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Album Review

Cornelius Cardew “Material” [Hat Hut]

cujo   12/15/2005   A Library, CD

Before he was killed in a hit-and-run in 1981, Cornelius Cardew was an English Maoist composer creating his own cultural revolution and writing entirely utilitarian, approachable music (see his ‘We Sing For The Future? CD in our library, and the assorted political compositions spread in collections). Before that little red book rocked his world (c. 1970), he was known as a powerful experimenter and improviser, and a favorite Cologne student of Stockhausen. Cardew, in full-on Cageian mode, seriously seriously blurs the line between composer and improviser. You may also know Cardew from his creations the Scratch Orchestra and AMM.

This 1 CD in a simple cardboard sleeve from Hat Hut has 5 tracks:
1. Autumn 60
2. Treatise (pages 21 and 22)
3. Memories of You
4. Material
5. Octet ’61 for Jasper Johns

The performers take their sweet time interpreting these exquisite graphical scores (I taped a too-small example to the case). Treatise is essentially an intricate 200-page picture book, an acknowledged masterpiece by those in the know. We are treated to an interpretation of pages 21 and 22. Performances of all 5 pieces are very distanced and spaced out, with never more than a three instruments playing at a time. Low volumes throughout. Very out there. Gravedigger material for sure. Nearly featureless throughout (slight exceptions made after multiple listens for the human reading on Treatise, the piece of paper getting waved on Memories of You, and the hearing-test frequency sine waves on the Octet).

-Cujo, December 2005

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