JEMS: Introduction, Acknowledgements, and Explanations


20 February 2020:

New to JEMS: Review of Brian Olewnick’s book, Keith Rowe by Christopher Hobbs.

6 August 2017:

Review of Kyle Gann’s book on Ives’ Concord Sonata by Christopher Hobbs.

29 August 2014:

Some slight cosmetic changes to Jems, in keeping with the new-look Experimental Music Catalogue. There is a new section in the contents page, ‘Links to like-minded writings’. We had often found articles, blog entries, informal writings, and other written content that we could not put up on Jems. Some of these writings are available in permanent form elsewhere on the Web. A good example is James Pritchett’s series, ‘Opening the door into emptiness’, published on his blog page, The piano in my life, on John Cage’s spiritual journey as it affected both his thinking and his musical life. Put together, these ten entries form a single article. It is already published on Pritchett’s blog and needs no alterations or editing. In fact, ‘Opening the door into emptiness’ is precisely the type of article we would like to see on Jems. It is thus only logical that we provide a link to it. More good, like-minded links will follow.

12 August 2013:

New to Jems: a review of Tony Harris’s book, The Legacy of Cornelius Cardew, by Bruce Coates.

11 June 2012:

Welcome to the new-look Jems. We hope that this cleaner version will be easier to read and to navigate.

11 June 2009:

There is a new, convenient pdf version of Rob Haskins’  ‘Another Look at Philip Glass: Aspects of Harmony and Formal Design in Early Works and Einstein on the Beach’.

27 September 2007:

We are moving Jems to a new host, to join the Experimental Music Catalogue.  We will maintain links to existing articles on our old host until they are fully transferred.  Once these are moved, we shall be offering not only a new look, but features such as downloadable pdf versions of the articles, which, we hope, will make reading Jems more enjoyable.  We also say goodbye to our board member David Patterson, and welcome our EMC founder Christopher Hobbs to the board.

6 January 2007:

After a gap of over a year, we add our first review, in which Virginia Anderson examines the special issues of the journal Visible Language devoted to Fluxus [VA].

12 September 2005:

Rob Haskins’ ‘Another Look at Philip Glass: Aspects of Harmony and Formal Design in Early Works and Einstein on the Beach’ is the newest upload to Jems, and one about which we are very pleased.  Haskins is a musicologist who has been a trenchant observer of experimental music over the last decade.  Here Haskins shows points of an ‘experimental attitude’ in Philip Glass’s music through his first large opera, remnants of which continue through his music today.  For this article, Haskins has gained access to an unprecedented amount of musical examples: thanks so much to Dunvagen Music Publishing for this consideration [VA].

13 June 2005:

Over the course of the next few months, we will be phasing in a new look for Jems in order to make it more readable online.   The adjustments to this site are not only aesthetic.  We are now using Cascading Style Sheets, which should make it easier to access by those who use text readers.  We have also added pop-ups which contain the gist of footnotes.  In Safari, these pop-ups will provide the whole footnote, albeit without formatting; in Firefox and Internet Explorer the popup will only give a partial indication of the contents of the footnote.   The pop-ups will appear when the reader passes the mouse over footnote numbers.  Formal footnotes, properly formatted, still appear at the bottom of each article, but it is hoped that this feature will make onscreen reading more comfortable by avoiding the need to scroll up and down from article to citation and back (see Technical Internet Help, below for more on this upgrade) [VA].

27 October 2004:

John Tilbury’s article, ‘Cornelius Cardew’, is still the best treatment of Cardew’s life and work, at least until Tilbury’s eagerly-awaited biography (now in its final stages of preparation) appears.   Tilbury treats Cardew’s work, whether avant-garde, experimental, or political, equally, with a generosity sadly lacking in some articles on his life, and with an accuracy lacking in others.  Tilbury worked with Cardew much in the same way that David Tudor worked with John Cage, in the sense of interpreter as collaborator and inspiration. In this article, Tilbury stresses Cardew’s social humanism as an experimentalist, and his experimentalism in the service of his political music, giving a continuity to Cardew’s life and thought.   Special thanks to Universal Edition, Peters Edition and the Cardew estate for permission to reprint the examples in this article [VA].

22 June 2004:

This is a special addition to the Jems Reprint Series: Dave Smith’s article, ‘Following a Straight Line: La Monte Young’, from Contact.  While this in no way constitutes an entirely new article on Young, Smith, in consultation with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, has provided extensive corrections and updates to the original article and it seems to me to be one of the clearest evaluations of Young’s work and theory in an article of this type  [VA].

19 April 2004:

More additions to the Jems Reprint Series: Michael Parsons’ two articles from Contact magazine on Howard Skempton.  Because of the brevity of Skempton’s works presented in these two articles, it was necessary for Parsons to present many entire works in his examples.  Thanks to the kind permission and assistance of Parsons, Skempton, and especially Skempton’s publisher, Oxford University Press, we are able to reprint these examples in their entirety (albeit encoded to prevent downloading).  These articles, ten years apart, together form a substantial view of Skempton’s music from his earliest works to the threshold of his belated recognition as one of Britain’s most important living composers [VA].

19 March 2004:

We have another addition to the Jems Reprints Series: Dave Smith’s perceptive article on John White’s piano sonatas.  White, who might well be the most under-celebrated and most original composer in Britain, has written over 140 sonatas since 1956, reflecting his compositional concerns and musical investigations.  Smith’s is the best extant work on White’s music even today, after over 20 years [VA].

17 March 2004:

Welcome to the first uploading of articles in The Journal of Experimental Music Studies. We have chosen these articles to launch the Journal, with others to come in the fullness of time.  The most important development for Jems was Gavin Bryars’s generous offer to allow us to reprint his groundbreaking article, ‘Vexations and its Performers’, which appeared in Contact no. 26 (1983).  Contact, founded by Keith Potter and Hilary Bracefield, was a brilliant journal of new music which reflected, in a fairer proportion than other journals, both the ‘experimental’ and ‘avant-garde’ streams of new music.  Keith Potter agreed to let us reprint Bryars’ article, which is a performance history of Erik Satie’s Vexations, and we thank them for this privilege.   ‘Vexations and its Performers’ is still the standard upon which all other writings on Vexations must be judged, and should be read and studied before embarking upon performance.  Bryars shows that this short piece, repeated 840 times and commonly lasting from fourteen to twenty-four hours, is not simply a stunt in endurance (although it is often treated in that fashion), but is a major aesthetic experience when approached with a suitable attitude: ‘des immobilités sérieuses’.

Other experimental writers have allowed us to publish their Contact articles for the Jems Reprints Series.  For this launch, John Tilbury has kindly allowed us to print his ‘The Experimental Years: A View from the Left’, perhaps the clearest articulation of the dialectic between the experimental movement and politics in Britain.  Tilbury was the author of a powerful statement in the Discontents meetings of the Scratch Orchestra regarding the contradictions between its theory and practice, a statement which led to an increased emphasis on the study of ideology among the members.  Soon to come, other reprints will include articles by Michael Parsons, Tilbury, and Dave Smith.

Daniel Varela interviewed Frederic Rzewski in 2000 at a festival in Buenos Aires; among other points of discussion (which have been published separately), Rzewski gave an account of his work with Cornelius Cardew.  Several points Rzewski made about Cardew provide an insight into this misunderstood composer: the fact that Cardew’s political music had much in common with his earlier work; the nature of his political resistance and death; and the incomprehension of the British press at Cardew’s music are among the points which he raises.

Lastly, there is my article,  ‘Chinese Characters and Experimental Structure in Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning’, which expands upon and explains further the features found by Brian Dennis in ‘Cardew’s The Great Learning’ (The Musical Times in November 1971). Cardew’s use of Chinese characters mark one way in which he worked within the norms of experimental culture; analysis from outside experimental theory – for instance, using the tools and assumptions of the dominant avant garde – often leads to misunderstanding of this enormously complex work.

We hope that you enjoy these offerings as well as those which we shall be offering in future.

Virginia Anderson

Editor, Jems


12 September 2005:

Thanks so much to Cat Celebrezze, Associate Director of Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc., for her kind and expeditious permission to reprint many excerpts from Philip Glass’s music for Rob Haskins’s article.  Thanks also goes again to Artistscope and to their representative William Kent for an upgrade to their Secure Image software.

22 June 2004:

Our sincere thanks go to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela for their kind assistance in clarifying several points in the update of Dave Smith’s article.  Again, thanks to OUP for allowing us to reprint Howard Skempton’s September Song, which graces this article.

19 April 2004:

First of all thanks so much to Michael Parsons for letting us publish his two Contact articles.  Thanks must go to Howard Skempton for his kind permission in letting us publish many of his otherwise unpublished works, and for introducing us to Simon Wright at Oxford University Press and his colleague Melanie Pidd, who moved mountains to allow us to publish a substantial number of works from Howard Skempton, Collected Piano Pieces (© OUP, 1996).  Given the small profit margin for modern music, their permission is indeed generous.  Look at these articles, then link to and buy this collection.  Our gratitude again goes to Chris Hobbs and the Experimental Music Catalogue for funding this upload.

19 March 2004:

Thanks to John White for giving us permission to reproduce so many of his piano sonatas in the Contact reprint of Dave Smith’s article, as well as thanks to Smith himself.

17 March 2004:

Our sincerest thanks go first to Gavin Bryars, who offered his article on Vexations, and to Keith Potter from Contact for his approval to reprint this and other works.  Thanks also to John Tilbury, who readily agreed to reprinting his articles from Contact, and to Horace Cardew, for giving his permission to reproduce excerpts from The Great Learning.  Our gratitude to Artistscope, for financial consideration and help with installation of their Secure Image software.  Most of all, thanks to Chris Hobbs and the Experimental Music Catalogue for hosting this site and for initial funding.

Explanations (Help):

Citation and Credit Issues:

17 March 2004:

Except where noted otherwise, copyright belongs to the authors of these articles and works and are reproduced here by kind permission.  Citation will vary according to chosen style and nationality, but we suggest variants on the following:

Jane Q. Pedant. ‘This is the Title of My Article’, Journal of Experimental Music Studies <>, 17 March 2004 (upload date).  Accessed 23 November 2004.

Technical Internet Help:

27 September 2007:

Much of the following has been superseded by our move to .Mac, using Mac’s WYSIWYG web application iWeb.  So far, EMC pages have been found to look fine in Firefox and Safari for Mac (although drop shadow effects on images do not seem to work in Firefox, this is only a slight cosmetic defect), and in Firefox (albeit with the same loss of drop shadows) and, surprisingly, in the usually temperamental and wayward Internet Explorer for Windows.  As usual, contact Virginia Anderson at Jems if there are any major problems.

18 May 2005:

The upgraded pages have been tested in Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer for Macintosh.  This works well in Firefox and Safari, although mouseover popups (citations) are abbreviated in Firefox.  This works less well in IE, because Microsoft does not hold to worldwide standards for HTML.  It is readable, but it is recommended that one uses a non-Microsoft browser for best results.  If there are any problems in browsers other than IE, do let the editors know and we will try to fix any problems.

17 March 2004:

For copyright reasons, many of these articles cannot be downloaded intact, as extended musical examples are encrypted to prevent reproduction.  In articles in which there are a number of these examples, the page may load slowly, especially if you have a dial-up modem (56K or less) or an older computer.  Initially, in our experience (old computer and dial-up modem),  the examples may appear only partially or overlap text, but this will clear up in a few minutes when the page is fully loaded.

These articles have been viewed without problem on Internet Explorer and Mozilla, but there is a problem at the moment viewing encrypted images on an Opera browser.  For now, try using another browser.  If you cannot view some images on Internet Explorer, go to Preferences (on Macintosh computers), open Java Options, and untick the box marked ‘Restrict access to non-Java class files’.  Other computers have similar IE settings; consult your help files to find them.

Encrypted images aside, these pages were designed and tested on Macintosh computers, but using mostly HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 encoding, so the text should be readable on any Internet-compatible machine, regardless of age.