Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cornelius Cardew and Scratch Music

I got some ideas on a recommendation from Thad, a co-conspirator of contemporary music at UNC, for some pieces for the UNC Cobra Ensemble to perform.  So this blog post is on the recommendation of the english composer Cornelius Cardew and specifically an ensemble he had of 50 artists/painters/poets/musicians called the scratch orchestra.  From what I gather from reading this book/score of Scratch Music, edited by the composer, is that the group formed and had a full charter and all to perform new music.  They could play pre-existing new music pieces by La Monte Young, John Cage, Terry Riley, or play older standard repertoire music, as long as they modified it in someway, or write new music for the group.  Cardew had everyone in the group obtain notebooks, and write a piece everyday(specified, no more than one piece) that could be performed for an indeterminate length of time by the group.  I will leave that information as it is, for I am still learning about the composer and the group myself, and will take some of the ideas found in this book and transcribe them into this blog post.  A lot of the scores are text, graphic notation, or even simply a picture of a naked woman, but here's some of the text that I think could be playable by the UNC Cobra Ensemble...  Keep in mind these pieces are to be played on top of each other, so multiple pieces are happened simultaneously within this large group of people.

"Small explosions, Bangs and Pops"

"When the music around is very loud indeed: play the blues, no one else should hear."

"Lazy Scratch
Take a mat and a cushion
Arrange instruments within easy reach for playing when lying down
Play now and then, lying down
Go for a walk to see what others are doing now and then
Maybe play an instrument while walking."

"Chimes in an airstream"

"Help to keep time"

"Make a sound.
Try to reproduce that sound as accurately as possible on another instrument (sound source)
Try to reproduce THAT sound as accurately as possible on another instrument (sound source)
Try to reproduce THAT sound asaccurately as possible on another instrument (sound source)
Continue as above until;
1) You have produced sounds from every sound source available to you at that time,
2) The sound has become as far removed from the initial sound as is possible
3) You become excessively bored.
(Do not use one sound source to make more than one sound)"

"Carefully think of a solo, then whatever you do, don't play it"

"Be Primitive"

"He makes the sounds around him musical.  Occasionally he may add a touch, a pizz, a belch. (very occasionally)"

"Think of a person (A particular person - preferably someone you know)
Play that thought, and thus experience it more fully;
Think again;
Play again;
Think of another person, or the same person;
Continue as above;"

"Create a zone of silence"

"Shhh, not a word"

"Tear up different sounding paper into patterns, palm trees, and confetti"

"Play one sound, repeat it, repeat it,
Continue repeating it until it bores you
Repeat it, repeat it
Continue repeating it
Listen to your sound, each time you play it, regardless of the environment."

"Think of a simple tune, such as a child's nursery rhyme, and hum it quietly backwards, taking as much time as you need and then some.  (Pause when you like)"

"Mirror the person to your right"

"3000 people spin-> or any number -> Spin around at a comfortable speed."

"The sound of breaking glass"

"Scrape with an open ended container on surfaces"

"Water Rhythm"

"Be louder than anyone else at least six times"

"Bounce a ball"

"Buy a postcard, assume that it depicts the performance of a piece.  Deduce the rules of the piece and perform it."

"Choose another player to follow his or her performance closely.  Play only when they are not playing."

"Choose another player, treating them as if they are playing a solo and you are accompanying them."  

"Choose two other players to follow.  When both are playing, listen.  When one of them stops playing, accompany the other.  When both are not playing, don't play either."


"Indigenous material"

"Think of ways to use the floor,
Sweeping it
Measuring it
Lying down on it"  

"Rolling sounds, sounds made by rolling objects, rolled round toys, saucepans, the floor, etc... sounds should be smooth and continuous."

"Play all the possible fingerings on a woodwind instrument AND/OR all the possible combinations of two notes on the piano."

"Very slowly turn whatever you are doing into its opposite"

"People - influenced music
One specific sound when people enter
Another when people leave
Another when people speak
Another when people look at you.
Do not make any other sounds
If too many events occur at once, make note of it and play those sounds later"


"Old popular songs"

"A regular array"

"Fly musical kites"

"Moan quietly and sadly, mouth open"

"Gradual transitions"

"Add one sound thoughtfully to the environment"

"As many players as possible.  To last half an hour, or any even balanced length of time, which can be divided into equal thirds.
FIRST Ten Minutes:  Short sounds clipped, repetitive chattering and clattering, percussive ragged crystal broken, Glass edged harsh jagged spasmodic, abrupt ice crashing, muttering, Disparate knocking and clicking, Avoid wind instruments-> no long sounds.
SECOND Ten Minutes:  Mingle and warm the percussiveness with sounds-> begin to explore tone and pitch, gradually introduce wind sounds.
THIRD Ten Minutes: Lengthen sounds, abandon harshness, soften intensity, ripple pulse, melody liquify swathe rustle attenuate swish, sweeten, sour, burn, elevate, fly, harmonize, complete metamorphosis, bind, concentrate, purify."

"Take a closed cylinder, like an empty coke bottle.
Bang on it, Drop things through the holes that the coke came out of."

"Play violin upside down"

Select a person nearby and play them- their dress/gestures/physique/expressions
You may advise them of what you're going to do, or not"

"Einstein E-E
Kant A
Wittgenstein G-E-E
Klee E-E
Pollock C
Berio B-E (Bb-E)
Bach B-A-C (Bb-A-C-B)
Mondrian D-A
Sartre A-E
Kafka A-F-A
Dirac D-A-C
Cage C-A-G-E
G.M. Hopkins (B)
Stockhausen C-A-E (C-B-A-E)
Holliger G-E (B-G-E)
Tilbury B (Bb)
Confucius C-F-C
Basho B-A (Bb-A-B)"

"With Haste"

"Instrument (and voice) practice all forms of scales, arpeggios, chords, standard exercises, practice pieces from music teaching manuals."

"If inside play the sounds from outside, if outside play the sounds from inside"

"Table music
Make as many different sounds as possible with a table:
i.e. Rhythmic drumming with hands and fingers
Rubbing with fingers, dry or wet
Scraping, drawing across the floor
Scratch with fingernails"

"Using instruments or objects made wholly from wood make sounds"


"Wander (modulate) through the water-meadows of cadential harmony"

"One thing at a time"

That should wrap up my first installment of Scratch Music.  I will be updated the blog a few more times to include as much "playable" scratch music from the book, and figure out a way to incorporate it into the ensemble.  Stay tuned for more Scratch Music!

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