Cornelius Cardew Play for Today

5 November – 13 December 2009

Private view Wednesday 4 November, 18.30 – 20.30

The exhibition Cornelius Cardew: Play for Today pays tribute to the work of the experimental British composer Cornelius Cardew (1936–1981) and to the activities of the Scratch Orchestra (1969–74). It presents a selection of the various forms of graphic expression that were vital to the development of Cardew’s ideas, from the abstract shapes of Treatise, through to diagrams and visual instructions, letters and transcripts of discontent, song lyrics and finally to the more functional agitprop role of graphics as the conveyer of political message.

Cardew studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the late 1950s and afterwards worked as an assistant to composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne. He was responsible for introducing the work of American avant-garde musicians such as John Cage and La Monte Young to European audiences.

In 1971–2 Cardew became engaged in a radical reconsideration of all his work up to this time and adopted a Marxist-Leninist position. He began his book, Stockhausen Serves Imperialism (1974), in which he virulently attacks not only the music of Cage and Stockhausen, but his own, with the statement ‘This book raises more questions than it answers’. The Cardew exhibition that Grant Watson curated with Adrian Rifkin at M HKA, in summer 2008, was staged in the manner of a question. The questions and contradictions inherent to Cardew’s diverse practice have been pursued, in collaboration with Grant and Rob Stone, in Play for Today: Cornelius Cardew, a book and a symposium at the ICA. This exhibition provides evidence of Cardew’s voracious appetite
for tackling challenging issues and ideas and demonstrates the integrity of his approach.

The exhibition display system ‘Shelf for Cardew’ is designed by artist Luca Frei who was born in Lugano, Switzerland, in 1976. The exhibition also includes ‘Journey to the North Pole’, 1971, directed by Hanne Boenisch, 45’, 16mm. (With thanks to Ruth Hilton.)

Archive material kindly lent by Horace Cardew, Brigid and Laurie Scott-Baker, Carole Finer and Richard Ascough.

Cornelius Cardew: Play for Today is produced in collaboration with M HKA, Antwerp and co-curated by Grant Watson.

Please follow this link to listen to tracks by Cornelius Cardew/AMM on The Wire

Please follow this link to listen to Rob Stone & presenter Stuart Maconie on BBC 6