BTC Summit Meeting
Presque Isle Downs Erie, PA 20 May 2011
Chris Stigliano, Brad Kohler, Bill Shute
THE GREAT LEARNING was truly an event and truly a milestone in Austin music history…congrats to the Austin New Music Co-op, The Texas Choral Consort, and Line Upon Line Percussion for an experience we’ll still be talking about ten years from now….
There are some general comments about the work that were posted about 2 weeks ago on this blog (scroll down for them). All I can say after the fact is that I now understand the title on a much deeper level than the obvious Mao and Confucius levels: it must have been a great re-LEARNING for the participants, and it was a great re-LEARNING for us in the audience. Mary Anne and I had the privilege of sitting next to Ms. Vanessa Rossetto both nights, and after each section, the three of us would look at each other, jaws dropped, speechless, intoning a silent “wow!” The Central Presbyterian Church was a wonderful venue, as it had a large altar with organ and choir seating, plus three balconies (one in the back and one on each side), which were put to good use by both vocalists and percussionists.
Knowing that THE GREAT LEARNING was being filmed, I did not go up to the altar to get close-up photos because I did not want to get in the way of the filming; I stayed in my seat in the third row and merely stood up and aimed my inexpensive digital camera. Thus the photos are not great and do not lend themselves to being blown up to a larger size, but I did document each of the seven paragraphs. Here they are. There was a good crowd each night, and once again Austin earns its place as a world-class city in terms of its New Music scene.
from PARAGRAPH ONE, for chorus (speaking and playing whistles and stones) and organ
from PARAGRAPH TWO, for singers and drummers
from PARAGRAPH THREE, for large instruments and voices
from PARAGRAPH FOUR, for chorus (shouting and playing ridged or notched instruments, sonorous substances, rattles or jingles) and organ
from PARAGRAPH FIVE, for a large number of untrained musicians making gestures, performing actions, speaking, chanting, and playing a wide range of instruments plus, optionally, to singers singing “Ode Machines” which may also be performed separately
from PARAGRAPH SIX, for any number of untrained musicians
from PARAGRAPH SEVEN, for any number of untrained voices
I didn’t know how the Austin New Music Co-op would top the evening of Alvin Lucier music they presented a year or two ago. Then came Cornelius Cardew’s THE GREAT LEARNING. I know that the New Music Co-op will continue to surprise and amaze us with world-class performances of cutting-edge late Twentieth Century and contemporary music. We are indeed fortunate to live in Central Texas and to have artists with such vision and passion and committment, artists willing to take on seemingly impossible projects and spend almost two years bringing them to life…
For almost two years, the Austin New Music Co-Op has been working on staging the full version of British composer and AMM core-member Cornelius Cardew’s epic work THE GREAT LEARNING (1970), which has never been presented in full in the United States. In mid-2010, the group presented a “happening”-style version of Paragraph Five on the grounds of the Mexican-American Cultural Center in Austin. That 90-minute performance, with its chanting and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink percussion passages and its constant movement and its curious instrumental passages, was quite an experience, but only a “taste” of the real thing. That real thing, running over two nights this Friday and Saturday in Austin in a beautiful church setting, with a myriad of performers of diverse background and experience, promises to be one of the most important cultural events of the year in Central Texas. Mary Anne and I will be there both nights and know this will be an event that will make a permanent impression on us. Hope you all can attend. Here’s two pictures from the 2010 staging of Paragraph Five, followed by the New Music Co-op’s press release on the event.
Austin New Music Co-op Presents Cornelius Cardew’s “The Great Learning”
NMC, TCC, and over 60 musicians roll out US premiere of epic avant-garde masterpiece.
NMC Presents: The Great Learning – In Seven Paragraphs
Friday May 6th @ 7:00pm (Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 & 4)
Saturday May 7th @ 6:00pm (Paragraphs 5, 6 & 7)
Central Presbyterian Church
200 East 8th Street
Advance tickets available now at End of an Ear (http://endofanear.com)
$17 one night / $25 both nights
Student and advance tickets discounted to $15 one night / $20 both nights
In Spring of ’02, Austin New Music Co-op performed our first large ensemble concert, which was centered around “Treatise,” the 193-page graphic score by British composer Cornelius Cardew. On May 6th and 7th of this year, nine years later, NMC is interpreting Cardew’s other mammoth masterpiece: “The Great Learning.” This epic, immersive piece will be performed over the course of two nights by a cast of more than 60 performers, including chorus, pipe organ, strings, winds, percussion, and more. Witnessing a performance of this piece in its entirety is incredibly rare. Although various excerpts of the seven-part cycle have been performed all over the world since its UK premiere in 1971, we are the first ensemble ever to present a complete performance of “The Great Learning” in the United States. In a planning, production and rehearsal period spanning more than 24 months, NMC has teamed up with conductor Brent Baldwin and his Texas Choral Consort, Line Upon Line Percussion, Central Presbyterian Church, and many other local artists to present this very special event. The second night of our performance falls on Cardew’s 75th birthday and will be a true celebration of his life and work. And yes, there will be cake.
Cornelius Cardew’s 1970 masterpiece “The Great Learning” is a work in seven parts or “Paragraphs” based on translations of Confucius by Ezra Pound and is composed for trained and untrained musicians. The piece instigated the formation of the experimental musical ensemble The Scratch Orchestra, who also gave “The Great Learning” its premiere. Now, four decades after its completion, Cardew’s obsessively constructed 5+ hour composition has become an often recalled and imitated masterpiece of counter-culture avant-garde. The influential piece, one of the earliest pieces to be called “minimalist” by composer/critic Michael Nyman, conjures at once Ligeti’s clouds of sound, Webern’s pointillism, Reich’s phasing cycles, and Cage’s conceptual provocations. This feast of varied sound-theater events includes a pipe organ with whistling chorus, cascading waves of percussive sound, loud and soft laughter music, an orchestra of droning contra-basses and large brass instruments, and swirling clouds of a cappella voices. Sadly, a complete presentation of “The Great Learning” is exceedingly rare, due largely to its demands of 50+ performers, several unconventional instruments, a pipe organ, and necessarily open-minded interpreters. We are thrilled to bring Cardew’s revolutionary sonic utopia to Austin’s new music audience.
About Cornelius Cardew
Cornelius Cardew was born May 7, 1936, in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England, and killed in a hit and run automobile accident in London, December 13, 1981. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London as well as other schools. With Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton he formed an improvisational ensemble, The Scratch Orchestra, which premiered the entire cycle of The Great Learning. He was active in the seminal chamber ensemble AMM with Eddie Prevost, Keith Rowe, John Tilbury and Christopher Hobbs. Cardew’s concern for human rights and economic justice led him into Marxist politics and renunciation of his experimental music during the 1970s. Instead, he pursued popular styles of music-making. At the very end of his life (and after Mao Tse-Tung’s death), he appeared to be open to reclaiming aspects of his earlier broad approach to sonic art.
About Austin New Music Co-op
The New Music Co-op is a community of composers and performers dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding of new music. Since 2001, the NMC has presented over 30 concerts featuring over 150 new works, many of them premieres. Notable New Music Co-op concerts have included a commission of a program length work by Berlin-based composer Arnold Dreyblatt, a realization of John Cage’s Songbooks, music for the extinct instruments of Luigi Russolo, Pauline Oliveros’ Four Meditations for Orchestra (with the composer in attendance), a three-day series of the works of the New York School, Terry Riley’s In C, and Ellen Fullman’s Long String Instrument performance at Seaholm Power Plant. New Music Co-op members come from highly diverse backgrounds, from classical performance to electronic music to formal composition to rock bands. The group runs by consensus and gains its strength from its members’ varied experiences and interests. The New Music Co-op is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations to the group are tax-deductible.
after three months (!!!), I finally completed a draft of Volume 65 in the Sound Library Series, “Is it Off–Is It On?”…though structurally similar to other recent pieces, it mirrors the confusion, craziness, and desperation I’m seeing daily in the world around me, as people retreat into food, sex, and gambling … gambling with their futures, that is…Vol. 60 is the most recent release, so expect this in late 2011 or early 2012…
three volumes in the Sound Library Series are now available, $5 each postpaid anywhere (paypal funds to django5722(at)yahoo(dot)com)…
“Butterfly Mind.” Sound Library Series, Volume 58.
“Autumn.” Sound Library Series, Volume 59.
“Surrounded By The Moment.” Sound Library Series, Volume 60.
About half of the earlier volumes are now totally unavailable…the other volumes are selling at $10-15 on the collector’s market. Don’t wait 20 years to read these in some collected volume—-read them NOW while they are fresh and in their original context, the hand-made KSE chapbook, the format for which they were composed. Thanks to all those who have supported me and this series, which is now in its SIXTH year.
Volumes 61-65 will appear over the next year at two-to-three month intervals…
Time to start planning for the next project…
oh, if you are wondering what piece of music was the inspiration for this mini-epic of ennui and debauchery, it’s the B-side of this classic BIT-A-SWEET 45 on MGM, pictured here (of course, both sides of this single were featured in the gritty B&W 1968 sleaze classic BLONDE ON A BUM TRIP)…