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:

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: . 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: . 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: . Your school field trip notebook was never this much fun!

Partch work quilting

Today, some of us at the EMC feel a bit Partched, given that Harry Partch has won a Grammy. So many people have been talking about Partch that we followed one of the YouTube links (thanks to our friend, the John Cage expert, David Patterson) to a 1958 film about Partch in which he shows off his instruments. This film can be found on a DVD from Innova Recordings, which includes four rare films and performances (see here: ). The DVD also includes a 1968 film about Partch that was broadcast on KPBS San Diego (a film that appeared briefly on YouTube but was removed), and a 1981 performance of Barstow at San Diego State University by Danlee Mitchell and the SDSU Partch Ensemble.* But for the moment, luxuriate in the demonstrations of Partch’s instrumentation. Microtonal sounds so juicy you could swim in them….

*I was a graduate teaching assistant at SDSU in 1980–81 and got a glimpse of early rehearsals for that performance. As a TA, it was my responsibility to keep undergrads off the cloud chamber bowls, which were stored at the back of the recital hall.

Lentz in the lens

The whole Southern Californian ‘pretty music’, minimalism and postminimal scene that came up from the late 1960s and after is very complementary to the British experimental scene. Some of the connections are there (Harold Budd’s work with Brian Eno on Obscure Recordings, for instance); some are just really happy parallels. This week, two items about Daniel Lentz came into my personal Facebook account. Lentz is one of the twin pillars of the Los Angeles ‘pretty music’ scene (along with Harold Budd). His music is sometimes almost liturgically ritual, often lush and sensual, intimate, occasionally funny, and, yes, often very, very pretty. Daniel Lentz’s music is always well worth checking out (as is his artwork). (For those who don’t know his work, here’s his website: ).

But back to last week’s Lentz. The first is a link to YouTube. It’s a mid-1980s American children’s TV show called Reading Rainbow, hosted by LeVar Burton, in which ‘Is It Love’, a piece from Lentz’s album The Leopard Altar is set to an animation. It’s a delight of bright digital sound. Here it is: . It’s worth chasing up the whole track, which lasts about nine gorgeous minutes.

The second Lentz item is a piece from 1977, and was sent to us by Janyce Collins, performer, teacher, and pilot. This piece is called Flying Alleluia for 29 Hang Gliders, a piece in which each hang-glider pilot either sings a note, or installs a wind-operated Aeolian reed on their machine. The 29 pitches are played as each pilot launches in score order, so that ‘massed listeners’ below the flight path will hear the Alleluia plainsong. We do hope that someone performs this again, and that it will be a good day when we’re there to hear it.

Further Duo Percussion things

We’ve shifted our collective bottoms and have done more on the EMC Duo Percussion Anthology page that we announced earlier this week. The new things include a picture of the cover, a list of the pieces in the Anthology, links to relevant recordings on the EMC Recorded Music Archive, and more. For more information, go to the Experimental Music Classic Catalogue:


Hobbs-White Duo concert on Soundcloud

New to the EMC Soundcloud offerings is an archive performance of Christopher Hobbs and John White at the Whitechapel Gallery, 10 June 1973. These are the early ‘strict’ systems and readymades for unpitched percussion. More on this type of music, and how to get the score of the Hobbs-White Duo Percussion Anthology can be found on the EMC website, here: . The Soundcloud recording is here: .

Ives, Essays, and the ‘Strange Artist’

For those of you who follow Kyle Gann’s PostClassic blog, you will have found a real treat today in his entry, ‘Justifying the Strange Artist’, in which Gann looks at the work of Henry Cecil Sturt’s ‘Art and Personality’ essay. Charles Ives wrote his famous Essays before a Sonata, partly in response to Sturt’s essay. Here Gann reproduces a long passage from his upcoming book, giving us a good idea of what Sturt thought and why Ives wrote his response. Gann begins by stating how much the Essays influenced him as a teen, and how the reception of Ives’ writings have been increasingly seen as confused: ‘a jumble of pseudo-intellectual blovations’. There seems to be a trend toward a revision of Ives reception in recent years, with writers seeing him as homophobic and sexist, and returning to the early view of Ives as a kind of ‘outsider’ amateur, whose innovations come mainly from his inability to write music competently. Having spent a lot of time reading Ives (and Cage) from the age of thirteen and having my mind well and truly ‘blown’ by the ideas of these composers, I find the modern response to be curious. I can only imagine that the lack of understanding of the Essays and the condemnation of his ideas by modern writers to be a problem with their understanding of music and of history. Gann’s blog post is here: . It’s well worth close reading.

Free concert recording

The EMC founder Christopher Hobbs played a lunchtime concert at Coventry University on 5 November 2014. The programme consisted of:

Terry Jennings: Piano Piece 1960
Morton Feldman: Intermission 5 (1952)
Christian Wolff: Play (1968) (with Chris Evans, perc.)
John Cage: Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947)
Christopher Hobbs: Sudoku 137 (2013)
Terry Jennings Piano Piece 1 1965 “Winter Trees”

We thought that it was a shame that everyone couldn’t be sent to Coventry, at least for this one concert, so we’ve put up a recording. To give it a listen, press here:,_Coventry,_5_November_2014.html

Aspects of British Experimental Music on

Virginia Anderson’s PhD thesis, ‘Aspects of British Experimental Music as a Separate Art-Music Culture’ (Royal Holloway, University of London, 2004) is available online on the site for free download: . This academic study of various aspects of the British experimental and systems music group has not been freely available before. Containing early versions of several of her articles and chapters on Cardew’s Treatise, English systems, text notation and the Scratch Orchestra (some of which are free to download on the same page), this paper might be of interest to those students of British experimental music.

Behind the Irritable Hedgehog

One of our regular go-to composers is the founder of Irritable Hedgehog Recordings, David D. McIntire. McIntire works on worldwide minimalism and postminimalism, totalism, and all the postmodern ‘isms’ anyone could want, from his base in Missouri. The official site of Irritable Hedgehog has music by a number of composers (pianism by R. Andrew Lee, design by Scott Unrein) is worth visiting: . However, today we were perusing McIntire’s Soundcloud page, which includes a bunch of his Hedgehog tracks, plus E.I.O, a free improvisation group which McIntire co-founded. Well worth a little listen: .

The Tortoise, His Journey — No Dreaming

The Tortoise and His Raincoat: Music for a Very Long Walk is an event created by Nat Evans, who is hiking the 2600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, creating environmental recordings and collaborating with composers along the way. Scott Unrein, a Portland-based composer who is associated with the Missouri-based minimalist recording company Irritable Hedgehog, has written episode 6: Nacre. You can hear it (if you listen carefully — it starts very softly!) here:

Edited for errors. Really, we shouldn’t let admin try to write copy! (Virginia)