Michael Parsons on Bandcamp

One of the central figures in British experimental music, Michael Parsons has donated some music for the EMC Bandcamp page. First up, is his computer piece from 1995, Tenebrio, written at the request of the BBC for a programme of Nocturnes for a late-night show on Radio 3. Michael Parsons explains:

It was made with two CX5M Yamaha music computers using frequency-modulation (FM synthesis). The ‘voice’ programme of the CX5M computer was used first to introduce noise-like sounds of indefinite pitch, which are then progressively transformed by gradually expanding the frequency range to reveal unfamiliar pitch sequences in the form of a ‘random walk’. These are joined in the middle of the piece by pure sustained sounds with very slow glissandi.

Michael Parsons was one of the founders, with Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton, of the Scratch Orchestra in 1969. His music is consistently rigorous, and almost always beautiful. Tenebrio will be followed soon by a short album of acoustic instrumental music, and more tracks will follow as we receive them.

When asked for recordings for the EMC Bandcamp page, Michael declined to set a price on these recordings. There is, however, a facility on the Bandcamp page which allows the listener to set a gift price which will help to pay for the EMC’s Bandcamp page and for further tracks. You can find it here: https://experimentalmusiccatalogue.bandcamp.com/music .

Cage/Feldman Radio Chats

James Pritchett has made an entry point for his recent series of blogs about Radio Happenings, a show of of over four hours of conversations between John Cage and Morton Feldman, on WBAI Radio, New York City, in 1966 and 1967: On the Cage/Feldman Radio Happenings. You can find them on Pritchett’s blog, The Piano in My Life, 7–29 December 2015.

And if you’re interested in other articles about experimental music, drop in on the Journal of Experimental Music Studies, the EMC’s own house journal, containing original work, reprints of classic writings from Contact magazine and elsewhere, and  links to related writings on the web.

Original Obscure Recordings back again — and better!

Well, we’re pretty chuffed here at the EMC. Gavin Bryars has made a Herculean effort and has brought out two of the original Obscure Records recordings, struck from the master tapes onto CD. The first CD is Gavin Bryars’ Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet and The Sinking of the Titanic. Originally recorded on Obscure in 1975, this is part of Gavin’s GB Recordings Archive Series. You can find it on Gavin Bryars’ website: http://www.gavinbryars.com , on Amazon, and the usual places for CDs and downloads.


Also available is Gavin Bryars and Christopher Hobbs, Ensemble Pieces. This record is a compilation of two Obscure recordings, Chris Hobbs’s Aran and McCrimmon Will Never Return, and Gavin Bryars’ 1, 2, 1-2-3-4, from Obscure 2 (Ensemble Pieces), and Bryars’ The Squirrel and the Ricketty Racketty Bridge from Obscure 8 (Machine Music). Both CDs contain the original liner notes and updates, including pictures from a recent revival in London.

We’ll have more on this as we receive further news, including provisions for other formats and signed copies.

Blog problems

Hi there, admin here (tee-hee). We have some problems with our media (pictures, mostly) on the blog, due to some glitches with an upgrade at the server level. If you see nothing, or a big blue empty box, that’s what’s happening. We hope to fix this, and to upload some nice historic experimental music stuff very soon.

A forgotten Great Learning preparation


The EMC site is going strong, but it became harder to upload things because our host server is going through an upgrade. We’ve figured out how to do this whilst in transition, but with the fussing around, I was not able to finish and upload my report on Christian Wolff at Orpheus, a fascinating and impressive two-day study event in Belgium. Instead, in tidying the EMC office, Admin found my cheat sheets in preparation for the performance Paragraph 5 of Cardew’s Great Learning at the Union Chapel last July. It added the cheat sheet to the post Great Learning diary, pt. 2 . If you haven’t seen the two-part diary of my preparations for this event, it’s over there, but if you have read it, or just wish to see the cheat sheet on its own, then here it is. Normal service will be resumed shortly!

dumb show cheat sheet012


Some performance pictures

The EMC Blog pages have been a bit bland for the last few months, as we’ve had some trouble with media uploads in WordPress. We have just found a workaround that allows us to show you pictures again. Here’s what you may have missed, unless you have been following our Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/emcsystems ). First, a throw-back picture from the 1982 Classic Masterworks of Experimental Music Festival, which I curated at the University of Redlands, California. This is George Brecht’s Incidental Music (the result of the third of these five piano pieces, ‘Photographing the situation’).

brecht classic001Then, another pair of pictures that amused me. The first is Christopher Hobbs, performing at Euston Station with the Scratch Orchestra in 1970; the second is Hobbs, performing Paragraph 2 of Cornelius Cardew’s piece The Great Learning at the Union Chapel, London, on 11 July 2015. We hope to provide more pictures as they come.

hobbs scratch euston 1970IMG_1615

test upload


Hello — this is a test upload of a picture, to see if we have fixed problems with our media library on this blog. For what it’s worth, this is an image of Paragraph 4 of Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning at the Union Chapel, Islington, 11 July 2015.IMG_0087

Scratch Orchestra Improvisation Rites

Sunday night there will be a rather wonderful event at Cafe Oto. Various people — original Scratch Orchestra members, new folk, younger folk — have been working on that most fascinating genre of Scratch Orchestra music-making, the Improvisation Rite, using the early Scratch Orchestra document, Nature Study NotesNature Study Notes is a collection of Improvisation Rites, edited by Cornelius Cardew, that existed right at the start of the Scratch Orchestra. Improvisation Rites are not compositions, at least not according to the Draft Composition of the Scratch Orchestra. Instead, they are meant to supply conditions for improvisation: a setting, idea, installation, and so on. In fact, many of the 152 Nature Study Notes Rites are actually compositions (they tell you what to play), but the Scratch Orchestra genres have always been somewhat fluid. For more on Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra, there’s a rather good article on Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra in the unlikely setting of the Red Bull Music Academy website: http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/magazine/cornelius-cardew-feature.

Stefan Szczelkun launched this concert of Scratch Orchestra improvisation along with a host of others, and from the early notes on rehearsals, it looks amazing. The information on the concert at Cafe Oto exists on their site: https://www.cafeoto.co.uk/events/nature-study-notes/ . It’s going to be a lovely programme, and the EMC (Chris Hobbs, Virginia Anderson) are going to be in the audience, cheering them on. For those on Facebook, the event notification is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1409389246024588/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming . And Carole Fyner will be interviewing performers on her Resonance Radio (London and the Internet) show, Sound Out, on Friday, 20 February, at 2 pm.

And should you want to follow along, the EMC has put up a download of the original EMC edition of Nature Study Notes on our Freebies page: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/Freebies.html . Your school field trip notebook was never this much fun!

EMC scores and the Internet

Happy New Year! And how nice of many of you to have sent us news, views and greetings over the winter holiday. Following one of these nice notes, we thought it would be nice if we explained more about what we put on the EMC site and how you can trust what you find here.

There are a wide variety of sources for experimental scores on the Internet. Some of them are pure gold — direct copies of a composer’s work, often uploaded by the composer or their estates. On other sites, score incipits are uploaded as examples and although very useful for an introduction, they may not be complete. Some scores are uploaded by people who like the music but may not know anything about it, so it might be mislabelled or badly described. A few may be poor quality or ‘copyleft’ (rhyming slang for theft) and pirated — put up without the composer’s permission.

When you get a score from the Experimental Music Catalogue website, you will know that the composer has given her/his permission for it to be there. Sometimes the composer or rights holder will ask for the score to be sold. If so, the score will be either published under the EMC ball imprint, and the composer will receive a straight 10% of the purchase price, or it will be produced by the composer and distributed by the EMC, in which case the EMC gets a straight percentage of the price. Increasingly, though, we have approached composers to give their permission for us to reproduce some of the more iconic text and graphic notation pieces as pdfs that you can download FOR FREE. The score will be sensitively reproduced; it is handled and uploaded by two real people, Virginia Anderson (me) and/or Christopher Hobbs, who will have sent the pdf for the composer’s approval before upload. It will often be accompanied by a short note on the website, or this blog, explaining what the piece is and how it fits into the history of British experimental music. It will be a score that is meant for performance, usually, or at least is approved for research purposes. We make this clear on each piece. And with this score you can always contact the EMC if you have any questions about performance or other issues.

And do keep sending in suggestions, comments and such. We spent some time last year in adding material to the website and hope to do so again soon. And we’ll let you know what we know about cool concerts and other things on this Blog and on our Facebook page as we get them.

Ordering the little way….

Occasionally we get requests from big companies, publishers, universities and so on, assuming that we’re a big publishing firm. But we’re just a little group of people putting out the odd score and CD (some admittedly, odder than others). We’re kind of like a village women’s club who sell a few pots of jam to cover the cost of the sugar, fruit and jars, simply because they like making jam. And of course the composers get royalties on each sale. It’s only a little bit (a straight 10%), but we think it’s important that they get recognition.

So here’s a bit of EMC housekeeping: how to order stuff from the EMC. We like to do things in the easiest way possible. We recommend that order through us by email and pay by PayPal. It’s the cheapest way we’ve found to get the good ol’ EMC stuff from us to you. The information about how to do this is here: http://www.experimentalmusic.co.uk/emc/How_to_Order,_Submissions,_Privacy.html.

We usually get the money transferred into our Paypal account and immediately send out the order within a day or two — the very next day the Post Office is open, usually. And you can always email us at questions**experimentalmusic.co.uk (for the **, substitute @) if you need any assistance — heck, just to chat.

Right, that’s enough housekeeping. The next blog post will be more interesting, promise.