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27/12/12 Concerning Temporality in Music: Treatise & Treatise Handbook, by Cornelius Cardew

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Treatise & Treatise Handbook, by Cornelius Cardew 2011 (2)


2010 (1)

Treatise (Cardew 1967) is a graphic score by Cornelius Cardew. It was written in stages over a period of
four years and completed in 1967. As with many graphic scores I feel that interpretation of the score is best 2009 (2)

carried out by performance rather than by written critical analysis. Nevertheless I will continue to describe April (1)

the pages of the score as a means of introducing Cardews interpretation of his score. At the bottom of January (1)

each page Cardew has included a double staff, which implies that this is a linear musical score to be read Treatise & Treatise Handbook,
from left to right. The work appears to be a collection of abstract markings and shapes that evolve over its by Cornelius Cardew
193 pages. Most of Cardews hand-drawn markings are, to a greater or lesser extent, visibly inspired by the
musical symbols of western standard notation. Abstracted minims and crotchets appear, as do ties, slurs, 2008 (14)

dots, points, lines and numbers. Other forms also share the score; for example there is a very large black
disc on page 133 and similar smaller discs and partial discs on surrounding pages. Towards the end of the
score many thin lines divide and sub-divide giving tree-like appearances. The composition should be
improvised by any number of performers on their choice of instruments or non-instruments and the score
should be used as a guide to the performance. In writing this score, Cardew has taken great care to not
suggest ways in which it should be read or interpreted by performers of the work.

The Treatise Handbook (Cardew 1971) brings together several texts and two scored compositions by Phillip Henderson
Cornelius Cardew. The title indicates that the book is intended to accompany the score and the introduction View my complete profile
announces Cardews apprehension at the publication of the notes that follow. He states the implicit
contradiction in attempting to describe a piece of work that has been constructed in order to remain open
to interpretation. However, some justification is made by the fact that Cardew has the opportunity to
publish two scores within this book and the lecture Towards an ethic of improvisation.

The chapter entitled Treatise: Working notes is a chronologically arranged collection of personal notes made
by Cardew during the years he spent writing the score from 1963 to 67. His thoughts resonate with a raw
earthiness appropriate to the score. On 11th March 65 for example, Cardew was obviously thinking about
the score while reflecting on the central black line that runs throughout the piece with only the occasional
break;

Treatise: What is it? Well, its a vertebrate (Cardew 1971 p.vii)

This suggests that the work is a living organism with a spine. As such, performances of this work will
naturally reflect the interpretation of its performer(s) more than necessarily the score as a traditional
composition. Some of the symbols in the score clearly echo western notation. However, Cardew allows
resemblances to occur only as a reminder of the works musicality.

Interpreter! Remember that no meaning is yet attached to the symbols. They are however to be interpreted
in the context of their role in the whole. Distinguish symbols that enclose space (circle, etc.); those that
have a characteristic feature. What symbols are for sounding and what for orientation. Example: The
horizontal central bar is the main and most constant orientation; what happens where it ceases (or bends)?
Do you go out of tune (eg)? (Cardew 1971 p.iii)

In Treatise: Rsum of pre-publication performances Cardew has included a quote from the program notes
of a performance given at Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, 1966. The program notes succinctly describe
the score and its use.

Treatise is a long continuous drawing in form rather similar to a novel. But it is composed according to
musical principles and is intended to serve as a score for musicians to play from. However, indications of
sounds, noises, and musical relationships do not figure in the score, which is purely graphic Each player
interprets the score according to his own acumen and sensibility. (Cardew 1971 p.xii)

Cardews lecture Towards an Ethic of Improvisation delves into some of the philosophical content of the
Treatise score. He opens with reference to Wittgensteins Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1918) and
Philosophical Investigations (1945) because of the texts application to music. He goes on to describe
improvisation as a relationship between performer, audience and music that is lodged within the time-span
of its performance. He describes his experimentation as a member of the improvisatory group AMM. During
1966 the instrumentation of the group expanded far beyond saxophone, piano, violin and guitar. They
began using many other instruments and non-instruments, resonant objects made from glass, metal and
wood. This period of experimentation seems to have allowed Cardew to consider the role of the improviser
as a kind of athlete.

This kind of thing happens in improvisation. Two things running concurrently in haphazard fashion suddenly
synchronise autonomously and sling you forcibly into a new phase. Rather like in the 6-day cycle race when
you sling your partner into the next lap with a forcible handclasp. Yes improvisation is a sport too, and a
spectator sport, where the subtlest interplay on the physical level can throw into high relief some of the
mystery of being alive.
Connected with this is the proposition that improvisation cannot be rehearsed. Training is substituted for

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27/12/12 Concerning Temporality in Music: Treatise & Treatise Handbook, by Cornelius Cardew
rehearsal, and a certain moral discipline is an essential part of this training. (Cardew 1971 p.xvii)

This emphasises the temporal immediacy of the presence of the improvised performance and, as Cardew
goes on to say, renders the recording of an improvisation somewhat hollow by comparison. He compares
music with and without notation and outlines advantages of notation and its absence. He suggests that a
sudden absence of notation might leave a performer feeling abandoned. Alternatively it could allow forms of
improvisation. Cardew has noticed that well trained musicians that can over-interpret the work Treatise in
the sense that they might attempt to literally read the score in a method as close as possible to a reading of
standard western notation. However, he says that graphic artists and mathematicians may be more
prepared to creatively interpret the score although they may have less capability controlling a musical
instrument and producing their desired sound.

Cardew refers to Wittgenstein again and quotes him equating the logical structure of recorded music to the
logical structure of a score. Cardew draws the conclusion that an improvisation cannot be scored or
recorded within out some loss occurring because of the absence of this structure.

Who can be interested purely in sound, however high its fidelity? Improvisation is a language
spontaneously developed amongst the players and between players and listeners. Who can say in what
consists the mode of operation of this language? Is it likely that it is reducible to electrical impulses on
tapes and the oscillation of a loudspeaker membrane? (Cardew 1971 p.xx)

Cardew concludes the lecture with a list of Virtues that a musician can develop.
Simplicity is highlighted as the most appealing virtue. However, a simplistic musical expression must also
subtly express how it was achieved.
Integrity is the importance of a performer remaining true to the concerns of the music. Cardew exemplifies
a professional musician as making the sound and the improvisers in AMM as being the sound.
Selflessness is included to highlight the performers required concern for the work rather than the
documentation of it.
Forbearance is the permissive characteristic required of an improviser in order to allow the music to exist.
Preparedness is defined as a delicate balance. The performer should be the music throughout its
performance while simultaneously being prepared for the music to change unexpectedly.
Identification with nature is similar to preparedness. Cardew says the performer with this virtue will live;

like a yachtsman to utilise the interplay of natural forces and currents to steer a course. My attitude is
that the musical and the real worlds are one. Musicality is a dimension of perfectly ordinary reality.
(Cardew 1971 p.xx)

Acceptance of death is ultimately vital to performers of improvisational music from Cardews perspective
as it broadly represents the acceptance of the impermanence of music.

CARDEW, C. (1967). Treatise. Buffalo, New York, Gallery Upstairs Press.


CARDEW, C. (1971). Treatise handbook, including Bun no. 2 and Volo solo. London, Edition Peters.

Posted by Phillip Henderson

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