czwartek, 30 grudnia 2010


ôłt. New Music in Eastern Europe, 2010 (4xCD)

CD 1: Paragraph 1, 2
CD 2: Paragraph 3, 4
CD 3: Paragraph 5
CD 4: Paragraph 6, 7

By 64 musicians and non-musicians

Recorded during workshops conducted by Nima Gousheh with assistance of James Bull. Everything was organized and produced in July 2010 by Michał Mendyk of 4.99 and Agnieszka Tarasiuk of Residential Arts Centre Wigry (now taken over by zzzze Church);

Distribution: Monotype Records (roughly since mid-January 2010)

Quite simply..: the first complete release of "The Great Learning" by Cornelius Cardew


The Great Learning is the becoming of the community. Becoming, which is nothing but its rhythm – or more precisely: its pulse. You are invited to listen to all the tensions, alliances, conflicts, wishedfor leaderships and subversions, which all happen according to a coordinate of synchronization and de-synchronization. Cornelius Cardew is not only the creator but also the participant of this process.

In this sense, I see him as an audio-sociologist and this is not to suggest that he is less a composer. With The Great Learning he designed a milieu for collective processes; a milieu of only few parameters. All of them are sociological and compositional at the same time: the number of people, the space with its acoustics and something Michael Nyman called people processes which allow the performers to move through given or suggested material, each at his own speed. But this is far from a mere “free tempo” – it is rather about individual timing of following others, tuning in with them or isolating from them. Logically speaking, the central point of The Great Learning is a set of basic social relations happening slightly out of synch (not expressed in the score but presupposed by it).

One of the aspects of Paragraph 4 is a steady rhythm executed by striking the sonoruous substance (in Wigry this happened to be pillows). The unambiguous instructions (like dot = beat) are designed to fail during the performance – nobody can expect 60 amateur musicians to enter together. So what is formed is something Iannis Xenakis called sound masses, although “masses” acquire one more dimension here – a sociological one. This is a chaotic, undifferentiated mass of sound and social relations at the same time. These are people trying to get together rather than musicians executing a score. Hence, synchronization is only one aspect or one random moment of de-synchronization – even if your aim (instruction, intention) is clear, you can only lose yourself in a social milieu; You – yourself – is always lost when it becomes the community.

So the becoming of community is not reached here by an intentional unisono. It is happening in and out of de-synchronization. In de-synchronization, randomly, as mentioned above in Paragraph 4, or with tuning in by breath-long expressions (Paragraphs 2,3 and 7). Out of de-synchronization is best expressed in Paragraph 6. In a series of 16 passages people are asked to make (or not make) or hear (or not hear) isolated, synchronized, optional sounds in different constellations. From time to time though one is expected to await long, general pauses. This is a superb excursion into audio-sociology of Cardew. From the very beginning you can’t help being lost in other’s tempo, you are by default desynchronized, even though you need to follow others if you want to make a synchronized sound. The only moment people really get together is the long, general pause – to synchronize yourself with the others you have to stop following your own pace; you need to suspend your intentions and suppress expression. Wait.

But these are Cardew’s intentions as written down in The Great Learning which is also nothing but a score. Even if designed to fail, it fixes a matrix to be followed, like any score. But do people follow?

Now, listening to the recordings from Wigry, I hear that the intended socio-musical milieu of Cardew was not always at work there. Can you hear a long, general pause in Paragraph 6? Mistake number one. Paragraph 7 is based on a mathematical idea. It is intended to gradually become a harmonic unity. Everybody starts with his or her own pitch but from following the instruction of picking the pitches from the others, the reduction of the initial complexity follows so that in the end it is almost a unisono. Can you hear that process? Mistake number two. But the most thrilling one happened during the first (unreleased) performance of Paragraph 4. This one is a canon and in case of the gallery in Wigry where the piece was performed, the most convenient setting of the group was a U-shape line. Everybody was asked to follow his or her predecessor to keep everything in order. In few minutes everything fell into pieces and more literally – got stuck and drawn into hesitant silence: a long, general pause – mostly because nobody broke the jammed silence, which would be equivalent to affirming that the performance of the piece had come to a dead end. Now, what happened was that out of a complete, silent confusion – with no additional cues or verbal instructions – people got back into a canon and completed the piece. How did they organize themselves? You will not find it in the score. And I am sure Cardew wouldn’t know either.

This was the third time I was involved in organizing The Great Learning. And for the third time the piece could not be “properly” completed. First time, in 2007, we did not have enough people to perform all the Paragraphs. Second time, in 2008, it was not even meant to be a complete performance. Now, in 2010, in Wigry, we managed to go through all the Paragraphs but not always the way Cardew put it in the score. It was not fully his milieu. Or to put it differently – you are not listening to a proper performance of a score. In a way this piece always transcends the possibilities of its performers. The intended becoming of the community fails. But can there be anything more rewarding than breaking the piece’s superiority? 60 people getting lost and finding their ways again and again in the course of the performance? How? Why? With Cardew? Or against him? On basis of what? If not the score.

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