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Cornelius Cardew

From Academic Kids

Cornelius Cardew (May 7, 1936December 13, 1981) born in Winchcombe, Gloucester, was an English avant-garde composer, and founder (with Howard Skempton and Michael Parsons) of the Scratch Orchestra, an experimental performing ensemble. He was notable for, during his avant-garde phase, Treatise, a graphic score purely psychologically interpreted, and The Great Learning, based on Confucian philosophy. After his departure from the avant-garde, he produced many songs often drawing from traditional English folk music put at the service of lengthy Marxist-Maoist exhortations; representative examples are 'Smash the Social Contract' & 'There Is Only One Lie, There Is Only One Truth'.

From 1958 to 1960 he was an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen, working on Stockhausen's Carr. He was, along with John Tilbury, one of the best known performers of cello and piano pieces by Stockhausen, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, and other experimental music. Cardew also perfomed with free improvisation group AMM.

He was the author of Stockhausen Serves Imperialism (1974), written after abandoning avante-garde music for a populist though post-romantic tonal style. Espousing Maoism, Cardew was active in various causes in the fringe of English politics. He was a co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

Other composers in the same vein (either early avant-garde or later political-polemical), & sometimes collaborators with Cardew, include Hanns Eisler, Marc Blitzstein, Frederic Rzewski, Christian Wolff, & Luigi Nono.

Cardew died the victim of a hit-and-run car accident in London.

Selected Discography

Thlmann Variations (Solo Piano, rec. 1975 in New York, publ. posthumously, 1986); interesting continuation of the Eisler tradition.

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