Panel: Branden Joseph, Bob Ostertag, Dont Rhine (Ultra-red), Wadada Leo Smith; Haruko Tanaka, moderator
The Scratch Orchestra was an experimental musical ensemble whose ranks swelled to over 50 people in its brief existence. It was defined in its founding constitution as “A large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources (not primarily material resources) and assembling for action (music making, performance, edification).” The Scratch Orchestra arose from Cornelius Cardew's "Experimental Music" class at Morley College near London and reflected his musical philosophy at that time. This meant that anyone could join, graphic and text based scores were used (rather than traditional sheet music), and there was an emphasis on indeterminate composition.
Cardew, with co-founders Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton published A Scratch Orchestra: draft constitution in The Musical Times in June 1969. The constitution set out the framework, which would dominate the orchestra’s musical work for the first half of its existence. It proposed a fluid community where students, office workers, amateur musicians and some professional composers would gather together for performance, music making and edification. The Orchestra dissolved in 1974 due to the strains of Cardew's "reverse seniority" (whereby the most junior members in age would receive the first opportunities to direct the Orchestra),
tensions between musically-trained and non-musically-trained members, and Cardew's increasing interest in radical politics.
This panel was organized on the occasion of the Los Angeles premiere of "Pilgrimage From Scattered Points" by Luke Fowler which takes the Scratch Orchestra as its subject.
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