundworld in which there was not even a formal beginning and ending.”
– Edwin Prévost (2, p.9)


Structurally this piece differs from the earlier piece. That one really had these clearly defined segments where they would work at one dynamic level for some time. In this one it is much more roller coaster like as I think my attempt to describe its changes above indicates.  This in fact is a constant in the other early bootlegs that I have. I think that it is reasonable to imagine that a tendency toward an obvious structure was noted and was added to the list of things that should be discarded. This is an aspect that you would see especially in the later AMM, often described as “timeless”, “floating” and “nearly static”. It is in these early pieces that you can hear them developing and discarding things as they work from what they know and from what they are hearing in others to a total disconnection to that.


1) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
2) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
3) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
4) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic

AMM – London 23 March 1966

This is the first in an occasional series of examining the readily available AMM bootlegs. I intend to go through these in chronological order so this would of course be the earliest one that I have,

AMM – Royal College of Art(3), London 23 March 1966

This is the earliest AMM that one can hear, recorded about four months before AMMMusic.  At this time the lineup would have been Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff and Cornelius Cardew. The recording begins with this dry bowed cello, almost random sounding plinked piano notes, small interjections of percussion and various noises generated by extended techniques. An interesting sound, the super dry cello is akin to later Feldman practices or sounds favored by Wandelweiser collective. The piano is real spare often quiet but sometimes interjection a sharp note. Not Feldman-esque, a much more sound oriented approach.  This goes on for some time, forming a sense of stasis from the continually bowed cello (though not droning on one note it should be stated) and generating an almost an uneasy feeling. This feeling is somewhat justified as the next section of the performance is radio or tape played at huge volumes. This is clearly an example of the “sheets of sound” that the group would try to surmount

“At the very first sessions of AMM I used pre-recorded tapes of Beach Boys, things like that, played enormously loud. It was our version of the “sheets of sound”. We would play it as loud as we possibly could and try to climb over it like a wall. It was a barrier to get through.” – Keith Rowe, from an interview by Dan Warburton

This goes on for some time and there seems to be several songs played simultaneously. During this Prévost heroically tries to climb that wall with a frenetic assault on the snare. This also goes on for a long time, which I think is part of the AMM aesthetic – things aren’t written off immediately as “not working” they are pushed through. Things rise to an extreme level during this as the tape and a radio announcer compete with the drum and Gare absolutely wailing on his sax. This is the apex of the session, at least as far as volume and density occurs. Eventually the outside music is worked out, the drums begin to break away and the sax (and another reed instrument most likey Sheaff on clarinet) becoming increasingly distant.

This begins the third “movement” of the performance. More spare with this dueling wind instruments and increasing silences. Out of these spaces single notes from the piano return and repeated phrases from the winds. During this section  there are two obvious stoppages of the tape and it is of course unknown what could have happened at those points. Probably either continuing as things were or long spaces that the recorder felt wasn’t worth “wasting” tape on. This section is quite interesting; it is made up of disconnected sounds, lots of spaces some of them fairly long and there feeling is that of the later trio AMM but with much more of an experimental nature. It has that tense anticipation, but a little less continuity of sound and of course a wider range of sounds.  Things begin to build up again and we enter a fourth phase of the performance. Density especially increases with electronic wailing, drums, mechanical percussion and long wails of sounds from the horns. Things are building up to nearly as high a level of density as the recorded “sheets of sounds” when the tape abruptly ends.

This is I think one of the most interesting of all of the available bootlegs. It is the earliest AMM and it demonstrates quite handily how far out they were as early as 1966.  It demonstrates to me all of the salient features of AMM music that is found in all of the stages of AMM. It is a working with sounds or noises as tools but never as an end to itself. It has that weightlessness in parts that the trio AMM so excelled at and it had the experimental nature of the composed music of the day (Cage, Tudor, Feldman, Cardew et al). Honestly it is amazing that these shows were recorded at this point. Someone had to have a reel-to-reel recorder there and be willing to spare tape. Perhaps they were recording it for their own use but we should be thankful that they were recorded at all.

Additional (11.04.09):

There is another bootleg floating around the ‘nets that appears to be a different version of this source.  This source is labeled:

AMM – ICA London 23.03.66

This actually is two performances mislabeled and is mentioned here to try to minimize confusion. This recording is divided into 7 parts of which only part 1 is part of e 03.23.66 performance. It is in fact the  last 13 minute of that recording. Parts 2-7 are from a totally different recording: 12.16.69.  These do seem to be a different recordings or perhaps some mastering was done to them as they don’t sound quite the same as the other sources. Most likely they were put onto a tape from the original source which was flipped and the second side was the end of one recording and the beginning of the next. When transfered the first side was not included for some reason. However it came about it is a misleading and inferior source and should be disregarded in favor of the other available source.


1) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
2) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
3) British Library Sound Archive